Home » Intelligent Design » Have we profoundly misunderstood Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Richard Lewontin in his Jan 1997 NYRB article, “Billions and Billions of Demons”?

Have we profoundly misunderstood Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Richard Lewontin in his Jan 1997 NYRB article, “Billions and Billions of Demons”?

In the current Computer Simulations thread, Dr Liddle has challenged me as follows, that I profoundly misunderstand prof Lewontin’s 1997 NYRB article that crops up so often at UD:

. . . as I have said several times, I don’t think it means what you think it means. In fact I’m sure you are misinterpreting it.

What Lewontin clearly means (and he says so explicitly) is that the entire scientific method is predicated on the assumption that the universe is predictable.

That doesn’t mean it is but that science can only proceed on that assumption.

There is no indoctination here – because no doctrine. Science does not teach the doctrine that there is “no Divine Foot”. What it teaches is that scientific methology must exclude that possiblity because otherwise the entire system collapses . . . .

Before responding to this, let me lay out a link on my understanding of science and its methods, at IOSE.

This also comes at a time when Mr Arrington was told that by leaving off the Beck reference, he had materially distorted the meaning to the point of alleged quote-mining. This is similar to what is now a standard talking point for darwinist objectors when this clip is used. (I had to deal with it in June this year, here at UD.)

It is time to again set the record straight.

So, here is my main response, by way of a markup of the key extract from prof Lewontin’s article; which is misplaced in the same thread as I hit the wrong reply button:

______________

>> . . . to put a correct view of the universe [1 --> a claim to holding truth, not just an empirically reliable, provisional account] into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out [2 --> an open ideological agenda] . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations [3 --> a declaration of cultural war], and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [ 4 --> this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [5 --> a self evident claim is that this is true, must be true and its denial is patently absurd. But actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question, confused for real self-evidence] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [6 --> Science gives reality, reality is naturalistic and material], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [7 --> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim: if you reject naturalistic, materialistic evolutionism, you are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, by direct implication] . . . .

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world [8 --> redefines science as a material explanation of the observed world], but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [9 --> another major begging of the question . . . by imposition of a priori materialism as a worldview that then goes on to control science as its handmaiden and propaganda arm that claims to be the true prophet of reality, the only begetter of truth] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. [10 --> In short, even if the result is patently absurd on its face, it is locked in, as materialistic "science" is now our criterion of truth!] Moreover, that materialism is absolute [11 --> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [12 --> Hostility to the divine is embedded, from the outset, as per the dismissal of the "supernatural"] The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. [13 --> a slightly more sophisticated form of Dawkins' ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, certainly, irrational. This is a declaration of war! Those who believe in God, never mind the record of history, never mind the contributions across the ages, are dismissed as utterly credulous and irrational, dangerous and chaotic] To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. [14 --> Perhaps the second saddest thing is that some actually believe that these last three sentences that express hostility to God and then back it up with a loaded strawman caricature of theism and theists JUSTIFY what has gone on before. As a first correction, accurate history -- as opposed to the commonly promoted rationalist myth of the longstanding war of religion against science -- documents (cf. here for a start) that the Judaeo-Christian worldview nurtured and gave crucial impetus to the rise of modern science through its view that God as creator made and sustains an orderly world. Similarly, for miracles -- e.g. the resurrection of Jesus -- to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, there must first be such an ordinary course, one plainly amenable to scientific study. The saddest thing is that many are now so blinded and hostile that, having been corrected, they will STILL think that this justifies the above. But, nothing can excuse the imposition of a priori materialist censorship on science, which distorts its ability to seek the empirically warranted truth about our world.]

[[From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997.] >>
____________

Do you see my fourteen main points of concern in the clip?

And if you go to the immediately linked, you will see a following note that raises much more, e.g Lewontin’s caricature of the woman who thought the TV broadcasts from the Moon were fake because she could not get Dallas on her set; while in fact Wernher von Braun, the man who sent the Apollo rocket to the Moon was a Christian and a Creationist.

There is even more in the onward linked full article.

Read the above, work your way through the fourteen points, then come back to me and show me how I have misunderstood what Lewontin “really” meant.

So, let us extend the invitation to the onlooker.

Have we misunderstood Lewontin, or have we understood him all too well?

What are your thoughts, why? END

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155 Responses to Have we profoundly misunderstood Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Richard Lewontin in his Jan 1997 NYRB article, “Billions and Billions of Demons”?

  1. Seeing as how Barry Arrington agrees that science can’t investigate the supernatural, I’d say someone has misunderstood something.

    It is rather difficult your multicolored post. Perhaps if we re-post the Lewontin quote in full, followed by your commentary.

    Second, to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out. People believe a lot of nonsense about the world of phenomena, nonsense that is a consequence of a wrong way of thinking. The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of, for that vast project is, in its entirety, hopeless. Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth. The reason that people do not have a correct view of nature is not that they are ignorant of this or that fact about the material world, but that they look to the wrong sources in their attempt to understand. It is not simply, as Sherlock Holmes thought, that the brain is like an empty attic with limited storage capacity, so that the accumulated clutter of false or useless bits of knowledge must be cleared out in a grand intellectual tag sale to make space for more useful objects. It is that most people’s mental houses have been furnished according to an appallingly bad model of taste and they need to start consulting the home furnishing supplement of the Sunday New York Times in place of the stage set of The Honeymooners.

    Sagan’s argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms, so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations, we substitute demons. As one bit of evidence for the bad state of public consciousness, Sagan cites opinion polls showing that the majority of Americans believe that extraterrestrials have landed from UFOs. The demonic, for Sagan, includes, in addition to UFOs and their crews of little green men who take unwilling passengers for a midnight spin and some wild sex, astrological influences, extrasensory perception, prayers, spoon-bending, repressed memories, spiritualism, and channeling, as well as demons sensu strictu, devils, fairies, witches, spirits, Satan and his devotees, and, after some discreet backing and filling, the supposed prime mover Himself. God gives Sagan a lot of trouble. It is easy enough for him to snort derisively at men from Mars, but when it comes to the Supreme Extraterrestrial he is rather circumspect, asking only that sermons “even-handedly examine the God hypothesis.”

    Are you of the opinion that Sanan or Lewnton are off-base by suggesting “UFOs and their crews of little green men who take unwilling passengers for a midnight spin and some wild sex, astrological influences, extrasensory perception, prayers, spoon-bending, repressed memories, spiritualism, and channeling, as well as demons sensu strictu, devils, fairies, witches, spirits” don’t belong in one’s version of reality?

  2. Petruska:

    I have pointed out step by step where there are serious points of concern with Lewontin’s claims. And, his main target is not UFO fans etc, but mainly Judaeo-Christian theists. For which, as I linked, there is some serious history on major contributions to science.

    So, don’t even try that superstition strawman stunt on us. [And BTW, prayer does not belong in the same list as spoon bending or fairies. I am seeing here a profound reflection of bias and hostility amounting to outright bigotry flying the false colours of science.]

    So, kindly deal with the concerns in that light.

    And if you want to debate design theory issues in addition, I suggest you start here where a survey with onward detailed discussion on key topics is laid out. As just one point, the correct contrast is nature vs art and that has been so since PLATO. The natural vs supernatural talking point Lewontin resorts to is a loaded and poisonous strawman caricature, as his terms like “demon” show, and as his unwarranted inference to irrationality shows.

    Your side has again crossed a serious line.

    Put up substantiation, in details, or retract and apologise, or else stand exposed as willfully persisting in poisonous misrepresentation.

    For, that is what Lewontin has made, and it is what Coyne, the US NAS and the US NSTA back up. Elsewhere the NCSE and some of its leading spokespeople sing off the same hymn sheet.

    GEM of TKI

  3. 3
    material.infantacy

    Is the origin of life a “miracle” or a necessity.

  4. As to, once again, Dr Liddle’s quote here:

    What Lewontin clearly means (and he says so explicitly) is that the entire scientific method is predicated on the assumption that the universe is predictable.

    Yet that ‘predictability’, that Dr. Liddle is so keen on, is not predicated on the atheist’s materialistic worldview, that ‘predictability’ is predicated on the Theistic worldview:

    Randomness vs. Uniformity Of Nature – Presuppositional Apologetic – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6853139

    Dr. Bruce Gordon shows how this randomness, which lays at the very basis of materialistic thought, destroys the very predictability that Dr. Liddle seeks to defend, and thus destroys science in the process:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

    For a atheist/materialist to say that science can ONLY study law-like events that can faithfully be predicted, time after time, is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the atheist, for indeed the atheist himself holds that strictly random, non-regular, non-law-like, events are responsible for why the universe, and all life in it, originated, and ‘evolves’, in the first place. The atheist’s own worldview, far from demanding regularity in nature, demands that random, and thus by definition ‘non-predictable’, events be at the base of all reality and of all life. Needless to say, being ‘non-predictably random’ is the exact polar opposite of the predictability of science that atheists accuse Theists of violating when Theists posit God for the origin of the universe and/or life in it. In truth, the atheist is just extremely prejudiced as to exactly what, or more precisely WHOM, he, or she, will allow to be the source for the random, irregular, non-predicatable, non-law-like, events that they themselves require to be at the very basis of the creation events of the universe and all life in it.,,, Moreover, unlike atheistic neo-Darwinian evolution, which continually requires these non-predictable, non-law like, random events, to continually be present within the base of reality (which is the antithesis of ‘science’ according to the atheist’s own criteria for excluding any Theistic answer to ever be plausible), Intelligent Design finds itself only requiring that this seemingly ‘random’, top down, implementation of novel genetic, and novel body plan, information be at the inception of each new parent species, with all sub-speciation events thereafter, from the parent species, following a law-like adherence to the principle of genetic entropy. A principle that happens to be in accordance with perhaps the most rigorously established law in science, the second law of thermodynamics, as well as in accordance with the law of Conservation of Information as laid out by Dr. Dembski and Marks.

    **Of interest is the fact that even though genetic entropy has held rigorously true through all the studies I’ve seen thus far, (especially Dr. Behe’s work), the recent finding of quantum information in molecular biology, on a massive scale, does, mysteriously, require some type of continuous ‘non-local’ (beyond space-time) cause to explain its presence in life.

    Also of interest is where the maximum source of randomness is located in the universe:

    ,,,I’ve searched for the maximum source of RANDOMNESS that I could find in the universe, (since the ‘god of randomness’ is who atheists claim for their creator), and I think I’ve found it for them;

    First:

    Thermodynamics – 3.1 Entropy
    Excerpt:
    Entropy – A measure of the amount of randomness
    or disorder in a system.
    http://www.saskschools.ca/curr.....rgy3_1.htm

    Thus, the more entropy a system has the more randomness it will generate for our experiment to find a RANDOM functional protein. And if we ask, ‘what is the maximum source of entropy, i.e. RANDOMNESS, in the universe?’, we find this:

    Entropy of the Universe – Hugh Ross – May 2010
    Excerpt: Egan and Lineweaver found that supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to the observable universe’s entropy. They showed that these supermassive black holes contribute about 30 times more entropy than what the previous research teams estimated.
    http://www.reasons.org/entropy-universe

    “But why was the big bang so precisely organized, whereas the big crunch (or the singularities in black holes) would be expected to be totally chaotic? It would appear that this question can be phrased in terms of the behaviour of the WEYL part of the space-time curvature at space-time singularities. What we appear to find is that there is a constraint WEYL = 0 (or something very like this) at initial space-time singularities-but not at final singularities-and this seems to be what confines the Creator’s choice to this very tiny region of phase space.”
    Roger Penrose – How Special Was The Big Bang?

    There is a problem I probably need to tell atheists about before they pack up and go off to the super-massive blackholes in order to prove to the world that their ‘god of randomness’ can create all things,

    “Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more.”
    Gilbert Newton Lewis – Eminent Chemist

    “Is there a real connection between entropy in physics and the entropy of information? ….The equations of information theory and the second law are the same, suggesting that the idea of entropy is something fundamental…”
    Tom Siegfried, Dallas Morning News, 5/14/90 – Quotes attributed to Robert W. Lucky, Ex. Director of Research, AT&T, Bell Laboratories & John A. Wheeler, of Princeton & Univ. of TX, Austin in the article

    So the mathematical equations themselves are telling us that entropy (randomness) consistently destroys information!!! But if randomness consistently destroys information how in blue blazes can it be the creator of the staggering levels of information that we find in life? Oh well, neo-Darwinists haven’t needed any stinking mathematical equations for their theory to be true thus far have they?

    Oxford University Admits Darwinism’s Shaky Math Foundation – May 2011
    Excerpt: However, mathematical population geneticists mainly deny that natural selection leads to optimization of any useful kind. This fifty-year old schism is intellectually damaging in itself, and has prevented improvements in our concept of what fitness is. – On a 2011 Job Description for a Mathematician, at Oxford, to ‘fix’ the persistent mathematical problems with neo-Darwinism within two years.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46351.html

    But if neo-Darwinists stubbornly decide to travel to a blackhole, in order to have a maximum source of ‘randomness’, so as to prove to the world that their ‘god of randomness’ can create all tings, then I have a inspirational quote for their future experiment;

    GILBERT NEWTON LEWIS: AMERICAN CHEMIST (1875-1946)
    “I have attempted to give you a glimpse…of what there may be of soul in chemistry. But it may have been in vain. Perchance the chemist is already damned and the guardian the blackest. But if the chemist has lost his soul, he will not have lost his courage and as he descends into the inferno, sees the rows of glowing furnaces and sniffs the homey fumes of brimstone, he will call out-: ‘Asmodeus, hand me a test-tube.’”(1) Gilbert Newton Lewis
    http://www.woodrow.org/teachers/ci/1992/Lewis.html

    And I even have song for their experiment;

    Creed – Six Feet
    http://www.youtube.com/v/aQ9Gr.....autoplay=1

  5. OK, so we’re not so much interested in the truth, whatever the truth may be, but in a materialist explanation, whatever that may be.

    That sum it up about right, Elizabeth?

    Elizabeth: “What it teaches is that scientific methology must exclude that possiblity because otherwise the entire system collapses . . . .”

    Oh, what a poor, fragile system. Gee, our little baby needs our protection against the possibility of having to grapple with non-material causes. We better protect this feeble system we’ve established so it won’t collapse. Sorry, but I don’t take such a dim, and paternalistic, view of science.

    BTW, what is “it” referring to in Elizabeth’s statement? “It” can’t be “science,” as we’re trying to define science, unless she got caught being circular. Oops. So the “it” that teaches what science must be can only be something outside of science, in this case her personal philosophy. Her statement thus helps prove the point at issue.

    Look, the fact that there is an overarching regularity and order in the cosmos and in life is evident. To the extent material explanations exist, great. I’m all in favor of adopting them. In most cases, those explanations are probably fine and do great service. However, there are clearly causal and historical *events* that are not explainable by simple reference to laws and material explanations. To pretend otherwise is to embrace one superstition in a misguided attempt to avoid what we thought was another superstition.

    We grapple all the time in life with cause and effect relationships that may not be solely explainable by reference to material causes. Science can, and should, be willing to acknowledge this fact. The whole enterprise isn’t going to collapse.

    Finally, contra Elizabeth’s interpretation, Lewontin is not simply saying that he wants to use methodological naturalism as a practical working assumption, with full recognition that it is a hampered and incomplete approach. No, he wants to rid people of the “irrational” things that “exist only in their imaginations.” In other words, he is adopting an a priori worldview of materialism, for which there is *no* material evidence — it is doctrine pure and simple. Elizabeth cannot habilitate Lewontin’s clear statement of indoctrination by trying to nuance it to say something softer.

  6. Can someone remember which post it was where Barry seemed to agree with me about the limits of science?

    This site is so difficult to search!

  7. Ah, not so difficult. Here we are:

    I wrote:

    The key to understanding that quotation from Lewontin’s review are the two sentence that immediately follows the part you quote:

    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.

    In other words, science cannot proceed except under the assumption that nature is regular. To allow the possibility that nature may not be regular is to open ourselves to belief in “anything”.

    Now, it is perfectly possible that that assumption may be unjustified. Perhaps there is an irregularity at the heart of the reality that renders all science unreliable.

    But the entire methodology of science, as Lewontin says, is predicated on the assumption that we can abstract general laws from our observations, and expect that what is true today will also be true tomorrow.

    That is why the Divine Foot must be omitted from scientific calculations, not because it doesn’t exist (though I don’t think it does) but because even if it does, it is simply not amenable to the methodology of science.

    Which, on the whole, works.

    And also:

    This is how science works:

    We have observations. We devise a model that might explain our observations. We test our model by using it to predict new observations.

    We make new observations. If the new observations fit our model well, we keep the model (always provisionally). If they fit it badly, we adjust, or even abandon, the model.

    The Divine Foot cannot be accommodated in this methodology, because the Divine Foot is not a “regularity”.

    Let us say we observe a miracle. We make a model that says: miracles occur when we pray for them.

    So we set up a testable prediction: we ask people to pray for a miracle, and we make new observations. We compare these with the effects of no prayer.

    And lo and behold, we do not get any miracles. Why? Because God is not regular – not predictable.

    Skeptics say: see? Prayer does not work.
    Believers say: Do not put God to the test. His ways are mysterious. He answered you prayers, but on this occasion His answer was no.

    Both inferences are unjustified. What is justified is Lewontin’s actual point: there is no place for the Divine Foot in science. Science can neither prove nor disprove God, because the entire scientific methodology is based on the premise that the universe is predictable, and that the job of scientists is finding the keys to making the predictions.

    If you want a predictable God, by all means let the Divine Foot in. Or, if you want useless science, by all means let the Divine Foot in.

    But it seems to me better to let science do what it does well, i.e. proceed on the assumption that the universe is predictable; and, if you want, pray that on occasions it isn’t (and that on those occasions, the unpredictability works in your favour).

