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'Expelled' And Creationism's Fundamental Dishonesty

| 160 Comments

This doesn't happen every day: John Derbyshire writes a column that most of Winds' readership will agree with, as he covers Ben Stein's creationist movie Expelled: NO Intelligence Allowed. Now, over to Derb:

"The misrepresentations in Expelled are far too numerous for me to list here, and the task is unnecessary since others have done it. The aforementioned Expelled Exposed website is a great resource. Biologist P. Z. Myers, in a less organized way, has been pointing up the errors and deceptions in Expelled since the wretched thing hove into view. (Here he links to a whole stack of reviews, including a couple of positives.) Other science-literate bloggers have been weighing in, often very angrily. One of my favorite comments came from "Pixy Misa" (Andrew Mazels) who correctly called Ben Stein's accusing Darwin of responsibility for the Holocaust "a blood libel on science."

I would actually go further than that, to something like “a blood libel on Western Civilization."

I join Derb as someone who's pretty disappointed in Ben Stein, and Derb's points elsewhere in the article about the inherent dishonesty of the creationist enterprise reflect my biggest objection as well.

I personally believe that the universe was created by an intelligent designer, and that the designer was G-d. But that can't be a scientific question, because there's no way of testing the negative hypothesis. Ultimately, therefore, that's a question beyond science's capacity to address.

I've talked about the necessary roles played by both religion and science as the twin pillars of Western civilization - vid. articles like "The Holy Scientist," about Dr. Mordecai Haffkine. There's a place for expressions of faith in the public square, and I find secular fundamentalism fanatics as annoying and dangerous as their religious brethren.

If people wished to have creationism taught in a comparative religion class or a social studies class, therefore, I'd have no issue with it. That's legitimate, and honest.

To present creationism as science, however, is dishonest at a very fundamental level. Not just a mistake, or a different belief - deliberately dishonest. It doesn't surprise me, therefore, when Mr. Derbyshire advances evidence of further dishonest behaviour from the "Discovery Institute."

Even if the believers in intelligent design are ultimately correct, which I believe they are, that dishonesty is the kiss of death. This is especially true for a faith-based view linked to G-d, one of whose prime attributes is supposed to be truth.

160 Comments

Even if the believers in intelligent design are ultimately correct
Indeed, Derbyshire on science must be the only places, this not being the first, that NR has anything I agree with. One must note, however, that he may be in the minority at The Corner.

It bears repeating that the evidence is clear that the Intelligent Design movement (if not the theory of intelligent design) is largely Young Earth Creationist, except for a few of its leaders. As such, ID's problem, like traditional creationism hiding behind it, is not that it is untestable, but that its empirical claims (Flood geology, etc.) are testable and mistaken.

Andrew writes:

"ID's problem, like traditional creationism hiding behind it, is not that it is untestable, but that its empirical claims (Flood geology, etc.) are testable and mistaken."

That would be its distant second problem. If we're at the level of dueling testable claims, this becomes a different debate. Ben Stein's movie is probably just fine, and I may talk about creationists as being mistaken but not as dishonest, absent evidence of individual dishonesty.

To push Andrew's buttons for a moment, global warming is that kind of debate. Dueling claims and theories, with legitimate doubts concerning the underlying models, the possibility of an entirely different mechanism as the overwhelming driver (I really want to see a lot more sunspots, soon), and the possibility that the predicted future is not just wrong but 180 degrees wrong. This is an honest debate - until you get the the UN's IPCC panel, whose very charter dishonestly begs the question by asserting human driven global warming as the core of its activities, and whose actions would fit them in as excellent bookends to the Discovery Institute in the "dogmatists masquerading as science" hall of fame.

Are other believers in beyond the corrupt IPCC correct? Possibly. But it is ultimately a scientific debate that can be won, or lost, within the scientific method.

The fact that creationism/Intelligent Design is untestable, however (note: if you can't get a test result that says your hypothesis is wrong, it isn't testable), is truly fundamental because it removes the debate from the realm of science altogether.

Which is why trying to teach it as science is both dishonest at an inherent structural level (that is to say, regardless of its proponents' personal behaviour), and so profoundly injurious to science.

The difference between these 2 types of debate is absolutely critical.

To push Andrew's buttons for a moment, global warming is that kind of debate. Dueling claims and theories, with legitimate doubts concerning the underlying models, the possibility of an entirely different mechanism as the overwhelming driver (I really want to see a lot more sunspots, soon), and the possibility that the predicted future is not just wrong but 180 degrees wrong. This is an honest debate - until you get the the UN's IPCC panel, whose very charter dishonestly begs the question by asserting human driven global warming as the core of its activities, and whose actions would fit them in as excellent bookends to the Discovery Institute in the "dogmatists masquerading as science" hall of fame.

Are other believers in beyond the corrupt IPCC correct? Possibly. But it is ultimately a scientific debate that can be won, or lost, within the scientific method.

The fact that creationism/Intelligent Design is untestable, however (note: if you can't get a test result that says your hypothesis is wrong, it isn't testable), is truly fundamental because it removes the debate from the realm of science altogether.

If one were more concerned about the consequences of a false assumption that humans don't have a critical influence on global warming than the false assumption that they do, then one would adopt a Type II hypothesis (assume that we have a critical influence and attempt to disprove it). Analogously, those with religious faith might be willing to make a Type II assumption that Darwinian random selection may not be the driving force in evolution, and that a Creator has a critical influence. This orientation isn't prima facie nonscientific. It simply says (because of alternative beliefs) that the burden of proof lies on the other foot.

It is important to recognize that this lies entirely within scientific method, even if the point of departure between hypotheses is a matter of faith. And it's also not necessarily the case that such a position is "backward" in a scientific sense. It might very well spur insights and discoveries that advance science and understanding.

One might choose to reject a Type II method, without being judged anti-scientific... (which is essentially what evolutionary theory has done), but the presumption that such a rejection requires no argument is false. That's the part that isn't scientific. We can assume that there is no Creator, but that doesn't mean there is no risk in making such an assumption. And it's the assessment of risk that lies at the heart of the debate.

Bummer Joe.

Meet your base.

If you worked at it for twenty years or so you could probably expand it a bit. There's a hug market out there for GOP not batshit crazy.

But that's not likely, because you're still cheering on the enterprise that killed it.

Godd luck with that.

So Darwinism is testable and true science? Even Darwin admitted it was a theory. So why is it now scientific gospel?

Sad when people who claim to believe in science sound more like the people who accused Da Vinci of thought crime.

I personally believe that the universe was created by an intelligent designer, and that the designer was G-d. But that can't be a scientific question, because there's no way of testing the negative hypothesis. Ultimately, therefore, that's a question beyond science's capacity to address.

Ah, the "Non-overlapping Magisteria" argument.

Debunked

Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion criticizes NOMA on two points. First, he notes that many, if not most, of the pronouncements of religion lie within the domain of science, according to this scheme. Since claims such the efficacy of prayer, the historicity of scriptures, the authenticity of miracles, and the very existence of a creator, are all claims about the natural world (“what”), according to NOMA, they are within the realm of science, even if they are not currently testable in any practical way. To strip religion of these teachings would leave something unrecognizable as modern religion.

Indeed, religious institutions have occasionally ventured into scientific (and pseudoscientific) inquiry into their religious beliefs, and have certainly not discounted any apparently positive results as being outside the scientific magisterium.

Secondly, Dawkins questions whether religious institutions are any more qualified than science or any other method to address the issues of purpose.

If science itself cannot say where the laws of physics ultimately come from, there is no reason to expect that religion will do any better and rather good reasons to think it will do worse.

ThomasJackson, universal gravitation and the germ theory of disease are also "just theories." Methinks you might not know what a scientist means when he calls something a theory. He means that it is testable; backed by a great deal of evidence, observation and experimentation; and is a very good explanation of all so-far observed phenomena within the scope of the theory. That is why it is "scientific gospel," to the extent that a scientist would take that term to mean "a good theory."

So here's the deal. Within the realm of science, you have to discard a theory once it is disproven. Unfortunately for the doubters, evolution is very firmly established. In fact, speciation is trivially observable in repeatable laboratory conditions, and common descent has such a perfect predictive record that I think you are on the wrong trail if you intend to disprove them. On the other hand, if you can come up with a testable explanation that better fits the observed data, makes predictions that are a closer fit to reality, and gets predictions right where evolutionary theory gets them wrong, then I could be convinced. The problem is, snarky comments about "accus[ing] Da Vinci of thought crime" do not constitute evidence, experimentation or prediction.

Sepp, that was definitely Dawkins' poorest book. The argument you cite helps explain why.

"Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion criticizes NOMA on two points. First, he notes that many, if not most, of the pronouncements of religion lie within the domain of science, according to this scheme. Since claims such the efficacy of prayer, the historicity of scriptures, the authenticity of miracles, and the very existence of a creator, are all claims about the natural world (“what”), according to NOMA, they are within the realm of science, even if they are not currently testable in any practical way. To strip religion of these teachings would leave something unrecognizable as modern religion."

No. Dawkins is correct that historicity of scriptures and authenticity of miracles are to some extent testable. He is manifestly quite incorrect re: the existence of a creator as defined in Abrahamic doctrine, which by definition is beyond the natural world. That's such an elementary point that it's difficult to give Dawkins a pass on it, especially given the other provably absurd statements the author has made in and in connection with that book.

So no, Dawkins has debunked nothing. Just proved that he has very little understanding of the thing he purports to criticize.

Demosophist:

"Analogously, those with religious faith might be willing to make a Type II assumption that Darwinian random selection may not be the driving force in evolution, and that a Creator has a critical influence. This orientation isn't prima facie nonscientific. It simply says (because of alternative beliefs) that the burden of proof lies on the other foot."

Yes, it IS prima facie nonscientific. If an omnipotent Creator is supposed to be the driving influence, then by definition any evidence is met with the reply that since the Creator can do anything, G-d is still responsible. That's a viewpoint immune to evidence by definition. Hence faith, and NOT science.

The scientific method may be able to tell us how the Creator's universe works on a mechanical level. In that role, it has a noble function that matters to spiritual as well as physical development. It cannot tell us about the Creator. That answer must come from somewhere else.

davebo...

As much as I disagree with the creationists, I'll take them over the brownshirts and homicidal religious nuts you keep on your side any day.

But that's not what it's about. There's a civilization and valuable history of human practice here that's bigger than both of them.

Dawkins is correct that historicity of scriptures and authenticity of miracles are to some extent testable.

And tested..and failed. Like the Earth at the center of the universe. Like virgin births and resurrections. Like a thousand other "miracles" involving transmutations of matter or violations of space-time that cannot take place in this universe.

He is manifestly quite incorrect re: the existence of a creator as defined in Abrahamic doctrine, which by definition is beyond the natural world.

"By definition"! Hilarious. You mean because a religion declares it's gods to be "outside of the natural world" they are not believed by followers to influence events "inside the natural world"? And it is not possible to evaluate the likelihood that such events were caused by natural or supernatural agents?

Are you trying to tell me that your G-D (or the Abrahamic g-d) exists outside the natural world and NEVER impinges or intrudes upon it?

I could see ID coming up with a testable hypothesis, but right now, they don't have one. Even the Discovery Institute does not want ID taught in classrooms; instead, it is "teach the controversy" over evolution.

To present creationism as science, however, is dishonest at a very fundamental level. Not just a mistake, or a different belief - deliberately dishonest.

OR:

"To present evolutionism as science, however, is dishonest at a very fundamental level. Not just a mistake, or a different belief - deliberately dishonest."

Hearing both sides here react as if their 'doctrine' is being questioned is just laughable! Both sides sound like true believers. The creed just happens to be different!

Sepp, your understanding of religion is a bit strained, I see. Logic, too. Perhaps a Jesuit education would have done you good...

"Are you trying to tell me that your G-D (or the Abrahamic g-d) exists outside the natural world and NEVER impinges or intrudes upon it?"

No, and this is not required for the point I made. Which was:

"He is manifestly quite incorrect re: the existence of a creator as defined in Abrahamic doctrine, which by definition is beyond the natural world."

An omnipotent, omniscient being that existed before creation is by definition outside of that creation. Note also the word "omnipotent." G-d's past, present, and future participation in that creation is a subject for theological debate and speculation. But you're not going to establish it with human science. The Abrahamic definition itself places G-d beyond science's reach.

"But that's not scientific!" You reply. To which I reply: "Duh!" But it is entirely logical, if one accepts the premise of an omnipotent G-d who existed before creation, which was itself G-ds work.

Again, very rookie mistake by Dawkins, in an attempt to claim a level of limitless authority for science that it simply does not have.

Robohobo, scientific doctrine is exactly what is being undermined. Not as an opinion regarding a specific issue, but the underlying scientific method itself. Which is what defines science as a subject and a discipline.

"Hearing both sides here react as if their 'doctrine' is being questioned is just laughable! Both sides sound like true believers. The creed just happens to be different!"

To attempt to teach something that destroys science's own self-definition, and teach it as science, is a lie. And yes, I take exception to that.

You can teach creationst doctrine as religion, and I'm fine with that because that's honest. Or as civics, explaining that a percentage of the population holds these beliefs.

But you cannot teach it as science. Why? Because that's dishonest. Don't you also have a problem with that? And if not, why not?

I hate to be reduced to quoting myself, but:

Either we acknowledge that science doesn't teach us everything that we want to know, and does not express everything that we need to say (this is the correct conclusion - nudge, nudge), or we try to push that empirical barrier way the hell out into Kingdom Come, so that we can stuff everything into a proper knock-down scientific understanding. Unfortunately I think Intelligent Design is going straight down the second road. In a handbasket.

Perhaps better put by Stephen Jay Gould -

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria — the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions .... NOMA permits — indeed enjoins — the prospect of respectful discourse, of constant input from both magisteria toward the common goal of wisdom. If human beings are anything special, we are the creatures that must ponder and talk. Pope John Paul II would surely point out to me that his magisterium has always recognized this distinction, for "in principio, erat verbum"—"In the beginning was the Word."

Incidentally, I've heard Dawkins' objection to this before. It's Ayn Rand's simplistic materialist epistemology, only she put it so much better.

Ben Stein's accusing Darwin of responsibility for the Holocaust "a blood libel on science."

I haven't seen this film. To the extent that it makes this claim, I would have to agree with this characterization. I've seen this before, too, and again it was from the Ayn Rand crowd - her "intellectual heir" Leonard Peikoff wrote a book blaming the Holocaust on poor old Immanuel Kant. Literally. And he was serious - of course, the Objectivists are always dead serious.

History is a lesson in humility about what we are and how we got this way. Unfortunately, too many people take it as a lesson in self-righteous reductionism. So you have the Cindy Sheehans ("America is founded on murder") and the Jeremiah Wrights.

