Home » Intelligent Design » Guillermo Gonzalez: Is Earth an accident or a staging platform for exploration of the universe?

Guillermo Gonzalez: Is Earth an accident or a staging platform for exploration of the universe?

You’d think astronomers would be happy to sponsor the latter idea but then you must have been out of town when Guillermo Gonzalez’s story broke.
Read Denyse O’Leary’s interview with Gonzalez here. Also, Gonzalez on intelligent design – both non-falsifiable and already falsified? Howzzat?

Also: Defeat organized stupidity. Buy and read The Design of Life!

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17 Responses to Guillermo Gonzalez: Is Earth an accident or a staging platform for exploration of the universe?

  1. 1
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    I think you mean “both non-falsifiable and …”

  2. Yes, you are right. And now corrected- d.

  3. I work in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance — think MRI. This science is just utterly incredible, almost beyond belief, and allows up to ‘see’ into proteins, molecules and so on. This too I think is “just right” for us to discover. No NMR may mean impossible 4 us 2 see that’s there. What say you speedie?

  4. One question asked how we dealt with the fact that intelligent design was unfalsifiable. Another asked for our response to biologist Ken Miller’s refutation of Michael Behe’s design argument. But these objections can’t both be true. If ID can’t be falsified, then scientific evidence can’t falsify it. And if evidence can falsify it, then ID can’t be unfalsifiable.

    I think you make the mistake of equating the theory of ID with the hypothesis of IC. Irreducibly complexity is a scientifically falsifiable hypothesis that fits within the framework of ID theory. However, if it happens to be shown that nothing is irreducibly complex, that does not negate all of ID theory. ID theory is made up of numerous hypothesis and negation of one does not negate the whole theory (the same situation occurs when talking about evolution).

    I believe the issue with ID being non-falsifiable comes into play if and when it reaches a level of “…some intelligent being, existing outside the universe and not detectable from within, did ‘it’” with nothing further added. There is no way to prove or disprove that. Clearly ID does not have to rest on this position, it can postulate many scientifically falsifiable hypothesis as is done on this site quite often, but it certainly has the capability to fall back to this position if required.

  5. Leo, even Judge Jones of Kitzmiller vs. Dover fame called IC “central to ID”. Why then bring up a hypothetical version of ID that says

    …some intelligent being, existing outside the universe and not detectable from within, did ‘it’

    when ID theorists have offered up actual propositions that may be falsified?

  6. ID theory is made up of numerous hypothesis and negation of one does not negate the whole theory (the same situation occurs when talking about evolution).

    leo, are you arguing that neither ID nor NDE can be falsified, because you can always come up with a vague and general enough version to avoid falsification? I.e., “The theory of evolution states that all species developed from single-celled creatures by an unknown natural process”

  7. Point of information:

    Kindly look up Meyer’s smoking gun paper on the methodological equivalence of design and descent.

    GEM of TKI

  8. russ,

    I said that ID theorists have scientifically falsifiable hypotheses, but the point is they can also fall back on a non-falsifiable hypothesis. Hence, the statement that it is

    both non-falsifiable and already falsified

    can and does make sense.

    Furthermore:

    The theory of evolution states that all species developed from single-celled creatures by an unknown natural process

    is an entirely falsifiable statement. Simply show how a single one hasn’t.

  9. leo,

    “I said that ID theorists have scientifically falsifiable hypotheses, but the point is they can also fall back on a non-falsifiable hypothesis.”

    So can ID critics (and really, proponents of critics of all kinds), and they have.

    “Simply show how a single one hasn’t.”

    Simply show how a single one hasn’t developed by a process that is unknown? Heh.

    Considering that OoL research’s holy grail is eventually creating life from scratch in the laboratory, I’d say ID critics are actually in the more delicate situation given what you just said. ID proponents would be entirely at home with the idea that an intelligent force can create life.

    That’s actually the interesting problem with ID critics v proponents. The latter argue that intelligence can orchestrate natural forces to achieve otherwise unlikely results. The former believe that natural forces can achieve things without intelligent orchestration of any kind (front-loading, mid-way meddling, inception, etc.) That was a good position to be in, back when we viewed ourselves (that is, the intelligent beings) as weak, helpless, and pointless. But the entire scientific enterprise is built on the assumption that we can, with time, understand our entire universe, and quite possibly control everything to a shocking degree (Andrei Linde, no ID friend, talks of making universes).