    And Barry wrote:

    Elizabeth Liddle is correct. Science does not, indeed cannot, take account of miracles. The entire scientific project is premised upon previously observed regularities continuing to occur.

    Obviously this does not mean that miracles do not occur. Most people believe miracles do occur, and that belief is based upon evidence. It is not based, as some would have it, on blind faith. Nevertheless, miracles are not susceptible to scientific investigation because they are, by definition, irregular and unpredictable.

    All of this, of course, is beside the point of my post, and perhaps I should have made this clearer. In his comment “Mirror” implies that only ID proponents approach the data from a point of view, when it should be perfectly obvious that everyone approaches the data from a point of view. And it should also be perfectly obvious that we must all struggle to overcome our biases, because they make us almost literally blind. Stephen Jay Gould was very good on this issue. To his credit, he acknowledged that scientists are sometimes unable to see data that does not fit into their preconceived notions. Here are some nuggets.

    “. . . but stasis is data . . . Say it ten times before breakfast every day for a week, and the argument will surely seep in by osmosis: ‘stasis is data; stasis is data’ . . .” Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 759.

    “We expect life’s bushes . . . to tell some story of direction change. If they do not, we do not feature them in our studies – if we even manage to see them at all . . . Paleontologists are now beginning to study this higher order stasis, or nondirectional history of entire bushes.” Stephen Jay Gould, “Cordelia’s Dilemma,” Natural History 102.2 (February 1993): 15, 10-18.

    “Correction of error cannot always arise from new discovery within an accepted conceptual system. Sometimes the theory has to crumble first, and a new framework be adopted, before the crucial facts can be seen at all.” Stephen Jay Gould, “Cordelia’s Dilemma,” Natural History 102.2 (February 1993): ____, 10-18.

    During the period of nearly universal rejection [of the continental drift theory], direct evidence for continental drift – that is, the data gathered from rocks exposed on our continents – was every bit as good as it is today . . . In the absence of a plausible mechanism, the idea of continental drift was rejected as absurd. The data that seemed to support it could always be explained away . . . The old data from continental rocks, once soundly rejected, have been exhumed and exalted as conclusive proof of drift. In short, we now accept continental drift because it is the expectation of a new orthodoxy. I regard this tale as typical of scientific progress. New facts, collected in old ways under the guidance of old theories, rarely lead to any substantial revision of thought. Facts do not ‘speak for themselves, they are read in the light of theory.

    Stephen Jay Gould, “The Validation of Continental Drift,” in Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (1978; reprint, London: Penguin, 1991), 161.

  8. 8
    material.infantacy
  9. 9
    material.infantacy

    Or not.

  10. “anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. ”

    Anyone who could believe in [substitute favorite item here: a multiverse, materialistic abiogenesis, etc.] could believe in anything.

    There is a difference between regularity and absolute. Everyone understands that the laws of nature hold sway at almost all times and places and provide our reality with great regularity. Personally, I’m grateful for that fact, and I understand the creeping discomfort with anything that would disturb that regularity. However, the question remains, are there nuances? Is mind/thought/will explainable purely on material bases? Are there higher laws at work that might, on occasion, make the laws we regularly observe seem to be held in abeyance? Is everything reducible to the physical and the material? All reasonable questions if we are interested in truth. Yet some would disallow such questions, based solely on an equally non-material demarcation criterion.

    The other problem with such discussions is defining to everyone’s satisfaction words like miracle, natural/supernatural, etc. Interesting stuff, to be sure, but I prefer to spend my time elsewhere.

  11. OK, so we’re not so much interested in the truth, whatever the truth may be, but in a materialist explanation, whatever that may be.

    That sum it up about right, Elizabeth?

    No, it is not right, Eric. I am very interested in all kinds of explanations. My point is that scientific explanations are, by definition, material.

    There is no other kind of explanation in science. Science simply does not have the methodology to test supernatural hypotheses.

    If you ask me (as Eugene just did) why I love my son, I will tell you it’s because he’s a sweetie, and in any case, I’ve loved him since before he was born. He was loved into existence.

    That’s a perfectly good explanation. I can augment it with stories and photographs if you have the time. And it would be the truth.

    But it’s not a scientific explanation.

    It’s an explanation at a different (higher?) level than the level at which science deals.

    And yes, I do want to rid people of the irrational things that they believe and make them miserable – even ill. I’d like them to base their decisions on a proper evidence-based footing, to aim for impartiality, and rationality. Wouldn’t you?

    That doesn’t mean that we can only reach truth through science, or that only science has a truth worth reaching. There are other truths that science can’t touch.

    But when it comes to the kinds of pre-scientific superstitions that people used for science before science came along, and, unfortunately, even now – dead cat cures for warts, exorcisms for epilepsy, curses, witchburnings, beliefs that a suicide bomber is greeted in heaven with 72 virgins, that if you masturbate you’ll grow hair on your palms, and that if you have gay sex you’ll spend eternity in torture.

    All that stuff.

    Yes, Lewontin wanted rid of that stuff. And he was right.

  12. Final thought on this idea of “regularity”, and then I’ll show myself the door:

    There is an important difference between identifying laws that govern with regularity and identifying actual causes of events (this is particularly true when dealing with historical events). In the latter case we have to know something about antecedent conditions and contingent factors. Reference to general laws is of precious little help.

  13. Petrushka:

    To get started, let’s focus on this part of the longer quotation:

    Sagan’s argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms, so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations, we substitute demons.

    Sagan’s argument involves a contradiction. How?

    Well, if we are truly but “material beings” and no more, then Sagan, in the following sentence should have written: “The vast majority of us do not have control of the “MATERIAL” apparatus needed to explain manifest reality . . ..

    IOW, he presumes: (1) that we possess, as humans, the “intellectual apparatus” to find, and to establish “explanations”; and, (2) that this “intellectual apparatus” is not material—or else, there is no need to include this phrase in addition to the claim of being “material beings”.

    Thus, if we live in a world that contains intelligence, then his first sentence is in error. It should read: “We exist as material and intellectual beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities and of intellectual manipulations.”

    I guess I don’t have to point out that if we live in a world that admits of both material and intellectual causes, then intelligent agency can not, a priori, be ruled out.

    Do you see the problem?

  14. From the OP, and quoting Liz Liddle (relative of Eric Liddle):

    What Lewontin clearly means (and he says so explicitly) is that the entire scientific method is predicated on the assumption that the universe is predictable.

    That doesn’t mean it is but that science can only proceed on that assumption.

    But radioactive decay is not predictive. You’re restricted to probabilities and averages.

    By “predictive”, I suppose you mean that experiments can be repeated and the same results obtained (even though, quite surprisingly, this doesn’t necessarily happen).

    But, then, what about the fossil record. Can this 100′s of millions of years experiment be repeated? I don’t think so. If you were looking at all the life forms from the Cambrian, could you predict how each lineage would develop over time? I don’t think so. So now what do we do?

  15. Right. And scientists have to assume that the phenomena they are the regular ones. I don’t think there is any good evidence for the irregular ones, but let’s suppose that they sometimes happen.

    Science simply cannot test for those. It relies on regularity.

    That’s why the Divine Foot is excluded from science. We need to be able to write: p<.001, not "p<.001, +/- whatever God wills". That's what Lewontin means by quoting Beck on Kant – that if you allow for the possibility that God is there in your experiments, tweaking your data, your conclusions are worthless. It's like measuring something out to a precision of 6 significant figures, then adding a handful more.

    Is mind/thought/will explainable purely on material bases? Are there higher laws at work that might, on occasion, make the laws we regularly observe seem to be held in abeyance? Is everything reducible to the physical and the material? All reasonable questions if we are interested in truth. Yet some would disallow such questions, based solely on an equally non-material demarcation criterion.

    Perhaps they would disallow them. It would be pointless though. You don’t have to disallow them. They are not answerable.

    My view is that mind/thought/will are explainable in terms of material systems. I certainly don’t exclude the possibility that there is something else. I just don’t see that there is an explanatory gap. More to the point, if there was, how would you fill it by scientific methodology?

    If a thing is supernatural, you can’t measure it. And if you can’t measure it, you can’t detect it.

    This, BTW, IMO, is the entire problem with the whole ID problem. It draws its conclusions entirely from explanatory gaps. That’s the best science can do for the supernatural – leave a gap.

  16. But radioactive decay is not predictive. You’re restricted to probabilities and averages.

    Yes. I think I made that point on another thread. But statistically predictable is still predictable. In fact in most sciences all predictions are statistical, and all model fits come with confidence intervals for their parameters.

    By “predictive”, I suppose you mean that experiments can be repeated and the same results obtained (even though, quite surprisingly, this doesn’t necessarily happen).

    Not exactly. I mean that hypothesis testing is based on making predictions and testing them against new data.

    But, then, what about the fossil record. Can this 100?s of millions of years experiment be repeated? I don’t think so. If you were looking at all the life forms from the Cambrian, could you predict how each lineage would develop over time? I don’t think so. So now what do we do?

    No, you certainly couldn’t. Science is all about model fitting – you fit a model to existing data, then use it to predict new data. If the model predicts the new data fairly well, you may keep the model (though possibly tweaking your parameters). If it doesn’t, you may need a different model.

  17. (relative of Eric Liddle)

    It’s my married name, and no relation that I know of, although my husband was a marathon champ once :)

  18. It’s of immense help, Eric.

    How could it not be? Unless you are suggesting that physical and chemical laws were different in the past? And we can check that, in fact, by looking deep into space, and thus back into time.

  19. And BTW, prayer does not belong in the same list as spoon bending or fairies

    Intercessionary prayer seems to belong right there, kf.

    It only seems to work in uncontrolled conditions, just like spoon-bending. Control the conditions, and you get no effect, – possibly even adverse effects.

    http://www.mayoclinicproceedin.....76/12/1192

  20. Dr Liddle

    Do you really want to go down the road of abusive associations that is being made?

    I suggest to you that C S Lewis is correct. Prayer is REQUEST and cannot be experimented on. For you are dealing with a Person, not a machine or mechanism, and the circumstances of an experiment will simply fail of the first principle of prayer: we must not ask amiss.

    If you are interested in addressing the issue of serious answers to serious prayers, go talk with the people who have serious relationships with God. You may find this Rex Gardner BMJ article here helpful in setting a few bent ideas — not Uri Geller’s spoons — straight.

    And, pardon, but there are fourteen serious concerns on the table in a context where you have in my opinion done me a serious injustice. highly questionable attitudes towards and assertions about prayer do not help to resolve the serious matters you have joined others in putting on the table.

    Kindly, take the time to address them directly, in the context of the similar views of Sagan, the observation that this is a dominant view among relevant scientific elites, the public assertions of Coyne, and the positions taken by the US NAS and the US NSTA, as further indicators of how common, pervasive and serious these problems are.

    GEM of TKI

  21. MI:

    The origin of C-chemistry aqueous medium cell based life in a cosmos suspiciously fine tuned in ways that make that life possible, on the signs of functionally specific complex organisation and information involved, is a strong example of intelligent action by ART, i.e. by design. (Cf discussion here.)

    GEM of TKI

  22. 22

    “And yes, I do want to rid people of the irrational things that they believe and make them miserable – even ill.”

    Based on contemporary neuroscience, (as you know), religious people, spiritual people and people who believe in God tend to be happier, healthier, less anxiety etc: “…lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning.”
    Book: How God changes the Brain

    So if you wanted to rid people of their misery and ill, rid them of atheism.

  23. Let us correct:

    scientific explanations [if properly done] are, by definition, material [empirically based, testable, non-question-begging, not based on a priori impositions of materialism and progressive in light of further evidence, cf, here].

    See the problems with Lewontin?

    And BTW, Lewontin is plainly on record as wishing to implant the notion in the public mind that science is “the only begetter” of truth. This is a self refuting claim, as of course it is a philosophical not a scientific claim.

    I take it that you are conceding a key concern point, no 4, without acknowledgement that I am right and Lewontin is wrong.

    You are also continuing the guilt by association and appeal to prejudices and distortions smear tactic; that’s not cricket.

    Please do better than that.

    Do you see the outlines of the culture war your side is provoking by such abusive and snide behaviour as the 14 points highlight?

    (A bit later I am going to have to get back to someone else on the subject of Lewontin’s attempt to smear “fundamentalists” by discussing a woman who doubted the TV broadcastrs from the Moon because she could not get TV from as much nearer as Dallas. Somehow, Lewontin forgot to mention that the man who sent the rockets to the Moon, Wernher von Braun, was an Evangelical Christian and Creationist. The objector in question is evidently so ill informed in his snide dismissiveness that he does not seem to be aware of what Newton said in his General Scholium to Principia on the subject of how Laws of Nature are pointers to the God of order who as cosmic Architect made and controls the orderly system of the heavens and the earth. It is of course largely Newtonian physics that sent us to the Moon.)

    GEM of TKI

  24. Well contrary to Ms. Liddle’s claim for a study refuting the effectiveness of prayer, it seems that some very rigorous work directly contradicts her (once again!,,, but is that surprising to anyone anymore):

    Does prayer work? Yes!!!

    Amazing Testimony of the last survivor pulled from the 911 World Trade Center rubble;

    Genelle Guzman-McMillan – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlhjuRffT48

    Scientific Evidence for Answered Prayer and the Existence of God – Rich Deem
    Excerpt: Obviously, science has demonstrated in three separate studies the efficacy of Christian prayer in medical studies. There is no “scientific” (non-spiritual) explanation for the cause of the medical effects demonstrated in these studies. The only logical, but not testable, explanation is that God exists and answers the prayers of Christians.
    http://www.godandscience.org/a.....wIolZKZqed

    A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature on Intercessory Prayer – March 2010
    Excerpt: Meta-analysis indicated small, but significant, effect sizes for the use of intercessory prayer,,
    http://rsw.sagepub.com/cgi/con.....t/17/2/174

    Does God answer prayer? ASU research says ‘yes’ February 23, 2007
    Excerpt: In other words, does God – or some other type of transcendent entity – answer prayer for healing? According to Hodge’s study, “A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature on Intercessory Prayer,” the answer is “Yes.”
    http://asunews.asu.edu/node/1545

    More resources and analysis of all prayer studies
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-352761

    Defence of preceding analysis
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-352864

    Personal miracle testimony:

    Strange But True – Miracle Testimony
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYmaSrBPNEmGZGM4ejY3d3pfNTNocmRjZGtkdg&hl=en

    Hebrews 4:12
    For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

    The Word Is Alive – Casting Crowns – music video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5197438/

    The Word – Sara Groves – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ofE-GZ8zTU

  25. As well I remind people that Atheists are more prone to irrationality than theists:

    Look Who’s Irrational Now
    Excerpt: “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....54585.html

    A 2008 Scripps-Howard Ohio University poll also showed that “People who have attended church recently and who identify themselves as born-again Evangelical Protestants are much less likely to have seen UFOs or to believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence than people with little or no involvement with organized religion.”
    http://www.mercatornet.com/art....._for_ever/

  26. Ms. Liddle wants ‘save’ people from irrationality??? That is a HOOT!!!

    Look Who’s Irrational Now
    Excerpt: “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....54585.html

    A 2008 Scripps-Howard Ohio University poll also showed that “People who have attended church recently and who identify themselves as born-again Evangelical Protestants are much less likely to have seen UFOs or to believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence than people with little or no involvement with organized religion.”
    http://www.mercatornet.com/art....._for_ever/

  27. Elizabeth: “My point is that scientific explanations are, by definition, material.”

    Sorry, you (or other materialists) don’t get to unilaterally decide what the definition of science is. I’m of course aware that ardent materialists try to exclude everything non-material by definitional fiat. You need to become more acquainted with the demarcation problem, as it has been discussed by philosophers of science for ages. Any definition of science, by necessity, lies beyond science, and, therefore, is based on something else: personal worldview, philosophy, or otherwise.

    This isn’t just me. This is a very well understood issue among philosophers of science. Do a bit of research on demarcation. Shoot, even Wikipedia’s “Demarcation Problem” page will at least give a basic, if limited, overview of the issue for anyone who is interested.

  28. Dr Liddle:

    Science is about the regular pattern, not the exceptions that may happen occasionally, for good reason.

    That was the view of the founders of modern science, and it is an error of making a mountain out of a molehill as well as a strawman fallacy, to ignore that history and the associated philosophy and theology, then project unto theists, that we believe in a world that is chaotic and so theism is inherently destructive to science. (If that were so, why then did Judaeo-Christian Theism play such an important role in launching modern science? We must not allow long since past sell-by date C19 anti-theistic talking points to falsely colour our understanding.)

    Indeed, the very opposite is the case as say the classic text that God is a God of order will highlight. You will also recall my discussion here, in June, in which I pointed out why a world in which miracles and moral accountability before our Creator are possible, is a world in which there will be an overwhelming pattern of predictable order.

    This is another poisonously laced strawman.

    And this is of course precisely a main point of concern no 14.

    It is high time that there was some frank admission by Darwinist advocates that there is a poisonous pattern of notions and talking points that Lewontin has so strikingly exemplified, a pattern that needs to be exposed, acknowledged as misinformed and poisonous, and withdrawn, with amends made for some serious damage that has been done to real people in real circumstances. Including motivating the sort of bigotry, contempt and outright hostility or even hate that has led to inexcusable actions such as career busting and threats, including of course those made in recent months against my family.

    Poisoning and polarising the atmosphere like Lewontin et al have plainly done comes at a terrible price.

    It is high time to do better than that.