Religions (with some notable exceptions, maybe) have been humbled by long, slow acknowledgement of their history. Some anti-religionists, who act as if the world they live in was invented yesterday, use this history to dismiss religion out of hand.

Science is also a human activity, with a long history, but there is much less pressure for science to acknowledge and learn from its own history. This is a mistake. [Science, too, gets overheated dismissals - I remember the line from My Dinner With Andre: "Science has been held up as a magical force that will solve everything, but it's done quite the opposite, it's destroyed everything."]

The history of Darwinism in science, religion, politics, and popular culture would make a fascinating story - the essays of Stephen Jay Gould are the closest thing I've read to a detailed history. It's not a completely flattering saga, and yes, it does relate to unpleasant things, like slavery and Nazism. There's not much room in the public square for such discussions, and that is the fault of people on both sides.

I have no brief for Intelligent Design, though the origins of the Universe seem to be not well understood, nor how it happened to come about that it's configured to support life (and not say, just random crystals growing about).

That being said, I do detect more than an odor of the KulturKampf. The Church under Pius was hardly a beacon of reform, light, and liberalism. But Bismarck would tolerate no rival to the state, or institutions that would stand apart and perhaps even mediate or even worse, oppose actions of the State.

But I do see a broad parallel, though here it's more of a lesser echo of Bismarcks, in the refusal of the Liberal intelligentsia, to allow for mediating institutions, or even worse, opposing institutions to the great "State" (which would include the sadly interconnected media/corporate/government/University systems) that they control.

That didn't work out so well for Germany, I doubt you'd see better results in America.

If someone wishes to believe in ID, or Xenu, or the Angel Moroni and Golden Tablets, it's no matter to me. It's what people do that concerns me, not what they say.

And let's be honest, Liberals hate Darwin and Evolution more than religious people do. Far more.

First off, Darwin implies local "fitness" to environments by all living creatures, including humans, who live in very diverse environments, often dominated by very diverse cultures. What is "fit" (more descendants) in one environment will not be "fit" in another. Which includes of course the social environment as much as the physical one.

Despite all evidence of ongoing, and rapid, natural and sexual selection among humans, Liberal Dogma says it never happened, race is a social construct, and other "sun revolves around the earth" type religious belief masquerading as science.

Darwin is OK for describing how leopards can be divided into Clouded Leopards, Snow Leopards, and African Leopards, but certainly not for humans. We certainly can't have THAT!

[Certainly the different kinds of leopards are, well different. But each is superbly adapted to it's environment, one is not better than the other.]

Liberals are at least as bad as Intelligent Design people at throwing out actual science that conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Liberals are at least as bad as Intelligent Design people at throwing out actual science that conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Exactly. Beams and motes.

Intelligent Design damages religion more than science. The Global Warming non-debate is greatly damaging to science.

It simply says (because of alternative beliefs) that the burden of proof lies on the other foot.

This statement demonstrates one of the fundamental misunderstandings of science (including by some practitioners of it). Science is not mathematics. It is not about proving things. It is about disproving things. No scientific theory is ever "proven" in a mathematical sense--science is about induction, not deduction.

There is no "burden of proof" on a proposer of a scientific theory. The only burden is that a) it accounts for the available facts and b) there be some potential means of disproving it. Theories that remain non-disproven are accepted until better (in the sense of simpler, or more precise) ones come along. Creationism (and ID) fail as science, because there is no way by which they can be disproved.

Despite all evidence of ongoing, and rapid, natural and sexual selection among humans, Liberal Dogma says it never happened, race is a social construct, and other "sun revolves around the earth" type religious belief masquerading as science.

Well, actually, race, as most people use and understand the word, is a social construct. It's certainly not a biological concept, because there's no clear definition for it. What neat little "race" box does Tiger Woods fit in? That's not to say, of course, that historically homogeneous groups of people can't have distinctive genetic (and hence morphological, including intelligence) differences from other historically homogeneous groups of people.

#12, you're dodging the issue. You do not and cannot refute the idea that wherever the hell it is you think "G-D" exists, people believe strongly that he/she/it has an influence over events in our REAL world. As such, they enter into the domain of science and testability.

It's a simple point really.

Sepp, your understanding of religion is a bit strained, I see.

True. As is my understanding of Witchcraft, wizardry, Uri Geller, UFO's, ancient African mysticism, the Angel Moroni, and any and all other irrational claims of supernatural forces that work outside of the laws of the universe that we are all familiar enough with at this point to know are bogus.

An omnipotent, omniscient being that existed before creation is by definition outside of that creation.

By YOUR definition, Joe. By the definition of those inclined to believe in such things. By those who wish to set up a system that they BELIEVE or SAY is outside of nature and therefore outside of rational scrutiny.

Note also the word "omnipotent."

The Abrahamic definition itself places G-d beyond science's reach....But it is entirely logical, if one accepts the premise of an omnipotent G-d who existed before creation, which was itself G-ds work.

Flimsy argument....based on whether one "accepts a premise" or not. How convenient.

Well, I don't. There's no reason at all to think there is such an entity...none at all. Zero.

I'll repeat the part that matters:

You mean because a religion declares it's gods to be "outside of the natural world" they are not believed by followers to influence events "inside the natural world"? And it is not possible to evaluate the likelihood that such events were caused by natural or supernatural agents?

This is precisely what you're saying.

Logic, too.

No, I'm very familiar with the kind of logic you are employing here...it's called circular logic.

By those who wish to set up a system that they BELIEVE or SAY is outside of nature and therefore outside of rational scrutiny.

What's so great about "rational scrutiny"? Who are you to impose your belief system on others?

What's so great about "rational scrutiny"? Who are you to impose your belief system on others?

You also dodge the central point of the NOMA critique, that once claims are made that impinge upon the "real" (i.e., rational) world, (and religions have no shortage of these!) then failing to evaluate their validity is irrational.

Not to say that you don't have a right to be irrational.

BUT, when these irrational beliefs become the basis for decisions or actions that affect a larger population, including millions of people who don't see things the way you do, then this odd "belief system" of rationality must, of course, come into play. (Interesting categorization of "rationality" as a "belief system", by the way!)

We'd have never reached this point in history as a civilization if this weren't the case.

So I think it's clear that you've got it exactly backwards.

Actually, Sepp, it's you who are making the logical error. You see, you can reason from premises, but premises are by definition not subject to reason. So it's fine that you don't accept a particular premise. That does not make arguments that follow from that premise illogical, even if they are wrong.

Also, you miss a fundamental point. Science seeks to provide rational, testable explanations for natural phenomena. Again, by definition, this excludes supernatural phenomena. A failure of science to explain an event does not indicate that that event must be supernatural; neither are actual supernatural events (presuming they occur) subject to scientific explanation. Joe is logically correct here: if you define God as an entity existing both within and without the universe, which the Abrahamic religions do, then the existence of such a God is not reachable by scientific methods. The existence of Pagan gods, however, which largely are held to exist within and as a part of nature, is reachable by scientific methods. The non-existence of any sort of god is only reachable by science through the negative: a concrete and repeatable observation of a god.

The mere fact that you reject the Abrahamic premise (as do I, actually) does not make that premise incorrect. And your repeated attempts to argue that it does simply shows that you know as little of logic as Joe claims.

I prefer to approach the argument from the other side- Creationism isn't science because it starts with what it considers the facts and works backwards to find evidence, discarding, disguising, or attacking counter-evidence as it goes. That is completely unacceptable in science (it happens, but when it does it is rightly criticized).

Lets put it this way: if you asked any evolutionary scientist if there is any conceivable evidence that would change their opinion- they would say yes. They could probably even list exactly what proofs it would take.

Now if you asked any Creationist what proofs would cause them to chance their opinion, well there are none. Anything you could offer, no matter how substantial, would simply be another obstacle to overcome, another set of data to dispute. Instead of studying the data to find a better theory, they attack the data in order to destroy or cast doubt on it. That is not science, that is politics.

...when these irrational beliefs become the basis for decisions or actions that affect a larger population, including millions of people who don't see things the way you do, then this odd "belief system" of rationality must, of course, come into play. (Interesting categorization of "rationality" as a "belief system", by the way!)

Of course it's a belief system. It all comes down to what you value.

We'd have never reached this point in history as a civilization if this weren't the case.

So? What's so great about our civilization? If it doesn't help us satisfy God's will, what's the point?

So I think it's clear that you've got it exactly backwards.

No, not at all. Your awareness of your belief system is like that of a like a fish of water.

Now if you asked any Creationist what proofs would cause them to chance their opinion, well there are none. Anything you could offer, no matter how substantial, would simply be another obstacle to overcome, another set of data to dispute. Instead of studying the data to find a better theory, they attack the data in order to destroy or cast doubt on it. That is not science, that is politics.

Or, as Derbyshire once wrote, creationism (and ID) isn't a theory. It's merely a critique of a theory.

And as a rejoinder to those who ignorantly claim that evolution is "only a theory" (as though there's something wrong with theories) and to paraphrase Pauli, creationism isn't even a theory.

Jeff, you're also skirting the main point in an attempt to knock down extraneous (and largely semantic) ones.

...neither are actual supernatural events (presuming they occur) subject to scientific explanation. Joe is logically correct here: if you define God as an entity existing both within and without the universe, which the Abrahamic religions do, then the existence of such a God is not reachable by scientific methods.

So, once again (this is getting boring), IF an event that is called "supernatural" makes a claim that is testable (as most do, like ESP, Intelligent Design, etc) because it involves events in the real world, then it is wholly within the ability of "science" to explain it, as long as it happens within this universe.

Even the very proposition that there are "supernatural" phenomena and beings are hypotheses. Simply saying something exists outside of a realm of reality and thus scrutiny does not compel one to treat it as such, because this in and of itself is a theory that is testable by considering its predictive utility.

And there is no valid logic to an argument that depends upon the acceptance of an arbitrary definition of a "supernatural" being who exists outside of "logic", which is what Katzman is saying. It is circular. If you want to believe such a thing exists, fine, but it is ILLOGICAL to do so, and logic (a rational tool) cannot be employed as proof or evidence.

Which are what a disagreement of the type we are engaged in requires to be convincingly resolved.

So, once again (this is getting boring), IF an event that is called "supernatural" makes a claim that is testable (as most do, like ESP, Intelligent Design, etc)

In what way is ID testable?

If you want to believe such a thing exists, fine, but it is ILLOGICAL to do so, and logic (a rational tool) cannot be employed as proof or evidence.

And what if "proof" and "evidence" are not one's preferred means for attaining knowledge? Just because they are for you doesn't mean that they are, or should be, for everyone.

Sepp,

Read Jeff Medcalf's post, carefully. As for:

"Flimsy argument....based on whether one "accepts a premise" or not. How convenient."

That might be why people call it "faith."

Jeff,

Bit of a problem with the last paragraph.

"The non-existence of any sort of god is only reachable by science through the negative: a concrete and repeatable observation of a god."

Even posting a pagan god existing within the natural universe, science may not be able to get us very far.

You could walk Aphrodite herself into a room full of scientists and equipment, have her display her powers in front of them, and all they'd be able to say is that being X appeared and created the following effects by as-yet unknown means, which for all we know involved undetectable 3rd party technical intervention a a distance, and which gave the following readings on the instruments we used.

I present the rather-rumpled-looking scientists of "experiment A" at the post-experiment press conference. Lead scientist Freya Hubergruberunterschauber-Smith:

"We have some theories re: some of the forces at work when the effects were produced, in particular highly localized, benign, and fully functional cell growth, and look forward to following them up in the lab and... elsewhere.

As a postscript, we all came out of the experiment wishing we had spent more time with the opposite sex, and really appreciated her tips on flirting and, uh, matrimonial matters. We'd especially like to thank our sponsor Cosmopolitan Magazine for the opportunity, and look forward to seeing our pal "the divine miss A" on the soon-to-be famous "lab coat cover".

The tapes and readings will be released to science, except for a 3-hour period during which it appears that our subject's abilities simply deactivated all of our instruments. We've checked carefully (really, really, carefully), and gosh darn it, but it seems to have been all of them. Truly remarkable, and of course we're extremely disappointed that this valuable data from our work is lost, including the flirting and matrimonial advice.

Our scientists are available for interviews to pass on what they remember, however, with all proceeds going to the Institute.

We would also like to personally assure Aphrodite that we think she is "the divine miss A" in every way, and by far the most beautiful woman or goddess that has ever been. We read our Homer in school, you know. We were also very impressed by the effects she was able to produce on... uh, in our labs.

As scientists, however, we can offer no scientific opinion of her divinity, other than to say that she has the ability to produce defined effects by unknown means, which are far beyond any present technology of ours. We can also say with confidence that her physical construction gives readings on an MRI that are so fundamentally different from a human's as to render her NON-human in origin. Beyond that, we can say little. The decision to adopt her as one's goddess must remain a purely personal matter.

Thank you for your time today."

ID claims to be a "scientific" theory. If ID proponents (like Katzman) want this to be so, then ID must submit to scientific inquiry.

ID makes the claim that some naturalistic phenomenon (like the bacterial flagella) are too complex to have arisen by natural selection and, therefore (here's the leap of faith) must have been designed by some "intelligent" being.

But to my knowledge no one has never been able to identify a single such phenomenon that does not have a scientific, rational explanation.

And where is the evidence for the creator? And how is his complexity explained?

It is a "God of the Gaps" argument that has also been debunked.

If ID proponents (like Katzman) want this to be so, then ID must submit to scientific inquiry.

Joe is an ID proponent? Who knew?

That might be why people call it "faith."

I'll take that as a concession that you are unable use reason, logic or rationality to make your point. And that you cannot address the other major critiques of this line of thinking with regards to testability, predictions and models of the world that you want others who do not share in your faith to accept.

As I've stated multiple times...believe whatever the heck you want. Just don't think that other's need to share in your delusions. Or try to "prove" their validity using the tools of rational thought. Or make claims that are testable and then argue against the inevitable negative results on the basis of faith or belief.

Joe is an ID proponent? Who knew?

Anyone who read his post I'm guessing.

You could walk Aphrodite herself into a room full of scientists and equipment, have her display her powers in front of them, and all they'd be able to say is that being X appeared and created the following effects by as-yet unknown means, which for all we know involved undetectable 3rd party technical intervention a a distance, and which gave the following readings on the instruments we used.

And which powers would those be, Joe?

(I'm starting to see that I'm the one needing a reality check for thinking that I can reason with someone who thinks like this.)

Liberals are at least as bad as Intelligent Design people at throwing out actual science that conflicts with their religious beliefs.

I'd actually like to see the list on this one. DDT and nuclear power leap to my mind, but they're about the only ones that leap on short notice.