    Which is why the arguments eventually melt away to ‘would a designer have designed things this way?’ perspective. Because EVERYone’s thoughts on whether there is or is not design in the universe can fall back to the unfalsifiable, whether it’s because we (may, someday) find a viable natural pathway for the OoL, or whether it turns out vestigal organs aren’t so vestigal, or junk DNA isn’t really JNA.

  10. nullasalus,

    ID proponents would be entirely at home with the idea that an intelligent force can create life.

    So would everyone else. Though I don’t agree that that is close to happening (Collins for instance isn’t really creating life IMO, just playing around with already existing forms – though I guess this depends and point of view). Perhaps one day humans will create life, but so what. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we were created by an intelligent force or not. The two are not even distantly related questions.

    The latter argue that intelligence can orchestrate natural forces to achieve otherwise unlikely results.

    Who argues against this?

    The former believe that natural forces can achieve things without intelligent orchestration of any kind

    As has been demonstrated…

    But the entire scientific enterprise is built on the assumption that we can, with time, understand our entire universe, and quite possibly control everything to a shocking degree

    No it isn’t.

    The entire scientific enterprise is built on the wish to know more about our universe, and this is the most successful method that we have to do that to date.

    Which is why the arguments eventually melt away to ‘would a designer have designed things this way?’ perspective.

    No they don’t. You must have, with any experience on this site, read numerous different arguments. Bad design is simply one of the many.

    I certainly agree that OoL research is as unfalsifiable as some ID arguments, but then again, OoL is not the same as evolution, where as ID involves origin and descent (depending on the particulars)

  11. leo,

    “This has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we were created by an intelligent force or not. The two are not even distantly related questions.”

    Actually, they’re entirely related. I’m sure there’s a diversity of views on both sides of the spectrum, but reproducing the (a?) OoL event in the laboratory would firmly establish the possibility of an intelligent agent acting in such a situation, even without ‘miraculous’ means. Pretty important step in vindicating some ID views I’d think.

    “Who argues against this?”

    Not many people – why does the lack of objection matter?

    “As has been demonstrated…”

    No, it hasn’t. It’s been assumed.

    “No it isn’t.

    The entire scientific enterprise is built on the wish to know more about our universe, and this is the most successful method that we have to do that to date.”

    Yes, it is. :) If there wasn’t an assumption that nature could be understood, science would not get off the ground. Absolutely it has been successful – the assumption has been vindicated, and the law-model has been extremely successful.

    “No they don’t. You must have, with any experience on this site, read numerous different arguments. Bad design is simply one of the many.”

    I have. And “bad design” is where things always end up – and where they always have to end up, when you’re talking about intelligence and agency acting on a supreme level.

    ID is a pretty broad concept – guys like Denton and Behe, who accept a 14byo universe, common descent, evolution in general. They still propose design and intention behind the both the universe and life itself (and in the case of Behe, he said he was perfectly capable of accepting theistic evolution once, and would do so again if the evidence pointed that way for him.)

    I said “melt away”. As in, yes, I’m aware of specific objections, and particular fights. What I’m saying is that, whether a particular ID view is successful (as some would argue has been the case re: junk DNA and the appendix) or not, ‘bad design’ is where things ultimately end up. Believe it or not, it isn’t as if the lack of intention in nature and evolution has been proven. It’s merely assumed, and ‘because a Designer wouldn’t design things this way’ is the only ace up the sleeve with regards to defending that assumption.

    If you thought that biologists proved that life on earth hasn’t unfolded according to a plan, I’m sorry, you’ve been misinformed.

  12. nullasalus,

    but reproducing the (a?) OoL event in the laboratory would firmly establish the possibility of an intelligent agent acting in such a situation, even without ‘miraculous’ means

    Only relevant if it can be shown that the mechanisms used were analogous to the mechanisms that resulted in us.

    Not many people – why does the lack of objection matter?

    I can’t think of anyone. Lack of objection means that it is not an argument; therefore no one can argue for it – that would require someone to argue against.

    No, it hasn’t. It’s been assumed.

    No it really has, it can be seen all around you. For a good basic primer try Niall Shanks’ God, the Devil and Darwin. I believe it is in chapter three that he speaks about self organization. I’m sure you know all the examples – hurricane, insect colonies, etc.

    If there wasn’t an assumption that nature could be understood, science would not get off the ground.