    GEM of TKI

  29. The irrational calling the rational irrational, How fitting:

    DC Talk – Jesus Freak
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jDnVpCNlyY

  30. BTW, despite many times repeated talking points, ID is not premised on explanatory gaps — the echo of the god of the gaps talking point is palpable in the subtext — but on inference to best explanation among known causal patterns, in light of tested, empirically reliable signs. As has been repeatedly pointed out. Kindly, re-read here [etc], again and kindly cease from repeating loaded misrepresentations (cf the implication of that beyond a certain point of willful insistence on corrected error, here) — especially, given the increasingly poisonous context as can be seen from the 14 concerns above.

  31. OK, in that case, redefine science.

    But do be aware that that is what it would entail.

    What would you substitute for predictive hypothesis testing?

    And, specifically, how would you set about testing a supernatural hypothesis?

  32. That is a non-sequitur, junkdnaforlife.

    It’s also dodgy data, but that doesn’t matter.

    Presumably you are not claiming that you want people to retain irrational beliefs that make them miserable and ill?

    Or that belief in God is irrational?

  33. kf, as I’ve said before, I entirely agree with you about polarising talk.

    But that’s no reason not to discuss what science can and can’t do, nor the harm that irrational superstition can do, is it?

  34. No, I don’t see the problem. I have not seen an intelligence that was not material.

  35. kairosfocus: it is not “doing you an injustice” to disagree with you.

    Just as I do not regard you as “doing me an injustice” when you disagree with me. Friends can agree to differ. They can also enjoying thrashing out their differences.

    I hope that is true here.

    I do not agree with everything Lewontin said, and I regret his tone. But I do agree with what he says about science, and I do not think he was advocating censorship. I think he was talking about method.

    I do not think that the supernatural is detectable by scientific means – exactly the point you yourself make in the above post regarding prayer: “Prayer is REQUEST and cannot be experimented on.”

    Quite so.

    That is why the supernatural has no place in science. Science is methodologically powerless to investigate it.

  36. 36
    material.infantacy

    Thanks for the response KF, but it was a rhetorical question, albeit not an obvious one. The highly contingent nature of life’s origin, as with any other extremely contingent event, places it in the category of “miracle” whether your definition of miracle hinges on divine intervention or absurd improbability. Nobody in general questions the contingency of “miraculous” events, be they creations or resurrections. These are not known to be strictly impossible, therefore even likely (or certain) given infinite probabilistic resources. It’s the limitations of those resources which lets us define the events as “miracles,” that is, divine causation or absurdly improbable.

    As an example, there’s no reason to assume that I can’t “unbeat” an egg within an infinity of attempts. Any such occurrence in this universe could be labeled miraculous, and nobody would reasonably protest, given a flexible definition of “miracle.”

    Since the OOL (as far as anyone knows) is a singular historical event, necessity can reasonably be put aside as a primary cause. Even if one insists that necessity becomes relevant given the proper conditions, those conditions arguably are themselves highly contingent. Therefore so is the OOL, based on any sort of logical reasoning about empirical observations — and that puts it in the category of the miraculous.

  37. 37

    Presumably you are not claiming that you want people to retain irrational beliefs that make them miserable and ill?

    Or that belief in God is irrational?

    This is your worst lawyer-like attempt as of yet to mislead. Nowhere did I say any of these things. In fact I said the opposite:

    Based on contemporary neuroscience, (as you know), religious people, spiritual people and people who believe in God tend to be happier, healthier, less anxiety etc: “…lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning.”
    Book: How God changes the Brain

    So if you wanted to rid people of their misery and ill, rid them of atheism.

    And if you’re calling Newberg’s data dodgy, perhaps you should write a paper on why. Perhaps you should provide data that less spirituality, less religion and disbelief in God leads to more happiness, less anxiety, less depression better health etc.

  38. I am not “attempting to mislead” junkdnaforlife. I don’t do that. On the contrary, you implied that I had wanted people to rid people of their belief in God.

    I said no such thing.

    I said I wanted people to get rid of irrational belief in things that they believe and make them miserable – even ill

    So if you don’t class belief in God irrational, then belief in God is not included. I don’t think belief in God is irrational. I do think the belief that gay sex is proscribed is irrational and makes people miserable and even ill.

    And as far as I know, there are no good data showing that atheists are any more miserable than theists.

  39. 39

    I would like data collected from the discipline of neuroscience that supports a correlation between atheism and greater happiness, less stress, better health, better coping etc.

    After all, there is plenty of data supporting a correlation between theism and happiness, less stress, better health, better coping, greater altruism etc.

    If a scientists then promotes strong atheism with full knowledge of all the data supporting the correlations between theism and greater net well being, than that scientist is promoting a behavior that, if adopted by the subject, will increase the probability of greater misery and illness for said subject.

    Therefore scientists promoting strong atheism are increasing the probability of a net loss of overall well-being throughout the population.

    At best the scientist should at lest withhold on promotion of atheism until further neurological studies can be conducted. And engage in atheist promotion when and only when data of equal rigor is produced supporting a correlation between atheism and an overall greater well being.

  40. I can’t always tell if ‘you materialists’ believe there really is such a thing as information, but that’s something that appears to be independent of all physical medium – super natural, but real. I would say minds exist, and can be shown not to be material in origin.

  41. Why do we need to pin down a definition? People much smarter than you and me have been wrestling with the definition of science for centuries and haven’t come up with a definitive definition. That is OK. At least for those who are interested in looking at all the evidence and following it where it leads.

    On the other hand, just hypothetically, if I were trying to exclude certain explanations by definitional fiat — say, by applying the approving label of “science” to only those things that are acceptable to my particular worldview and applying the disapproving label of “non-science” to things I deem unacceptable — then I might be tempted to define “science” in a particular way and then strive mightily to make everyone accept my definition of “science” before we even look at the evidence.

  42. Science is defined by the methods available for investigation. It’s a pragmatic definition. It’s not defined by philosophical principles, but by what has worked.

    Try going into a courtroom with the claim that some unspecified something was done by an unspecified agency having unspecified capabilities and motivations at some unspecified times and places.

    But wait, it’s been tried.

  43. Petrushka:

    The definition of science you provide is different from Elizabeth’s and has been tried as well. It is not as neat and tidy as we might wish our scientific enterprise to be. Don’t take my word for it. Spend some time delving into the demarcation problem for defining science.

    <blockquote cite=
    Try going into a courtroom with the claim that some unspecified something was done by an unspecified agency having unspecified capabilities [and motivations] at some unspecified times and places.

    You mean like the materialist abiogenesis story? :)

  44. Yup,

    When I gave up believing that there was no God I gave up spoon bending and looking at my astrological charts and safeguarding myself against alien probes, and……

  45. Hi Elizabeth,

    Spoon bending is an example of a claimed supernatural act. Yet the “Amazing Randy” was able to test that claim against another more natural explanation.

    Clearly then, supernatural claims are not entirely outside the ability of science to deal with.

    The reason why miracles are stated as such is because they defy material explanations. If they have material explanations then they are no longer miracles. Spoon bending is thus not a miracle, but material manipulation, and science has demonstrated it as such.

    But that doesn’t leave such claims outside of science. It would be so if and only if your idea of science is bred by your prior commitment to materialism.

  46. hey, CY, nice to see you!

    But that doesn’t leave such claims outside of science. It would be so if and only if your idea of science is bred by your prior commitment to materialism.

    My point, CY, is that scientific methodology simply does not cover supernatural hypotheses, not because of any ideological prior, but because, well, it just doesn’t.

    This is why my challenge is: tell me how you would test a supernatural hypothesis scientifically?

    My point is that all you can do is fail to find a material explanation. In other words, “supernatural” is simply an interpretation of a null finding. It is not supported by evidence, but merely by lack of evidence. And absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    So for science to deal with supernatural hypotheses, we would have to make a radical change to the methodology, not mrely abandon some alleged prior commitment.

    My challenge is: what would that change be?

  47. After all, there is plenty of data supporting a correlation between theism and happiness, less stress, better health, better coping, greater altruism etc.

    Please provide a citation for these data.

    Thanks.

  48. 48

    “Please provide a citation for these data.”

    How about the entire book I already cited twice:

    How God Changes Your Brain.
    “Over the past decade or so, numerous studies have suggested that prayer and meditation can enhance physical health and healing from illness. In this stimulating and provocative book, two academics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Spirituality and the Mind contend that contemplating God actually reduces stress, which in turn prevents the deterioration of the brain’s dendrites and increases neuroplasticity.”

    http://www.amazon.com/How-Chan.....0345503414

    Your cute. You first say that the data is “dodgy” but provide no reason as to why, then you pivot and ask for a cite to the dodgy data as if you didn’t know it existed.

    It’s also dodgy data, but that doesn’t matter.

    Which one is it attorney liddle, is the data dodgy or are you unaware it exists?

  49. Dr Liddle:

    Pardon, it is also a good reason to discuss the prejudices and bigotry of our time; including MATERIALIST ones.

    Which happen to be the biases with a lot of institutional power in and around science and policy centres in our civilisation.

    For instance, there is abundant and accessible reason for the reasonable to see that theism is not to be equated with superstition or irrationality or ignorance or stupidity or wickedness, and a refusal to acknowledge the role of the Judaeo-Christian tradition and adherents in the history of modern science, joined to the Lewontinian caricatures and hostility above, are therefore not good signs.

    Add to that the sort of arrogant and supercilious attitude — pardon, this needs to be said fairly frankly — that would join prayer to a list of superstitions, or would equate believing in God with believing in UFOs or fairies or the like, taken as examples of irrationality.

    Multiply by Lewontin’s own example of the woman who doubted the provenance of the TV broadcasts of the Moon landing, in a context where he somehow failed to see that Wernher von Braun, the man who sent the rocket to the Moon — as in this IS rocket science [start with the controls challenge of balancing a broomstick on its tip . . . ] — was an Evangelical Christian and Creationist. Never mind, failing to understand how Newton, whose physics did so much of the underlying work, saw an orderly cosmos as a strong sign pointing to the handiwork of its Architect and Pantokrator [which Greek term he actually used].

    Let us get something basic straight: believing in miracles is not chaotic superstition, nor is it — on the actual history of science and linked philosophical issues — antithetical to science. It is antithetical to MATERIALISM, but that is not the same as science by any reasonable means.

    Which, however, is exactly the confusion and conflation that Lewontin et al are making.

    And which is exactly the confusion that the US NAS and NSTA, NCSE etc are wishing to embed into the popular understanding and even the schools-taught definition (insofar as a definition is possible) of science. (And yet, these seem to be blissfully unaware of the inherent self referential incoherence of materialism as a worldview, its inescapable amorality and the menace to good order it has repeatedly historically shown itself to be — including (as 100 million ghosts of the past century will remind us), in living memory.)

    It is precisely this sort of ill-informed, polarising and unbalanced, irresponsible prejudices and talking points that the likes of a Lewontin, or a Dawkins or a Sagan, or a Coyne or a NAS or a NSTA or a NCSE or a Scott or a Forrest or a Matzke may toss off that then feed the ever-present fever swamps of hate.

    And, frankly, outright hate stirred up through bigotry is what is driving things like those who have threatened my wife and children; innocents who have nothing whatsoever to do with what is being debated, other than that they can be held implicit hostage. (Nor is this the only case in point, nor — sadly — is such plain thuggishness confined to fringe groups and individuals, cf. below on what happened in Kansas across the last decade.)

    Do you see how ugly things are becoming?

    And when it comes to the false accusation of “quote-mining” that now seems to be a standard talking point in the fever swamps when this article by Lewontin is cited, and which occasionally pops up here, let it be noted far and wide:

    I: the above fourteen points of serious concern in the clip from Lewontin show that no, the matter is not that we misunderstand or misrepresent Lewontin, but that we understand where he is coming from all too well.

    Let us be direct:

    II: if Lewontin were simply attacking real superstition or ignorance, he would not be appealing to broad-brush dismissals of anything that dares differ from an ill-digested, ill-understood a priori materialism such as he promotes.

    And, also:

    III: the notion that to believe in GOD is to lose all critical faculty, and to become chaotic is outright inexcusable poisonous slander,

    . . . slander in the teeth of easily accessible facts of history on the founding of modern science, the nature of theistic belief and the contribution theists have made and continue to make to the advancement of both science and civilisation.

    Indeed, this is if anything the capstone that crowns the edifice of the prejudicial declaration, and condemns it and those who would defend or excuse it, much less see it as grounds for the sort of prejudice and question-begging imposition of materialism on science that Lewontin advocated before reaching that point.

    You will see that I have for long refrained myself from being so direct and explicit in my criticisms, but it now seems that — thanks to the dismissive spin that is raging out of control across the fever swamps leading to a poisonous miasma that spreads across the Internet including here at UD (and on into the real world) — nothing less than this will suffice to get attention to the seriousness and injustice of what has gone wrong. Oh, yes, I know some will take umbrage, and will project the problem unto the messenger. That nasty rhetorical stunt is as old as what was done to Socrates, and was probably old in his day.

    Kindly, cut it off, and look, carefully, at what we are dealing with.

    Remember, Lewontin is not merely giving his idiosyncratic view, he is consciously summarising the views and underlying notions of the dominant factions of the scientific elites.

    Notice: “To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists . . . “

    This claim is backed up by any number of statements from a significant number of eminent scientists, and from official publications and declarations of august bodies like the US National Academy of Science and its National Science Teacher’s Association’s Board. Indeed, it is being embedded into law and public policy, and apparently not just in Kansas.

    When it comes to defining the strengths and limitations of scientific reasoning, I have already called attention here to what is a much better summary, one that I built on the sounder view of science that — precisely under the influence of the US NAS, NSTA and NCSE et al amplified by media manipulation and Alinskyite public relations tactics, as well as a subtly worded, menacing threat that held the children of Kansas hostage to toeing the materialist line — was explicitly rejected and replaced by imposition of a priori materialism, in Kansas, over the past decade:

    BANNED IN KANSAS: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena. (2005, replacing this materialist ideology-loaded radical redefinition,from 2001: “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations of the world around us.”; banned after a questionable and nasty PR campaign, 2007 that pushed back in a version of the tendentious, historically and philosophically inapt 2001 definition.)

    OXFORD DICTIONARY, 1990: science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. [Concise Oxford, 1990 -- and yes, they used the "z" Virginia!]

    WEBSTER’S 7th COLLEGIATE, 1966: scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [”the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind”] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. [Webster's 7th Collegiate, 1965]

    IOSE SCIENTIFIC METHODS & INVESTIGATORY TIPS: let us give a working definition of science as it should be (recognising that we will often fall short):

    science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:

    a: collecting, recording, indexing, collating and reporting accurate, reliable (and where feasible, repeatable) empirical — real-world, on the ground — observations and measurements,

    b: inference to best current — thus, always provisional — abductive explanation of the observed facts,

    c: thus producing hypotheses, laws, theories and models, using logical-mathematical analysis, intuition and creative, rational imagination [[including Einstein's favourite gedankenexperiment, i.e thought experiments],

    d: continual empirical testing through further experiments, observations and measurement; and,

    e: uncensored but mutually respectful discussion on the merits of fact, alternative assumptions and logic among the informed. (And, especially in wide-ranging areas that cut across traditional dividing lines between fields of study, or on controversial subjects, “the informed” is not to be confused with the eminent members of the guild of scholars and their publicists or popularisers who dominate a particular field at any given time.)

    As a result, science enables us to ever more effectively (albeit provisionally) describe, explain, understand, predict and influence or control objects, phenomena and processes in our world.

    Do you see what is going on, and what in the end is at stake here?

    [ . . . ]

  50. When it comes to the issue — the inference to design on reliable empirical signs — that has so excited the rage and stirred up such a hornet’s nest of hostility, let us bring the matter to a sharp focus:

    1 –> It is a matter of millennia old commonplace that we routinely intuitively recognise and differentiate that which comes of natural processes of cause and effect tracing to forces of mechanical necessity and/or chance/stochastic factors, and that which is ART-ificial.

    2 –> Cases like Mt Rushmore vs Old Man of the Mountain or Stonehenge vs Giant’s Causeway are apt examples in point.

    3 –> Similarly, we know the difference between chance based gibberish (fjgwgiugihgihgv . . . ) and intelligent text strings (like this . . . ).

    4 –> We likewise uncontroversially distinguish between the mechanical necessity that makes a dropped fair die fall, and the chance factors that lead it to tumble to a given reading essentially at random.

    5 –> These are all marked by distinguishing characteristics, that can be procedurally reduced and quantified, then empirically tested. Thus, the per aspect explanatory filter and something like the log-reduced simplified Chi expression:

    Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold.

    6 –> In terms of procedure, the first step is to identify the significance of high contingency in an outcome under essentially similar starting conditions. A dropped die falls, reliably, under a gravitational force of about 9.8 N/kg near earth’s surface, but if it is fair, it then tumbles to a reading from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6}essentially at random. The die can also be set to read a value by hand, or may be loaded so that its behaviour is some blend of chance and designed outcome.

    7 –> So, we see that by looking for the presence of high contingency, we may distinguish processes that are driven by lawlike mechanical necessity. These we summarise under the famous empirical laws of science. F = m*a, E = h*f – w, etc. [Newton and Einstein respectively, the latter being a Nobel Prize winning threshold equation, cutting clean across an objection from some months back that such expressions are illegitimate or dubious in science.]

    8 –> Where by contrast, an aspect of an object, phenomenon or process etc shows high contingency, experience leads to the observation that this is consistently attributable to chance and/or choice. The issue shows up as routinely as whether we are seeing irreducible noise or erratic — human caused — experimental error in a lab exercise [or cooking], or whether variation in the product of an assembly line is unavoidable chance or human action.

    9 –> The logical criterion for distinguishing the two in cases of interest, i.e. candidates for design where we do not directly see the causal process, is whether the variability is within reasonable reach of chance sampling or is so isolated in the space of configurations and is from so special a subset of possibilities that the best explanation is design.