Well, I have to give up on Sepp, since either he cannot read, cannot comprehend or cannot let go of his passion long enough to take a disinterested look at what people are saying. If Joe (a Christian and so far as I have seen critic of ID), Rand (an atheist and fierce critics of ID) and myself (a Pagan and fierce critic of ID) can all be labeled as supporting ID or denigrating science or both, then Sepp is not reachable by logic or argument. Sadly, Sepp has no apparent interest in science, being invested in atheism and Science as matters of faith. Pity, because he makes the pro-science and anti-ID crowd (generally the same people) look bad.

Oh, and Joe, you are of course correct on what the scientists could say as a scientific matter about a god in their presence. I merely meant that there is not a positive way to demonstrate a god scientifically, only a negative way to demonstrate non-existence. I realize that this does not lead to proof and that science does not make value judgements of that kind. It was supposed to be an illustration of part of the flaw Sepp was making.

One note, to a point Sepp made in case anyone is interested, about Sepp's "main point:" that if a claim is made that would have effects in nature, it is testable. He is wrong. Here is a counterexample. I claim that the Abrahamic god exists and can heal the sick. Now, if that is so, then by Sepp's claim this is a testable proposition, because healing people is an effect in the natural, observable world. But how is this testable? If there are innumerable examples of people being healed without apparent divine intervention, this does not demonstrate that no people are healed by divine intervention. If there are people who heal and where science has no reliable explanation (spontaneous remission, for example), this does not demonstrate that their healing was divinely enabled. Sepp makes a common error: that science offers proof. It does not such thing; science only offers disproof, and the case I just put forth is not subject to disproof, and is thus not scientifically valid, even if it is true. There are more ways of experiencing the world than through logic and reason, and science (as a creature of logic and reason, and bounded by the observable physical world) cannot reach those experiences either to provide them support or to disprove them.

Sepp, you might also try actually reading the post above, whose main point is that ID is inherently not scientific. I'm afraid your hatred of religion left the tools of logic behind long ago. Letting that rule you is making you look very foolish here.

"ID claims to be a "scientific" theory. If ID proponents (like Katzman) want this to be so, then ID must submit to scientific inquiry.

ID makes the claim that some naturalistic phenomenon (like the bacterial flagella) are too complex to have arisen by natural selection and, therefore (here's the leap of faith) must have been designed by some "intelligent" being."

The Discovery Institute might argue this, and this is the standard argument of most organized ID proponents. An argument I rejected quite forcefully in the post above, something most people in this discussion appear to have read and understood.

It follows from that evidence that not all ID believers make the Discovery Institute's argument ("All ravens are birds. All birds are not ravens." Any of this ringing a bell, Sepp?). This may help to explain the empirical observation that many scientists, including scientists who disagree with the idea of ID as a scientific theory, are also religious.

It is perfectly possible to argue that our understanding of natural selection represents a (provisionally) valid scientific explanation for the development of species, as demonstrated by its clear usefulness and predictive power in important fields that include disease-related research. It will remain so until and unless it is replaced by a theory that demonstrates more explanatory and predictive power, per the scientific method. As such, natural selection represents a necessarily partial understanding of the mechanisms at work within a universe designed by an omnipotent Creator, who existed before creation, and whose past and present existence therefore remain outside the reach of science.

---

RE: (#35), you'll have to ask her. Not my fault if the Divine Miss A is avoiding you. Can't think why...

Oh, and Jeff (#37)... Joe is a Jew. No offense taken at all, and that paragraph's point remains totally valid.

"I merely meant that there is not a positive way to demonstrate a god scientifically, only a negative way to demonstrate non-existence."

Ah, you mean that (for instance) science could reveal that someone was just a jumped-up human using technical tricks or sleight of hand which it is able to identify, explain, and reproduce. Let's call this "The Picard Conclusion". Yes, that is possible. Very sorry for the misunderstanding.

RE: (#35), you'll have to ask her. Not my fault if the Divine Miss A is avoiding you. Can't think why...

The irony is that the powers traditionally ascribed to her are the least testable by any scientific method, and description of the phenomenon regularly defeat most artistic and literary efforts as well.

The, er, "physical manifestation" of her influence may be observable in male scientists, of course. But tracing the causality directly back to her as a supernatural catalyst would be beyond science's realm.

I'd actually like to see the list on this one.
One that springs immediately to mind: Gun control reduces the crime rate.

Sepp:

And there is no valid logic to an argument that depends upon the acceptance of an arbitrary definition of a "supernatural" being who exists outside of "logic", which is what Katzman is saying. It is circular. If you want to believe such a thing exists, fine, but it is ILLOGICAL to do so, and logic (a rational tool) cannot be employed as proof or evidence.

That's false, and why is it always the "rationalists" who end up shouting?

Hundreds of years ago the Scholastics argued that even God does not exist outside of logic. They believed that nothing could exist outside of logic - but some modern scientists are toying with the idea.

But logic is a very feeble restraint on what can exist or occur. The speed of light and the strength of steel are not limited by logic. Miracles and faster-than-light spacecraft are perfectly logical, even if they defy our understanding of what is physically possible.

Where logic does impose limits, such as the laws of identity and non-contradiction, it's science that questions those limits of possibility. Limits that medieval theologians were perfectly content with. Although the spirit of science is empirical and logical, rigid empiricist philosophies of science have always failed, because they place false limits on science.

#30 from Joe Katzman: great comment. :)

Katzman, you are AGAIN dodging my main criticisms to argue a minor one, which I will concede (to a point):

Sepp, you might also try actually reading the post above, whose main point is that ID is inherently not scientific.

To present creationism as science, however, is dishonest at a very fundamental level. Not just a mistake, or a different belief - deliberately dishonest.

Fine. Although there is very little air between your beliefs and theirs.

Illustrated in these comments, the ones that I'm concerned about for all the reasons listed above that you want to avoid confronting, because you cannot:

I personally believe that the universe was created by an intelligent designer, and that the designer was G-d.

As such, natural selection represents a necessarily partial understanding of the mechanisms at work within a universe designed by an omnipotent Creator, who existed before creation, and whose past and present existence therefore remain outside the reach of science.

There is no "therefore" in this comment, that implies logic, a tool of reason and science that you are setting your god beyond in an obvious attempt to shield the idea from any rational scrutiny. Fine, and you admit this. Its NOMA, and it's debunked.

End of conversation.

Joe:

Yes, it IS prima facie nonscientific. If an omnipotent Creator is supposed to be the driving influence, then by definition any evidence is met with the reply that since the Creator can do anything, G-d is still responsible. That's a viewpoint immune to evidence by definition. Hence faith, and NOT science. The scientific method may be able to tell us how the Creator's universe works on a mechanical level. In that role, it has a noble function that matters to spiritual as well as physical development. It cannot tell us about the Creator. That answer must come from somewhere else.

Good point. Let me slightly amend my statement. While it's true that the positive hypothesis of a Creator (or creator) is not absolutely falsifiable, and is therefor nonscientific, it is possible to say two things about such a situation that are scientific. First, a Creator may be detectable, if not by direct then by indirect means. The fact that a Creator isn't part of the natural world doesn't automatically rule that out. Second, if such a Creator were indetectable, even indirectly, then the existence of such a Designer would be trivial. We might as well assume it/he/she doesn't exist. Since a non-trivial Designer would be detectable, the detection of such a first principle would falsify the hypothesis that a random process is sufficent to explain the existence and nature of the universe. QED.

Secondly, a person of faith is simply making a risk assessment that falsely assuming no designer has greater risk than falsely assuming a designer. If the designer is undetectable by definition then the believer's employment of a Type II method is not scientifically legitimate, because his risk assessment has no conceivable justification. (If the existence of a Creator is trivial then there's little risk in the false assumption that He doesn't exist.)

One might argue that such a believer could be legitimately concerned about an afterlife, but if an afterlife is indetectable, even indirectly, then it too must be trivial. If there is such a division between "this world" and "the next" that the latter can't possibly be falsified, then what one does in this world could have little impact on what one does in the next, in which case the risk is minimal. Moreover, if what one does in this life only has an effect on the next and the reverse isn't true (unless faith is actually a form of information transfer), then a one-way door would essentially make this life a determinant of the next, while the next world has no influence either direct or indirect. Some information must therefor make the arduous journey back between worlds.

To put this another way, if we can have no information passage from the next world to this then the idea of responsibility and punishment makes no sense. We can bear responsibility only for acts that have consequences, and then only if we have some way of knowing what those consequences are. It may have been this dilemma that led Calvin to the notion of predestination, but that's hardly a solution. Moreover, predestination implies that next-world circumstances completely determine conditions in this world... so clearly it would be pointless to be concerned about the existence of a Designer unless it were possible to escape predestination. Not that such absurdities aren't interesting.

So, to sum up... while the naked assumption of a Designer isn't scientific, the method can be legitimately amended by hypothesizing a non-trivial Designer.

One that springs immediately to mind: Gun control reduces the crime rate.

Here's another--there's no leftist bias in either academia or the mainstream press.

If Joe (a Christian and so far as I have seen critic of ID), Rand (an atheist and fierce critics of ID) and myself (a Pagan and fierce critic of ID) can all be labeled as supporting ID or denigrating science or both, then Sepp is not reachable by logic or argument.

Of course one does not follow from the other.

One note, to a point Sepp made in case anyone is interested, about Sepp's "main point:" that if a claim is made that would have effects in nature, it is testable. He is wrong. Here is a counterexample. I claim that the Abrahamic god exists and can heal the sick. Now, if that is so, then by Sepp's claim this is a testable proposition, because healing people is an effect in the natural, observable world. But how is this testable? If there are innumerable examples of people being healed without apparent divine intervention, this does not demonstrate that no people are healed by divine intervention. If there are people who heal and where science has no reliable explanation (spontaneous remission, for example), this does not demonstrate that their healing was divinely enabled.

Why do you think science does not have an explanation for this? Try taking some biology classes.

Sepp makes a common error: that science offers proof. It does not such thing; science only offers disproof, and the case I just put forth is not subject to disproof, and is thus not scientifically valid, even if it is true.

I made no such error. Of course science can offer proof in many circumstances. Ever heard of a microscope? A telescope? But furthermore, if a claim is not falsifiable (like yours) it is not a valid rational claim. In which case the hypothesis should be revisited. This is just another example of the Russell's Teapot's_teapot argument that has been debunked.

End of conversation.

Thus spoke the dogmatist. For the end of all of Sir Richard's scientism is not science, but dogma. Amen.

Rand:

This statement demonstrates one of the fundamental misunderstandings of science (including by some practitioners of it). Science is not mathematics. It is not about proving things. It is about disproving things. No scientific theory is ever "proven" in a mathematical sense--science is about induction, not deduction.

Yes, yes... but employing Popper doesn't get you out of that jam. Call it the burden of falsification. (That's sort of implied in the idea of Type I and Type II methods.) The point is that there are situations where it's scientifically legitimate to place the onus on the other foot. The crux of the matter is your justification of risk.

Thus spoke the dogmatist.

Let's examine the thinking here, Glen.

I express exasperation at those here who want to wall off religion from scientific or rational scrutiny and work hard to avoid confronting the implications of their arguments. Multiple times. Caps are used (shouting, I think you called it) to underscore this.

So when I decide that it is no longer productive to engage in a rational debate about the irrational, it is evidence of dogmatism?

So quick to jump to the most pleasing, but not most likely, explanation. The perfect parable of faith-based thinking.

The assumption of religion is that the existence of a Creator/Designer isn't trivial. The implications of this may not be immediately clear to a person of faith, but by making such a claim they place the issue under the umbrella of scientific method. That does not mean, as Sepp seems to think, that it's therefore a trivial matter to prove that a Creator/Designer does not exist, nor is it valid to make such an assumption without an argument. Indeed, it would be scientifically invalid to do so... without a clear definition or risk and a justification for adopting a Type I method. However, that would not be an argument that a Type II method is "unscientific," just that it's not appropriate. Nor would such an argument automatically be deemed the only acceptable point of view. The decision context would remain important, as would the threshold for falsification.

Sepp: Why do you think science does not have an explanation for this?

The fact that science has an explanation for something doesn't mean that it is true (in any ultimate sense), or that it will be universally accepted. One of the hallmarks of science is, after all, that its explanations evolve as better ones arise.

Demosophist: ...employing Popper doesn't get you out of that jam. Call it the burden of falsification. (That's sort of implied in the idea of Type I and Type II methods.) The point is that there are situations where it's scientifically legitimate to place the onus on the other foot.

Only in the context of doing science. Unfortunately, what we have here is people attempting to do science who don't really believe in science (not that there's anything wrong with not believing in science). Demanding that science "prove" things generally betrays a lack of knowledge about how science works.

I feel another blog post coming on...

Rand #52:

Only in the context of doing science. Unfortunately, what we have here is people attempting to do science who don't really believe in science (not that there's anything wrong with not believing in science). Demanding that science "prove" things generally betrays a lack of knowledge about how science works.

Ironically the notion of verification hasn't completely disappeared from science. However, it's now employed mainly in the choice of methods, in terms of which hypothesis is more appropriate (Type I or Type II). If there is a lot of evidence for an evolutionary model, then in a context where such a theory is dispositive, it makes sense to assume that it will explain observed phenomena. However, it might be advisable to make such hypotheses explicitly conditional, by employing some sort of Bayesian method that progressively approximates an accurate model (whether entirely evolutionary, partly designed, or mostly designed). Absent such an approach we are left with some version of dualism, because either side can simply adjust their models to favor the results they prefer.

but by making such a claim they place the issue under the umbrella of scientific method.

This is where you make the same mistake Sepp is, you're ignoring the very tenets of the scientific method. The scientific method is not a philosophical thing, it's a very practical mundane thing. The province of the practicing scientist and engineer.

The core of the scientific method is observation married to experimentation (which requires repeatability). Any attempts to apply this to an interested supernatural phenomena will fail. It fails both the observation and repeatability requirements at a minimum. How would you even begin to set up a scientific experiment to validate supernatural intervention? I've seen people try and it's laughable at best.

Let's see, incredibly fuzzy hypothesis, check. No control possible, check. Subject of experiment aware of experiment, check. Subject of experiment capable of (indeed liable to) meddle with results, check.

Combine that with the subjects ability to meddle with all possible observational methods AND an ability to alter physical law itself and you have an experiment the likes of which will make dear old Pons and Fleischman the model of scientific respectability.

And that's assuming you can even codify what the heck you are testing for, a step I notice everyone skipping conveniently over or generalizing so broadly as to be useless. God heals people? Great, how do you propose to test that? Find someone who didn't die when they were supposed to and say that proves...well, actually that proves absolutely nothing and everyone knows it. If you had a religion that stated God would cure every left handed albino of cancer on the third Thursday of July, that would be testable.

