The Principle of “Methodological Counterintuitiveness”
|July 29, 2009||Posted by William Dembski under Darwinism, Evolution, Global Warming, Intelligent Design|
I recently posted on op-ed in which I described that the concern in the 1970s was not global warming but global cooling (go here). Critics of that piece are now claiming that I’m misrepresenting the fabulous 70s and that “science” back then was not in fact claiming that the earth was cooling. I recall seeing cited some literature on global cooling from that time, so I wrote the op-ed from memory. I since went to that trusted source — Wikipedia — and looked up the article on “global cooling.” It begins (go here):
Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere along with a posited commencement of glaciation. This hypothesis never had significant scientific support, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of press reports that did not accurately reflect the scientific understanding of ice age cycles, and a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s.
I draw your attention to the last clause: there was “a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s.” One would think that this would constitute “scientific evidence” for global cooling. But no, foolish unwashed masses, that just betrays your lack of understanding about how science works. What allows scientists to line their pockets with our tax dollars is that science must, perforce, tell us things that we can’t figure out on our own. In particular, what makes science science is its counterintuitiveness. Sure, a three decade cooling trend would get naive coke-swilling masses to think that the earth is cooling. But the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness tells us that this just means that the earth is getting warmer.
This principle applies quite widely. The fossil record betrays a huge scarcity of transitional forms (Stephen Jay Gould called this the “trade secret” of paleontology). But does that mean that organisms didn’t evolve gradually in Darwin’s great tree of life. Of course not. Precisely because Darwin’s theory is counterintuitive, it is “good science.” In fact, what makes Darwin the greatest scientist of all time is that he proposed the most counterintuitive theory of all time (a corollary of the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness is that the greatness of a scientist is in direct proportion to the counterintuitiveness of his/her theories). Note that this is a methodological principle — we make it a method of science to look for the most counterintuitive theory and then baptize it as “science.”
Some indicators continue to show the earth cooling (my home town Chicago is having the coldest summer in 65 years). Does that show the earth is cooling? Silly you, of course not. According to the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness, that just shows it’s warming. Cells exhibit nano-engineering of a degree that far surpasses our best technology. Does that mean that they might be designed? Of course not, you naive burger-munching rubes. It means that they are the result of blind material forces. In this year of Darwin, let us dedicate this articulation of the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness to his memory.