    10 –> Functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I] are excellent markers of this threshold, and this is what is quantified in the Chi_500 expression.

    11 –> In effect, on the gamut of 10^57 atoms of our solar system, the 10^102 Planck Time Quantum states are 1 in 10^48 of the field of possibilities for 500 bits. So, unusual and specified outcomes that would be consistent with the purposefulness of an intelligent agent, are maximally unlikely to arise by chance. So their best explanation is design.

    (A one straw sized blind sample of a hay bale 3 1/2 light days across would be maximally likely to pick up only straw, even if a solar system lurks within. Per, not debatable probability calculations of precise values — yet another red herring led away to an agenda-serving strawman caricature, but on the direct and overwhelmingly compelling testimony and analysis of sampling theory without need to even characterise the population ahead of the sample. [Indeed, such samples are routinely used to characterise the population. This also shows why an empirically based sample of observations is not enough to dismiss rare phenomena as incredible. Hint, hint, Hume, on dismissing the possibility of rare miracles because of the general reliability of observed natural lawlike processes.])

    12 –> Stretch the number of bits to 1,000 and you have a test that covers what is plausible on the gamut of our observed cosmos. That is, if something has in it more information than 72 – 143 ASCII characters, and is from a special and plausibly purposeful zone in the space of possibilities, intelligent choice acting by art is the best causal explanation.

    13 –> To give a hint: 500 coins in a string array in no particular order is best explained on chance, but if the coins have the ASCII code for a string of coherent words in English, that is best explained on design.

    14 –> The hotly debated case, of course, is DNA/RNA and the proteins coded for by step by step reading of the three-base codons in the living cell leading to assembly of specified, functional, folding AA chains used in the living cell.

    (Some have gone so far as to deny the reality of the genetic code as a code, on grounds like: we did not see it being made by a human being or something like that. H’mm, wasn’t the point of origins science to infer on an abductive best explanation basis, to causes for phenomena on what we know produces the like effect in our observation, and traces we may observe in the present? Sauce for goose is also sauce for gander: such inferences are not to be taken up only when they are convenient for materialists in lab coats. On pain of patently inconsistent selective hyperskepticism.)

    15 –> Typical proteins are 300 AA long, i.e requiring something like 900 4-state coded elements. 4^900 = 7.15 * 10^541 possibilities, and the sugar-phosphate D/RNA backbone does not chemically constrain the sequence in any material way [As Bradley et al showed in the 1980's connected to the publication of TMLO, contributing to Dean Kenyon's -- yes, the same who was subjected to an expelling attempt -- public recantation of his 1969 Biochemical Predestination thesis in the preface to the first ID technical book], i.e AGCT/U can come in any sequence.

    16 –> The integrated living cell with hundreds of proteins, organised nanomolecular machines, and an integral coded, von Neumann self-replicator, is credibly designed.

    17 –> Now, a poisonous switcheroo comes up. So let’s get this straight, as Thaxton et al underscored right from the beginning in TMLO: this is an inference to design, not an inference to supernatural cause.

    18 –> On the credibly designed features of the living cell, we may infer to design, but not to the ontological nature of the designer. That is, as Venter et al have recently shown, a SUFFICIENT explanation would be a molecular nanotech lab a few generations beyond where we now are.

    19 –> That’s a limitation of what the science can tell us, but the result is enough to demolish the pretensions of the materialists who dominate science in our day. Namely, starting with origin of life, and going on to origin of major body plans, the Darwinian mechanism — chance variation and survival of the fittest based culling out of less successful variants of functional forms — is unable to account for the large quantum of FSCO/I in living forms. It may explain minor adaptaitons like light/dark moths, or insecticide or antibiotic resistance or the like, but it cannot cogently account for what it has announced as its triumph for the past 150 years: macroevolution.

    20 –> As the just linked post and current discussion thread demonstrates, this has led to a lot of kicking and screaming, but the objective onlooker can see that the point is in fact so. Observe the issues raised on OOL, on Gould’s questions on the trade secret of paleontology, and the lingering issue of the Cambrian fossil life revolution [look at esp p. 2 that is being so consistently tiptoed around], and the matter will stand clear to the unprejudiced mind.

    21 –> Which, per the problem of Lewontin, is exactly the problem.

    22 –> But, doesn’t all this leave theists in the lurch, too?

    23 –> Not strictly a scientific issue, but suffice to say that theists are quite willing to confidently let the facts and evidence speak on their own terms; once science is liberated from Lewontinian materialist captivity.

    24 –> We must also note that there is another side to design theory, where it actually BEGAN, with first signs some 60 years ago (and with early hints some 80 years ago, with the rise of the Big Bang and a direct empirically warranted inference to a beginning of the observed cosmos).

    25 –> Namely, cosmological design, on signs of fine tuning.

    26 –> That is, there is good reason to hold that our cosmos had a beginning — thus, an external cause, and that its laws and parameters are finely balanced in ways that facilitate a cosmos in which C-chemistry, cell based life is possible. In addition, ours is a quite privileged planet.

    27 –> That FSCO is best explained on design by an intelligent and awesomely powerful, skilled and knowledgeable agent intending to produce a cosmos habitable by C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based intelligent life invited to explore and make advantageous use of the cosmos and its materials, forces and potentials.

    28 –> Even, through a speculative multiverse.

    29 –> That’s why there is a joke about the astrophysicists and cosmologists rushing out of their observatories and offices in lunch time to hear lifelong agnostic Sir Fred Hoyle give his lunch time meditation in the University Chapel on the Superintellect who Monkeyed with physics at the foundation of the cosmos, then lining up to be baptised into the First church of God in Christ, Big bang.

    30 –> like all good jokes, it is funny because it has a serious point beneath the funny part.

    GEM of TKI

  51. BIN:

    You raise a serious point. Cf discussion here on.

    GEM of TKI

  52. Thanks, but I’d like the peer-reviewed papers on which the book is based.

    The reason I said the data were dodgy is that I am aware of a number of studies based on national polling data, that make what I consider fallacious inferences.

    I’d like to know what specific studies you have in mind.

    I’d also appreciate a less aggressive tone.

    As far as neuroscience goes, yes,there is certainly evidence that meditation produces measurable neuronal effects, and is beneficial. I’m in the middle of conducting a study in that area right now.

    But that is quite different from the claim that theists are happier than atheists. As I said, the only studies I know of that suggest that are dodgy.

  53. 53

    Wiki claims there is now extensive research suggesting that religious people are happier and less stressed.

    ^ Rudin, Mike (2006-04-30). “The science of happiness”. BBC.
    ^ Paul, Pamela (2005-01-09). “The New Science of Happiness”. Time.
    ^ Koenig. Harold G., Larson, David B., and Mcculloug, Michael E. –Handbook of Religion and Health(see article), p.111, Oxford University Press (2001)
    Currently, approximately 8% of the U.S. population claim no religious affiliation (Kosmin & Lachman, 1993). People with no affiliation appear to be at greater risk for depressive symptoms than those affiliated with a religion. In a sample of 850 medically ill men, Koenig, Cohen, Blazer, Pieper, et al. (1992) examined whether religious affiliation predicted depression after demographics, medical status, and a measure of religious coping were controlled. They found that, when relevant covariates were controlled, men who indicated that they had “no religious affiliation” had higher scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (an observer-administered rating scale) than did men who identified themselves as moderate Protestants, Catholics, or nontraditional Christians.
    ^ The 2008 Legatum Prosperity Index, Summary p.40.
    Research suggests that religious people’s happiness is less vulnerable to fluctuations in economic and political uncertainty, personal unemployment and income changes. The Prosperity Index identifies similar effects at the country level, with a number of highly religious countries reporting higher levels of happiness than might be expected based on the standard of living alone: this effect is most pronounced in Mexico, El Salvador, the Dominican republic, Indonesia, Venezuela and Nigeria.

    Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that “the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse.”[15]

    ^ Moreira-Almeida, Alexander; Francisco Lotufo Neto, and Harold G. Koenig (September 2006). “Religiousness and mental health: a review”. Rev. Bras. Psiquiatr. [serial on the Internet] 28 (3): 242–250. doi:10.1590/S1516-44462006005000006. PMID 16924349.

    Health

    ^ Ellison, C. G., & Levin, J. S. (1998). “The religion-health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions”. Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education (Health Education and Behavior.) 25 (6): 700–720.. doi:10.1177/109019819802500603. PMID 9813743. Retrieved 25 April 2010.

    ^ Shahabi, L., Powell, L. H., Musick, M. A., Pargament, K. I., Thoresen, C. E., Williams, D., et al. (2002). “Correlates of self-perceptions of spirituality in American adults”. Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education (Annals of Behaviors Medicine.) 24 (6): 59–68.. doi:10.1177/109019819802500603. PMID 9813743. Retrieved 25 April 2010.

    ^ Koenig, L. B., & Vaillant, G. E. (2009). A prospective study of church attendance and health over the lifespan. 28. Health Psychology.. pp. 117–124.. Retrieved 25 April 2010.

    ^ Chatters, L. M. (2000). Religion and health: Public health research and practices. 21. Annual Review of Public Health.. pp. 335–367.. Retrieved 25 April 2010.

    ^ Seeman, T., Dubin, L. F., & Seeman, M. (2003). Religiosity/spirituality and health: A critical review of the evidence for biological pathways. 58. American Psychologist.. pp. 53–63.. Retrieved 25 April 2010.

  54. After all, there is plenty of data supporting a correlation between theism and happiness, less stress, better health, better coping, greater altruism etc.

    But, is that evidence for the existence of the theos believed in, or is it a psychological effect of faith or belief itself?

    How can that be determined?

    I believe there are plenty of examples of people of strong faith with miserable lives too.

    Could it be that the operative agent is faith itself, and not the object of the faith?

  55. Thanks. I know some of those papers but not all. I’ll check them out.

  56. Yes, of course we “believe” there is “such a thing as information”.

    And it’s real. I don’t see anything “super-natural” about it. Or, if information is “super-natural” then “super-natural” isn’t a very useful term.

    And yes, certainly minds exist. I haven’t seen any demonstration that they are not material in origin, and plenty of evidence that they are.

  57. Dr. Liddle,

    Would you say that regularity in nature is the same as materialism?

    I ask because I believe that some supernatural phenomena may be empirically tested if it follows a regular pattern or law. Not all supernatural stuff does, but maybe some does: e.g http://www.sheldrake.org/homepage.html#

    But the laws of nature are, imho, the best example of the supernatural in our world. To me, regularity itself is a miracle.

    Also, have you ever read C S Lewis’s “Miracles.” He talks a lot about things related to this thread that I think you’d find interesting.

  58. Oh, also, I would agree that the term “supernatural” is very problematic. I mean, if nature is all that exists, then the supernatural must not exist. But if God exists, is he natural or supernatural? What about fairies? etc? What if God exists but is not subject to the same laws that we are subject to? Is he natural or supernatural? The terms are not always useful.

  59. Some pretty good suggestions.

    Study Guide to the book, here

    Podcast on it, here

  60. Could you summarise the evidence and draw out how the consequences follow?

    Including, addressing this from Haldane:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

  61. Elizabeth,

    “Yes, of course we “believe” there is “such a thing as information”.”

    There we go.

    “And yes, certainly minds exist. I haven’t seen any demonstration that they are not material in origin, and plenty of evidence that they are.”

    Who says it does? How can you prove that empirically? Skull trepanation testifies to there only being a brain underneath. “Mind” is not a scientific but a philosphical category. We are again down to the issue of interpretations. You are saying that there is one and only one true purely scientific interpretation. I am saying there is no such thing as the only one scientific interpretation. Your position is positivistic and outdated.

    This way or another, even though you say your position is based entirely on science, in fact it is not because implicitly you rely on philosophical notions determining your materialistic framework.

    I must disappoint you that any materialistic framework is incomplete. Who says I shall not steal or murder?

    Shall I listen to neo-Darwinists or somebody else? How do I define my moral criteria of what’s good or bad? Science alone is not enough for this task. This is why I likened it to a screwdriver or a hammer. It is nonsensical to ask how I should live of a hammer.

    Neo-Darwinism, e.g., states that anything that serves for my species’ reproductive advantage is good. That is the moral principle of neo-Darwinism. It is easy to see where this reduced morality can lead if taken to its logical conclusion. E.g. in Darwinist terms, Nazies were doing a very good thing for humanity by excluding from our gene pool deleterious genes by mass killing the sick, mentally handicapped, or people of “not so evolutionary advanced” races, as they thought.

    I encourage you to read Dostoevsky. He had a very difficult time in his life looking for answers to the basic human questions. As a result, he offered enormous insights into issues of mind, morality and faith. He says, “if there is no God, everything is allowed”. Materialism cannot cope with those issues at a level appropriate to anyone who wants to find truth.

  62. Liz, the data is good. Religious people DO tend to be happier. Have you never witnessed the ever-sunny outlook on life of your local Christian zealot in action? You, know, that lady with the taped sermons always playing in her car? That religious people are more healthy says nothing about the truth of religious claims. As we know, ignorance is bliss (sometimes). It is not hard for me to see how believing that “God has it all under control” can make you healthier.

  63. Who says it does? How can you prove that empirically? Skull trepanation testifies to there only being a brain underneath. “Mind” is not a scientific but a philosphical category. We are again down to the issue of interpretations. You are saying that there is one and only one true purely scientific interpretation. I am saying there is no such thing as the only one scientific interpretation. Your position is positivistic and outdated.

    Well, in my domain, “mind” is a scientific category! My job is mapping mental phenomena on to neural phenomena, so obviously I regard mental phenomena as measurable scientific variables!

    And no, I am not saying there is “one true purely scientific interpretation”. I’m not sure where you are getting that from what I wrote. For a start I have said repeatedly that all scientific models are, and must be, provisional and subject to potential falsification. For a second, I don’t think science answers all kinds questions. “Is the Mona Lisa a great work of art?” is a question that science can answer. Nor is “is it wrong to commit adultery?”

    Science can help us answer these questions by giving us relevant information, but they are not scientific questions.

    I don’t know what “positivist” is, but I’m fairly up to speed on the neuroscientific literature.

    Neo-Darwinism, e.g., states that anything that serves for my species’ reproductive advantage is good.

    No, it does no such thing. You are equivocating with the word “good”. Neo Darwinism (well, Darwinism, actually) states that any trait that increases my chances of reproducing will tend to be reproduced more often in my descendents.

    That’s all. There is no value attached to that statement, it’s simply logical. And if the thing that has the trait that increases its chance of reproducing is a disease-causing bacteria, then from the human point of view, that is decidedly not good. From the bacterium’s point of view I guess it could be awesome, if the bacterium cared.

    But most people don’t care a fig about whether their traits are reproduced a lot or not in their descendents. They do care about whether they have kids, usually, but that’s quite different.

    So, I’m afraid you are wrong on this :)

    There is no “moral principle of neo-Darwinism” any more than there is a moral principle of gravity or a moral principle of quantum mechanics. Neo-Darwinism is a scientific theory, and, like all scientific theories, morally neutral.

    It doesn’t even have anything to do with God.

  64. No, I’d say that regularity in nature is a property that nature seems to have.

    But tell me this: if Sheldrake’s phenomena were shown to be reproducible, in what sense could you call them “supernatural”? How would they differ from “natural” phenomena like gravitational force?

    And if you are calling all phenomena “supernatural” what would you call a mere “natural” phenomenon? Why do you need the “super” in there?

    Yes, I did read that C.S.Lewis book a long time ago. But Lewis differentiates between natural and supernatural – and IIRC, he would include laws of nature as “natural”.

    Have I misremembered?

  65. Exactly :)

  66. 66

    To claim that science methodology cannot examine X would require a knowledge of what X is to make that determination. What is being claimed by Lewontin (and others) is that X cannot be known (by his definition of the term knowledge – what is “true” understanding) because science cannot examine it.

    So, what exactly is being claimed in this circular argument? Nothing, really. All it establishes is the institutionalized justification to dismiss, ignore and ridicule any claim that may discredit not just materialist views, but anti-theistic and anti-spiritual biases. Note the

    Let’s take any claim of what is generally regarded as the supernatural – psi events, faith healing, mediumship, distant viewing, etc. – how are these supposedly supernatural phenomena immune to scientific investigation?

    If there is “no known material explanation” for an event that many regard as supernatural, that doesn’t mean it cannot be examined via scientific methodology such as investigating the effects either abductively (as many investigators have) or via research that examines the effects of hypothesized paranormal activity, such as examinations of random number generators or setting up OOB tests for patients that are clinically dead in hospitals.

    I don’t really understand this concept of “the supernatural” and how it is claimed that the scientific method cannot be used to investigate it. I mean, if you had a rigorously controlled series of experiments where ghosts were caught on film and other recording devices, answered questions the answers of which were verifiable, then because science would from that point (after conducting the research and recording) have no material explanation for the event, then such research is without merit or value to one’s world-view and concept of what is true about our existence?

    I think this whole thing about “science cannot investigate the supernatural” is merely a handy, improper tautology-by-definition that has no value other than to justify the materialist war against theism.

    As far back as Newton and then later with Crooke, the “supernatural” has not only been investigated, but has been scientifically documented and researched. Newton’s “action at a distance” was considered supernatural at the time. Crooke investigated and validated some spiritualist claims using scientific methods. That work continues to this day.

    Such investigations begin with “if X is a real phenomena (whether it meets ones particular materialistic bent or not), how would we go about documenting it? How can we scientifically verify it occurs? How can we scientifically establish the conditions and parameters that are conducive to the occurrence of the phenomena?” Substitute faith healing, psi, mediumship, demonic possession, ghosts, etc. for X, or even fairies and santa clause if you demand abusive associations, and yes, the scientific method can investigate such things, document them, and form an investigatory framework for further examination.