Sorry, that God intervenes in the universe may be logically provable, it's not scientifically provable.

Ironically the notion of verification hasn't completely disappeared from science.

I don't think it's disappeared at all, depending on what one means by that. To me, verification simply means confirming that the fact fits the theory, not proving the theory true.

But I think that you miss my point. It doesn't really matter what scientists believe, because the people pushing creationism/ID don't really care about science. If they did, they wouldn't be undermining and libeling it in this matter. Science is never going to "prove" anything to them, even if it could prove it to scientists. Because proofs, and logic, are irrelevant when they conflict with non-science faith.

As an example of the way models are adjustable, consider the example of "the complex eye." Evolutionary scientists rightly observe that they have an explanation of such an evolution, although the explanation is inherently vulnerable to levels of resolution. That is, no matter how exhaustive their explanation they still aren't sufficiently exhaustive that they can predict the outcome of a complex evolutionary process before it occurs. On the other hand, IDers are relegated to proving inconsistencies in the model of evolutionists, and there's little chance of doing so in such a way that alternatives can't be proposed. However, if ID had a history of pointing out such inconsistencies then eventually opinion would begin to move in their direction. There's no reason they should be relieved of such a burden, nor is there as reason why we should regard evolution as immune.

Immunity is dualism, and it's a position I'm gradually moving away from, as fundamentally unscientific. I don't think, however, that we're anywhere close to settling such questions.

Demosophist,

"Since a non-trivial Designer would be detectable,"

Omnipotent. Omniscient. Equals not necessarily detectable. Premise is flawed. Discard.

No, the existence of G-d is not trivial. It's just not provable using science, because such a being is not provable as G-d even if it acts.

In fact, let's see and raise. Kindly explain to me the experimental method you use for detecting an omnipotent, omniscient being, who also exists prior to and therefore outside of creation. Explain, also, how you confirm that you have indeed found such a thing, and not something else.

This ought to be good.

But I think that you miss my point. It doesn't really matter what scientists believe, because the people pushing creationism/ID don't really care about science. If they did, they wouldn't be undermining and libeling it in this matter. Science is never going to "prove" anything to them, even if it could prove it to scientists. Because proofs, and logic, are irrelevant when they conflict with non-science faith.

Well, I'm just a crass empiricist. I really don't give a hoot what people believe. It's entirely possible that ID could be serving a useful purpose no matter what it's proponents' intentions. That doesn't seem terribly relevant to me.

Joe:
Kindly explain to me the experimental method you use for detecting an omnipotent, omniscient being ...

This reminds me of a Harlan Ellison article I read once, about science fiction writers who were pitching ideas for a Star Trek movie to studio execs. The studio people rejected every idea as too tame, and kept saying "We want something really big!"

Finally, one of the exasperated writers said, "Okay, how about this: The Enterprise travels to the very end of the universe, blows a hole in it with their phasers, and there's the giant face of God, staring back at them."

The studio people thought about that for a moment, then said, "No, you don't understand. We want something really, really big."

Joe:

Omnipotent. Omniscient. Equals not necessarily detectable. Premise is flawed. Discard.

I didn't say that a Designer is necessarily detectable, but that if He's not detectable then the risk of unbelief is minimal. If we are in the arms of a Being so omnipotent that he can and will always disguise His Hand as some natural process, then what we believe will not determine our fate to any significant degree. That is' it's not a matter of what He knows are how much Power He has, but what His intentions must be.

In fact, let's see and raise. Kindly explain to me the experimental method you use for detecting an omnipotent, omniscient being, who also exists prior to and therefore outside of creation. Explain, also, how you confirm that you have indeed found such a thing, and not something else. This ought to be good.

Well, to put this another way, a God that makes sense to me would not disguise His existence in such a way that it was completely undetectable. Moreover, if there were such a God I would have no particular reason to believe Him Good rather than Evil. Hence, I would have no convincing reason not to oppose Him even if He existed. The only sure evidence I'd have of absolute omnipotences would come at the "end of time," and in that case I'm either doomed or I'm not. I just don't find this very, er... motivating. It might be true anyway, of course.

Finally, it's not entirely fair to impose the burden on me to come up with a method for falsification. I'm more a philosopher than an evolutionary scientist. I'm arguing not that I know how to prove the existence of a non-trivial Creator... but rather that such proof must be part of His Plan, unless he's a total Dweeb.

To put this another way, I suppose it's possible to believe that Jon Benet Ramsey was killed in self defense, but if that's the case then our entire system of jurisprudence is established on false premises. The Universe is actually so different from our assumptions about it that we might as well just start over...

Re: #57. Demosophist, along the way to explaining your method for detecting a non-trivial G-d, you'll need to explain how to deal with Treefrog's cogent objections in #54.

Re: #56, let's unpack that, because some of it is true. But some is not.

"That is, no matter how exhaustive their explanation they still aren't sufficiently exhaustive that they can predict the outcome of a complex evolutionary process before it occurs."

That's a non-argument. The scientific standard is best predictiveness on any level possible, not full predictiveness on every level.

See also: fluid mechanics, upon which you regularly bet your life.

On a related note, we can't predict the exact weather in a year, or a century, which is an analogous task. But we can do weather prediction on a more limited basis, we get those every day, and the science of meteorology remains valid. Hopefully improving. Possibly with fundamental theoretical limits to its predictiveness if the chaos/complexity science folks are right. But still valid science.

That does not mean, as Sepp seems to think, that it's therefore a trivial matter to prove that a Creator/Designer does not exist.

For the record, that's not what I think nor what I have been saying, being fully aware that the absence of proof does not constitute "proof" of anything.

However, I think that a converse argument can be made against the faithful here. They seem to be claiming that because the existence of G-D cannot be dis-proven, then such a being/hypothesis can (and does) exist and is valid, however astronomical the possibility.

Here's Katzman again:

Kindly explain to me the experimental method you use for detecting an omnipotent, omniscient being, who also exists prior to and therefore outside of creation. Explain, also, how you confirm that you have indeed found such a thing, and not something else.

Once again, where is your evidence FOR this, Joe, and how did he/she/it come into being? Why do you think this?

(This is typically where it "gets good", by the way.)

Like I said many many times already, you're all free to believe this or anything else you want that suffers from the same total lack of evidence or justification. You can believe for the same exact reasons articulated above that there exists a Teapot in orbit around the sun somewhere out there. Just try to keep it out of my reality. And please stop demanding that irrational views should be given consideration in ANY realm where reason and logic must apply, such as human activities.

#60 well said.

Demosophist:
a God that makes sense to me would not disguise His existence in such a way that it was completely undetectable.

At the risk of being totally facetious (which I am not being, not totally, only some) I must point out that God would surely make a very good camera and sound boom operator. One does not like to detect those things in a movie, because it kind of ruins the whole point.

They seem to be claiming that because the existence of G-D cannot be dis-proven, then such a being/hypothesis can (and does) exist and is valid, however astronomical the possibility.

Wow. That straw man seems almost god-like to this agnostic.

Demosophist, the fast way to deal with the consequentialist argument is to refer you back to my note in #57, and Treefrog's objections in #54. Reality doesn't care what you think its implications are, meet the empirical standard or accept that empiricism appears to be beyond its limits here. The good news is that the implications aren't what you describe. Think the logic through some more.

Meanwhile, continuing with #56 brings us to...

"On the other hand, IDers are relegated to proving inconsistencies in the model of evolutionists, and there's little chance of doing so in such a way that alternatives can't be proposed. However, if ID had a history of pointing out such inconsistencies then eventually opinion would begin to move in their direction."

Not necessarily. Back to the terms of science, and your earlier comment:

"The point is that there are situations where it's scientifically legitimate to place the onus on the other foot. The crux of the matter is your justification of risk."

Pascal's Wager is logical, but not scientific. And that is not the crux of the matter - because what the other foot is matters too.

The crux of the matter is that both sides of that argument must conform to science.

We have a scientific theory that has demonstrated testability and a level of predictive power, in many environments and situations. That is good enough to make it the accepted working theory.

To create a scientific argument, and therefore give scientific opinion somewhere to move to, the opposing side must offer an alternative explanation for the observed evidence that supports the current theory, and that argument must be scientifically testable in principle.

Saying "but the current theory doesn't explain everything, therefore it has no credence" is an argument of ignorance and barbarism, because it would deny all science. "Since science cannot explain everything, I will believe only what I choose to believe, about anything" is the dark ages ethos of a witch-doctor - and that epithet is probably a disservice to both the European Dark Ages and some witch-doctors. Perhaps "Taliban mentality" is a better description, based upon observable evidence of their conduct and belief systems.

Western Civilization doesn't survive that mentality, which is entirely alien to science.

Now, that mentality I just described is NOT the same thing as saying:

"This is an area outside of science's ability to tackle. Therefore I will believe what I choose to believe, acknowledging that my belief is not science but something else. There are more things in heav'n and earth."

Which is fine. Nor is it the same as saying:

"You're making a policy recommendation on the basis of science that extends beyond science. The certain costs of your policy are not justified by the uncertainty level of your science and predictions."

Those are both legitimate.

If you're just pointing out that a theory doesn't yet fully explain certain things, however, that will not move scientific opinion.

It may impact ancillary non-science public policy recommendations as above, and it may spur a search for better scientific explanations that take the anomalies into account, but that's it. Really, the best IDers can do is add one more thing to the unexplained/ to be investigated pile, under the tiny subject "the entire history of life on Earth." Thanks, added to the pile.

"There's no reason they should be relieved of such a burden, nor is there as reason why we should regard evolution as immune."

We should not regard evolution as immune to a scientific counter-theory. We should regard it as immune to a counter-theory that is not scientifically testable in principle, at least so far as the practice and teaching of science is concerned.

Such objections may be noted, but they must be noted as cultural/ religious objections.

Joe:

Regarding #54:

This is where you make the same mistake Sepp is, you're ignoring the very tenets of the scientific method. The scientific method is not a philosophical thing, it's a very practical mundane thing. The province of the practicing scientist and engineer.

Do I really need to address this? The point of those kooks in the "sociology of science" is that this has all become a matter of practicalities, and that we can therefore just dismiss issues of philosophy. Or rather, their point is that if philosophy is irrelant then practicalities can be addressed just as well by a set of typologies. It's just a matter of having a consistent reference point. Obviously I think philosophy important. If not... isn't treefrog compelled to agree with Steve Fuller? Isn't this just a matter of typologies?

That's a non-argument. The scientific standard is best predictiveness on any level possible, not full predictiveness on every level. See also: fluid mechanics, upon which you regularly bet your life.

Predictiveness is kind of a minor issue. I'm not saying that lack of predictive capability is prima facie evidence of nonscientific method. As for the weather example, that's just a matter of frequency or periodicy. Clearly we want to predict possibilities, though certainties would be preferable. My point in raising this is that it's sort of an ultimate test of reliability, if not validity. It is possible for a model to be reliable but not valid, however it's difficult to imagine a model that is valid, but unreliable.

If our whole reality, our whole universe, were in fact a simulation being ran in a huge (to us) computer of some kind. What exactly would our science have to say about? Could it be observed? Could it be detected? How would this case, as far as science is concerned, be different than the case for God?

"I'm arguing not that I know how to prove the existence of a non-trivial Creator, but rather that such proof must be part of His Plan, unless he's a total Dweeb."

Must? Why?

Are you G-d's equal, that you have the knowledge and understanding to pronounce on what G-d's plan MUST be? Or declare G-d "a total Dweeb" for failure to conform to that conception? No odds at all, that G-d just might know some things that you don't, which might influence a decision?

Eat a few Wheaties too many this morning, did we?

"The point of those kooks in the "sociology of science" is that this has all become a matter of practicalities, and that we can therefore just dismiss issues of philosophy."

Not true. Scientific practice does have concrete philosophical ideals that spawn it, and are spawned by it. See my various posts linked in "The Holy Scientist."

"It is possible for a model to be reliable but not valid, however it's difficult to imagine a model that is valid, but unreliable."

No it isn't. 2 fast examples:

  • The measuring instruments are not dependable enough, so results are too inexact for reliability. It is testable in principle and acceptable as scientifically valid, but various aspects are not practically testable until (insert condition). A number of aspects of Relativity were like that.
  • Reliability is limited in space and time due to the state of present knowledge, creating a model that is useful and scientifically valid but not yet complete.

I think it's pretty clear that if God does exist (and i believe he certainly does) he has in fact gone far out of his way to withhold evidence of his existence from man (if far out of his way can have any meaning with the omnipotent).

This is a purely philosophical debate for that reason. Science by definition can only deal with that which exists inside the universe. If some being exists outside (whatever its role) he can only be inferred, and that is a philosophical infrerence.

My problem with the philosophy debate is the sheer arrogance we humans display when supposing the motives, powers, or possibilities of god. The allowing evil to exist debate being first and foremost- the answer is of course that we have no possible idea what god's mindset or motivations are. We can suppose that he loves us (beer certainly exists after all) but you could easily argue that he gives us no more thought than we give the bacteria dwelling in the bottom of the ocean.

My favorite Old Testament verse:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.

#39, Apologies; I actually knew that, but my mind was obviously only half there while typing. And yes, the "Picard Conclusion" was exactly what I was aiming at.

#54, If the "God heals" was due to my comment, you should reread my comment: my whole point was that you could make such a claim, but it would not be scientifically testable.

#54, If the "God heals" was due to my comment, you should reread my comment: my whole point was that you could make such a claim, but it would not be scientifically testable.

I just recycled it as a handy example, wasn't intended to be a rebuttal of your point, which I entirely agree with.

Joe:

Thanks for raising this topic, although I've expended a lot of time on it.

Demosophist, the fast way to deal with the consequentialist argument is to refer you back to my note in #57, and Treefrog's objections in #54. Reality doesn't care what you think its implications are...

And my point is that if there are no distinctions imposed by "reality" it isn't rational to care about it. Science isn't about reality, it's about what matters.

I suggest that this isn't substantially different from Popper's position. According to Godel's proof, there are lots of things that are true but unprovable. If their truth or falsehood has no empirical impact it's not rational to care about them.

As for treefrog's dismissal of philosphy, you must be kidding. I find no solace in such a position, either for scientists or religionists (although possibly for engineers).

We have a scientific theory that has demonstrated testability and a level of predictive power, in many environments and situations. That is good enough to make it the accepted working theory.

I have no problem with this. Although there's still the matter of what context your talking about, right?

To create a scientific argument, and therefore give scientific opinion somewhere to move to, the opposing side must offer an alternative explanation for the observed evidence that supports the current theory, and that argument must be scientifically testable in principle.

So, what does that term "in prinicple" mean in the context of treefrog's objection? What possible relevance would there be for principle, if philosophy were an illegitimate consideration?

