Home » Intelligent Design » Bradley Monton — Important Article on Dover

Bradley Monton — Important Article on Dover

Bradley Monton, a Princeton-trained philosopher on the faculty at the University of Kentucky, has an important piece on Dover here. Though Monton is not an ID proponent (he is a philosopher of physics who in his professional work is quite critical of fine-tuning as evidence for God), he exhibits little patience for the reasoning in Judge Jones’s decision. Note especially the following paragraph from his article:

There is a problem with this idea that science should change its methodology in light of empirical confirmation of the existence of a supernatural being [[a point that Pennock had conceded in testimony]]. How does this empirical confirmation take place, if not scientifically? By Pennock’s lights, there must be some other epistemic practice that one can engage in where one can get empirical evidence for some proposition. What epistemic practice is this, and why doesn’t it count as science? Pennock doesn’t say. Also, note that the scientific status of that epistemic practice will presumably shift: at a time before one gets the empirical evidence that a supernatural being exists, the epistemic practice is unscientific, but after one gets that empirical evidence, the methodology of science changes in such a way that the epistemic practice (presumably) counts as scientific.

The lesson, which should be obvious to Pennock and Forrest if only it didn’t provide such a wide opening for ID, is that methodologies are tools for assisting inquiry but cannot define (or confine) inquiry.

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52 Responses to Bradley Monton — Important Article on Dover

  1. I’ve always wondered… What other methodologies are appropriate for inquiry? How would they be implemented? I hear all of this talk about methodological naturalism, and I think I understand it well. But I’m not imaginative enough to come up with any other options. I would prefer more than just the name, a description of the methodology would help. Thanks.

  2. Dembski discusses this subject in-depth in chapter 22 (page 169) of The Design Revolution, which you can get for probably around $15 including shipping on Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....8;v=glance

    As for other options… methodological naturalism developed in the late 19th century out of the principles and methods of natural science, especially the Darwinian view that nature is in principle completely knowable, regular, united and whole. Methodological naturalism asserts that there is nothing “real” beyond “nature” and accepts no evidence beyond “natural processes” operating entirely acording to unbroken natural laws and characterized by chance and necessity. “Methodological naturalism insists that scientists pretend as though antiteleological naturalism is true.”

    Pragmatism, on the other hand, holds that the merit of an idea, policy, value or proposal must be determined by its usefulness or workability. Pragmatic naturalism developed out of the work of late 19th and early 20th century American naturalistic humanists like Charles Peirce, William James and John Dewey. In different ways they each posed a marriage of naturalism’s dedication to scientific method and pragmatism’s rational approach to the problems we face as individuals and social beings. “Pragmatic naturalism wants simply to understand nature and doesn’t care what entities are invoked to facilitate that understanding, so long as they prove conceptually fruitful. The philosopher Willard Quine was a pragmatic naturalist…: ‘If I saw indirect explanatory benefit in positing sensibilia, possibilia, spirits, a Creator, I would joyfully accord them scientific status too, on a par with such avowedly scientific posits as quarks black holes.’” I suppose you could add dark matter and evidence for a multiverse to that list.

  3. From what I understand, using naturalistic methodicism one makes up a theory about our universe, and using predictions based on that theory, tests the universe for the success of those predictions. How does pragmatism do it? Is there any “check” on the methodology? If there is no check, what’s to stop the methodology from resulting in many different forms of “truth”. It seems that at least naturalistic methodicism is consistent within itself. In other words, differences in theories eventually get resolved. (I’m not saying that they are all currently resolved, just that they have the potential to be resolved in the future.) It seems that pragmatism doesn’t have this feature. Perhaps I don’t fully understand it. Can you explain it? Perhaps you can show step by step what a pragmatic scientist would do in the lab.

    Patrick said: “I suppose you could add dark matter and evidence for a multiverse to that list.” As a physicist I would have to say that dark matter, quarks, and black holes, are not results of pragmaticism. All of the theories that describe these objects make testable predictions. In fact, millions of dollars are being spent testing exactly these phenomenon and the subtleties. I won’t stand behind multiverses, though, as the idea cannot be tested (at least not yet). In other words, there is no evidence for multiverses.

  4. Feederbottom,

    My understanding of Methodological Naturalism is that it incorporates the working presumption that all of nature is best explained apart from a designing intelligence. The problem with MN is that it dictates the presumption that nature is epistemically atelic without the empirical data to verify it. The way science works is that FIRST empirical data is gathered, and THEN a scientific theory is formulated which fits that data. Nature shows what nature shows; it doesn’t have to conform to arbitrarily formulated a priori speculations. Science should simply endeavor to provide the best explanation to fit the evidence currently at hand; this is basically what Pragmatic Naturalism says.