  67. Natural means existing in or produced by nature. Yes it is true that the laws exist in nature but there isn’t any evidence that nature produced them.

    But that does not mean they are supernatural. Artificial is in contrast with natural too.

  68. I see you are totally ignoring the high-powered study that found absolutely no positive effect of prayer on the outcomes of patients undergoing cardiac surgery, and a negative effect (worse outcomes) in those who knew they were being prayed for.

    Of the studies you do cite, the only actual peer-reviewed paper is of a meta-analysis. This found “small but significant effect sizes” for petitionary prayer. Unfortunately when one “controversial” study was removed, this significant effect disappeared (on a random effects analysis – the authors claim, spuriously IMO, that the less conservative “fixed effects” analysis was valid, and did remain statistically significant). One of the authors of the “controversial” paper seems to have been subsequently jailed for fraud.

    So we have one good study, with large statistical power, that found no positive effects and one negative effect. We have one study with large effect conducted by a conman. And we have a series of other studies which, on meta-analysis, do not produce significant effect sizes.

    What was that about paying attention to the evidence ba77?

  69. Collin,

    You are asking the sort of questions materialism fails to answer. It reduces reality to matter. It does away with questions about purpose, for indeed is there any purpose in anything that happened by fluke?

    Elizabeth would hasten to disagree by saying, not by fluke but by necessity. However, it does not remove the issue because the next question we ask is then how come everything comes about by necessity? How does this necessity come into existence? By chance? Does it exist at all?

    Fluke or necessity, there still is no purpose. The question about purpose is not that easy to dismiss. All things I can see around me have a purpose, and, what’s more, this purpose is extraneous. Why then is the entire world exempt from having to have a purpose that is extraneous to it? On what grounds?

    “To me, regularity itself is a miracle.”

    Yes, indeed. Natural phenomena are but part of reality. I believe our ability to explain reality by way of intellectual reasoning is limited. Why should it be intellectually explainable in its entirety?

  70. And you- no one has- have not seen blind, undirected chemical processes do the things your position claims

  71. You are asking the sort of questions materialism fails to answer. It reduces reality to matter. It does away with questions about purpose, for indeed is there any purpose in anything that happened by fluke?

    Things that happen on purpose are caused by a purposive agent. We are purposive agents, therefore things happen on purpose.

    The opposite of “on purpose” is not “by fluke”. It is not “by fluke” that a beautiful beach of sorted pebbles is continually built and renewed. It is not “by fluke” that snowflakes regularly form exquisite hexagonal crystals. Yet neither are created “on purpose” or “for a purpose”. They are simply the results of natural laws.

    On the other hand, this post is created on purpose, with a purpose, by me, a purposive agent.

    The purpose of my post is to debunk the absurd notion that materialism denies the existence of purpose. My entire research area is devoted to the subject of purpose.

    So either materialism is not what you think it is, or I am not a materialist.

  72. Purpose as in purpose to the big picture- as in the purpose of our existence- THAT purpose materialism denies.

  73. Well Ms. Liddle, seems that you have not paid attention to my links once again and have falsely accused me of something I did not do, ONCE AGAIN. Oh well to correct your deception ONCE AGAIN:

    Scientific Evidence for Answered Prayer and the Existence of God
    A widely publicized study from 2006 failed to show the efficacy of intercessory prayer. However, the design of the latest study was somewhat unusual.10 The researchers used three patient groups. Two groups were advised of the study, but were not told whether they were in the prayer group or placebo group. The third group knew that they were being prayed for. The study was performed at six hospitals. Out of 3295 eligible patients, 1493 (45%) refused to participate, which is very high, although they did not explain the reasons for non-participation. The intercessors were composed of three groups. Two were Roman Catholic and one was a Protestant group (Silent Unity, Lee’s Summit, MO). Unlike in previous studies, the intercessors were not allowed to pray their own prayers. The prayers were given to them by the study coordinators to “standardize” the prayers. The discussion section of the paper suggested that at least some of the intercessors were dissatisfied with the canned nature of the prayers. In attempting to standardize prayer, I believe the study introduced a serious flaw, since most intercessors tend to pray as they are led by the Spirit, instead of praying prepared scripts. Jesus told His followers not to pray repetitiously, since God would not hear those kinds of prayers.11 Ultimately, the results showed that groups 1 (prayer) and 2 (no prayer) were identical, whereas group 3 (those who knew they were being prayed for) did worse than the other two groups. The lack of efficacy of intercessory prayer in this study could be due to theological problems with the study design.
    http://www.godandscience.org/a.....wIolZKZqed

    Whereas you totally ignored these studies:

    1. “Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population”
    Methods

    Cardiac patients from the San Francisco General Medical Center were randomly divided (using a computer-generated list) into two groups. The names of the patients in the “test” group were given to a group of Christians, who prayed for them while they were in the hospital. The intercessory prayer team members were chosen on the following basis:

    Born again Christians on the basis of John 3:35
    Led an active Christian life on the basis of
    daily devotional prayer
    fellowship in a local Christian church

    The “placebo” group received no prayer. Neither the “test” nor the “placebo” group of patients knew if they were receiving prayer. Likewise, the hospital staff, doctors, or nurses were “blinded” since they did not know which patient belonged to which group.
    Results

    Statistics were acquired from the prayer and placebo groups both before and after prayer, until the patients were discharged from the hospital. There were no statistical differences between the placebo and the prayer groups before prayer was initiated. The results demonstrated that patients who were prayed for suffered “less congestive heart failure, required less diuretic and antibiotic therapy, had fewer episodes of pneumonia, had fewer cardiac arrests, and were less frequently intubated and ventilated.” Statistics demonstrated the the prayer group had a statistically significantly lower severity score based upon the hospital course after entry (p < 0.01). Multivariate analysis of all the parameters measured demonstrated that the outcomes of the two groups were even more statistically significant (p < 0.0001).

    and this one:

    2. “A Randomized, Controlled Trial of the Effects of Remote, Intercessory Prayer on Outcomes in Patients Admitted to the Coronary Care Unit”
    Methods

    Cardiac patients from the CCU at the Mid America Heart Institute (MAHI), Kansas City, Mo, were randomly chosen and assigned to control or prayer groups. In this study, patients were not told about the prayer study and doctors did not know which patients were assigned to which groups. According to the paper, “The intercessors represented a variety of Christian traditions, with 35% listing their affiliations as nondenominational, 27% as Episcopalian, and the remainder as other Protestant groups or Roman Catholic. Unlike the Byrd study, the intercessors of the MAHI study were given no details about the medical conditions of the patients, but were only given their first name.
    Results

    The main table of results, reproduced from the study appears as Table 3 below. Because of the small sample size of each individual component, only one of the individual components reached statistical significance. However, the overall effect was statistically significant, with a P value of 0.04, meaning that the result was likely to occur by chance in only 1 out of 25 times the experiment was repeated.

    And this one:

    3. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial.

    This study involved 3393 patient subjects whose bloodstream infection was detected at the hospital from the years 1990�1996. Remote, retroactive intercessory prayer was said for the well being and full recovery of the intervention group. Results were measured through mortality in hospital, length of stay in hospital, and duration of fever. Mortality was reduced in the intervention group (28.1%) compared to the control group (30.2%) although the difference did not reach statistical significance. However, length of stay in the hospital and duration of fever were significantly shorter in the intervention group than in the control group (P = 0.01 and P = 0.04, respectively). According to the author of the study:

    “Remote, retroactive intercessory prayer said for a group is associated with a shorter stay in hospital and shorter duration of fever in patients with a bloodstream infection and should be considered for use in clinical practice.”

    Thus Ms. Lizzie, it seems you are the one cherry picking results and ignoring ones you don’t like (ONCE AGAIN!)

  74. Dr Liddle:

    Pardon, but I have very little faith in studies like that, for a lot of reasons as already pointed out.

    I could highlight that prayer, if God is — and Millions across the world and down the long run of time report meeting him and being transformed by the encounter ["I are one", BA77 is one, and I can give you any number of others], is a matter of request. Which is a matter in turn of personal relationship, not mechanical cause-effect.

    Mostly, my response to purported studies of the efficacy of prayer, is to say, the man who has a living experience is not at the mercy of the man with a clever argument or talking point.

    Let’s just say that I can still see in my mind’s eye the open taxi door at the clinic where things did not work, and hear the man in it saying, Asthma, I know just the doctor you need to go to. That was the very morning that, unbeknownst to me, my mom having seen my continued, obviously life threatening suffering as she nursed me through a bad night, had at dawn surrendered me back to God.

    In desperation, my mom went where the taxi-man suggested.

    That saved my life; my debilitating disease that was sapping my life turned around from that day under the treatment of that Guyanese Doctor practising in Jamaica, out of Canada.

    Thank God for him, and for his family who in later years were my opthalmologists.

    And, I can give any number of further transformational moments across my life since then. Suffice to say that the fact that I have a back to sit up with, and breath to type with, are answers to prayer.

    I have met God, in the face of Christ, and have been transformed thereby.

    So, pardon my disregard for allegedly scientific studies on the efficacy or otherwise of prayer. Even that is misdirected. the issue is, is God credibly real. if so, prayer is reasonable, and answers to prayer, even miraculous ones, are reasonable.

    Since this is a matter that is inescapably theological and seems to be at the crux of your own issues and concerns, I will make an exception to my usual focus on dealing with matters of science and related worldview issues, rather than theology or Bible study etc, at UD — and KH et al FYI it is eminently possible to be concerned about both science and souls.

    Here are two — make it three — pivotal texts from the Bible on the subject of efficacious prayer:

    1 John 5:14-15

    Amplified Bible (AMP)

    14And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him [--> i.e. God]: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us.

    15And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.

    James 4:1-4

    Amplified Bible (AMP)

    James 4
    1WHAT LEADS to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?

    2You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask. [I John 3:15.]

    3[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.

    4You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.

    Hebrews 11:1-6

    Amplified Bible (AMP)

    Hebrews 11
    1NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

    2For by [faith--[b]trust and holy fervor born of faith] the men of old had divine testimony borne to them and obtained a good report.

    3By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible.

    4[Prompted, actuated] by faith Abel brought God a better and more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, because of which it was testified of him that he was righteous [that he was upright and in right standing with God], and God bore witness by accepting and acknowledging his gifts. And though he died, yet [through the incident] he is still speaking.

    5Because of faith Enoch was caught up and transferred to heaven, so that he did not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found, because God had translated him. For even before he was taken to heaven, he received testimony [still on record] that he had pleased and been satisfactory to God.

    6But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

    These promises work out, abundantly.

    But, they require that we first align ourselves with God’s known will [cost what it might], starting from confidence that he is and rewards those who earnestly seek him.

    For, prayer is request.

    GEM of TKI

  75. S’pected so, but the question deserved a remark or two.

  76. No, I did not “cherry-pick” ba77. I did the opposite – I looked at the meta-analysis, i.e. a study of studies.

    Which showed no statistically significant effect after one study conducted by a conman was removed.

    And there was nothing wrong with the 2006 study. It is not unusual for there to be a high non-response rate to recruitment efforts. As long as the random allocation is carried out after recruitment, there is no bias.

    And yes, the prayers were standardised.

    I guess standardised prayers don’t work (and may do harm).

    I guess that rules out the Our Father then?

    Seems to me that someone is cherry-picking around here, and it doesn’t seem to be me.

  77. 77

    What does “matter” even mean in the concept of “materialism” anymore? In light of current understanding of general relativism and quantum physics, and what we know about subatomic phenomena, the idea of “matter” seems to me to be as vague as the term “supernatural”. Modern “materialism” doesn’t prevent any supposed “supernatural” phenomena from existing, even as material entities, as a sort of “matter” that we don’t even understand (given quantum action-at-a-distance and observer-dependant local reality). Ghosts, demons, gods, psi, mediums – none of this is beyond the scope of “matter” to embrace when the term “matter” apparently can embrace practically anything, even that which classically contradicted it.

    Again, it is apparent that the use of the terms “materialism” and “supernatural” are scapegoat justifications for a deep bias against theism, libertarian free will and in favor of atheistic determinism and have little to do with the actual scientific methodology employed in investigating various phenomena.

  78. kf I entirely agree that such studies are pointless.

    As I said earlier.

    If supernatural forces are at work in our world, then they won’t be found by empirical methods.

    Which is Lewontin’s point.

    Empirical scientific methods are simply incapable of detecting such effects.

    This is not ideological, it is methodological.

    There is something very odd going on here! On the one hand, ID proponents insist that ID has nothing to do with God, it’s Real Science. Then at least some of them protest that the scientific establishment is censoring out God! Then I show some studies that demonstrate scientifically no effect of prayer. So then people say, oh but science can’t show up stuff like that!

    No, it can’t. Absolutely right. And ID proponents who say that ID is just real science, nothing to do with God, are on the right track.

    The only problem is that if ID wants to be real science it has to test actual ID hypotheses. And I have yet to see an actual test of an ID hypothesis.

    I think you have to decide which game you want to play: change scientific methodology so that it can accommodate supernatural hypotheses, which it can’t at present, or test ID hypotheses within the current scientific methodological framework.

    But if you want to change scientific methodology, then there needs to be a specific proposal. And if you don’t, then you need to test some specific ID hypotheses!

    I don’t see an alternative for you guys, other than these.

  79. Elizabeth,

    I disagree with you on this. While true science is indeed neutral to morality, neo-Darwinism serves a scientific justification for materialistic dogmas that pretend to be science.

    BTW, sin as a matter of fact is not neutral to our gene pool. If in one’s ancestry there were ten successive generations of drunkards, genetically s/he will have a higher propensity to alcoholism. The same goes with other sins, such as fornication (promiscuity) &c. The correlation is pretty strong.

  80. “They are simply the results of natural laws.”

    What is simplicity, Elizabeth? What is beauty?

  81. “Or I am not a materialist”

    Congratulations, Elizabeth, earnest!

  82. Ms. Liddle you state:

    And yes, the prayers were standardised.

    I guess standardised prayers don’t work (and may do harm).

    I guess that rules out the Our Father then?

    Not so quick, Did they even use a Christian prayer as the ‘standardized’ prayer?? Perhaps you can find the prayer they used???

    Prior to the start of this study, intercessors reported that they usually receive information about the patient’s age, gender and progress reports on their medical condition; converse with family members or the patient (not by fax from a third party); use individualized prayers of their own choosing; and pray for a variable time period based on patient or family request.
    http://www.templeton.org/pdfs/....._paper.pdf

    And yet when such artificial constraints are removed we find, as in the three studies I listed, that the effects are very dramatic for prayers from Christians, And yet you choose this one highly questionable study over the others??? Perhaps you think God is not particular as to how he answers ‘standardized’ prayers, but I would say that the entire life, death and resurrection of Christ testifies very dramatically that He is very particular as to how He relates to man!!!

    {ED: Silent Unity is affiliated with the Unity School of Christianity, which is actually pantheistic, not theistic. So if the standard prayers were acceptable to them, they with high confidence were not Christian prayers. In addition, this is an illustration of the tainting effect of motives and attitudes in setting up a “scientific” study of prayer. As C S Lewis so aptly highlighted, “prayer as scientific experiment” faces major moral challenges that undermine the words used as being legitimate prayer.}

    Moreover Ms. Lizzie, I’ve seen numerous small ‘miracles’ myself when Christ is personally involved, but I have never, ever, seen anything ‘spooky’ happen when just any ol generic god is addressed:

    for instance:

    Miracle Testimony – One Easter Sunday Sunrise Service – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995314/

    Moreover Ms. Lizzie, as kf pointed out; God is far more personal to each of us than to be put in a ‘scientific’ box of your own choosing i.e. if you pray x this many times then God will do y for you that many times!!! Come to think of it that would be a fairly offensive way to treat anyone who was subjected to that sort of treatment.,,, Indeed God is far more spontaneous than that:

    SETI – Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Finds God – Almost – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007753/

    But hey Ms. Liddle, if you want a predictable, formulaic, God, instead of a personal God that you can have a eternal, everlasting, personal, loving, relationship with, then here you go:

    The Precisely Fulfilled Prophecy Of Israel Becoming A Nation In 1948 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041241/

    Moreover Ms. Lizzie, and perhaps most importantly, as far as science’ is concerned, reality itself conforms exactly to what we would expect if such miracles from prayers to God, who lives in the ‘highest transcendent dimension’, are even possible:

    notes:

    This following experiment extended the double slit experiment to show that the ‘spooky actions’, for instantaneous quantum wave collapse, happen regardless of any considerations for time or distance i.e. The following experiment shows that quantum actions are ‘universal and instantaneous’:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    Genesis, Quantum Physics and Reality
    Excerpt: Simply put, an experiment on Earth can be made in such a way that it determines if one photon comes along either on the right or the left side or if it comes (as a wave) along both sides of the gravitational lens (of the galaxy) at the same time. However, how could the photons have known billions of years ago that someday there would be an earth with inhabitants on it, making just this experiment? ,,, This is big trouble for the multi-universe theory and for the “hidden-variables” approach.
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2.....r.html.ori

    And to make quantum wave collapse much more personal:

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    Here is the key experiment that led Wigner to his Nobel Prize winning work on quantum symmetries:

    Eugene Wigner
    Excerpt: To express this basic experience in a more direct way: the world does not have a privileged center, there is no absolute rest, preferred direction, unique origin of calendar time, even left and right seem to be rather symmetric. The interference of electrons, photons, neutrons has indicated that the state of a particle can be described by a vector possessing a certain number of components. As the observer is replaced by another observer (working elsewhere, looking at a different direction, using another clock, perhaps being left-handed), the state of the very same particle is described by another vector, obtained from the previous vector by multiplying it with a matrix. This matrix transfers from one observer to another.
    http://www.reak.bme.hu/Wigner_.....io/wb1.htm

    Moreover, the universe is a 4D expanding hypersphere, analogous in 3D to the surface of an expanding balloon. All points on the surface are moving away from each other, and every point appears to be central to the expansion, if that’s where you live.