Saying "but the current theory doesn't explain everything, therefore it has no credence" is an argument of ignorance and barbarism, because it would deny all science. "Since science cannot explain everything, I will believe only what I choose to believe, about anything" is the dark ages ethos of a witch-doctor - and that epithet is probably a disservice to both the European Dark Ages and some witch-doctors. Perhaps "Taliban mentality" is a better description, based upon observable evidence of their conduct and belief systems. Western Civilization doesn't survive that mentality, which is entirely alien to science.

Again, Western Civilization may not be able to survive a standard where everything must be known before anything is hypothesized, but I'm not aware that I'm suggesting such a standard. Simply on an entirely pragmatic level there appears to be some risk associated with atheistic ideology, since all of the atheistic ideologies of the 20th Century were responsible for the murder of millions. (I have no doubt you find this as horrible as I.) The point of raising this is that the threat of absolutism is more broadly distributed than a "Taliban Mentality."

But we actually aren't arguing about either religion or science, we're arguing about dualism.

Right?

And my faith in dualism has been declining for some time.

I think, for instance, that Paul's statement that "if it were impossible to know Him, it were better not to believe" is both a statement of faith, and a scientific hypothesis with profound implications.

We should not regard evolution as immune to a scientific counter-theory. We should regard it as immune to a counter-theory that is not scientifically testable in principle, at least so far as the practice and teaching of science is concerned.

I think I've been fairly clear about my position. I am fallible, but people can judge for themselves about whether I'm wrong (emphasis on "in principle").

Obviously I think philosophy important. If not... isn't treefrog compelled to agree with Steve Fuller?

Why the heck would I need to do that? I made no observation relating to philosophy whatsoever. I was simply making the point that, by science's own standards, presence or absence of supernatural intervention cannot be scientifically validated or invalidated.

If you seek to validate or invalidate you needs must look elsewhere. Science is a practical applied subset of rational thought, not the the entirety. It's not a dismissal of philosophy, merely the concrete observation that, on this subject, science can add nothing to the discussion. Not without redefining itself into something different than our current conception of science.

Joe:

"It is possible for a model to be reliable but not valid, however it's difficult to imagine a model that is valid, but unreliable."

No it isn't. 2 fast examples:

* The measuring instruments are not dependable enough, so results are too inexact for reliability. It is testable in principle and acceptable as scientifically valid, but various aspects are not practically testable until (insert condition). A number of aspects of Relativity were like that.
  • Reliability is limited in space and time due to the state of present knowledge, creating a model that is useful and scientifically valid but not yet complete.

The first example is clearly a matter of the unreliablity of instruments, not the validity of principle. I'm assuming this fact will eventually be made clear, but if not scientific method has a rather insurmountable problem.

Space/time limitations of reliability are limitations of of principle and theory (in other words validity). There also might be recording errors, of course. I really don't see how this supports a dualist position.

It is theoretically possible to pose a rational question that can never be answered by empirical means. This doesn't mean that the problem in inherently metaphysical, but that we will never be able to acquire the means for answering it. I think the term for this is "noological" although I'm just going on faulty memory. This is rather different from a question that is, in principle, unanswerable. What I'm saying is that the question about God's existence is not, in principle, an unanswerable question. That doesn't mean that I have confidence we'll be able to answer it given the fullness of time. Nor do I think that all issues of God's "nature" are subject to scientific inquiry. There are, in fact, some things we can never know.

And my point is that if there are no distinctions imposed by "reality" it isn't rational to care about it. Science isn't about reality, it's about what matters.

I suggest that this isn't substantially different from Popper's position. According to Godel's proof, there are lots of things that are true but unprovable. If their truth or falsehood has no empirical impact it's not rational to care about them.

As for treefrog's dismissal of philosphy, you must be kidding. I find no solace in such a position, either for scientists or religionists (although possibly for engineers).

No it isn't about what matters. Nor is science about validating or invalidating philosophy. Nor about feeding cute puppies.

Science is a systematic approach to modeling observed reality. Nothing more, nothing less.

It does not exist to bring solace, explain the purpose of life, validate (or invalidate) philosophies, or anything else people keep trying to shoe-horn it into doing.

Observe, hypothesize, experiment, theorize, peer review, repeat.

That's it. Like most really useful things, science is quite simple.

If their truth or falsehood has no empirical impact it's not rational to care about them.

You believe that AND study philosophy?

Sorry, sorry...failed to resist temptation, bad, bad, Treefrog...no biscuit...

Treefrog:

Why the heck would I need to do that? I made no observation relating to philosophy whatsoever. I was simply making the point that, by science's own standards, presence or absence of supernatural intervention cannot be scientifically validated or invalidated.

Perhaps more significantly, the very notion of "supernatural" is something of a canard. If something happens then, by definition, it's "natural" in that broad sense. A miracle is therefore something that never happens, rather than something that happens without explanation. Or, to put it another way, not only is there no such thing as a miracle, but there can be no such thing. If it happens it's a natural phenomenon, whether we can explain in or not.

That's the other end of the telescope.

If you seek to validate or invalidate you needs must look elsewhere. Science is a practical applied subset of rational thought, not the the entirety. It's not a dismissal of philosophy, merely the concrete observation that, on this subject, science can add nothing to the discussion. Not without redefining itself into something different than our current conception of science.
The sociology of science posits that science is nothing more than a social endeavor, which means it's subject to all of the constraints of any social endeavor. In other words, there's no overarching principle. My contention is that the scientific project currently has a problem with overarching principle, which means that it's not realiable when in comes to issues such as those we're discussing. We probably agree this far. However, I contend that this is a matter of immaturity, not fundamental principle. As for whether this require a complete redifinition, I just don't know enough about the breadth and depth of the endeavor so know whether that's the case. And I wouldn't presume to prescribe. Even if science is only a social endeavor, it's bigger than me.
If their truth or falsehood has no empirical impact it's not rational to care about them.

You believe that AND study philosophy?

Sorry, sorry...failed to resist temptation, bad, bad, Treefrog...no biscuit...

If I don't happen to hit a bird as I'm falling from 10,000 feet that doesn't mean that there are no birds around. It just means that God was on my side. :-)

Treefrog:

Just to clarify:

Science is a systematic approach to modeling observed reality. Nothing more, nothing less.

It does not exist to bring solace, explain the purpose of life, validate (or invalidate) philosophies, or anything else people keep trying to shoe-horn it into doing.

Observe, hypothesize, experiment, theorize, peer review, repeat.

That's it. Like most really useful things, science is quite simple.

I'd say that's a fair definition of engineering, not science. Science is not so constrained. In fact, I'd suggest that Popper's discussion of the "three worlds" means that it should never be so constrained.

Finally, I just want to note that the notion that God and Nature are interrelated in such a way that one reveals the other is inherent not only in the notion of "Nature's God" but in the very concept of "natural law." That seems fairly opposed to talibanization, as Leo recently reiterated.

Science isn't about reality, it's about what matters.
Because I generally respect your opinion, Demosophist, I will limit myself to one question: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I think that your notion of natural (from #79) is unrecognizable to me; it appears that you are saying "anything that happens is natural." That is an odd definition, at best. Perhaps you'd care to expand more on that, because I may have missed your point.

The sociology of science posits that science is nothing more than a social endeavor, which means it's subject to all of the constraints of any social endeavor. In other words, there's no overarching principle. My contention is that the scientific project currently has a problem with overarching principle, which means that it's not realiable when in comes to issues such as those we're discussing. We probably agree this far. However, I contend that this is a matter of immaturity, not fundamental principle. As for whether this require a complete redifinition, I just don't know enough about the breadth and depth of the endeavor so know whether that's the case. And I wouldn't presume to prescribe. Even if science is only a social endeavor, it's bigger than me.

I think you may have spent too much time in academia; this is deeply misguided, despite all the long words in cumbersome combinations (a temptation I succumb to enough to realize it). First, science is not a single endeavor, nor a project; science is simply a set of rules for rational inquiry, and the pursuit of natural explanations for natural phenomena using those rules as a guide. So in that sense at least, you are completely redefining science, or at least creating a single entity from a mostly disunited collection. (Don't worry, most scientists do that, too. And the militant atheists like Dawkins are the worst at it.)

Engineering (and I am speaking as an engineer here) is emphatically not (in Treefrog's formulation) "Observe, hypothesize, experiment, theorize, peer review, repeat." Engineering is the process of using known physical principles (developed by scientists or mathematicians or by long and repeated experience) to create structures, machines, and the like. Science informs engineering; the two disciplines are otherwise quite unrelated.

Science is not so constrained.

Ah, here's the rub, we're clashing on the definition of science. I posit that not only is science so constrained, it MUST be so constrained.

Science can not and must not have a purpose, goal, etc. The minute you start growing science beyond this simple little loop, you end up tainting the process itself. Observational bias creeps in, results start looking for means, and you end up with all the ugliness that is politicized science.

Not to say you don't end up with some of that anyway, people are people and no one practices science without some form of overarching goal, even if it is just to advance the frontiers of knowledge (a motivation that can introduce ideological error just as surely as the others). That's what the peer review step is for, because the assumption there is that while some scientists may be, consciously or not, altering their perception to fit their motives, that will not hold true for most across any significant timespan.

Thus while science routinely blunders out into the wilderness it usually manages to find its own way out. Eventually.

Of course, the minute you attach any overarching purpose or motive to science, you break the peer review step, because, presumably, the majority of scientists are going to buy into this purpose. Even 'benign' motives like 'seeking truth' or 'advancing the frontiers of knowledge' can inflict observational distortions. The effect only gets worse the stronger the motivation.

Jeff, FWIW, I completely agree with #83. There are many things that "happen" (many of them having to do with human experience) that are not amenable to science, and likely never will be. Speaking, of course, as an agnostic, or apatheist.

Engineering is the process of using known physical principles (developed by scientists or mathematicians or by long and repeated experience) to create structures, machines, and the like. Science informs engineering; the two disciplines are otherwise quite unrelated.

Ironically, engineers tend to be mix extreme skepticism with a form of practical superstition (if that's not too much of an oxymoron). Complex systems do tend to kick out extremely weird behavior from time to time. And just as often you run into solutions without logic behind them as well, but they work, so presto, instant superstition.

I remember one project where the official list of proposed remedies to a particularly bizarre malfunction included animal sacrifice and exorcism.

Treefrog:

Of course, the minute you attach any overarching purpose...

I imagine any scientist would be willing to observe that an overarching principle isn't the same thing as an overarching purpose. But I can't vouch for everyone.

I imagine any scientist would be willing to observe that an overarching principle isn't the same thing as an overarching purpose. But I can't vouch for everyone.

Why would anyone have a principle without a purpose?

Said Demosophist:

Simply on an entirely pragmatic level there appears to be some risk associated with atheistic ideology, since all of the atheistic ideologies of the 20th Century were responsible for the murder of millions.

This is a total falsehood.

Time to point out a rather simple omission amidst the philosophical mumbo-jumbo:

Here's Katzman:

Even if the believers in intelligent design are ultimately correct, which I believe they are...

Not once, and I mean ZERO times, have you or anyone else provided any justification at all for this belief other than to argue that it cannot be falsified by "science".

You are not making a case. Or even trying. All of your efforts are directed at convincing others that your views are beyond scrutiny, and therefore you are not compelled to provide any support for them.

Really, just think about this for a moment and consider the extreme arrogance and self-deception that is inherent in such a view.

This is a total falsehood.

It's an exaggeration, but atheistic ideologies were in fact responsible for tens of millions of deaths. Or do you consider Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, Pol Potism, etc., "theistic"?

Not once, and I mean ZERO times, have you or anyone else provided any justification at all for this belief other than to argue that it cannot be falsified by "science".

Because it has no bearing on the argument made in the post. You might consider the arrogance in declaring someone morally deficient for not arguing a proposition not actually in question in the current debate.

I would also point out the inanity in expecting anyone to argue for or against the validity of ID in the middle of a debate over what means can be used to discuss such validity.

Sepp, #91, what you've done is establish very clearly that you don't understand anything Katzman wrote in the original post. By stating that it is dishonest to present creationism as science, Katzman is saying that - while he believes in an "intelligent designer", he does not believe in Intelligent Design as science.

You've failed to read his post, failed to understand his clearly articulated points, and rudely attacked him for something that he's saying the basic opposite of.

#92

Hitler wrote:

"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.." As a boy, Hitler attended to the Catholic church and experienced the anti-Semitic attitude of his culture. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler reveals himself as a fanatical believer in God and country. This text presents selected quotes from the infamous anti-Semite himself.

Because I generally respect your opinion, Demosophist, I will limit myself to one question: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I think that your notion of natural (from #79) is unrecognizable to me; it appears that you are saying "anything that happens is natural." That is an odd definition, at best. Perhaps you'd care to expand more on that, because I may have missed your point.

Well, what is supernatural besides something that doesn't happen? If there is some element of time and space then it's a natural event, rather than a miracle. I don't mean in the "ordinary" sense of natural, but in the sense that it's an event with a discoverable cause and operating according to a coherent principle.

If someone in ancient Egypt were presented with a common phone call they'd perceive it as a miracle, or as something supernatural. We know that it's just an occurrence that happens to lack a natural explanation within the cognitive capacity of the subject. If something happens then it has a cause, even in terms of biblical principles: "The cause causeless shall not happen" then it's not miraculous in an absolute sense. (The context of the latter statement isn't a reiteration of metaphysical principle, but a reassurance that evil is causeless.)

By definition a so-called "miracle" is not miraculous to anyone who knows the cause. The concept of the "supernatural" is therefore a kind of calculation error, where the cause is not perceived for some reason or other.

Even in the realm of religion an event such as Christ's walking on water has an explanation that's cosmologically coherent. His ability transcended what was known of physical laws at the time, but was clearly within the parameters of a "natural" law, unless we assume God is perverse.

he does not believe in Intelligent Design as science.

That is abundantly clear, thank you. Yet he also wishes to claim that science cannot touch his own belief in ID.

Sure, I guess it is rude to point out the fundamental weakness in his personal belief system. But there it is.

Because it has no bearing on the argument made in the post. You might consider the arrogance in declaring someone morally deficient for not arguing a proposition not actually in question in the current debate.

An interesting if not somewhat obvious application of the very same effort to define arbitrary boundaries of an argument in order to insulate oneself from having to address issues that are inconvenient or in opposition to it's thesis.

Once again, Katzman:

Even if the believers in intelligent design are ultimately correct, which I believe they are, that dishonesty is the kiss of death.

He is stating essentially that he agrees with their belief system but not their manner of arguing their "case".

My point has been one of disagreement with HIS methods of arguing his "case".

Trying to establish exactly what this case is is not the central point of the discussion but is certainly very relevant to establishing a baseline for understanding what exactly is being argued over.