  5. Methodological Naturalism doesn’t say anything about a designing intelligence, yay nor nay. There is no such working presumption. The reason is because there is no empirical evidence for such a thing either way. And you’re right, typically the theory is created after the data is found. But, really this order isn’t so important with good science. Theory can come before any data, as long as the science is done in such a way as to prevent a “finding what you were looking for” effect. An example of theory before data is the present search for the Higgs boson. It has been predicted by The Standard Model in particle physics, and now as accelerator technologies advance, they are looking for the particle.

    “Nature shows what nature shows; it doesn’t have to conform to arbitrarily formulated a priori speculations.” says Crandaddy. Exactly, which is why theory has to always fit the data. Are you implying that MN has a priori speculations about nature? I’d love to hear about them.

    So you still haven’t explained how a scientist uses Pragmatic Naturalism in the lab. At what point does his method differ from how an MN scientist works? As far as I understand it seems that the only difference is that the PN scientist can give theories that can’t be tested. What good are those theories? Help me figure this out.

  6. Sorry, Feederbottom. I don’t see anything wrong with what I said, and I don’t know how I could be any clearer in my wording. You may want to look at Wikipedia’s article on naturalism if you’re confused about the term. You should also follow Patrick’s advice and read Chapter 22 in “The Design Revolution”.

  7. Crandaddy says: “Sorry, Feederbottom. I don’t see anything wrong with what I said, and I don’t know how I could be any clearer in my wording.”

    Here’s something wrong with what you said: “The problem with MN is that it dictates the presumption that nature is epistemically atelic without the empirical data to verify it.” MN simply doesn’t dictate such a presumption. As there is no empirical data either way, it says nothing on the matter.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have access to “The Design Revolution.” I was wondering if you smart guys could answer my previous questions and/or give me some examples to facilitate the understanding. I sure hope that you have an answer to my questions!

  8. Crandaddy

    The wiki article says

    “Methodological naturalism assumes that observable events in nature are explained only by natural causes without assuming the existence or non-existence of the supernatural.”

    Repeat after me – science is agnostic. That is the simple unvarnished truth. If you don’t agree you’re wrong and that’s the simple unvarnished truth too.

  9. As a scientist one does not deny the evidence of design in nature but rather one presumes there is a natural explanation for it. One also knows the presumption may prove to be wrong. Such presumptions are default positions taken when there is insufficient data to reach any firm conclusions. For instance The Copernican Principle of Mediocrity is about presuming the planet earth and everything about it is common in the universe. Science is happily discovering that this doesn’t seem to be the case. It appears the earth is an exceedingly rare bird. Presumptions are subject to change but until the data warrants it presumptions that have engendered practical successes in the past are well entrenched. Methodological naturalism is such a presumption and there is, as yet, no data that warrants abandoning it and it has been very successful as a practical matter. That doesn’t mean it might prove to be wrong it just means it’s still the prevailing presumption.

  10. “As a physicist I would have to say that dark matter, quarks, and black holes, are not results of pragmaticism. All of the theories that describe these objects make testable predictions.”

    I’m not going to defend Quine’s statement completely (it was just an example). I realize there are candidates for what dark matter is (WIMPs, CCDM, and more) but…

    http://www.physorg.com/news7058.html

    This article discusses dark matter and a computer simulation that “proves” its existence and claims that the existing model of elliptical galaxies is wrong.

    http://www.space.com/scienceas.....atter.html

    And yet here we another study to the opposite effect. Considering that 25% of the mass of the universe might suddenly go “poof” and I keeping reading statements like “No one knows whether these might somehow be detected one day.” personally I’d feel justified in considering dark matter to be up in the air at the moment.

    Also, unless you cannot get an item shipped I don’t see why you cannot purchase the book. It’s only $15. Here are the shipping restrictions:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....14-4202222

  11. On the subject of methodological naturalism I’d agree that it has been very successful as a working model for the majority of cases. The problem is that if the evidence leads to explanations/conclusions that do not resort only to “matter, energy, and their interaction.” The point at issue is whether nature operates exclusively by such causes.

  12. That’s why opponents to ID claim science IS methodological naturalism (and then some like Monod claim it is antiteleological naturalism). By that definition ID is automatically ruled out as being science since ID “allows” for the existence of unembodied entities.

    Annoying how even as a moderator I cannot edit my own posts and merge my previous thoughts (unless I’m looking over something in the Site Admin section).

  13. Feederbottom,

    I said this: “The problem with MN is that it dictates the presumption that nature is epistemically atelic without the empirical data to verify it.”

    You answered with this: “MN simply doesn’t dictate such a presumption. As there is no empirical data either way, it says nothing on the matter.”