    4-Dimensional Space-Time Of General Relativity – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3991873/

    I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3-D state is centered on each individual observer in the universe, whereas, 4-D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3-D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe:

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

    “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”
    George Washington Carver

    Inventors – George Washington Carver
    Excerpt: “God gave them to me” he (Carver) would say about his ideas, “How can I sell them to someone else?”

  83. Folks:

    After a day or so.

    Please, remember there is something pretty serious on the table in the OP.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I am definitely not a sunny disposition ignoramus, starting with being atopic and particularly asthmatic. (Someone needs to think through the implications of rather dismissive and condescending remarks in light of the OP.)

  84. Elizabeth,

    Nice to see you too.

    You pretty much made my point. Nothing you stated has any basis. It is an assertion.

    “And absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

    Absence of material evidence? Are you now stating that science is materialism? Point made.

    You have demonstrated your prior commitment.

    I’ve always believed that “supernatural” is a bad word. Phenomena that is not materially detected is another bad one.

    The whole issue of phenomena attributed to miracles is that it is materially detected. As such, there is a material component to miracles. Thus, while we may be limited in our ability to make sense of them, we are not completely in the dark.

  85. So, then, you believe that matter and intelligence is the same thing. Is that right?

  86. Lizzie:

    No, you certainly couldn’t. Science is all about model fitting – you fit a model to existing data, then use it to predict new data. If the model predicts the new data fairly well, you may keep the model (though possibly tweaking your parameters). If it doesn’t, you may need a different model.

    What does the fossil record predict according to a Darwinian interpretation of it (skipping over the fact that it doesn’t correspond to Darwinian expectations to begin with)?

  87. Petrushka:

    The question is now dangling, but it was intended for you:

    Do you, then, believe that matter and intelligence is one and the same thing?

  88. Actually, CY, everything I said has a basis. But it is true that I didn’t give much of a basis in that post. I’ve made the points elsewhere though.

    So let me gloss:

    My point, CY, is that scientific methodology simply does not cover supernatural hypotheses, not because of any ideological prior, but because, well, it just doesn’t.

    The reason it doesn’t is that scientific methodology is grounded in hypothesis testing, which involves making predictions as to what you expect to see if your hypothesis is true, and then testing those predictions against data.

    If we understand supernatural events to be unexplainable, irregular events outside the laws of nature, then they will, by definition, be unpredictable. Therefore no predictive hypothesis concerning supernatural causality can be devised. As people have said on this thread – you can’t expect a scientific prayer study to show effects. Prayer doesn’t work that way. After all, God may simply disapprove of being tested, and refuse to cooperate.

    If you can devise an alternative scientific method to hypothesis that can handle supernatural causation – fine. But right now we don’t have one. Or, if you think we have, please describe it!

    Now perhaps you disagree with my definition of the supernatural. In which case, please give me yours. But if supernatural causation includes phenomena that seem to obey laws, what is supernatural about them?

    My point is that all you can do is fail to find a material explanation. In other words, “supernatural” is simply an interpretation of a null finding. It is not supported by evidence, but merely by lack of evidence. And absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    This follows logically from my previous premise, which I think I have justified. If you find a predictable result from a supernatural hypothesis, then why call it supernatural? And if you don’t find a predictable result, then you can’t conclude anything! And if you conclude that a phenomenon must be supernatural because there isn’t a natural explanation, then you are simply making an inference from lack of evidence, not actual evidence.

    So for science to deal with supernatural hypotheses, we would have to make a radical change to the methodology, not mrely abandon some alleged prior commitment.

    And this is why I say that the problem is not ideological but methodological. It is not that scientists refuse to entertain supernatural hypotheses, but that there is no way within current scientific methodology in which they can be cast.

    And so I submit you are incorrect. I have not demonstrated any “prior commitment”. I have simply demonstrated that the scientific method, being predictive, cannot handle supernatural phenomena.

    You ask: is science materialism?

    No. It isn’t an ism at all. It’s a method for acquiring knowledge. The domain of knowledge it delivers is material knowledge. That doesn’t make it materialism, any more than biology is lifeism or literature is wordism.

    However, as always, you say something interesting:

    I’ve always believed that “supernatural” is a bad word. Phenomena that is not materially detected is another bad one.

    OK.

    The whole issue of phenomena attributed to miracles is that it is materially detected. As such, there is a material component to miracles.

    Yes indeed. You don’t call something a miracle unless something material happens (I use “material” broadly – it could also be something energetic). Even if it is a vision, then we know it will leave neural traces in your brain – physical evidence of its effects.

    In other words, miracles are events in which the world is physically perturbed by a non-natural force – a force whose effects we can observe, but not predict, even statistically (unlike quantum effects, which we can predict statistically, even if not individually).

    Unfortunately, that’s not enough for scientific methodology to work with. We need both a dependent (which we have) and an independent (which we don’t have) variable, so that we can tell whether one correlates with the other. Or, as we say, whether one predicts the other.

    And that is why scientific methodology can’t handle miraculous causation. It only has one half of the data. And when we have a hole where data need to be, we have no justification for saying: therefore supernatural, because there is always an alternative: that a natural cause is indeed responsible, we just haven’t figured out how to detect it yet.

    Thus, while we may be limited in our ability to make sense of them, we are not completely in the dark.

    No. We can see enough to know there is something we can’t see. What we don’t know is whether that’s because there’s nothing there, or just because there isn’t enough light to see what is there.

  89. Well, no, the data are not very good. Some data show that “spiritual” people tend to be happier and healthier, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with belief in God.

    There’s also a causality confound: are people more contented because they have faith in God, or are do they have more faith in God because they are contented?

    But even if it were to be shown (and I do know the literature moderately well) that religious belief was associated with health and happiness (and IMO, it has not), it would be quite wrong to then infer that atheism is associated with ill-health and misery, unless you had directly compared people with a clear belief in God with people with a clear belief that there is no God, or none that need worry them. In other words, you’d have to make sure that the latent variable wasn’t “degree of uncertainty”, rather than “belief”.

    And, of course, you’d have to make sure you’d sampled the people who have “deconverted” from religion. Anecdotally at least, there are large numbers of people who have found contentment and happiness from giving up religion.

    Finally, as you say, even if you could establish that overall, belief in God was associated with greater happiness than no belief (and specified which God, if it matters), that would not establish that God existed, merely that belief that God does is good for you.

    Which may be true. But the evidence that I know of seems to suggest that what is good for you is the ability to lose the sense of self, from time to time, see the world in perspective, see yourself as a very small, but nonetheless valued, part of a huge and magnificent cosmos. Sometimes meditation does this, sometimes religious experience, sometimes simply looking at the night sky. Sometimes it goes by the name of “bliss” and it does seem to have neural correlates. It doesn’t seem to depend on belief in any God.

  90. Could you be explicit, kf? What is the serious thing on the table? It seems to involve me.

    As I’ve said, I do not mean to “do you an injustice”. We simply disagree about what Lewontin means about science.

    I think you have misinterpreted him; you think I have.

    Both of us are capable of being just, but that does not require us to agree with each other, merely to be open to the other’s view.

    Peace, anyway

    Lizzie

  91. Dr. Liddle,

    I am wary of Lewontin’s attitude because I think it will unnecessarily stiffle investigation.
    2 examples
    1. Apparently prayer HAS been studied. But would Lewontin even allow it, if he were in charge?
    2. Sheldrake and Dawkins had a debate and Dawkins (if I remember right) accused Sheldrake of being willing to believe in anything. Sheldrake countered (and rightly, I think) that Dawkins does not really believe in science, he believes in materialism. The difference being that a belief in science will lead you to test all hypotheses (like telepathy) but materialism will not allow you to bring the scientific method to bear on the subject. This attitude is troubling to me.

  92. Dr Liddle:

    Kindly examine the original post, and in particular the 14 points of concern.

    There is, in my considered opinion, far more at stake than a mere “definition” of science or what science can achieve. There are huge worldview and cultural agenda issues that are being begged and/or imposed, effectively by domination of key science and education institutions by an interested and demonstrably philosophically and historically ill-informed party.

    Given what other individuals, institutions and groups of influence and power have done on this matter, it is much bigger than Mr Lewontin’s idiosyncratic opinions, or for that matter your or my views.

    In my further considered opinion, that is why the more strident atheistical advocates are so eager to shut up discussion of what is being exposed here when Lewontin’s declarations are put on the table. Especially, when across the next decade the two key institutions, NAS and NSTA (with NCSE hovering in the background) said and did what happened in Kansas. Remember, the institutions threatened and in effect held hostage the students of Kansas, improperly, on a philosophically and historically ill-founded radical, materialistic redefinition of science that echoes the 14 points of concern.

    This matter is about as serious as this sort of thing can get.

    Maybe, we need a stronger word: dangerous.

    That’s why I cannot and will not let it go, and it is why I took up your attempt to dismiss my concern so seriously, in the original post above.

    This one, we need to resolve, once it has been taken up.

    GEM of TKI

  93. I don’t know if Lewontin would allow the study of prayer if he were in charge. My reading is yes.

    In any case, it is “allowed”, in the format in which the Harvard study was taken, i.e. using the standard scientific method. What is not “allowed” are departures from that method, which is why homeopathy has ended up with such a bad press.

    And, as people have pointed out, such methods aren’t actually appropriate for supernatural events. I’d argue that if you find effects by such methods, then you can’t really call them supernatural!

    But that raises the whole issue as to what people mean by “supernatural”.

    I do think Dawkins “believes” in science, and I also think he “believes” in materialism. I don’t thinke a belief in “Materialism” is required for a belief in “science”.

    But then I’m not entirely sure what “Materialism” is supposed to mean!

    I think it suffers from the exact same problem as the work “supernatural”. In fact it’s the inverse problem – how do we distinguish between the material/natural and the super-natural?

    Is there such a distinction? A “materialist” I guess would say not. So that places the onus on the non-materialist to explain what distinguishes the “material” from the “non-material”.

    In my view. At any rate, I think the claims of dualism need to be supported – why invoke two entities if one will do?

  94. Can you cite the redefinition of science that you think that Kansas established?

    And can you say what you think it ought to be?

  95. Kindly cf 6.3.1.1, under BANNED IN KANSAS.

  96. Dr Liddle, WILL one “do”? GEM of TKI

    PS: Remember, Lewontin is not just stating his personal view, he is giving the general view of the dominant elites. And, the behaviour of the US NAS etc backs that up.

  97. It seems to me that “stating his personal view” is exactly what he is doing. And I think he has a good point.

    Who are these “dominant elites” that you are worried about? And what are they doing that worries you?

    And what do Francis Crick’s views on whether the mind exists have to do with anything?

    BTW “emergence” is not a euphemism for anything. It’s a rather important concept, and not very complicated concept – it describes the properties of any entity whose propoeries are different from those of its parts.

    For example, the behaviour of an ant colony is different from the behaviour of the individual ants. That behaviour is an emergent property. The behaviour of a person is different from the behaviour of her cells. That property is an emergent property.

    Most importantly, the entity we describe as having the emergent property can reasonably said to exist. We do not say that an ant colony does not exist, all there are are ants. Nor should we IMO say the mind does not exist, just because it is the result the coordinated behaviour of billions of neurons.

    The point being that the decription of the parts of a system do not describe the system – in order to describe the system, we need to include the interactions between the parts. For any but the simplest system, this requires description at a much higher level of analysis, where the system itself is treated as an entity with its own properties.

    kf, if you have not already, please listen to this lecture by Denis Noble. It is extremely good, whether you agree with it or not. He is, interestingly, putting a powerful counter-view to that expressed by Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.

    I think you may like it.

    http://videolectures.net/eccs07_noble_psb/

    His book is also excellent, but the content is here in the video.

    I’ve been recommending this for a while now, here, but so far I’ve had no feedback! It is extremely relevant to the whole ID project.

  98. Dr Liddle:

    Pardon, but I cannot be impressed by the above comment, which does not come across as seriously responsive to very sobering concerns that have been put on the table.

    First, it is always trivially true that an opinion piece is one’s personal opinion, but in this case there are markers that clearly point to something far wider than that. So, kindly focus on the clip in the OP, the highlighted remark just in front of my comment no 5: “To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists . . . “ Observe as well, how often Mr Lewontin speaks of “we” etc.

    You will see from the fourteen points of specific concern, that the fundamental issues with Mr Sagan’s claims go far beyond one or two points where he may have a point, e.g. there are always irrational and superstitious people (including many atheists and materialists, as BA 77 reminds us above).

    No, Mr Lewontin, acting consciously for the scientific elites, has taken aim at ANYONE who believes in God, branding any such person as irretrievably irrational and a menace to scientific progress. Indeed, that comes out most explicitly in the Beck allusion at the end of the extended citation:

    The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. [13 --> a slightly more sophisticated form of Dawkins' ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, certainly, irrational. This is a declaration of war! Those who believe in God, never mind the record of history, never mind the contributions across the ages, are dismissed as utterly credulous and irrational, dangerous and chaotic] To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. [14 --> Perhaps the second saddest thing is that some actually believe that these last three sentences that express hostility to God and then back it up with a loaded strawman caricature of theism and theists JUSTIFY what has gone on before. As a first correction, accurate history -- as opposed to the commonly promoted rationalist myth of the longstanding war of religion against science -- documents (cf. here for a start) that the Judaeo-Christian worldview nurtured and gave crucial impetus to the rise of modern science through its view that God as creator made and sustains an orderly world. Similarly, for miracles -- e.g. the resurrection of Jesus -- to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, there must first be such an ordinary course, one plainly amenable to scientific study. The saddest thing is that many are now so blinded and hostile that, having been corrected, they will STILL think that this justifies the above. But, nothing can excuse the imposition of a priori materialist censorship on science, which distorts its ability to seek the empirically warranted truth about our world.]

    You will see that I included my specific points of concern. if the allusion to Beck is accurate, both Lewontin and Beck are guilty of a bigoted, sophomoric, broad-brush dismissive, superciliously bombastic dismissal of a great many people of the greatest scholarship, eminence, probity and contribution to science and science education. Are you SURE you wish to associate yourself with such sentiments and attitudes?

    In addition, you will see that in the source extended clip, from here on, I have taken time to make material excerpts from Mr Coyune, and from the Official publications of the US NAS and NSTA, to show that this pattern extends to key official bodies that act in authoritative or influential ways on science, popularisation of science, and science education policy.

    I have also linked the key case-intervention in Kansas where the NAS and NSTA, with the NCSE hovering in the background, intervened in a frankly menacing way that by direct implication held the children of that state hostage to the adoption of a radical redefinition of science for education purposes that lacks historical and philosophical warrant, and which imposes the restructuring of science and science education as indoctrination in materialism. (I notice, you have not come back on my remarks above on definitions of science in such contexts, and their import.)

    I am further astonished to see your dismissal of Sir Francis Crick as though that was the point, a mere matter of personal opinion.

    Sorry, the linked section in question from here on [and continuing into part d] is about the inherent self-referential incoherence of materialism as an account of mind, and it extends far beyond Crick, going back to Marx and Freud, and passing though Haldane — who I explicitly cited above; along the way to a broad assessment of the implications of the materialistic account of the origin, capabilities and driving dynamics of mind imagined to be a result of chance circumstances and forces of mechanical necessity acting through genetic and scoio-cultural conditioning. In addition, the linked section goes on to address the issue of the inherent amorality of such evolutionary materialism in section d.

    Dr Noble’s lecture, I have listened to the initial parts of, on the way to this reply.

    As someone coming from the angle of digital systems, comms systems and control systems, the systems concept is quite familiar. Systems take global properties from configurations of components, leading to overall functions based on interactions of wholes and parts, and NORMALLY exhibit complexity and irreducibility of cores in the overall wiring diagram, to use Wicken’s apt term. (Cf the diagrams of systems here in figs I.2 – 4 [go on to the linked chart of the biochem rxns of the living cell], and of gene regulatory networks here.

    Noble does not provide a way of escape from the requisites and implications of FSCO/I and IC systems. Those challenges to the blind chance and necessity view are fundamentally matters of the exponential explosion of possibilities as components are added to such systems to enable them to function.

    We are thus back at the basic challenge in the OP: you have said that I have fundamentally misunderstood, and I have laid out 14 points of concern that substantiate why I consider that the problem is just the opposite; we have understood Lewontin, speaking for the dominant elites, all too well.

    Unless you can show that as a whole, the concerns raised are wrong, prudence must tip the balance in favour of the concerns.

    And after a day and a half and more, with nearly 100 responses and over 1,000 views, it is clear that those who elsewhere so brazenly accuse us of out of context, misleading citation, have yet to seriously substantiate their claim.

    Indeed, so far as I can see, the two last sentences that are often left off in citations simply further underscore the points of concern in the sections most often cited. That is, the citations as usually seen are NOT misleading, utterly contrary to the unjust but now increasingly common talking point that falsely accuses people for giving a more concise citation that per the 14 points of concern is manifestly accurate to the substance of Mr Lewontin’s views and highlights what is of serious concern.

    And, if we were to open up and incorporate further remarks, the picture would be reinforced.

