Thursday, August 24, 2006

Naturalism=Science?

My letter on ID to The New York Times generated this fragment from a long lecture/email:

There is no data for “design”. In fact, there cannot be: “design” is an intellectual, not a physical, activity. Design manifests itself in the physical world, and Dembski and Behe look at physical structures and conclude design. That is not science.

This perfectly illustrates the point made in my argument. The Darwinists are a priori committed to methodological naturalism. Or: "What my net don't catch ain't fish" to use the colloquial. ID isn't science because it doesn't terminate the explanation with a merely physical process. That begs the question and refuses to consider the actual evidence for design.

10 comments:

Weekend Fisher said...

What always surprises me in that type of comment is that they manage to miss the fact that there is, by that line of argument, no evidence against design ...

Tom G said...

This writer is amazingly forthright about saying intellectual activities are not subject to scientific investigation. That would certainly rule out any scientific design inference, but it does it by an outrageously distorted a priori definition of science. How many scientists would agree that science has nothing whatever to say about intellectual activities?

John Stockwell said...


comment sent to DG
There is no data for “design”. In fact, there cannot be: “design” is an intellectual, not a physical, activity. Design manifests itself in the physical world, and Dembski and Behe look at physical structures and conclude design. That is not science.


DG wrote:
This perfectly illustrates the point made in my argument. The Darwinists are a priori committed to methodological naturalism. Or: "What my net don't catch ain't fish" to use the colloquial. ID isn't science because it doesn't terminate the explanation with a merely physical process. That begs the question and refuses to consider the actual evidence for design.



Let's see, we have a fragment of an email written by an anonymous respondent to a letter published in a newspaper. You call that evidence of something?

I believe what the writer is groping for is the statement "there is no scientific theory of design nor is the the corresponding laws or data to support such a theory and be explained by it."

That's pretty much the way the ball bounces on the topic.

The Behe IC side of the issue is an example of an individual doing something that is very much like what people do with UFOs, which is to collect disjoint unexplained items, declare them to be unexplainable by the current theory, lump them together without showing that they represent a common phenomenon, but assert that they are and then claim an "identification scheme".

The Dembski approach is sort of the theoretical equivalent. First of all, Dembski is just flat out wrong when he claims that we "identify design" by some sort of probability argument.

But we don't do that. We identify objects as being manufactured by comparing them with objects of known manufacture, and of known manufacturing method. Good examples of this are in the area of anthropology wherein simple stone tools, and suspected stone tools are studied. How do investigators study such things?

The perform experiments to simulate the processes by which broken stone objects arise, creating a collection of objects of known origin and known manufacturing method, and then compare the unknown objects with the known standard.

Nobody in science employs anything like Dembski's explanatory filter. Indeed, even Dembski's examples fall short, when we realize that "identifying design" really means "modeling the method of manufacture". Dembki's examples all are already objects known to be manufactured.

Even the much touted claim that the SETI project employs Dembski's "explanatory filter is false". What the SETI project employs is a statistical test derived from a study of known natural signals and a model of signals of the types that humans could make. The assumption of descrimination in this case is that the aliens will be enough like us to do something like what we would do.

Remember that the ID folks have had more than a decade to do something useful, and though they have funding comparable to a typical well-funded research lab, they have not delivered.

The proper attitude, therefore, in science education is to ignore ID.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Stockwell writes:

"Nobody in science employs anything like Dembski's explanatory filter."

This is false. It is used in many areas, as he argues in "The Design Inference" and elsewhere.

We identify signs of design in objects known to be designed, so we can then try to indentify objects that have not been observed to be designed in their beginning. Why not apply that to DNA or the bacterial flaggelum? Yes, no human was there to observe them in their beginning. So what? If they bear the marks of design, that is enough.

To put Behe in the category of UFO nuts is guilt by association and a red herring.

John Stockwell said...



Stockwell writes:

"Nobody in science employs anything like Dembski's explanatory filter."


This is false. It is used in many areas, as he argues in "The Design Inference" and elsewhere.

We identify signs of design in objects known to be designed, so we can then try to indentify objects that have not been observed to be designed in their beginning. Why not apply that to DNA or the bacterial flaggelum? Yes, no human was there to observe them in their beginning. So what? If they bear the marks of design, that is enough.


First of all, there is no such thing as 'marks of design.' There often clues that we can get from examining an object that may tell us how it manufactured, particularly if we have other objects that were manufactured the same way.

It is certain Dembski's claim that there is something called "complex specified information" (CSI) which is a "mark of design". But, of course, that is merely his assertion, offered without anything resembling scientific evidence to support.

Anybody can claim to have a computational prescription for calculating a quantity, but without a theory that tells us why that particular quantity, and not another is the one we should use, then we have no more scientific reason for being interested than we would in, say, the calculations of a numerologist or an astrologer.

Douglas Groothuis said...

We're not getting anywhere on this.

"It is certain Dembski's claim that there is something called "complex specified information" (CSI) which is a "mark of design". But, of course, that is merely his assertion, offered without anything resembling scientific evidence to support."

That statement is merely an assertion. Dembski argues at length for this in The Design Inference and elsewhere.

I suggest we terminate the discussion.

John Stockwell said...

DG wrote:
We're not getting anywhere on this.

"It is certain Dembski's claim that there is something called "complex specified information" (CSI) which is a "mark of design". But, of course, that is merely his assertion, offered without anything resembling scientific evidence to support."

That statement is merely an assertion. Dembski argues at length for this in The Design Inference and elsewhere.

I suggest we terminate the discussion.



Why don't you post the single argument of Dembski's that you find most convincing, and I will tell you why other scientists as well as myself don't find it impressive? Then, if you don't care to discuss it further, then we can stop.

I can assure you that this has nothing to do with "naturalism", but rather of standard scientific practice.

jpe said...

The "evidence," such as it is, is apriori excluded by the materialist bent. In other words, it ain't material, ain't testable, etc. Is this question begging? Yeah, looks like it. But the pragmatist epistemologists among us are fine with that.

William Bradford said...

First of all, there is no such thing as 'marks of design.

Intelligence is, at times, revealed by the nature of a material object. So are the effects of undirected natural forces. Distinguishing between the two is the challenge of intelligent design.

William Bradford said...

Design manifests itself in the physical world, and Dembski and Behe look at physical structures and conclude design. That is not science.

This would depend on the empirical evidence offered in support of the argument. Looking at a functional genome and declaring it was generated without intelligent input is not science.