    I understand that MN does not allow for teleological explanations of nature. Am I wrong? Also, the issue is not whether there is or is not empirical data of design in nature but whether or not there even can be.

    In comment #5, you said this: “So you still haven’t explained how a scientist uses Pragmatic Naturalism in the lab. At what point does his method differ from how an MN scientist works? As far as I understand it seems that the only difference is that the PN scientist can give theories that can’t be tested. What good are those theories? Help me figure this out.”

    A pragmatic naturalist would conduct scientific investigation in the same manner that a methodological naturalist would. The difference between them is that the PN is free to invoke all logically possible explanations for his observations, and the MN is not.

    Dave,

    Of course, science is agnostic, but I don’t see why a supernatural entity cannot be invoked as an explanation of a natural phenomenon if and only if it is the best available explanation for that phenomenon. Moreover, never did I call for the wholesale abandonment of MN. It has been a very productive methodology in the past and will probably continue to be. Even so, you may need to check your devotion to it. MN doesn’t just exclude supernatural explanations; it also excludes any explanation that may suggest a supernatural cause – including teleology in nature. Are you prepared to categorically assert that a designer of nature could not be supernatural?

  14. Patrick said: “Personally I’d feel justified in considering dark matter to be up in the air at the moment.”

    Oh, completely. Cosmology is a very active area of research at the moment, and as new data comes in and theories are pounded out, the existence and character of Dark Matter can be volatile. But, that doesn’t make the idea of Dark Matter a result of pragmatism, as the existence and character of it relies on empirical testing and data. Things which are not required of pragmatism.

    Crandaddy said: “I understand that MN does not allow for teleological explanations of nature. Am I wrong? Also, the issue is not whether there is or is not empirical data of design in nature but whether or not there even can be.”

    Yes, you are wrong. MN allows for any teleological explanation that can be tested. MN simply does not allow for untestable explanations. The trouble that ID has in being accepted as a science is coming up with a way to test such design. (Note: Testing for the failure of a specific form of evolution does not equate to a postive test for design.) This is why there is such a big push by the ID movement to throw out this restriction of MN and go to PN. However, based on the past fruitfulness of MN it doesn’t seem very wise to me.

    Crandaddy said: “A pragmatic naturalist would conduct scientific investigation in the same manner that a methodological naturalist would. The difference between them is that the PN is free to invoke all logically possible explanations for his observations, and the MN is not.”

    How does a group of PN scientists come to agree ment on anything? It seems that they can each bring their own contradictory explanation. And since those explanations don’t have to be testable, there doesn’t seem a way to determine the worthiness of those explanations. For example, I could say that the world was created by God this morning, right before I woke up. That’s logically consistent with a omnipotent God’s abilities, right? But, there is no way to test such an idea. So a YEC’s explanation of God creating the world 6,000 years ago is just as likely. Ad Nauseum. Science would lurch to a halt. How does practically applying PN avoid such a stagnation?

  15. Hi Feederbottom,
    I’m not an ID proponent, but I do believe that science can be legitimately extended beyond methodological naturalism, subject to certain caveats.

    You write:
    “MN allows for any teleological explanation that can be tested. MN simply does not allow for untestable explanations.”

    I disagree. MN disallows supernatural teleological explanations, even if they are testable.

    See http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/557 , starting around comment #9, for some examples of how certain limited concepts of God might be testable if MN is relaxed.

    Also see http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/587 , comments 104 & 111.

    “So a YEC’s explanation of God creating the world 6,000 years ago is just as likely. Ad Nauseum. Science would lurch to a halt. How does practically applying PN avoid such a stagnation?”

    Indeed, the YEC example as you stated it is untestable. But you can make it testable by adding one constraint. Most Christians believe that God would not deceive us by making the Earth appear to be older than it is. If this is true, then the hypothetical God is testable, and evidence of the Earth’s great age falsifies his existence.

    My gripe is that the current designer hypothesis of ID lacks the constraints needed to make it testable. But ID proponents don’t want to admit that the designer is supernatural, since that would make it unscientific by current MN standards.

    This reluctance is interesting and seemingly contradictory, because in his book “Intelligent Design”, our blog host (Bill Dembski) admits that “So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, intelligent design has no chance of success.”

    It would seem that the short-term project is to get ID accepted as science under MN rules by claiming that the designer need not be supernatural, but then later to expand the boundaries of science beyond MN and bring God back into the picture. At least, that’s the only way I can see for ID proponents to reconcile these seemingly contradictory positions.