    [ . . . ]

  99. Let us take up just one further paragraph, in substantiation:

    Sagan’s argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. [a --> There is absolutely no actual finding of SCIENCE that grounds such; this is an a priori imposition of materialism, and one that then dons the holy lab coat to censor our other reasonable worldviews that should sit to the table of comparative difficultes as of right, not sufferance.] [b --> In addition, as the above linked on the self-referential incoherence and amorality of such materialism shows, this view is self-referentially incoherent and self-refuting, it CANNOT be true on pain of reduction to absurdity, as say Haldane knew in the 1930's.] . The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms [c --> An appalling contempt, and an astonshing ignorance of the reductio to absurdum just alluded to. That is, the project to "explain manifest reality in material terms" is LOGICALLY impossible, and yet if you point that bankruptcy out, you are apt to be dismissed or expelled.] , so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations [d --> Science is equated to materialism, which is philosophically false and historically unwarranted, turning science and science education into ill-founded ideological indoctrination enforced by arrogant abuse of power], we substitute demons. [e --> Mind-closing contempt] As one bit of evidence for the bad state of public consciousness, Sagan cites opinion polls showing that the majority of Americans believe that extraterrestrials have landed from UFOs. [f --> And, who is it that predominantly controls education and the media mikes and cams? Do the churches teach that UFO's have landed? Is it not patent that science fiction is a response to the rise of science as dominant scheme of thought, and that the driving factor is that it is believed that life must have evolved all over the cosmos so by a vulgar version of Copernican mediocrity, it is plausible to many that advanced, star-crossing civilisations are very likely to exist, per say the Drake Eqn? Why SETI, if that is not a common enough scientific view? Then, mix in post Vietnam era cynicism about govt and some interesting popular stories centering on Area 51 and Roswell etc, and voila, the mystery is vanished.] The demonic, for Sagan, includes, in addition to UFOs and their crews of little green men who take unwilling passengers for a midnight spin and some wild sex, astrological influences, extrasensory perception, prayers [g --> Do you not see the crude guilt by association tactic here?], spoon-bending, repressed memories, spiritualism, and channeling, as well as demons sensu strictu, devils, fairies, witches, spirits, Satan and his devotees, and, after some discreet backing and filling, the supposed prime mover Himself. [h --> Notice, the guilt by association tactic again. Kindly, take time to examine say here and come back to us on whether it is reasonable or not to hold a theistic worldview on the balance of evidence, as opposed to whether all will accept it. Explain why.] God gives Sagan a lot of trouble. It is easy enough for him to snort derisively at men from Mars, but when it comes to the Supreme Extraterrestrial he is rather circumspect, asking only that sermons “even-handedly examine the God hypothesis.” [i --> H'mm: do we see above for scientists and science educators, a requirement that in their lectures, books, movies [e.g. the PBS -- PUBLIC broadcasting, i.e taxpayer supported . . . ] and press releases they “even-handedly examine the God [evolutionary materialist] hypothesis”? What is it that predictably happens [happened in Kansas, Dover PA, Cobb County Georgia, Texas, Louisiana etc] whenever some group or individual is unwise enough to suggest a more even handed and philosophically balanced approach to teaching origins science? Isn’t sauce for the goose sauce for the gander too?]

    The point should be plain.

    GEM of TKI

  100. kf, would you be willing to listen to the lecture I linked to?

    I’d be very grateful.

  101. F/N: Further piece of Noble, the issue is not so much control system as the information embedded in its organisation and in some of its elements. To organise elements under a wiring diagram in effect answers a chain of Y/N questions in a particular structured sequence in a particular structured way. That is information, and it is complex and functionally specified — we run past 1,000 bits real fast as anyone who has used AutoCAD etc or a circuit wiring program can tell you. There is also direct digital info in DNA etc. Its not just chemistry it is organisation and implicit and explicit info. And BTW, the notion that a typical control loop would self assemble and tune itself is ludicrous.

  102. That question doesn’t make any sense. You seem to have constructed an undistributed middle:

    1. Intelligence requires matter
    2. X is matter
    3. Therefore X is intelligent.

    What I said was more like:

    1. All known instances of intelligence are material
    2. X is a known instance of intelligence
    3. Therefore X is material.

    I did not rule out the possibility of immaterial intelligence. I invite you to demonstrate an example. Show me that “1″ is wrong.

  103. Dr Liddle:

    I gave you already responses on early bits. This is significantly tangential to the main issue for the thread, which is momentous and pregnant with sobering issues, but for the sake of dialogue I will take time to go through.

    I note onwards step by step through:

    1 –> 6:56 Genes are databases, or better data structures, in which we find BOTH things like protein and RNA codes [RNAs do jobs too like in the ribosome] AND regulatory code. In both cases these are prescriptive information of algorithmic character.

    2 –> c. 9:00, exponential breakout of number of possibilities is obvious, and is a key aspect of the problem FSCO/I highlights.

    3 –> 11:37 the build is ZYGOTE onwards, not bottom up, kindly note p. 2 of the recent ID founds 8 post, insert on hox genes and the 48 hr core body plan assembly as a slice of the issue. 11:38, he mentions the — “complicated” — egg cell as start point. This of course echoes the issue of the original single celled life form.

    4 –> 14:33 DNA alone is inert-dead, i.e the organism is a whole, and in our case [and that of other animals with self-aware consciousness] a self. We must understand wholes and parts and how the two interact in an extremely complex system. Where also we know of just one source for such FSCO/I, when we empirically test against directly known cases, design. And in fact his reverse-Dawkins summary is empirically testable and states — rhetorical flourishes aside — the complementary whole point to the valid part of Dawkins’ focus on the gene as where key bioinfo is stored. 15:01, the diagram RH pane is useful to illustrate part-whole interactions. Don’t forget that integration of parts, modules and links to make a coherent whole is a major systems engineering — a whole discipline in engineering — challenge. 15:20 feed downs is a stand-in for the usual term: feed back paths in interactive loops.

    5 –> 18:40 — extended Barkhausen criterion, an oscillator is inherently an irreducible system with positive feedback that sets the frequency based on specific relationships. Interesting case in point, and he is right that looking for the whole in the part is a fundamental error, of reductionism. But then, irreducible complexity is precisely a design theory view. (And Barkhausen etc on oscillators — Noble is dealing with a relaxation oscillator, much as our explosive friend to the south of where I sit is a rather larger scale relaxation oscillator — is just one way how those of us with applied science/ engg exposure come to naturally accept it as real and as a key feature of designs.)

    6 –> 20:24 inheritance beyond the gene is now a part and parcel of current thought, and the idea of markers etc is of course, informational and regulatory. This also extends to elaboration of body plans and cell specialisation in different parts.

    7 –> 23:42 he explicitly brings in the feedback concept, across multiple levels. This is familiar to anyone who has had to design and build a microcontroller from bottom up.

    8 –> 25:12 Natural selection is of essentially populations and individuals in them, if it is meaningful.

    9 –> 26:50: “Genes are like linguistic metaphors: re-use, multiple use . . . ” This is better seen in the context of the library of components now common in programming, even in modern languages like Java. Library and re-use of course is typical of design.27:31 genome as a database again.

    10 –> c. 28:00 there are no genetic programs is going too far. Programs are CALLED by the system in response to exigencies of current circumstances. Cf. Action of the ribosome, where the mRNA acts precisely like a tape and the action of the hox genes that has just been elucidated. In both these cases we do see the classic sequence data and execution control structure in action.

    11 –> c. 29:30 he seems to miss that program code sits in data structures and is called and executed by a system in accordance with an IPO process logic and maybe a clock process in a typical information system. Wholes, parts, configs, organisation, interaction etc.

    12 –> 31:39 perturbations can trigger transitions of patterns, to trigger different modes, here arrhythmia. Likewise a different perturbation can trigger a restart of normal beating. Hence the defibrillator. Right now I am dealing with a wall clock that is prone to this problem.

    13 –> 33:27 he continues to deny the reality of programs.

    __________

    Rest of reality intrudes, so off I must go.

    GEM of TKI

    11 –>

  104. kf, “inference to the best explanation among known causal patterns, in light of tested, empirically reliable signs”

    is indeed premised on “explanatory gaps”. It’s right there in your definition: “known causal patterns”; “empirically reliable signs”.

    In other words, it is based on the idea that if you have ruled out a set of explanations, you can rule in some other explanation as long as you have found it to be “empirically reliable” in other contexts.

    It thus makes three errors:

    Firstly, it is based on an “explanatory gap” – the ruling out of a set of explanations for an event; second, it fills that gap with an explanation that has not been tested for that event type; and third, it seems to stop there, without any attempt to test the posited explanation empirically.

    So I will, I’m afraid, continue to repeat my claim that ID is premised on “explanatory gaps” because I don’t find your correction supported!

    Let’s take OOL: we have an explanatory gap i.e. we don’t yet have a good OOL model (though we have some promising ones).

    ID proposes to fill that gap with the explanation that an Intelligent Designer designed lifeforms, on the grounds that life forms resemble in complexity and functionality entities designed by Intelligent Human Designers.

    This is doubly fallacious because a) infers that only one explanation can fill the gap and b) supplies an explanation based only on “empirically reliable signs” of material biological designers, despite the fact that we know of no material designer around at the time (that would be an oxymoron) and that life forms have one hugely important characteristic that is not generally found in human artefacts, and which offers an alternative explanation, namely they reproduce with variance.

    To which, generally, ID proponents tend to respond: oh, but you can’t explain how the first self-replicators came about!

    True. But then we are back to the “explanatory gap” again.

    “Inference to the best explanation” is, IMO, kf, invalid. It is in any case premised on an “explanatory gap” and it commits the second fallacy of assuming that the gap leaves only one alternative, as well as the unjustified insertion of an alternative that has not been empirically tested for reliability under the conditions prevailing at the time of the event.

  105. 105

    BA77, in 1.1.1.2.2, I take serious issue with one of the statements from the http://www.godandscience.org page:

    Jesus told His followers not to pray repetitiously, since God would not hear those kinds of prayers

    The Lord told his followers not to use VAIN repetition. The Lord himself went back and “prayed the same thing” in the garden the night he was arrested. He repeated his prayer, so Jesus himself used repetition. But besides that, I’m not sure “repetition” would fall under the same category as “reading a script”, which is utterly laughable, anyway you slice it. I just wish the authors of the web page had put that a different way, that’s all. But it bothered me enough to address it, for what it’s worth.

  106. I’ve just re-read Lewontin’s whole review, for the first time for quite a while.

    I remain convinced, kf, that you are both misinterpreting it, and extrapolating from it to create something that is a needlessly terrifying straw man.

    I found the full text on line here:

    http://www.drjbloom.com/Public.....Review.htm

    And I will attempt to deal with your fourteen points this evening.

    Although I also have a very pretty clock that has unaccountably stopped, and will also try to coax it back into life this evening :)

    cheers

    Lizzie

  107. Do you, then, believe that matter and intelligence is one and the same thing?

    Just so I won’t be accused of evading the question, the answer is no.

    That isn’t what I said.

    What I said was I am not aware of any instance of a non-material intelligence. I think it was on another thread where I pointed out that in at least two places the bible says the body will be resurrected. Apparently the writers of the Bible also thought the body is necessary. It’s not anti-religious.

  108. Dr Liddle:

    Kindly examine inference to best explanation on the relevant empirical facts, again. Frankly, this is getting quite repetitious, and I begin to wonder why this seems so hard for many to see:

    1: Lawlike mechanical necessity does not produce high contingency so if you see that sign you are looking at chance and/or choice as the best explanation of the aspect of an object or process etc under investigation.

    2: If you do see a lawlike pattern holding under sufficiently similar initial conditions you infer to a mechanical force and try to quantify it, e.g. F = m*a etc.

    3: If the high contingency under similar initial conditions follows stochastic patterns similar to a tossed die or a tossed pair of die etc — flat and bell distributions at a starter level — then the logical explanation is chance driven statistical process. The example above is 500 coins in a string in no particular sequence [and most likely not far from a 50-50 distribution on H and T].

    4: If instead you see a result E that is highly implausible from such stochastic sampling of the field of possibilities W, but which fits into a separately and simply describable target zone T that is a zone of interest on function or the like, then it is reasonable to infer to choice as credible cause. E.g. the 500 coins are arranged in the ASCII code for a sentence in English.

    5: Such a distinction is subject of empirical tests, and it is a commonplace that such instances of FSCO/I are consistently the result of design where we directly know the causal story.

    6: So, the inference to design on empirical sign is not a matter of god of the gaps reasoning or the like but of empirically anchored inference to best explanation on well-tested empirical signs.

    This has been explained over and over by many people, and it follows routine methods of inquiry used in the sciences, statistics, forensics and many other fields, so I want to know why there is a roadblock to understanding it.

    And, since this is tangential to the main issue, i also want the fourteen points of concern addressed, step by step.

    You have stated, publicly that I have misread Lewontin et al. Kindly show how, if you can. if not, then kindly withdraw that serious public assertion that is frankly enabling to the denizens of the fever swamps.

    This makes TWO tangential issues this morning, when a central serious matter is on the table and when I have a crisis dealing with elsewhere.

    GEM of TKI

  109. kf, I will not withdraw what was an expression of my point of view! Unless of course I cease to hold it, in which case, of course I will.

    There is nothing in my alleged “assertion” that “enables” anything, let alone “denizens of the fever swamps”. I think you have misunderstood Lewontin, that is all. I don’t think he’s saying what you think he’s saying. I don’t know how to resolve this exactly – all we have are his words (I guess we could has him, but he must be over eighty now).

    If he is saying what I am saying then there is no need to worry. If he’s saying what you think he is saying, I don’t think there’s much need to worry either, because I don’t think what someone writes in the NYRB is terribly earth-shattering, but, whether it is or not, the fact that I have interpreted him as saying something more benign isn’t going to “enable” the denizen of any swamp!

    But yes, I will try to tackle your 14 points. I don’t see the urgency – but I will do my best.

    cheers

    Lizzie

  110. 110

    Pav, Petrushka,

    Why does the question of immaterial intelligence even arise? The Bible describes God as a spirit. It’s evidently a form that’s unknown to us and isn’t described in scientific terms. That should be a non-issue. People are constantly talking about particles and matter that they can’t precisely define. It’s just an unknown. There’s no point in labeling it “material” or “immaterial.”

    And Petrushka is dead on right about what the Bible says about the body. No one before Jesus thought of themselves as separate from the body (except for those outside of Judaism.) Later the possibility was opened for a physical person to die and be resurrected as a spirit (whatever that may be.) This did not indicate that the person was in any way immaterial up until that point. As Petrushka says, the body is necessary. This is because the body is the person.

  111. Dr Liddle:

    If a point of view is accusatory directly or by direct implication, and it is unwarranted — as seems increasingly likely to be so, it SHOULD be withdrawn.

    GEM of TKI

  112. F/N: I had actually came by to clarify a point that should be clear from the diagram I have used to illustrate the explanatory filter, and various discussions. Namely, that the explanations are done per aspect of an object, phenomenon or process. The overall causal story as reconstructed, is based on accumulating the explanations across aspects. For instance, some of the orbital data of a planet as observed is chance based experimental error, some is systematic error. Some is accurate to the orbit. That orbit is in turn partly interaction with the Sun. Part is interaction with other planets, the moons that the planet may have and so forth. Look up the story of perturbations to see what I am driving at. Let’s note that Newton, 100 years too early for the math required, said that trying to work out the Moon’s orbit in details, “giveth me a headache.” GEM of TKI

  113. It was not intended as accusatory, kf, and I willingly withdraw any implication (unintended) that it was.

    I simply think you have misinterpreted Lewontin’s piece. By which I mean, I think he means something different than what you have taken from it.

    I still think that! But it is not an “accusation”. I think you are wrong on many things – as presumably you do with me! But neither of us are “accusing” the other of being wrong. I don’t think. We are disagreeing. Not the same thing!

  114. M. Holcumbrink,

    Maybe there’s some truth in this song???

    Amy Grant – Better Than A Hallelujah (Sometimes)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm5kx3xqmg0

  115. 115

    I have no problem with what Lewontin said if he’s applying it to demons. Whether one believes in them or not, science can’t really account for their activity. (Although on a side note, it does no good to push lousy explanations just because they are “material.” Sometimes “unknown” is the best answer.)

    What is the connection between this commonly referenced quote and ID? What is the connection between ID and ‘immaterial’ or ‘divine?’

    This might be a really dumb question. Sometimes I don’t see the big picture. But why not just negate the debate over philosophical materialism by maintaining that it is not incompatible with ID? It’s already established that ID does not posit miracles. Why fight an unnecessary battle on another front?

  116. I haven’t commented here in quite awhile and only by chance saw this thread. Nor have I read all the comments here but will keep it for reading later. But I have one thing to be considered if it has not been addressed.

    A typical science study has four parts, 1. An introduction or discussion of the problem and what has been done to date, the various issues and a definition of the problem to be studied. 2. A discussion and justification of methodology and materials to address the problem in question. 3. The research results. And 4 the conclusions based on these results and past studies. Or what do we now know.

    It is the 4th part that is at the heart of this discussion. Just what can we conclude from the results and past studies. It is here that Lewontin goes astray. He arbitrarily limits the conclusions from a study. This is not good logic, good philosophy and in reality is not good science.

    In the past I have maintained that an ID proponent could do any study in the history of science and have no problems with doing it from a scientific viewpoint. They could be evolutionary biologists and do anything Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne would do or approve. Where they differ from people such as Dawkins or Coyne or pick your favorite scientist, is in what they conclude from the data. It is in the conclusions that the ID proponent would differ from the typical scientist by considering a bigger set of possible answers that would include all that Dawkins or Coyne might consider. There is no answer in the scientists tool chest that is out of bounds for the ID proponent except that the solutions are limited which is what Lewontin, Dawkins, Coyne etc subscribe to.

    And one of these conclusions IS that we do not have an answer as to why something happened. The ID proponent would say we must not be forced to constrict our conclusions to a limited subset of potential answers. What I have seen is that the materialist scientist forces a limited sub set of choices arbitrarily not because it is logical but for ideological reasons. That is not good philosophy let alone good science.