    The assumption that nature can be understood (at least some parts of it, by us) is vastly different than the assumption that we will one day be able to know, and control, everything.

    And, as for bad design, in my experience it is only been in the periphery. Personally, I think it is a poor argument. It assumes that if there is a designer it is perfectly competent and/or that we know the purpose of the design. It is like the problem of evil – what makes us think that God isn’t a prick? Why must God be good? Why must the designer be perfect at design? Variations on the same question, in my opinion.

    If you thought that biologists proved that life on earth hasn’t unfolded according to a plan, I’m sorry, you’ve been misinformed.

    Surely the burden of proof lies with those proposing that a plan exists. And, clearly, that hasn’t been proven. And so, I will believe the least extraordinary of claims until extraordinary evidence is presented.

  13. leo,

    “Only relevant if it can be shown that the mechanisms used were analogous to the mechanisms that resulted in us.”

    But that’s the debate, now isn’t it? And my response is that any mechanism nature employs, an intelligence can employ. That doesn’t settle the question, but I personally don’t believe the question can be settled scientifically – in either direction.

    “I can’t think of anyone. Lack of objection means that it is not an argument; therefore no one can argue for it – that would require someone to argue against.”

    They argue against the scope of the assertion, of course. I’m taking a strong stance with regards to intelligence – that what it is capable of achieving rivals or exceeds anything that can be claimed to happen ‘naturally’.

    “I believe it is in chapter three that he speaks about self organization. I’m sure you know all the examples – hurricane, insect colonies, etc.”

    And my response is that self-organization may well be built into the system – and can respond with everything from closed-system economic experiments to traffic systems.

    Again – the assumption is ‘no design’. Pointing out that ants form colonies in a spontaneous network fashion makes no advance against ultimate orchestration. I could turn it around and argue that the proclivity of nature to self-organize indicates design.

    “The assumption that nature can be understood (at least some parts of it, by us) is vastly different than the assumption that we will one day be able to know, and control, everything.”

    It’s strongly connected, if not promised – and considering what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far, considering our starting point, it’s hard to dismiss out of hand. You may be skeptical – I don’t blame you, it’s quite a tall order – but there’s little to stand in the way of the concept in principle.

    “Surely the burden of proof lies with those proposing that a plan exists. And, clearly, that hasn’t been proven. And so, I will believe the least extraordinary of claims until extraordinary evidence is presented.”

    Funny thing about the burden of proof – it rests on anyone making a claim. Which is why nowadays you see more people calling themselves ‘agnostic’ in a debate when they were ‘atheist’ a little bit ago – because an agnostic advocates nothing, while an atheist advocates something, and the latter enjoins a burden of proof.

    So if you merely are unconvinced of any plan, that’s one thing. I’ll happily provide arguments that I admit are not conclusive. But if you state there is no plan, I’ll ask you to provide your arguments – which you will (or will eventually have to) admit are not conclusive.

  14. nullasalus,

    that any mechanism nature employs, an intelligence can employ.

    I’m taking a strong stance with regards to intelligence – that what it is capable of achieving rivals or exceeds anything that can be claimed to happen ‘naturally’.

    And, of course, it is your prerogative to believe that, as long as you can admit (which you do) that it is a purely faith based assertion.

    I guess it comes down to what your base belief is, what the null hypothesis is if you will. Personally, I admit that mine is no plan, no designer, nothing that I don’t see, hear, feel around me. Perhaps not a perfect starting point, but what is? In order to be convinced I require sufficient proof that something exists, as opposed to a 50/50 starting point between existence and not or plan and not.

    From that base I feel I can believe in evolution (to use a relevant example) because for me the proof is there. I certainly had to be convinced that it was true, and if something new comes along I will drop it if it no longer satisfies.

    So, to sum up, I am merely unconvinced of any plan. Open to any possibility but as of yet unconvinced.

  15. leo,

    “And, of course, it is your prerogative to believe that, as long as you can admit (which you do) that it is a purely faith based assertion.”

    But the opposite assertion – everything from ‘there are aspects of nature that are beyond modification and control’ to ‘natural history was unguided even if natural mechanisms are entirely capable of being orchestrated as such’ – is also faith-based. If everyone admits to that, then there is no problem. But even though it’s clearly the case, some people have trouble admitting to either, even with the expected caveats that they could be wrong.