    Another possible objection to including the supernatural in science is that the supernatural is not directly observable. But it seems that science copes with non-observables already. For example, my understanding is that recent work in string theory shows that three-dimensional physics including gravity is equivalent to two-dimensional physics minus gravity in anti de Sitter space (you’re the physicist — perhaps you can tell me if I’ve got that right). If physics remains the same between these two models, we can never experimentally tell the difference. Similarly, there might be multiple models for the unobservable supernatural part of an otherwise observable phenomenon, but science would never allow us to distinguish among them.

  16. “How does a group of PN scientists come to agree ment on anything? It seems that they can each bring their own contradictory explanation. And since those explanations don’t have to be testable, there doesn’t seem a way to determine the worthiness of those explanations. For example, I could say that the world was created by God this morning, right before I woke up. That’s logically consistent with a omnipotent God’s abilities, right? But, there is no way to test such an idea. So a YEC’s explanation of God creating the world 6,000 years ago is just as likely. Ad Nauseum. Science would lurch to a halt. How does practically applying PN avoid such a stagnation?”

    You seem to be equating Pragmatic Naturalism to “anything goes”. Pragmatic naturalists stress that genuine inquiry must be conducted in a consistently empirical manner. They also contend that the sciences and their methodologies are superior to other modes of inquiry. I realize that the standalone Pragmatism is often taken to be opposed to Realism, but from my understanding there is an interdependence between Pragmatic Naturalism and some realistic metaphysical stances. What is really at issue is whether intelligent design can confer explanatory benefit in understanding biological systems. These methodologies are good working models, not necessarily a hard and fast rule, so equating a single methodology to BEING science seems a dodge more than anything else.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

    Testability is discussed there. I’m kind of annoyed they said that “We have given only two examples here. There are many other design arguments in biology, origin-of-life studies, and paleontology that are also empirically testable and that make predictions.” but don’t bother to link to these other examples.

    On a side note, I’ve pretty much banished the word “supernatural” from my vocabulary when in these discussions since to my mind the supernatural is stuff like vampires and the boogieman. The question is “what is the nature of nature” and should we be held back a priori from asking that question.

  17. Keith is at it again, claiming that IDers are being dishonest.

    Please, Keith, talk to DaveScot, who has said many many many times that he doesn’t see the designer needs to be supernatural. Why you continue to make this claim that I have clarified so many times, I’ve no idea.

    You can always contact DS directly (and he’s just one of many with the same view) to tell him he’s being dishonest and refuses to admit that he really thinks that ID demands a supernatural designer. I’m sure he’d have some choice words for you, but you can always try!

    Funny thing is, when I pointed out the implication that he was calling ID proponents liars, he apologized, but he’s reverted back to his old position now.

    “But ID proponents don’t want to admit that the designer is supernatural, since that would make it unscientific by current MN standards.”

  18. I’m going to sit and think about this stuff for a bit. But, in the meantime I wanted to address Keiths’s comment:
    “Another possible objection to including the supernatural in science is that the supernatural is not directly observable. But it seems that science copes with non-observables already. For example, my understanding is that recent work in string theory shows that three-dimensional physics including gravity is equivalent to two-dimensional physics minus gravity in anti de Sitter space (you’re the physicist — perhaps you can tell me if I’ve got that right). If physics remains the same between these two models, we can never experimentally tell the difference. Similarly, there might be multiple models for the unobservable supernatural part of an otherwise observable phenomenon, but science would never allow us to distinguish among them.”

    I’m not a string theorist, and haven’t studied much of it at all. But, I do know that string theory isn’t fully considered a science yet, simply because it hasn’t resulted in any testables. At the moment it’s all just math. When they finally figure out some testables, then the string theorists will join the adult table. The reason that they are considered Physicists as opposed to Mathematicians is because they are on the verge of producing a testable. Of course, they’ve been on this verge for 30 years. (Note: No string theorist is trying to get String Theory taught in public high schools or change the definition of science!) Since the ultimate goal of their work is to produce testables, they are given a little leeway.

  19. ID isn’t trying to change the definition of science either.

  20. Feederbottom,

    I’m certainly not saying that string theorists are trying to change the definition of science, or that string theory somehow involves the supernatural. I was just trying to offer an example of how science can already accommodate aspects of reality which are not directly observable.

    Perhaps a better example would have been the fact that we have not seen, and for theoretical reasons never expect to see, quarks in isolation. Yet we’re confident that they exist because of their indirect effects on experimental observations.

    Handling a supernatural unobservable is not really any different from handling a natural unobservable, as long as they both have indirect observable consequences in the natural world.

  21. Hi Keith,

    Well done in comment #15! Let me just say that I, personally, remain unconvinced that a supernatural designer is a necessary explanation for ID in nature. Moreover, I maintain that the concept of ID is very important to the study of biological origins – whether or not the designer is supernatural and even whether or not the design proposed is ontologically real.