I hope this little summary clears things up a bit for you.

It's an exaggeration, but atheistic ideologies were in fact responsible for tens of millions of deaths. Or do you consider Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, Pol Potism, etc., "theistic"?

I can't think of any atheistic ideologies that influenced more than a few people that were not responsible for the murder of vast numbers, usually millions. I may have missed one... but it's not as though such an error would invalidate the point.

Naziism probably isn't an exception, even though the Nazis had a tendency to ingratiate themselves to religion. The Phalange in Spain, under Franco, were an exception... but then I didn't say there weren't exceptions. Moreover, the Phalange refused to surrender Jews to the Nazis... so one could make a credible argument that they weren't in the same league.

But we were talking about something else, I believe... Sorry about the distraction.

Sepp, Hitler wrote many lies. He was a pagan.

To call him a Christian (or a theist) is a slander on Christians and theists. Not that I'm either.

Actually, it's probably an exaggeration to say that Naziism was specifically atheistic, although it certainly wasn't religious in the conventional sense. There would have been nothing barring an atheist from becoming a devout Nazi. One would simply need to believe in the notion of blood or racial supremacy, and a kind of historical determinism that, like Marxism, was derived from Hegellian philosophy.

I'm not an Asatruar, nor an academic expert in Germanic pagan religions, so I cannot comment knowledgeably on the exact origins and derivations, but there are clearly pagan roots in the ritual of the SS and the Hitler Jügend, and I've seen similar traits in the architecture and propaganda that the NAZIs used. There are "Christian" pagan sects, where Jesus is seen as divine, but the tenets of Christianity are rejected in whole or in part, and from what I've read, the NAZIs (at least at the highest party levels) seem to fall into that category, giving lip service to Christianity within a very self-serving pagan framework.

It's a tricky question, particularly for decentralized and non-hierarchical religions like paganism or protestantism or Islam: when no one is the arbiter of a "true" [insert religion here], it's easy to smear the mainstream and unobjectionable members with the actions of the lunatic fringe. The same could be said of political parties, and in particular of Libertarians. Well, maybe not the Libertarians, since the mainstream libertarians were driven from the Libertarian party some time ago.

Joe is a pretty conventional dualist, and it's a position held by (dare I say) the majority of scientists in the world as well as the majority of philosophers, engineers, toy manufacturers, etc.. My position is anything but conventional. I'm not especially impressed by Dawkins arguments concerning the validity of ID, but it's fair for him to make the claims he does. His claim to have proved that religion is a kind of mental illness is, well... less impressive.

Demosophist, you keep attacking dualism. Perhaps you should define what you mean by it.

It's been fun watching this one unfold, or unravel, as the case may be. As one whose first two degrees are in geology, allow me a few summary observations, in no particular order.

a) There are Christians so literal in their interpretation of scripture that when Christ says "I am the door" ... they look for hinges. Strict six-24-hour-day Creationism is as untenable theologically as it is scientifically.

b) The adaptation and flow of 'species' (whatever those are) is undisputed by all, apart from those in a). That is, nevertheless, substantially different than "From GOO to YOU via the ZOO."

c) The Darwinian interpretation works reasonably well for the last 540 million years or so, but it runs into difficulty with the sudden "explosion" of life within the geological blink of an eye. Notwithstanding a few soft Vendian creatures, the Cambrian Explosion changed everything. Its cause? Currently unknown.

d) Another huge difficulty is the sudden appearance of membrane-bound, self-replicating, colonial organisms -- stromatolites -- which have persisted, unchanged, for some 4,000 million years.

e) We are also hindered by a resolution problem. We cannot study atoms with a hand-lens, and are similarly limited in our ability to study God. We may always be so, but that is very different from proof of absence.

f) The strongest potential case for ID is to be made at the origins of the Universe, not in the Origin of Species.

g) If we of faith accept that God is Truth, and that science is the search for truth, good science and good scriptural interpretation will reinforce, not contradict, each other.

To call him a Christian (or a theist) is a slander on Christians and theists.

As it is to call him an Atheist. Not that they care much about being slandered; they do, after all, have reality on their side.

To call him a Christian (or a theist) is a slander on Christians and theists.

As it is to call him an Atheist. Not that they care much about being slandered; they do, after all, have reality on their side.

Notwithstanding a few soft Vendian creatures, the Cambrian Explosion changed everything. Its cause? Currently unknown.

Maybe, but how do you suppose improved understanding for it's causes will arise? Not by applying Darwin's theory, but by applying his method...the scientific method.

g) If we of faith accept that God is Truth, and that science is the search for truth, good science and good scriptural interpretation will reinforce, not contradict, each other.

I've always liked this sentiment.

Sepp, I'm hoping the scientific method will indeed shed light on the Cambrian explosion someday. It's a tall order, given the evidence it has to work with, but the job is possible in theory. If science is allowed to continue its mission and methods, the history of our civilization gives us cause for hope on that score.

I've always been on board with sentiment (g) myself.

I didn't call Hitler an Atheist.

But then, straw men seem to be your specialty.

I'm not especially impressed by Dawkins arguments concerning the validity of ID, but it's fair for him to make the claims he does. His claim to have proved that religion is a kind of mental illness is, well... less impressive.

Actually, the truly amusing irony is that, given what we know about optimization theory applied to domains of incomplete knowledge, a certain percentage of irrational behavior is not only rational, it's essentially required to avoid the local maxima problem.

Which make Dawkins' (to be fair, it's more his self-appointed acolytes than he himself) prostration at the altar of rationality amusing in the extreme.

Addendum to #103:

I don't mean that Joe's arguments are unsophisticated, or lack rigor. Just that dualism is pretty much a majority opinion. Therefore Sepp's contention that he's off base making such an argument isn't very authoritative.

Jeff #104:

I thought my meaning was clear from context. Dualism is the Cartesian idea that the domains of science and faith are separate. I was going to add "and irreconcilable" but I suppose some might argue that the separation reconciles them. "Incommensurate" might be a better term.

I don't mean that Joe's arguments are unsophisticated, or lack rigor. Just that dualism is pretty much a majority opinion. Therefore Sepp's contention that he's off base making such an argument isn't very authoritative.

Well, I'm not arguing about whose or which ideas get more votes, Demosophist, making your conclusion somewhat irrelevant.

His claim to have proved that religion is a kind of mental illness is, well... less impressive...

...a certain percentage of irrational behavior is not only rational, it's essentially required

I don't think Dawkins is making the claim that mental illness (of certain kinds, delusions in this case) might not be an advantageous adaption (under certain circumstances). It does seem to exist widely in the human population, suggesting that it might confer a survival advantage.

That does not, however, validate the reality of a demonstrably irrational delusion.

Since ID pretty much lives or dies on whether evolution could possibly occur in the way it has by the mechanism of DNA modification, it is interesting to take on board some newer hypotheses/suspicions about how the mass of "silent" DNA has been working behind the scenes.

To make a long and fascinating story very short, consider whether it is possible that some implicit patterning of non-protein encoding DNA could influence the way and degree to which "active" DNA mutates and (e.g.) multiplies copies of useful stretches of code. Such a capability would itself be subject to selection pressures, and if it usefully modified mutation patterns, would constitute a bit of evolutionary "strategy" that would have a very high payoff -- because it would discard lots of bad and pointless "point mutation" options and concentrate on potentially useful ones.

Over time, such implicit patterns would interact and build up to a manual for "how to evolve", and would include principles that enable co-ordinated changes, such as those so often highlighted in the development of vision, etc.

They would persist and elaborate because the payoff for having them would be so high. Species and varieties using them would benefit from relevant alterations, a far faster business than waiting for random ones to help out (in drastically new circumstances, e.g.).

So what appears to be ID is thus in fact accumulated prioritizing of what to alter, and when.

Joe K;
Just in: a new idea that suggests that the Cambrian Explosion happened when one species discovered how to bite (i.e., become the first flesh predator). Every other filter-feeder and silt-sifter was then dinner, and had to evolve fast to avoid being relegated permanently to that role and/or to extinction.

That does not, however, validate the reality of a demonstrably irrational delusion.

How do you make that judgement? If their 'irrationality' is effective in reality, how do you know you are not the irrational one and they are rational? Or do you have some specially dispensed knowledge they somehow do not possess?

Short of an omniscient observer, you have no ability to judge. You're just another population member blundering around on the optimization curve, hunting for a sweet spot. Or did your special guide to rationality drop from above, perhaps with trumpets blaring?

#116-117

What is that, nifty theory of mechanism for spontaneous evolution #27?

When they can trigger it in a lab I'll pay attention. Until then I'll just wait for the next clever theory. And the next. And the next.

Unless it involves gluons, if they work gluons in somehow I'm sold.

Re: theodicy --
"Malt does more than Milton can,
To justify God's ways to man."

Consciousness itself and its alterations are maybe a kind of Final Frontier. It's utterly astonishing that I, or anyone, can form an Intention and actually carry it through. Nothing in materialism seems consistent with this.

#119, weelll, sort of. And the lab is not the only and final arbiter of science and its theories and directions. Else geology and astronomy would be vacuous and valueless. Science does not equal, nor is it limited to, experimentalism.

But, in any case, some lab work is relevant, though it's really abstract and tricky stuff to evaluate.

An interesting sidelight is the absence of "silent DNA" from bacteria, apparently made up for in great part by the promiscuous pooling and swapping of code segments between "species".

Joe-

Late reply, I know but life and work take precedence.

What I know:

Evolution is a theory

Intelligent design is a theory

Neither can be proven, ever. There is strong evidence that can be interpreted to the positive for both. The same bits and pieces of evidence can be slid either way.

Evolution cannot be seen as proven because the time line is simply too long.

ID cannot be proven because only a few have ever claimed to talk to G-d.

Both will remain theories, happily so. And THAT is one of those things that make life worth living. It is a great and unknowable journey.

Demosophist:
Dualism is the Cartesian idea that the domains of science and faith are separate.

Cartesian dualism actually separates mind and body, not reason and faith. The separation of reason and faith (Fideism) goes back to Luther, and is a foundation of the principle of separation of church and state. Pascal was more of a Fideist than Descartes.

The outstanding modern Fideist was Wittgenstein, who defined it this way (paraphrase):

1. Religion is logically separate from other knowledge.
2. Religious statements cannot describe reality.
3. Religious concepts are incomprehensible to the non-religious.
4. External criticism of religious concepts is meaningless.

If these seem like radical statements, it's because Fideism restricts religious knowledge to a very narrow sphere. Not only does it not allow any sort of "Creation Science", but it excludes most theology, and pretty much chops Aquinas and the Scholastics off at the ankles.

Sepp:
As it is to call him an Atheist. Not that they care much about being slandered; they do, after all, have reality on their side.

I'm not sure you have history on your side. Frankly, I grew up accustomed to a much better class of atheist than your little martinet Dawkins. For one thing, they believed in political, intellectual, and academic freedom.

But Sidney Hook is dead, and Anthony Flew converted to Deism. I guess the Golden Age of Heathenism is over.

What is most amusing and ironic about this particular tempest in a teapot is that some of the critics of "expelled..." fully believe anything by Micahel Moore or any "documentary" supporting the GW concept is intellectually honest.

We (collectively) fall into a world of trouble to the extent we attempt to define God by what is not known scientifically. Most important consequentially is that as knowledge increases, a thusly-defined God must perforce ... decrease.

The most common response in such circumstances is to resist vigorously the new knowledge. This is a common phenomenon even in godless religions, such as organic agriculture (about which I know a thing or two, but that is another post entirely). To wit, the mindless and fervent opposition to genetically modified organisms of all sorts.

It helps clarify the discussions and disputes to realise that the dynamic involved really has nothing to do with God. Religion -- to be "tied to rules" (from "religare" having the same root as "ligation") -- is vastly different than faith, built as it is on relationship rather than rules.

Rules without relationship breeds rebellion.

It matters not whether you're discussing a 14-year-old's behaviour or eternal questions of the divine.

Vast numbers of the ID folks continue to stand, quite tenaciously -- and to their eternal discredit -- on their little mounds of religion. Here's why:

Their motivation is the preservation and enforcement of a strict interpretation of biblical rules for human behaviour. Therefor ... it is (to them) imperative to preserve and enforce a strict interpretation of everything else in the Bible, lest their pre-occupation with (other people's) human sexual behaviour be undermined.

The cannot give in on a scientifically bizarre understanding of creation for fear that their entire cultural world will crumble.

As the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) put it so well "Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure."

As the saint Paul put it in a letter to his understudy, Timothy, "all scripture is inspired by God." Inspired, not dictated. Paul also declared in a letter to the early church in Rome that people can easily understand the works of God in the world around them (1:20), which brings us right back to the whole question of scientific understanding.

One great trend of our times, meaning roughly 1850 to 2100, may be that of shifting from rules to relationship. Understandably such times are clumsy and messy.

The replacement of one set of rules by another, however, does not usually tend to reflect either deep contemplation or serious rational consideration.

When you understand that "carbon credits" are simply the papal indulgences of yet one more post-modern religion, a lot of things may fall into place.

All I can do is to encourage Sepp and some others not to dismiss the journey of faith -- based on exploring a relationship with the creator of the Universe -- simply as a result of the often-bizarre formulations and excrescences of people for whom God is overwhelmingly defined by rules.

Bart, that's a nice post, and I appreciate your insight into this issue. Let me just raise a couple of points.

We (collectively) fall into a world of trouble to the extent we attempt to define God by what is not known scientifically. Most important consequentially is that as knowledge increases, a thusly-defined God must perforce ... decrease.

I think this might be true to an extent, but since there are still (of course) a great number of questions that humankind can and will ask that can never be fully answered, even with science, there will always be room for the God of the Gaps. It depends on where you want to draw this knowledge boundary line.

For example, I can say with near certainty that humankind will never know or come to understand the full extent of our vast universe, or whether it is unique, or precisely how it arose (although there is enough evidence to suggest plausible scenarios). Going in the other direction, is matter really composed of irreducible particles or are they themselves formed by still smaller entities? Is nature infinite in all directions, as Freeman Dyson has suggested? Does the concept of infinity even have relevance in the real world?

I should say that I regard this human tendency to attempt to construct satisfying answers to such questions to be completely normal, natural and even perhaps advantageous.

At the same time, we all know of the many inherent flaws humans possess, some of which allow us to believe things for which there is no evidence. This is where science comes in. It is but one of the most basic tools of civilization, like perhaps written language, that is indispensable to its advance and function (as we know it).

All I can do is to encourage Sepp and some others not to dismiss the journey of faith -- based on exploring a relationship with the creator of the Universe -- simply as a result of the often-bizarre formulations and excrescences of people for whom God is overwhelmingly defined by rules.