    It was a lot easier to wield evolution as a one-sided challenge against design back when the details about the process were not clear, and science was in its infancy. Between the success we’ve had and the discoveries we’ve made, the philosophical argument has shifted.

    “So, to sum up, I am merely unconvinced of any plan. Open to any possibility but as of yet unconvinced.”

    I accept evolution entirely, insofar as mechanisms go. But wholesale ‘unguided’ is no mechanism. It’s an assumption that doesn’t matter one way or the other as far as the science goes. It can be interpreted either way, and persuasive arguments made in either direction – but those interpretations and arguments aren’t science, unless ID itself is science.

  16. nullasalus,

    ‘there are aspects of nature that are beyond modification and control’ to ‘natural history was unguided even if natural mechanisms are entirely capable of being orchestrated as such’ – is also faith-base

    The problem of arguing with these statements is that no one makes them. The first requires a “to us at this moment, and perhaps always” to complete it and the second should read “Evidence points to natural history being unguided (as we have no evidence of guidance thus the null hypothesis stands), even if we someday find the natural mechanisms are entirely capable of being orchestrated as such.” Your creating false arguments on one side, giving the impression of certainty and immovability where none exists.

    It was a lot easier to wield evolution as a one-sided challenge against design back when the details about the process were not clear, and science was in its infancy. Between the success we’ve had and the discoveries we’ve made, the philosophical argument has shifted.

    Actually, it is a lot easier now that the discoveries have overwhelmingly been in the favour of evolution. So much so, in fact, that philosophical argument has shifted, away from the requirement of a designer to reflect the science that shows that a designer need not be required. Science doesn’t/can’t rule a designer out, it has just proposed a mechanism that doesn’t require one. Could a designer be the guiding hand? Sure. Does one have to? Not that we can prove. For ID to be science, you have to prove that you should be included in the discussion, that you have something to bring to the table, not that you should be there by default.

  17. leo,

    “The first requires a “to us at this moment, and perhaps always” to complete it and the second should read “Evidence points to natural history being unguided (as we have no evidence of guidance thus the null hypothesis stands), even if we someday find the natural mechanisms are entirely capable of being orchestrated as such.” Your creating false arguments on one side, giving the impression of certainty and immovability where none exists.”

    Actually, I’m arguing that uncertainty is the only honest and ultimate option, even if a personal belief (faith) rests in one way or the other. To the first, not everyone who makes that claim ‘completes’ it the way you say (or I’d have no argument). To the second, the null hypothesis itself is extraneous to the science involved.

    Again, there is absolutely no need to posit either the presence or lack of intentionality and orchestration behind the natural sciences whatsoever as far as the science itself goes. ‘Evidence indicates that biological processes and precursors were the historical mechanisms that led to homo sapiens sapiens’ gains nothing from “by the way, this process was unguided” or “by the way, this process was guided”. A null hypothesis that provides nothing, gets pitched. Or would be under honest circumstances.

    “Actually, it is a lot easier now that the discoveries have overwhelmingly been in the favour of evolution.”

    And ‘evolution’ remains a mechanism pure and simple. Already we’re seeing it employed by computer scientists (Have a look at the results of transistor technology), and what was an inscrutable blob of ooze in Darwin’s time has turned out to be complicated machinery-like workings of cells, language-like coding of DNA, etc. “Evolution” isn’t what has to be proven to disprove guidance. “Guidance” is what has to be disproven. The arguments for that have only developed since Darwin’s time.

    But more on that in a moment.

    “Could a designer be the guiding hand? Sure. Does one have to? Not that we can prove. For ID to be science, you have to prove that you should be included in the discussion, that you have something to bring to the table, not that you should be there by default.”

    Not that we can prove – or, frankly, disprove. Which is the point and the problem.

    I’m personally saying that I’m skeptical that either can made clear through science. It’s a philosophical, even a theological question. I can provide arguments in favor of design just as you can provide arguments against; whether they correspond to reality is something we may, or may not, find out.

    Where we’re parting ways (aside from the obvious) is when you bring in a ‘null hypothesis’ that itself isn’t necessary to get the job done. No reference to agency, for or against, is needed for the science. The moment it’s scientific to refer to agency is the moment that disagreeing is scientific, whether in the majority of opinion or not. I’m not arguing that ID should be there by default; I’m saying that, if one defines science in a way that includes reference to agency, positive or negative, either both arguments become scientific, or neither. Like it or not.

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