Sunday, March 12, 2006

Richard Lewontin, "Billions and Billions of Demons," The New York Review, January 1997, p. 31.

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."


John Stockwell said...

Lewontin is simply wrong. He is employing a defunct positivist notion of scientific method. Yet, we can ignore this, because this is not how any scientist (including Lewontin himself) engages in science. As any philosopher of science should know, this constitutes the currently resolved demarcation problem of philosophy of science.

We can make a partial stab at demarcation,
if we recognize that science is an epistemological endeavor, with a very simple ontology.

The real reason that parts of the Divine
Anatomy do not find themselves in the scientific doorway is because the DA
is neither
1) apprehensible by human senses,
2) comprehensible by human intellect,
3) communicable by human language,

(even if these are augmented by technology.)

Because we have no achor of theory to ground us, parts of the DA can take on absolutely any characteristic that we want them to, thus robbing any proposed theory containing them of comprehensibility. Some falsificationists would also point out that no theory containing a part of the DA can ever be falsifiable, either. However,
comprehensibility is stronger than falsifiability.

An example of this is a claim by
Will Dembski, whose "explanatory filter" reads more like an oracle than scientific theories.

Indeed, compare Dembski's explanatory filter with astrology. Each has a technical ritual and each demands that we accept an interpretation of the output of that ritual, but neither provides a theory to tell us why that particular interpretation, and not another, is to be accepted.

When pressed Dembski claims that "ID is not a mechanical science" and astrologers claim "that the stars incline, but do not control".

Indeed each of these activities have their own alleged "common sense examples". Astrologers will state that the tides show that celestial objects can influence the earth, and from this seek to infer that astrological conclusions then "stand to reason".

IDers claim that we identify such things as, for example, Mount Rushmore, as being
"designed" by Dembski's explanatory filter. The fact is that there is not a single case of Dembski's filter ever being used.

We, in fact, do not recognize design, but rather model manufacture. We know that giant stone statues are the work of humans because we know a lot about the methods of manufacture of carved stone items. It is knowledge of the method of manufacture of human manufactured items that constitutes the theoretical basis from which we operate to draw our conclusion.

If Dembski insists that biology is manufactured, then he will have to deliver the manufacturing process. Until then,
he is engaging only in foggy mathematical philosophising.

The result is more damaging for the faithful. Dembski is erecting a mathematical philosophy idol that anti-Darwinists seem to want to bow down before.

I'm pretty sure that you can be a Darwinist and remain a Christian, but I am not so sure that you can remain a Christian when you accept ID.

John Stockwell said...

...that should be "currently *un*resolved demarcation problem...."

Rick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Douglas Groothuis said...

Mr. Stockwell simply asserts--without arguing--we cannot know things about (in a strange turn of phrase)"the divine anatomy." The ID argument is an inference to a designer as opposed to merely chance and necessity. That is how it employs empirical evidence. It is not concerned to specify very much about the designer. However, philosophical arguments can fill out the nature of the designer through natural theology. See my recent book, "In Defense of Natural Theology," which I co-edited.

Yes, we know that Mt. Rushmore was made by human manufacture. This can be verified by a history book. However, it could be verified without one! If we found something like Mt. Rushmore on Mars--a mountain with the heads of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins--carved into it, the most logical inference would be intelligent design, not mere chance and necessity. This is because it satisfies the complexity and specification criteria of Dembski. Call it Mt. Jazzmore.

Now DNA is far more complex than either Mt. Rushmore of Mt. Jazzmore, and it also satisfies the Dembski's two criteria. The fact that no human saw the manufacture of DNA is irrelevant. It is designed.

John Stockwell said...

The claims of the ID community are unsubstantiated assertions. Therefore, I believe I am justified in making my own assertions, most of which, by Dr. Groothuis' silence, I must conclude he agrees with.

We do not have to see a given statue being carved to recognize the statue as a manufactured item. We need only know how some statues are made. We then draw on the collection of knowledge regarding rock carving, etc. to model the manufacture of a given statue. This would be true of a statue on Mars,
as well. We would draw on the collection of our experience with human statue making as the source of models for methods of statue manufacture.
Indeed, the result of such a conclusion would direct us to seek other manufactured items on Mars.

DNA is a different story. DNA, under the right conditions, is self-replicating---self manufacturing, if you will. DNA also has the capacity for replication with variation, which means that DNA need not remain the same generation after generation. So, unless we have physical evidence, independent of biology and DNA showing how the first DNA may have been manufactured, we have no reason to draw the conclusion that DNA is manufactured.

linker said...

John Stockwell said;
" So, unless we have physical evidence, independent of biology and DNA showing how the first DNA may have been manufactured, we have no reason to draw the conclusion that DNA is manufactured."

reworded as;

So, unless we have physical "OBSERVED" evidence, showing how the first DNA may have evolved (via natural selection and mutations), we have no reason to draw the conclusion that DNA has evolved.

The NDE camp says "common descent" from NON-OBSERVED, inferred, indirect evidence, and the ID camp says "Common Design" from OBSERVED direct evidence.

Using the scientific method which side would you take?

Also a person in UD blog had a good comment on Dawkins now famous quote
" it only appears designed" comment
that is this...

He said
"Dawkins is quoted as saying that design in living things is an illusion. Does this not imply that he

-) there is a rigorous definition for design
-) there is a way to detect design

if not, how can he know it’s an illusion, if yes, where is his definition and method
if neither, what’s he talking about?"

THIS IS WHAT the ID movement is trying to quantify via the scientific method. The conclusions about who the designer is irrelevant.

How would you detect design if you did not know who the designer is?

The evidence in the last 20 years proports that DNA only degrades over time and mutations are not the "creative element" that can produce any significant body structures. There seems to be a pre-designed limit on how far any one specific body plan can take.

Nuff said