I am very happy and comfortable in the limits to my knowledge and understanding of the world and see no need to invoke mystical explanations for things I do not understand. While my reverence and awe and sense of wonder for nature is extremely high, I do not feel the need to "deify" this in order to create an object towards which to direct this reverence (worship).

As an example, every particle in our bodies, the very matter that we were created from, was generated in a star in the vicinity of our current solar system billions of years ago. It is therefore not unreasonable to regard this cosmic fusion generator as our "creator". My appreciation of this wonder does not compel me, however, to set up a formalized worship to this entity, nor organize my life around it, nor demand that others acknowledge it.

Being an atheist means, at its core, that you are both comfortable with uncertainty and skeptical of mystical or supernatural explanations for natural phenomenon. That does not of course mean that there is no meaning or purpose to our lives, or that we lack morality (which has no inherent connection to religion), but rather that we refuse to allow our lives to be guided by the unknown. Our minds are mysterious and wonderful machines, but they are far from perfect. I think it is harder to be an atheist than a believer because it is in human nature to believe their dreams are more real than the world around them and it is easier to accept than to question. The difficulty becomes knowing how to ask the right kind of questions that can produce “answers”, and learning to accept partial or provisional ones in the knowledge that there exists a method for arriving at progressively more satisfying ones.

Glen:

Thanks. It's all in a name. Someone was whispering "Pascal" to me even as I wrote that, but I didn't stop to entertain the angle. That old story about Pascal calculating the odds that God exists and then joining the priesthood, told to me by my HS geometry teacher, was parked on the vertex. Oh well. You catch my drift.

Addendum to #128:

Here's an interesting conflation of mind/matter dualism and the distinction between science and faith. Excerpt:

As a rule, scientists try to keep their experimental work separate from whatever religious beliefs they hold. But what happens when the distinction between science and faith becomes blurred, leading to a confrontation between divergent views of human origin and fate? The issue and its implications are raised in dramatic, sometimes provocative, fashion by the life and career of John Carew Eccles. As Christof Koch asserts in The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach: “The most famous modern defenders of dualism are the philosopher Karl Popper and the neurophysiologist and Nobel laureate John Eccles.”1

Addendum to #128:

Alan Hobson's explanation for consciousness involves employing a radical new concept, called "emergence," that I find troubling... because it enables the materialist to preserve the notion that all causation is material, but actually operates like a magic wand on the edge of chaos. The very fact that something like emergence of consciousness exists implies an extraordinary universe where God could be omnipresent within, and in a strange way inseparable from, all things. Is this really the victory of materialism? Or is it another kind of breakthrough altogether?

"Evolution is a theory"

"Intelligent design is a theory"

Evolution is a scientific theory backed by reems of research, experimentation, and has provided us with all kinds of modern medicine and technology.

What has ID ever predicted? What has ID theory invented? When the first creationist cures a disease or creates a better strain of wheat, we can equate the two.

Until then, they simply arent comparable. ID is a philosophy, not science in any way.

Robohobo, Gravity is a theory. Just Google "theory of gravity".

The inhabitants of the Ancient Middle East did not put in their holy books an explanation of gravity. If, however, they had written of the Great Gravitator mystically and magically pushing objects towards the Earth, then a large number of American Evangelicals would be calling for Intelligent Gravitational Design to be taught in public schools, too.

"Evolution is a theory"
bq. "Intelligent design is a theory"

Isn't part of the problem that we aren't making a distinction between the process and the historical facts? Suppose we somehow whacked a lab into replicating a couple million years' worth of evolution in front of a video camera, would that necessarily prove it did happen for millions of years previously? Or suppose God descended from Heaven, called a press conference, and created a couple of new species ex nihilo live on primetime--would that negate the predictive qualities of evolutionary study?

To use an analogy instead of outlandish scenarios: if a forensic scientist showed that abrasions on a dead body were consistent with falling down a flight of stairs, does that necessarily prove it did undergo that process, or might a similar process produce similar end results? What if we add an intelligent actor to the scenario who pushed the victim down the stairs, and remained undetected--doesn't detecting that actor require some manner of inquiry outside the realm of the science involved? (No, I'm not arguing that legal proof is the same as scientific proof.)

In my mind this has always been the reason why all origin theories are beyond the realm of science, because they lack the key ingredient of the scientific method: the historic process was not directly observable. We can only look at surviving data and assume the processes we know of today were the same millions/billions of years ago--and call me an extreme cynic, but I don't treat that as a safe assumption.

The irony is this cynicism can form a basis for faith, specifically in a supernatural catalyst which can, in effect, change the rules of the system we inhabit. The master programmer lurker alluded to in #68 would have this power; the analogy is if you treat God as the lead programmer on The Sims, and all of us are avatars within the world. All the science a Sim might undertake would never detect the programmer, and any changes He might make would never cause the world to show inconsistencies that might be treated as supernatural.

(Unless he crashed the world or sent it into an endless loop, I suppose, in which case the argument is moot and we can start making obscure programming language jokes.)

"In my mind this has always been the reason why all origin theories are beyond the realm of science, because they lack the key ingredient of the scientific method: the historic process was not directly observable."

Thats true. Just as any murder could theoretically be committed by someone with the identical DNA sequence to the accused. Thats why evolution is a theory, our model of universal expansion is a theory... but theories in the scientific (not the common discourse) sense. The vast proponderance of the evidence is in their favor, and nobody has come up with rival theories that fit the facts as well. Thats a problem with ID- the way its used it is an anti-theory, it tries to poke holes in evolution but it doesnt replace them with a superior construct that fits all the myriad of facts that evolution does. But this isnt a court case- the defense doesnt win by establishing flaws in the prosecution. The defense, in this case, has to provide a theory that is better in all aspects, and ID simply cant come close to doing that.

Science is a process- very, VERY few things are considered sacrosanct. If convincing evidence was brought forth that our gravitational theories were wrong, physicists would listen. That in itself is the biggest difference between ID and science- ID proponents would never allow for themselves to be wrong under any circumstances, and you cant debate with someone like that.

Well, gravity probably isn't a good example as it is one of science's biggest failures. One of the basic universal forces, one we have daily experience with and we still don't have a working theory for it. All prior and current theories are simply decent approximations. The only certain thing we know about gravity is that we don't know how it works.

A useful reminder that a certain humility is a good thing, for as far as we've come, we still know amazingly little. Which is a good thing, lots of unexplored territory left.

Mark #134:

Thats a problem with ID- the way its used it is an anti-theory, it tries to poke holes in evolution but it doesnt replace them with a superior construct that fits all the myriad of facts that evolution does.

Is this really obligatory? The concept of falsifying an hypothesis or theory doesn't rest on an obligation to replace it with something better, although science as a social endeavor probably requires it because people abhor a vacuum.

On the other had, ID has not been able to build up a history of successful, or even intriguing, challenges to the hypothesis. If it had, someone would be bound to propose an alternative (though not necessarily anything resembling Creationism).

"Well, gravity probably isn't a good example as it is one of science's biggest failures. One of the basic universal forces, one we have daily experience with and we still don't have a working theory for it. All prior and current theories are simply decent approximations."

To the contrary (to paraphrase the guy from Apollo 13 quite appropriately) it has been sciences finest work.

The theory of gravity is precisely how science is supposed to work. Newton devised a system that was fantastically successful for the data available to him- so successful and accurate that it literally changed the way the human race viewed science and mathmatics as a predictive power and engineering tool.

Einstein then came up with a theory that more accurately fit the data than even Newton did. Note- yes Newtons theory was incorrect, but it was correct FAR more than it was incorrect. Newtonian physics didnt simply fly out the window because it wasnt perfect, it is still taught in every physics classroom in the world because it is highly successful as a special case (that being the gravitation field we experience daily). But Einstein improved on what Newton had done.

And someday (hopefully soon) somebody will unify gravity with the other forces and improve on relativity. And i PROMISE you it wont be some ID flunky that throws Einsteen and Newton out the window and proves that in fact it is Demons Breath that causes things to fall.

That story is perhaps the finest triumph of science I have ever heard.

Minor nitpick here:

Thats true. Just as any murder could theoretically be committed by someone with the identical DNA sequence to the accused.

Careful, now we're starting to break the analogy. DNA evidence provides evidence of the existance of an external party at the scene of a crime; but a good portion of this thread concerns the case where there is no evidence of an external party participating in a past act. This is why I used the example of a body and a flight of stairs, because the catalyst leaves no evidence and it is necessarily unknown whether it is an intelligent actor or a random, accidental sequence of events.

(I'll beg leave to use the word "random" above as shorthand, fully acknowledging the caveat of randomness in a chaotic systems, because the general sense of the word fits the question of intent.)

I recognize you are using the DNA/murderer analogy to say that although two theories fit the set of facts, only one theory has the preponderance of scientific evidence behind it. But even so DNA science can not definitively establish a series of events as historical reality (in part because the science is exclusionary based on the source sample, instead of always providing a positive match). If it could, we wouldn't need trials for findings of fact. And for the same analogous reason--lack of direct observation--origin studies can not establish any particular theory as historical fact.

But, Treefrog, that's pretty much my point. No one is out there insisting that we teach grade school students about the "problems" in the theory of gravity while they calculate the speed a ball falls from the Washington Monument. No one is insisting that alternative theories of gravity—even the scientifically respectable ones—be taught at any level. No one is saying anything about gravity as empirically refuted as the fairy tale of the 6000-y.o. Earth. There isn't even a movement called Intelligent Gravitational Design.

And why is this? Because for about the last century, a portion of the American Evangelical movement has encouraged belief in a brain-dead literal misreading of Genesis that is not compatible with evolution, nor, for that matter, with a number of other scientific theories. It has nothing to do with science.

"Is this really obligatory? The concept of falsifying an hypothesis or theory doesn't rest on an obligation to replace it with something better"

Well- if you are advocating your idea to be just as valid, simply poking a few holes in a grand structure with decades and decades of evidence and progress behind it doesnt give you anything like parity.

If i built a stock car and explained to you all the aerodynamic features and engineering etc... and then you said 'hey, you dont even have a complete theory of friction. That race car is bunk, let me tell you how i have a theory that 10,000 invisible hamsters put feet down to stop the car' I wouldnt take you particularly seriously. Especially if you couldnt build a car that stops without my brakes.

"But even so DNA science can not definitively establish a series of events as historical reality"

Absolutely true, and the more we learn about how the quantum world works the more the idea of anything definitive actually happening (much less being proved to have happened with certainty) becomes problematic.

Look- science isnt based on mathmatic certainty reasoned upwards into facts about nature, not at all (the reverse is true). Science can't prove our senses or faculties are sound, how can our experiments be 'certain'? As humans it is our lot in existance to accept some things on faith... or accept nothing. Or senses keep us alive, therefore we trust them.

There is a utility argument here- the scientific method has built the world we live in in a way more precise and integrated than our ancestors would have even dreamed of. What has mysticism done materially for us? Cured a single disease? Built a single house? Surely faith has made ontoward lives (and civilization) better based on its philosophy, but what has it done scientifically? You aren't just taking on evolution, you are taking on all the tools that created and advanced evolution, essentially denying all the reality around us. You're welcome to, but you want this taught in schools?!

Andrew makes an enormous point. Grade school/high school isnt where you teach every conflicting theory, no matter how unlikely or obscure. Especially when ID doesnt even deserve to be held to THAT level of acclaim. Make a prediction, invent something, then we'll talk.

But, Treefrog, that's pretty much my point. No one is out there insisting that we teach grade school students about the "problems" in the theory of gravity while they calculate the speed a ball falls from the Washington Monument.

I don't disagree. I was over broad there, I was speaking to the ideological mode from further up thread that likes to attempt to take various scientific theories expand them up and out of the realm of science into philosophy in general, into questions of existence and meaning, etc. Then they try to close the circle by claiming validity for their philosophy on the basis that it is 'scientific'.

Nothing wrong with creating world views inspired by scientific observation, but that doesn't make those world views scientifically valid.

Bart wrote in #105:

c) The Darwinian interpretation works reasonably well for the last 540 million years or so, but it runs into difficulty with the sudden "explosion" of life within the geological blink of an eye. Notwithstanding a few soft Vendian creatures, the Cambrian Explosion changed everything. Its cause? Currently unknown.

d) Another huge difficulty is the sudden appearance of membrane-bound, self-replicating, colonial organisms -- stromatolites -- which have persisted, unchanged, for some 4,000 million years.

The question is one of process. Will we be able to solve these mysteries with the scientific method? I assert that the scientific method is far more likely to come to approach the truth about these questions than any other "way of knowing", be it revelation, ESP, coin-flipping, or blogging.

So in fact I really don't care much about evolutionary theory per se. However, as a scientist it offends me greatly that ID creationists want to impose their superstitions by social consensus and the legal system. Time and time again we have seen that the revelatory approach to explaining natural phenomena is sterile -- and in fact an obstacle to understanding.

The scientific process is naturalistic. It must remain so if it is to continue generating approximations to the truth. Consider an analogy: simple calculations show that the rings of Saturn should be unstable, that they should last no more than a few million years before dispersing. What is a scientist to do? The ID approach is to declare that angels or some other supernatural entity are keeping them in place. Instead scientists have spent decades carefully researching the dynamics of rings and have developed a comparatively sophisticated understanding, involving the propagation of waves throughout the ring structure and the interaction of those waves with "shepherd moons". Which approach would you prefer to be taught in schools? Angel theory? Shepherd theory? Just "theories", right?

Then Bart wrote:

f) The strongest potential case for ID is to be made at the origins of the Universe, not in the Origin of Species.

It might be useful to point out that physical scientists have generated alternative hypotheses about the big bang that do not require a unique beginning. Try googling "self-reproducing inflationary universe". I will warn you that it is tempting to conclude that these hypotheses are not testable, but I don't think that is strictly true. For some very interesting but accessible examples of non-trivial tests for the early inflationary universe, I recommend Alan Guth's book, "The Inflationary Universe".

BBB

Well- if you are advocating your idea to be just as valid, simply poking a few holes in a grand structure with decades and decades of evidence and progress behind it doesnt give you anything like parity. If i built a stock car and explained to you all the aerodynamic features and engineering etc... and then you said 'hey, you dont even have a complete theory of friction. That race car is bunk, let me tell you how i have a theory that 10,000 invisible hamsters put feet down to stop the car' I wouldnt take you particularly seriously. Especially if you couldnt build a car that stops without my brakes.

One of the conventional arguments in support of Evolution is that ID is just Creationism in disguise. Whether most of its current adherents are Creationists, this is not a valid argument against challenging elements of Evolution Theory. It's just another version of an argument from authority. As a practical matter long established theories have the authority to insist that we use the theory as a working hypothesis... but only until it is falsified, and not a moment longer. And in hypothesis testing there is no requirement that a falsification challenge come from a fully explicated alternative theory. Indeed, it need not even come from a source outside the established theory's own ranks.