  22. Crandaddy writes:
    “Let me just say that I, personally, remain unconvinced that a supernatural designer is a necessary explanation for ID in nature.”

    Hi David,

    Yes, I’ve been a little sloppy in my use of terminology in this thread. When I say that ID implies a supernatural designer, I’m really referring to the “prime designer” implied by Bill Dembski’s CSI ideas, according to the designer chain argument that I’ve laid out elsewhere on the blog. The immediate designer of life could presumably be natural, although even here there is an issue: Dembski believes that CSI comes only from intelligence, and that intelligence cannot operate via undirected natural processes. This would seem to imply a supernatural component even in a proximate, non-prime designing intelligence.

    A supernatural designer would also seem to be required by ID’s fine-tuning argument, unless you accept the possibility of a non-supernatural “cosmic hacker” creating universes, a possibility which was in fact raised by a recent post of Bill’s.

    “Moreover, I maintain that the concept of ID is very important to the study of biological origins…whether or not the design proposed is ontologically real.”

    That’s an interesting wrinkle. Could you elaborate on what you would mean by an ontologically unreal design?

  23. Patrick writes:
    “On a side note, I’ve pretty much banished the word “supernatural” from my vocabulary when in these discussions since to my mind the supernatural is stuff like vampires and the boogieman. The question is “what is the nature of nature” and should we be held back a priori from asking that question.”

    Yes, I’m not crazy about the word “supernatural” either. Sometimes I use “transcendent” instead. But if by your question “what is the nature of nature” you mean for “nature” to subsume what has been traditionally considered to be supernatural, then I think you’ll end up confusing people.

    One way or another you’ll need at least two categories: one for matter and energy (the “nature” of “methodological naturalism”), and one for the rest of reality (if any).

  24. Darwinian narrative apologists use the word “supernatural” when they should be using “artificial”. Far be it from me to suggest they use a loaded word that suggests actions by God which is the framework of their establishment clause defense of the Darwinian dogma. If the Darwinists can’t keep the debate framed by religion their gooses are cooked and they know it. The dishonesty inherent in this tactic stinks to high heaven.

  25. Josh writes:
    “DaveScot…has said many many many times that he doesn’t see the designer needs to be supernatural.”

    True, the proximate designer need not be supernatural, but the prime designer must, if you accept Dembski’s CSI ideas.

    Dave agrees with this. He just restricts “supernatural” to apply to the unknown:

    DaveScot wrote (in an old thread):
    “Reading your comment about an infinite regress to an ultimately supernatural designer was interesting and I can’t really disagree, except to say that the supernatural becomes the natural once we know about it.”

    It’s really just semantics. I think we need to maintain the natural/supernatural distinction, for the reasons I gave to Patrick in a previous comment, and also because theistic folks (as most IDers are) would prefer to keep God in a separate category from his creation, even if he became known with certainty.

    Josh again:
    “ID isn’t trying to change the definition of science either.”

    Josh, if I were playing your game I would ask why you are accusing Bill Dembski of lying. Instead I’ll just ask, why would Bill make the following statement if he didn’t want (at least eventually) to change the definition of science?

    Bill Dembski (Intelligent Design, section 4.6):
    “So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, intelligent design has no chance of success. Phillip Johnson makes this point eloquently. So does Alvin Plantinga. In his discussion of methodological naturalism Plantinga notes that if one accepts methodological naturalism then naturalistic evolution is the only game in town.”

  26. DaveScot writes:
    “Darwinian narrative apologists use the word “supernatural” when they should be using ‘artificial’.”

    So “supernatural designer” should be “artificial designer”? I don’t get it.

  27. Keith writes: “That’s an interesting wrinkle. Could you elaborate on what you would mean by an ontologically unreal design?”

    “Ontologically real” is a fancy way I have of saying “actually exists”. It makes sense to me, anyway. Ontologically unreal design, in my language, would mean that the design is illusory. :)

  28. Crandaddy writes:
    “Moreover, I maintain that the concept of ID is very important to the study of biological origins…whether or not the design proposed is ontologically real.”

    David,
    I’m sure you can guess my next question: If design ends up being illusory, how does the concept of ID remain “very important”? Do you simply mean that we’ll continue to “reverse engineer” living systems whether their design is apparent or real, or do you mean something else?

  29. Keiths,
    I reluctantly argue with you, but when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

    Keiths says: “I was just trying to offer an example of how science can already accommodate aspects of reality which are not directly observable.”

    I understand your point, but I just wanted to point out that science does not “accomodate” string theory, for the simple reason that it is not observable. Trust me, string theory is often regarded as an easy target among scientists. Enough where the joke is cliche. But, there is hope they put out some testables.

    Let me relay a story I heard from our department head. On his desk sits a Nobel prize nomination form. He says that he’ll bring in a string theorist and show them the form. He says: “Give me a number. Any number. And this nomination will have your name on it.” If/When String Theory makes a testable prediction it will be a huge deal. But until then it’s just so much talk.

    Keith also says: “Perhaps a better example would have been the fact that we have not seen, and for theoretical reasons never expect to see, quarks in isolation. Yet we’re confident that they exist because of their indirect effects on experimental observations.”

    The thing is Keith, and this is starting to get to some real fundamentals, you’re right, we don’t “see” quarks. But we also don’t “see” any other fundamental particles. But, the existance of quarks makes testable predictions. And those tests have passed, as far as we know. In a way, ALL of our measurments are indirect. That is not a problem for science. The existance of quarks is not a pragmatic idea at all.

  30. Keith

    I never agreed that an ultimate designer needs to be supernatural. I didn’t disagree with it is all because I have no bloody idea what attributes are required of an ultimate designer or even what the ultimate design is, or if there is an ultimate design. Let me warn you now not to put words in my mouth in the future.

  31. Keiths

    supernatural adj. 1. Not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material

    artificial adj. 1. Contrived by art rather than nature

    Which bits don’t you understand?

  32. DaveScot,

    Here’s what I don’t understand. You say that Darwinians “use the word ‘supernatural’ when they should be using ‘artificial’.”

    The problem is that making the substitution would render the discussion nonsensical, because a phrase like “a supernatural designer” would become “an artificial designer”.

  33. Keith writes: “I’m sure you can guess my next question: If design ends up being illusory, how does the concept of ID remain “very important”? Do you simply mean that we’ll continue to “reverse engineer” living systems whether their design is apparent or real, or do you mean something else?”

    The concept, itself, is important because if a biological system looks designed by an intelligence, the burden is on science to demonstrate that evolution is a more plausible alternative. Understand, it’s possible to recognize the import of ID as a concept and still believe that the unintelligent evolution of all life is true.

  34. keiths

    I think “supernatural designer” is nonsensical. How can one make sense of something that doesn’t exist in nature, cannot be observed, and cannot be explained? Supernatural designer is a strawman created because Darwin apologists can’t argue effectively against intelligent agency because intelligent agency doesn’t imply deities or religion. Evolutionists are helpless against ID if they cannot frame it around religion. Write that down.

    Irreducibly complex cellular structures like the ribosome were artificially created not supernaturally created. There is the difference. Write that down too.

  35. DaveScot writes:
    “I think “supernatural designer” is nonsensical.”

    Dave,
    You might think it’s nonsensical, but almost everyone else supporting ID does not (including Bill Dembski, Michael Behe, and Phillip Johnson).

    Consider this strongly-worded quote from Dembski (Intelligent Design, section 8.5):
    “Unlike design arguments of the past, the claim that transcendent design pervades the universe is no longer a strictly philosophical or theological claim. It is also a fully scientific claim and follows directly from the complexity-specification criterion…Demonstrating transcendent design in the universe is a scientific inference, not a philosophical pipedream…Once we understand the role of the complexity-specification in warranting this inference, several things follow immediately:
    1. Intelligent agency is logically prior to natural causation and cannot be reduced to it.
    2. Intelligent agency is fully capable of making itself known against the backdrop of natural causes.
    3. Any science that systematically ignores design is incomplete and defective.
    4. Methodological naturalism, the view that science must confine itself solely to natural causes, far from assisting scientific inquiry, actually stifles it.
    5. The scientific picture of the world championed since the Enlightenment is not just wrong but massively wrong.”

    Also see the Dembski quote in my reply to Josh in an earlier comment on this thread.

    Here Behe responds to Robert Pennock:
    “The second philosophical objection in Tower of Babel is that design violates ‘methodological naturalism,’ which means roughly that science must act as though the universe were a closed system of cause and effect, whether it really is or not. ‘Without the constraint of lawful regularity,’ Pennock lectures, ‘inductive evidential inference cannot get off the ground.’”

    “Methodological naturalism proves at last nothing more than an artificial restriction on thought, and it will eventually pass. Despite would-be gatekeepers like Pennock, the argument for design is gaining strength with the advance of science and for a simple reason once described by the physicist Percy Bridgman: ‘The scientific method, as far as it is a method, is nothing more than doing one’s mind, no holds barred.’”
    http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_godofscience.htm

    And here’s Phillip Johnson:
    “My colleagues and I speak of “theistic realism” — or sometimes, “mere creation” –as the defining concept of our movement. This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology. We avoid the tangled arguments about how or whether to reconcile the Biblical account with the present state of scientific knowledge, because we think these issues can be much more constructively engaged when we have a scientific picture that is not distorted by naturalistic prejudice. If life is not simply matter evolving by natural selection, but is something that had to be designed by a creator who is real, then the nature of that creator, and the possibility of revelation, will become a matter of widespread interest among thoughtful people who are currently being taught that evolutionary science has shown God to be a product of the human imagination.