Finally, whether or not most ID proponents are currently Creationists, the assumption that they are and will always be ignores the fact that they need not be. Teleology, for instance, is a well established position that does not rest on any theories about biblical Creationism. Moreover, so far at least no one has proposed an argument that successfully refutes teleology, in support of the mechanistic view of science. The issue is currently unresolved. (See Tom Nagel.)

Demosophist wrote in #144:

One of the conventional arguments in support of Evolution is that ID is just Creationism in disguise.

The fact that ID is simply new packaging for creationism is not an argument for evolution, but it is legal justification for rejecting the insertion of ID into school curricula. And I use the word "fact" advisedly -- the court so ruled in the Dover Panda trial.

Whether most of its current adherents are Creationists, this is not a valid argument against challenging elements of Evolution Theory. It's just another version of an argument from authority.

There is no valid argument against challenging elements of the theory of evolution -- in fact such questioning is built into the scientific method. However, it is the "theory of evolution", not the "hypothesis of evolution", despite anyone's polemics to the contrary, and that distinction connotes a significant body of evidence in favor. It's not an "argument from authority" any more than requiring inventors of perpetual motion machines to explain their contravention of the conservation of energy and the generation of entropy. It is not authority, it is the collective experience of the scientific community that is providing the inertia.

As a practical matter long established theories have the authority to insist that we use the theory as a working hypothesis... but only until it is falsified, and not a moment longer. And in hypothesis testing there is no requirement that a falsification challenge come from a fully explicated alternative theory. Indeed, it need not even come from a source outside the established theory's own ranks.

It is a popular but fallacious concept that science proceeds by destroying the edifices it has created. You may have noticed that we still teach Newtonian mechanics to physics students, despite the Einstein "revolution". That is because Einstein did not destroy the body of evidence, accumulated by scientists since Newton, supporting classical mechanics. Newtonian mechanics explains the results of everything from air table demonstrations to the functioning of supersonic aircraft. When gravity is finally quantized beyond tree level, we will still teach classical general relativity. How do I know? Because we still teach classical electromagnetic field theory, despite the fact that we have known for 60 years or more that an accurate description of electromagnetic phenomena requires photons and the machinery of quantum field theory. "Every new theory swallows the old theory whole". Progress comes from figuring out the problems and limitations in the old theory, but in no modern case does a scientific theory invalidate a successful prior theory. And ID is not a scientific theory.

BBB

"Creationism", or "Creation Science", or whatever we're calling it now, isn't science, because it predetermines a result it is prepared to accept, and only looks for evidence that agrees with it.
It isn't acceptable as Judeo-Christian theology, because it imposes on the Creator a list of methods it is prepared to accept for Him to have created His Creation, and often even demands a timetable for the Creation that the proponents will find agreeable. Imposing an image on an infinite God based on finite human understanding is idolatry. Arrogance was the original sin.
Science has its place in the orderly development of human ideas, but that place is necessarily finite, like our senses (even when augmented), our understanding, and---frankly---our integrity (is there a driving force in the evolution of the Universe beyond grant aquisition?).
Our Universe doesn't make "sense" on many levels. How did it come to have physical properties that promote the development of organic life, to say nothing of intelligent, observing life? Why are we expected to accept the possibilty of "Boltzman Brains" but roll our eyes at the suggestion of an intelligent (observing? involved? concerned?) Creator?

Demosophist #136, It's certainly not necessary to provide a counter-theory in order to falsify a scientific theory, but that's not what the ID folks are doing. They're claiming that their "falsification" of Darwin somehow proves that the Genesis creation story is literally true. It's a classic case of the either/or fallacy. So the fact that they cannot replace a "debunked" Darwinism (even assuming for the moment that they can in fact debunk it) with any kind of evidence for their position is a fatal weakness.

And to those whose contempt for Christianity has closed their minds cough--Sepp--cough, St Augustine was warning over 1500 years ago about the foolishness of interpreting Genesis literally ("On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis"). The Catholic church has long rejected fideism. Especially since Aquinas, we Catholics have believed that reason and faith are not only not contradictory, but can be mutually reinforcing (see Pope Benedict's comments about reason, faith, and Islam that so inflamed savages around the world).

bbbeard's statements that (1) arguments against ID are not offered as support for Evolution and (2) ID has been held to be a stalking horse for Creationism in Federal Court are incorporated by reference.
Moreover, so far at least no one has proposed an argument that successfully refutes teleology, in support of the mechanistic view of science. The issue is currently unresolved.
I don't understand why it is the business of science to "refute" teleology. Attempting to understand and predict the natural world through teleology has a much worse record than attempting to understand it through the scientific method. That's hardly surprising since trying to determine what the "ends" are of an apple falling off a tree can lead to circular and erroneous reasoning. (Who understood motion better: Newton through observation or Aristotle through philosophical imputation of 'rest' as natural?)

In the history of ideas, the scientific method triumphed because it works much better than the alternatives. ID is being rejected as science because its methods have nothing to offer and because in the History of Ideas, it's easily seen as a subterfuge for the reintroduction of a gross misreading of Genesis as some sort of externally verified truth: a truly bastardized apologetics.

And to those whose contempt for Christianity has closed their minds cough--Sepp--cough,

I was raised in a Roman Catholic household and attended church both on holidays and in between. I have therefore had ample exposure to at least one religious doctrine to know that I fundamentally disagree with the entire enterprise of constructing imaginary deities.

This is not contempt but rejection, the same as I treat an idea or set of ideas that has little or no utility or value in the real world from my personal perspective.

My contempt is reserved for those who try to shove their beliefs down my throat or attempt to otherwise elevate their beliefs above mine by placing them in some imaginary realm that is alleged to be outside of and surrounding our own reality. Na na na na na, my God is bigger than your God!

My contempt is toward those who feel contempt for my atheistic position. Do you?

And by "utility" I mean explanatory utility.

The problem with ID being taught in schools is the same as the discussion of ID here. It is just simply out of place. Any one of these forums might be more appropriate:

HUMANITY: Christianity (52)
HUMANITY: Heroes & Achievements (226)
HUMANITY: History (122)
HUMANITY: Islam (181)
HUMANITY: Judaism (135)
HUMANITY: Love (31)
HUMANITY: Philosophy (47)
HUMANITY: Spirituality & Religion (71)
HUMANITY: Zen & Buddhism (28)

I just returned from a three-day conference on the current state of molecular diagnostics in medicine, and on the future directions the field may will take.

It's safe to say that virtually all of the world-class laboratorians and developers who presented at this conference subscribe to the Modern Synthesis. The way that people think about and assay and experiment on the problems of cancer, infectious diseases, inherited diseases, and the like is informed by Darwinism. Suffused by it.

Creationism, I.D., teleology, and the like contribute nothing. They are sterile. Uninformative. Uninspiring.

Of course, this is no form of proof of anything. But neither is it meant as an argument from authority. Take it as a reminder that some of the most productive people in the world, in areas that crucially depend on Good Theories and Good Data, don't think that this debate is worth spending time on.

When it comes to progress in diagnostics, I.D. has not produced anything of value. Committed I.D.ers can prostelytize without worrying about this. They, like Flat Earthers and like the rest of us, will continue to benefit from the discovery of principles that govern Nature--ours, tumors', and bugs'.

bbbeard #145:

The fact that ID is simply new packaging for creationism is not an argument for evolution, but it is legal justification for rejecting the insertion of ID into school curricula. And I use the word "fact" advisedly -- the court so ruled in the Dover Panda trial.

Well yeah, but I don't disagree with that ruling... nor does Ben Stein. So given that, the point of the movie seems to be something else.

It is a popular but fallacious concept that science proceeds by destroying the edifices it has created.

I don't know about that. I was talking about hypothesis testing, which is a matter of falsification.

Progress comes from figuring out the problems and limitations in the old theory, but in no modern case does a scientific theory invalidate a successful prior theory. And ID is not a scientific theory.

Darwin himself stated that his theory was falsifiable. I don't know how to interpret what you're saying other than some sort of immunity from falsification must be preserved for the sake of posterity. I don't think that has anything to do with hypothesis testing, or scientific method. Seems like another dip into the sociology of knowledge, or something.

Andrew #148:

I don't understand why it is the business of science to "refute" teleology.

Why would science be immunized from such an issue?

AMac:

Creationism, I.D., teleology, and the like contribute nothing. They are sterile. Uninformative. Uninspiring.

Leon Kass: A More Perfect Human

Leon Kass: The Dignity of Human Being

Leon Kass: The Dignity of Human Flourishing

Whether you agree with Kass or not, it's difficult to argue that he's not informative, or that he can't be inspiring.

This is most definitely the sort of discussion for which Winds is appropriately renowned: generally civil, wide-ranging, thoughtful, and feisty enough to be interesting.

My final comment on this is that we must not dismiss ID out of hand simply because so many of its proponents are utter whack-jobs. Simply because strict six-24-hour Creation is absolute nonsense, and those types have jumped onto ID like flies on a fresh cow pie, don't neglect the more thoughtful, scientific side of this discussion.

We may never be able to test such things, but at least people such as astrophysicist Hugh Ross are offering potentially testable questions that might (or might not) lead us to an answer, or part of an answer.

In the end we come back to Pascal's dilemma. If I as an evangelical Christian am wrong ... I'll never know. Death will be the end and the Universe will be not only random, but won't give a shit.

Pascal opted for belief because the downside risk of Atheism was too great, in return for very little reward.

As a scientist my standard approach in evaluating an hypothesis is to assume it is true, apply it, and see if the results are consistent with those predicted by the hypothesis. Sometime before the end of this century I'll find out ... or won't.

"As a scientist my standard approach in evaluating an hypothesis is to assume it is true, apply it, and see if the results are consistent with those predicted by the hypothesis."

That doesn't seem quite right to me. Assuming your hypothesis to be true is a dangerous business, even if you are stringent in your experimentation and analysis. A lot of good scientists have fooled themselves in some (in hindsight) outrageous ways.

I'd say its better to take a neutral stance towards a hypothesis and let the chips fall- or even take a hostile stance and try to poke holes in it as best you can.

#153 Demosophist --

Whether you agree with Kass or not, it's difficult to argue that he's not informative, or that he can't be inspiring.

Sorry, I wasn't clear. When I wrote that

Creationism, I.D., teleology, and the like... are sterile. Uninformative. Uninspiring.

I was thinking specifically of the incredible progress at the basic-science lab bench that has in turn lead to the current ferment in diagnostics R&D. I'm asserting that I.D. hasn't lead to insights, or suggested new lines of experimentation, or inspired creative lookbacks to old, puzzling works in the archives. The modern version of Darwinism does these things, all the time--the Modern Synthesis is in large part responsible for the progress now in evidence.

The Discovery Institute's investment in paleontology is an effort to remedy (from the point-of-view of an I.D. believer) this glaring defect. As far as I know, it isn't working. Even if it were, my observation on molecular diagnostics would stand.

My final comment on this is that we must not dismiss ID out of hand simply because so many of its proponents are utter whack-jobs.

A true skeptic does not take into account the behavior and/or attitude of others who may (or may not) believe in a particular doctrine when evaluating its validity. And this works in both directions. One must not be too willing to accept ID or any other doctrine simply because it's leaders are particularly charismatic or it's followers particularly attractive (isn't this why recruiting into such organizations is so successful?)

These are both normal human behaviors but they work against reason.

Now, I can't speak for others here but the personalities of those who believe in ID in no way influence whether I think it is a reasonable or valid alternative explanation for the origin of life on earth. I am dismissing it for numerous other rational reasons. Yes, they're annoying as hell, but to me so is anyone who wants to assert the supremacy of their views over mine even when no evidence supports such a hierarchy (or worse, when it supports the opposite).

Pascal opted for belief because the downside risk of Atheism was too great, in return for very little reward.

I believe exactly the opposite of this. A lifetime of belief in an imaginary world prevents one from fully appreciating the real world that is even more fantastic and wonderful than any religion has heretofore even dreamed. The size of the universe? The fundamental similarities among all life on earth? The complexity of matter? In fact, a full appreciation of these and many other natural miracles does not require a belief in a supernatural explanation but rather a rejection of it.

AMac:

I was thinking specifically of the incredible progress at the basic-science lab bench that has in turn lead to the current ferment in diagnostics R&D. I'm asserting that I.D. hasn't lead to insights, or suggested new lines of experimentation, or inspired creative lookbacks to old, puzzling works in the archives. The modern version of Darwinism does these things, all the time--the Modern Synthesis is in large part responsible for the progress now in evidence. The Discovery Institute's investment in paleontology is an effort to remedy (from the point-of-view of an I.D. believer) this glaring defect. As far as I know, it isn't working. Even if it were, my observation on molecular diagnostics would stand.

Well, I'm not sure that there's a direct confrontation between evolution through random selection and teleology, at least on a level that would undermine activity at the lab bench. There are different versions of teleology, and there's actually some version of it implied in the way scientists talk about the process of evolution. The confrontation is between a mechanistic view of science, and a view where "principles" transcend or direct mechanisms. In fact they way you yourself talk about evolution in this context has some irony, on at least two levels. The first is that it "inspires," which is a trait that we often associate with sentient beings, and the second is that it "inspires design."

Mark:

Declaring an hypothesis is not neutral. As a rule there's a choice between two kinds: cause and non-cause. And it's usually not possible to optimize for both simultaneously. Which kind of hypothesis you choose, Type I or Type II (sometimes called alpha or beta depending on the discipline), is determined by the perception of the risk associated with being wrong.

For instance, the risk different groups associate with being wrong about human-caused global warming depends on assessments of what happens if one side's assumptions are wrong, together with the perceived odds of being wrong. An enormity of cost can overcome long odds. According to strict method, however, if you're more concerned about global warming than about the economic impact of carbon capture you ought to be compiling evidence to falsify your hypothesis, rather than strengthen it. Clearly there's a conflict between politics and science on that pure method level. In fact, one way to look at politics is that its a process for choosing which kind of hypothesis you'll adopt.

Sepp,

I have contempt for your dismissal of anyone who has faith as a moron who "can't handle the truth" and believes in "fairy tales." It's your arrogance and closed mindedness more than your atheism for which I have contempt.

Thanks for clearing that up, Fred.

You can categorize my views as "arrogance" and "close-mindedness" (LOL) all you want, yet I see nothing on this thread that presents even a shred of evidence against the idea that most Western religions are primarily in the business of constructing "fairy tales". And I have repeatedly asked.

Unfortunately it seems that asking for proof or even some (any!) justification for the basis of these beliefs comes across as "arrogance" to many like yourself, when really the opposite is more true. Yawn.

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