    “Our movement is something of a scandal in some sections of the Christian academic world for the same reason that it is exciting: we propose actually to engage in a serious conversation with the mainstream scientific culture on fundamental principles, rather than to submit to its demand that naturalism be conceded as the basis for all scientific discussion.”
    http://www.arn.org/docs/johnson/ratzsch.htm

    DaveScot again:
    “Evolutionists are helpless against ID if they cannot frame it around religion. Write that down.”

    The ID pioneers started framing it around religion long before we evolutionists did (see above). Tattoo that on the back of your hand.

    The funny thing about this discussion is that each of us is arguing for the opposite of what a casual observer might expect. You’re an ID supporter who thinks that the phrase “supernatural designer” is nonsensical, in contrast to most of your fellow IDers. I’m an evolutionist who thinks that science can legitimately deal with limited forms of the supernatural (if they exist), unlike most evolutionists who think that it must be constrained by methodological naturalism.

  36. Feederbottom writes:
    “…you’re right, we don’t “see” quarks. But we also don’t “see” any other fundamental particles.”

    We do “see” other fundamental particles in the sense that we can tell that a single particle in isolation has interacted with a detector, and we can measure the particle’s characteristics. This is not true for quarks, whose existence is inferred rather than directly detected, and whose attributes come from theory rather than direct measurement.

    “But, the existence of quarks makes testable predictions. And those tests have passed, as far as we know.”

    That’s right. And I argue that supernatural entities, if suitably constrained, can likewise be testable (although I personally don’t see any persuasive evidence for the existence of the supernatural).

    This is not to say that a supernatural entity could necessarily be exhaustively studied by science. It might have attributes or functions that could never be inferred because they don’t produce observable natural consequences.

    I think the YEC example shows that at the very least, the claimed existence of certain supernatural entities is testable by science (and in this case it has already been falsified, though YEC advocates would obviously disagree).

    “In a way, ALL of our measurements are indirect. That is not a problem for science.”

    And if we can study “unseen” natural phenomena via indirect measurements, why can we not do the same for supernatural phenomena which have regular, observable consequences (if any such phenomena exist)?

  37. KeithS

    ie comment 38

    DaveScot writes:
    “I think “supernatural designer” is nonsensical.”

    Dave,
    You might think it’s nonsensical, but almost everyone else supporting ID does not (including Bill Dembski, Michael Behe, and Phillip Johnson).

    The word “supernatural” doesn’t appear in any of the quotes that follow from the named individuals. Oops.

  38. KeithS

    I haven’t seen any empirical evidence of the supernatural yet so I fail to see why it should come up in any discussion unless of course it’s merely being used to further a personal/political agenda. When I do see empirical evidence of the supernatural I’ll let you know. I expect you’ll return the courtesy. Not a single thing yet discovered about the nature of life requires a designer to break any laws of physics in its design or implimentation. There are almost assuredly artificial structures in the machinery of life but no supernatural structures or supernatural mechanisms required to create said artifices.

    You evidently acknowledge this but are unwilling to divorce the supernatural from ID and insist that ID must take on the question of who designed the designer. That question is a strawman. ID (at least Dembski’s latest, most refined works) is about design detection, not designer characterization. Please either restrict your arguments to design detection and take your arguments about the nature of the designer somewhere else. This is your final warning about harping on supernatural designers.

  39. DaveScot writes:
    “The word “supernatural” doesn’t appear in any of the quotes that follow from the named individuals.”

    Phillip Johnson:
    “the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science.”

    God = supernatural.

    Michael Behe:
    “…methodological naturalism…means roughly that science must act as though the universe were a closed system of cause and effect, whether it really is or not…Methodological naturalism…will eventually pass.”

    Methodological naturalism will pass = universe is an open system = intervention from outside = supernatural.

    Bill Dembski:
    “Demonstrating transcendent design in the universe is a scientific inference…”

    transcendent = “existing apart from the material universe” = supernatural.

    Dave again:
    “Please either restrict your arguments to design detection and take your arguments about the nature of the designer somewhere else.”

    Are you telling me that Bill Dembski’s own words about “transcendent design” are not a legitimate topic on his very own weblog?

  40. keiths is no longer with us.

  41. Well…keiths might be gone now but I thought I’d respond to at least one point.

    “ID isn’t trying to change the definition of science either.”

    Josh, if I were playing your game I would ask why you are accusing Bill Dembski of lying. Instead I’ll just ask, why would Bill make the following statement if he didn’t want (at least eventually) to change the definition of science?”

    What you claim is only true if methological naturalism IS the definition of science. And as I said earlier: “These methodologies are good working models, not necessarily a hard and fast rule, so equating a single methodology to BEING science seems a dodge more than anything else.”

    On a side note, I’m attempting to search the net for a good history on methodological naturalism and not having too much luck. Most articles discuss what it is and its relation to topics like ID, etc. I’m especially looking for when philosophers started to say in writing that in order “to explain the natural world scientifically, scientists must restrict themselves only to material causes (to matter, energy, and their interaction)” as Eugenie Scott phrases it. I suppose I’ll have to purchase a book…any suggestions?

  42. BTW, saying that methodological naturalism, pragmatic naturalism, etc. are “methodologies” is probably a bad choice of words. “Philosophical stance” would be more correct (unless a resident philosopher wants to correct me?).

  43. Why was keiths kicked?

  44. Keiths was booted for disagreeing with DaveScot and supplying the evidence to back it up. Heil DaveScot!

  45. This blog is a sham.

  46. In Dave’s defense, it does not logically follow that because nature bears marks which we recognize as being attributable to intelligence, a supernatural entity must be responsible for them. Keith was given a fair warning.

  47. “Methodological naturalism will pass = universe is an open system = intervention from outside = supernatural.”

    As for the idea that ID requires a designer that can supercede natural law (aka devine intervention) I suggest you read Dembski’s explanation of how an unembodied designer can influence the natural world by co-opting random processes (indeterministic quantum states) and inducing them to produce specified complexity. Unfortunately I cannot remember off the top of my head which book that’s in. I briefly tried searching my little library but I haven’t found that section yet…

    Also, I’d have to check with Dave but keiths was probably booted for continually asserting that ID proponents are saying something other than than what they actually are saying in order to continue his arguments.

  48. keiths was axed mostly for refusing to stop using the “but who designed the designer” argument. Anyone that bores the moderators with trite arguments we’ve all heard so many times we want to hurl and won’t stop when asked is going to get axed.

    I suggest you check out this game

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....monium.swf

    and check out the Panda Gallery. The first and weakest Panda says “But who designed the designer”. The game is compendium of most of the trite and soundly defeated arguments the Darwinian narrative apologists throw at us. Think of it as our FAQ and don’t use any of those arguments here more than once. KeithS must’ve used the first argument in various different wordings a dozen or more times.

  49. [...] Imagine my surprise when I, reading ID critic Bradley Monton’s article, “Is Intelligent Design Science?” (HT: Uncommon Descent), found this: While I understand the reasons for the limitations of legitimate subjects for scientific exploration only to “natural” causes and, moreover, emotionally am sympathetic to them, I think there is no real need to apply such limitations, and a definition of science should not put any limits on legitimate subjects for the scientific exploration of the world. Indeed, although science has so far had no need to attribute any observed phenomena to a supernatural cause, and in doing so has achieved staggering successes, there still remain unanswered many fundamental questions about nature. Possibly such answers will be found someday, if science proceeds on the path of only “natural” explanations. Until such answers are found, nothing should be prohibited as a legitimate subject of science, and excluding the supernatural out of hand serves no useful purpose. Mark Perakh, Unintelligent Design (Prometheus Books, 2003), pp. 357-8. My emphasis. [...]

  50. keiths is no longer with us.
    Comment by DaveScot — January 9, 2006 @ 8:13 am

    Thank heavens!

    “There is none so blind as he who will not see.”

  51. Keiths was booted for disagreeing with DaveScot and supplying the evidence to back it up. Heil DaveScot!
    Comment by Feederbottom — January 9, 2006 @ 2:55 pm
    #
    This blog is a sham.
    Comment by Feederbottom — January 9, 2006 @ 2:59 pm
    #
    No, feederbottom.
    You are the sham; yours was the very first post on this thread and you began with deception: “I’ve always wondered… What other methodologies are appropriate for inquiry?…I’m not imaginative enough to come up with any other options. I would prefer … a description of the methodology would help. Thanks.” That whole statement was balony. Several people stepped up and gave you answers; you refused to accept reasonable and documented answers. You had NO intention of real inquiry; you wanted an argument. Shamful.

  52. [...] decision had just been issued on December 20, 2005. On January 5, 2006, DI fellow William Dembski posted a link to Monton’s “important article on Dover” at his Uncommon Descent (UD) blog. [...]

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