  117. Detection of design can be an entirely materialist process with materialist outputs (if one wants to consider intelligence as material). One can observe the presence of intelligence at work in a beaver-dam (animal intelligence) without invoking a Divine Foot directly.

    For me the most interesting part of that infamous quote is this:

    Rather, the problem is to get them to … accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth.

    That’s obviously self-refuting.

    I also think his use of the term “uninitiated” is interesting also.

  118. 118

    Yes, I am quite certain that there is much truth in that song.

  119. Physics has become weird enough that there is no reason to invent an artificial dividing line between material and spiritual.

    I would simply say that there are phenomena for which there is reliable evidence, and phenomena which are asserted to exist, but which cannot be verified or replicated.

  120. 120

    Yes, the problem with most materialists (Lewontin obviously included) is that they are not materialist enough – or are selectively materialistic.

    When something is not IN the material, then it simply not IN the material. Like the onset of formalism through rules (like within genetic information).

    Be a materialists, admit its not in the matter.

  121. Sometimes “unknown” is the best answer

    Absolutely agree. I often agree with you, Scott – I hope that doesn’t worry you :)

  122. “Unknown” is a common answer, but the trick is to find questions that can be answered or researched.

    Asking researchable questions is what separates scientists from non-scientists.

  123. True. We spend millions of dollars researching suspected miracles, as long as they are the approved miracles.

    A designer poofs life into existence – bad miracle. Remove the designer, good miracle. The central question is the same in each case – how? In yet another typical case of circular reasoning, scientists can only study scientific questions, and scientific questions are whatever scientists study.

    The miracle of abiogenesis remains a valid subject of science as long as people keep mixing chemicals together and claiming to study it. This is the blind, circular reasoning that enables them to deny that at best the possible design of life is all they are researching.

  124. This reminds me of when my condo association gave me grief about the windows I installed, because they didn’t match some code. (It was written to the effect that everyone’s windows had to look like everyone else’s windows.)

    They lost for two reasons. One, they were enforcing the rule selectively. Two, the rule was too vague to be meaningful.

    That’s the case here. People just make up what is or isn’t supernatural or miraculous, usually by a strawman argument. Ie, ID = creationism = creation = miracle = God = supernatural.

  125. Dr Liddle:

    Just saw this one:

    if you want to change scientific methodology, then there needs to be a specific proposal.

    That’s a real switcheroo!

    Historically — whatever the likes of Ms Forrest and judge Copycat Jones may pretend — Science has never been based on a priori imposition of materialism.

    So, the pretence that this is the established position to only be overthrown by appeal tot he Magisterium in the Holy Lab coats that just made up the rule a few years back to impose their ideology, would be ludicrous — if it did not have such nasty consequences for real people.

    Sorry, if you want to take over and decree that by fiat, then we have a perfect right to set up something else, SIENZE, that does not impose such a priori question-begging. And then challenge you that you have no right to monopolise funding — especially taxpayer funding, or education — especially in taxpayer-funded schools.

    (Of course, I am echoing Plantinga’s rebuttal on this point.)

    The point is, that the real issue is what empirical investigatory methods are cogent and well warranted, not whether prestigious labels belong or do not belong.

    And, the subject for that is Philosophy, in particular Epistemology. A subject in which most of today’s scientists do not know enough to fight their way out of a wet paper bag about. As, I pointed out in my concerns 1 – 10 in the OP, especially 4 – 6.

    Please, think again.

    GEM of TKI

  126. Asking researchable questions is what separates scientists from non-scientists.

    Would it be possible to do some research to determine whether your conclusion is true or not?

  127. So Pseudoscience is really just a derogatory label for legitimate science conducted outside the arbitrary limits of a prejudicial, illogical, and ideologically-driven system?

  128. “So Pseudoscience is really just a derogatory label for legitimate science conducted outside the arbitrary limits of a prejudicial, illogical, and ideologically-driven system?”

    No. Did anyone imply that?

  129. Elizabeth,

    You make some good points regarding how science deals with regularity, and miracles lie outside of anything we could call regular; but I think this is an important point that shows that they are indeed miracles if they fall outside our predictive ability.

    My contention is not with that understanding, but with the materialist notion that science only deals with what we call “natural phenomena.” We really can’t make that determination by science. Again, it stems not from the science itself but from the prior assumptions of the scientist.

    What is inexplicable through natural explanation is not necessarily a miracle, but we can’t know that for certain. We don’t jump to the conclusion that since we now cannot explain it, we will explain it eventually. We hope to explain it, but that hope is not maintained by anything we already know. We don’t automatically jump to a conclusion of the miraculous, but neither do we jump to a conclusion that we will eventually know. We simply have to say that we don’t know, and leave it at that.

    But there are indeed certain phenomena that we rightly attribute to miracles. I think the most obvious one is existence itself. I think unless you are prepared to say that you understand perfectly well by natural explanations why and how we exist, existence is rightly placed in the domain that is outside our ability to know by natural explanation.

    I see that Barry has started another post on miracles and science. Maybe we should continue this discussion there.

  130. Onlookers:

    Notice, first, the trotting out of a turnabout false accusation as the newest talking point: “pseudoscience.”

    (NB: If you want the technical response right off, go here, here and here on the problem of demarcation arguments in phil and history of science. Boiling down: the issue is to warrant empirically based knowledge claims in light of abductive inference to best explanation, not to attach prestigious labels then add a derogatory prefix to what cuts across your materialistic ideological agenda a la Lewontin, Sagan etc. And — cf. discussion here — an expression like Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold as a criterion of CSI/FSCI that defines a given aspect of an object, phenomenon or process as credibly designed on reliable sign is eminently subject to empirical test and potential refutation. The problem for those who want to push science into a Lewontin- Sagan- Coyne- NAS- NSTA-NCSE- Jones of Dover evolutionary materialist straightjacket, is that it PASSES the tests consistently, and points to cell based life as not merely designoid but designed on an empirically reliable sign, per the FSCI in DNA, proteins etc. )

    Then, observe, again the 14 points of concern in the Original Post.

    Notice how especially the first 10 are focussed on epistemological issues — issues with fallacies and other problems that lead to a serious breakdown of warrant for knowledge claims, fallacies presented in the name of science. (Note too how since Sunday, there has been very little actual addressing of its points on the merits by the objectors who have been saying that we have misrepresented or misunderstood Lewontin et al.)

    In short, the Lewontinian a priori evolutionary materialism that seems to be dominant among scientific elites is credibly replete with errors of warranting knowledge claims, and if anything would deserve the label “pseudoscientific,” here meaning: flying the false colours of science while in fact presenting materialist ideology and indoctrination as unquestionably true and the sole credible source of contact with “reality.”

    In that context — linking notoriously ideologically materialist Wiki as source — RH 7 asks/accuses:

    So Pseudoscience is really just a derogatory label for legitimate science conducted outside the arbitrary limits of a prejudicial, illogical, and ideologically-driven system?

    In steps of thought:

    1 –> Let’s start with Wiki’s lead:

    Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.[1] Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories . . . .

    The demarcation problem between science and pseudoscience has ethical political implications as well as philosophical and scientific issues.[6] Differentiating science from pseudoscience has practical implications in the case of health care, expert testimony, environmental policies, and science education.[7] Distinguishing scientific facts and theories from pseudoscientific beliefs such as those found in astrology, medical quackery, and occult beliefs combined with scientific concepts, is part of science education and scientific literacy.[8]

    The term pseudoscience is often considered inherently pejorative, because it suggests that something is being inaccurately or even deceptively portrayed as science.[9] Accordingly, those labeled as practicing or advocating pseudoscience normally dispute the characterization.[9]

    2 –> They need the faint praise of being commended for at least mentioning the demarcation problem. Unfortunately the onward link’s lead [what is most likely to be read on a quick skim] is very weak in explaining that the demarcation problem has proved so intractable that the area has been red flagged in phil of sci.

    3 –> From the above, you would not understand clearly that the real epistemological — phil level definition and warrant of knowledge — problem is not whether to attach prestigious labels like “science,” or derogatory ones like “pseudoscience,” but instead to provide good criteria for warranting, however provisionally, empirically based knowledge claims. Laudan (1983) is wise, as Wiki eventually gets around to acknowledging deep in its demarcation article:

    Larry Laudan concluded, after examining various historical attempts to establish a demarcation criterion, that “philosophy has failed to deliver the goods” in its attempts to distinguish science from non-science, to distinguish science from pseudoscience. None of the past attempts would be accepted by a majority of philosophers nor, in his view, should they be accepted by them or by anyone else. He noted that many well-founded beliefs are not scientific and, conversely, many scientific conjectures are not well-founded. He also found that demarcation criteria were historically used as “machines de guerre” in polemical disputes between “scientists” and “pseudo-scientists.” [--> As in, the label "scientific neither tells you something is sound, nor that all things that are not scientific must be therefore suspect. The decisive issue, then, is warrant, and warrant is a matter of epistemology -- a branch of philosophy (or, frankly, most times simple common good sense), not science. Cf discussion here by Craig.] Advancing a number of examples from everyday practice of football and carpentry and non-scientific scholarship such as literary criticism and philosophy, he saw the question of whether a belief is well-founded or not to be more practically and philosophically significant than whether it is scientific or not. In his judgment, the demarcation between science and non-science was a pseudo-problem that would best be replaced by focusing on the distinction between reliable and unreliable knowledge, without bothering to ask whether that knowledge is scientific or not. He would consign hollow phrases like “pseudo-science” or “unscientific” to the rhetoric of politicians or sociologists.[11: Laudan, Larry (1983), "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem", in Cohen, R.S.; Laudan, L., Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 76, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 111–127, ISBN 90-277-1533-5]

    4 –> And, with reference to the original post and the 14 points of concern, imposing a materialistic question-begging redefinition of science, similarly redefining science as that which delivers truth [and claiming that it is the ONLY thing that does so], locking out correction on seeing absurd consequences and the like precisely do not provide a good context of warrant. (Remember, Lewontin — as the onward clips substantiate per NAS, NSTA etc] is not just speaking his particular views, but is here summarising a dominant view among the elites of science: To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists.)

    [ . . . ]

  131. 5 –> In that context of undue and improper ideological captivity of science to a priori materialism — often smuggled in the backdoor by redefining science and its methods, e.g. the 2001 redefinition imposed in Kansas: “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations of the world around us.” — it is indeed the case that legitimate science that does not toe the materialist partyline may be suppressed by politically correct censorship and career busting tactics. As, notoriously, is going on as we speak.

    6 –> In the context of what has been going on natural [naturalistic] explanations” really means a priori evolutionary materialism, turning science into in effect “the best naturalistic explanation of the cosmos from hydrogen to humans.”

    7 –> But, science redefined as materialistic myth-making, is science taken captive to ideology and worldview level question-begging, not an open-minded, objective, empirically anchored search for the truth about our world based on observation, hypothesis, analysis and prediction leading to empirical testing and acceptance on a provisional basis of that which proves empirically reliable.

    8 –> Some would dismiss the search for truth about our world as a legitimate aim of science. The problem with that is that if science stops prizing truth — however hard it may be to actually catch that “flighty bird” — it cuts out the heart of scientific integrity and the basis for the public’s trust in findings and institutions of science and science education. Which, long-term, is a fatal error.

    [And truth, BTW, here means that which says of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not, as Aristotle so memorably put it in Metaphysics 1011b. A fact in this context is a claim that per empirical evidence, experience and/or reliable report of experience is warranted to be so beyond reasonable doubt. (The now common attempt to reclassify certain scientific explanations of traces from the remote past of origins as "facts" on the level of that a dropped heavy object near the earth's surface falls at 9.8 N/kg, is highly tendentious. The actual deep past is of course not just unobserved but unobservable; by contrast a falling ball-bearing is eminently observable in the present. Explanations are relative to facts and may be better or worse on criteria of factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance/power, but they are not facts.)]

    9 –> I here offer the expanded, somewhat adjusted traditional school level definition of science that is in the IOSE as a way to return to a saner view of science (especially origins science) in light of its potential, strengths and limitations:

    Part of the reason for the complexity of Origins Science studies lies in how it sits at the intersection of several distinct disciplines: science, forensics, historiography, education, philosophy, theology, and maybe more. That means that if one carries out a research or field investigation project, particular attention needs to be paid to methodology and related grounding/ warranting of knowledge [[epistemology] issues.

    So, let us give a working definition of science as it should be (recognising that we will often fall short):

    science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:

    a: collecting, recording, indexing, collating and reporting accurate, reliable (and where feasible, repeatable) empirical — real-world, on the ground — observations and measurements,

    b: inference to best current — thus, always provisional — abductive explanation of the observed facts,

    c: thus producing hypotheses, laws, theories and models, using logical-mathematical analysis, intuition and creative, rational imagination [[including Einstein's favourite gedankenexperiment, i.e thought experiments],

    d: continual empirical testing through further experiments, observations and measurement; and,

    e: uncensored but mutually respectful discussion on the merits of fact, alternative assumptions and logic among the informed. (And, especially in wide-ranging areas that cut across traditional dividing lines between fields of study, or on controversial subjects, “the informed” is not to be confused with the eminent members of the guild of scholars and their publicists or popularisers who dominate a particular field at any given time.)

    As a result, science enables us to ever more effectively (albeit provisionally) describe, explain, understand, predict and influence or control objects, phenomena and processes in our world.

    In addition, origins questions are freighted with major consequences for our worldviews, and are focused on matters that are inherently beyond our direct observation.

    So, since we simply were not here to see the deep past, we are compelled to reconstruct it on more or less plausible models driven by inference to best explanation. This means that our results and findings are even more provisional than are those of operational science, where we can directly cross check models against observation. That further means that origins science findings are inherently more prone to controversy and debate than more conventional theories in science.

    10 –> One last thing. One of the nastier aspects of RH7′s dismissal is the guilt by improper and invidious association trick of pushing design theory into the same boat as say astrology, or the more weird UFO cults.

    11 –> This is also the underlying tactic in the “ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo” talking point. Those who use it or the like here at UD — especially after having been pointed to the UD Weak Argument Correctives (as was just done — again) and/or the NWE Enc’s excellent discussion of Intelligent Design — thereby show themselves to be engaging in willfully continued misrepresentation and so for cause remove themselves from the pale of civil discussion.

    GEM of TKI

  132. Yes. It is vital. Every time you find support for a hypothesis, you need to consider alternative hypotheses that could also account for your observations, and test them head-to-head.

    This happens all the time.

  133. kf: I spent a couple of hours last night on a response to your 14 points, but did not complete my post. I will try to post it this evening.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  134. Thank you, I will wait.

  135. Onlookers:

    On passing back, I should add that there is here just above a consistent insistence on the rhetorically convenient dichotomising “natural vs supernatural.”

    This, I must red flag.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out in and around UD, where design theory is concerned, ever since Plato in The Laws, Bk X, the proper contrast for investigations is the natural [i.e. that which traces to blind, stochastic chance and mechanical necessity] vs the ART-ificial, both of which leave reliable and testable empirical traces. (Cf here on in the UD weak argument correctives, here on at IOSE and here on below.)

    Beyond a certain point, when a misrepresentation is insisted on in the teeth of well-warranted correction, it becomes a willfully continued misrepresentation.

    This projection that ID purports to study the supernatural and intends to inject the study of the supernatural into science, is fast approaching that threshold.

    So, kindly, stop it.

    Now.

    Design theory is about the study of empirical signs of ART as may be observed in our common world.

    The NWE summary is apt:

    Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

    Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

    ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an “argument from ignorance”; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans).

    ID [--> in the relevant aspect] may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution).

    If you wish to discuss and even object to design theory, a reasonable minimal requirement, is that you stop willfully distorting it.

    GEM of TKI

  136. F/N: having noted that on the underlying issue, it is entirely possible that acts of supernatural intelligent agents may leave traces in our world that may be studied using scientific methods.

    E.g. is is entirely possible that our cosmos is the work of an extracosmic intelligence of awesome power, skill and knowledge, who would almost by literal definition be super-natural, but cosmological design theorists do not focus on whodunit but instead on signs and explanations of said signs that point out that tweredun, i.e. that the cosmos is credibly a result of intelligence.

    The scientific work would be on the inference that an act of intelligent agency has occurred.

    (By contrast ever since Thaxton et al in the very first technical design theory work, TMLO, design theorists have pointed out that evidence pointing to the design of cell based life on earth, does not in itself require onward inference to designers within or beyond the cosmos. Venter et al have shown that a molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond where we now are, could do it.)

    The whodunit, why etc. questions to be settled on motive- means- opportunity, record, context etc we can leave to philosophical, forensic, archaeological and historical investigations; which are perfectly valid in their own right, cf. a case in point here on. Of course, in that process, scientific investigations may indeed play a part, e.g. as they do in the world of studies of the mysterious and just possibly supernaturally affected artifact [I here reflect my own conclusion on the balance of the evidence on dating, i.e the Medieval C-14 date seems to be less than conclusive], the Shroud of Turin.

    (Maybe I should be more explicit: the SoT is a possibly supernaturally affected object and is subject to and has in fact undergone extensive scientific investigation. So the notion that science could not study and draw relevant conclusions on the potentially or even possibly actually supernatural is falsified directly by a well-known material counterexample. And plainly, if the questionable C-14 date is subsequently confirmed as accurate by studies on less questionable bits of cloth, that would be a point of potential falsification, exploding yet another talking point.)

  137. F/N 2: Ironically, this is a case where confirmation on reliable signs of a designed object would DISCONFIRM the supernatural provenance of the aspect of the shroud that is of interest. Namely, the strange, negative image that appears to be a superficial scorch from a short burst of some sort of radiation.

    If we can find good signs that it is a painting of some sort, that would confirm design and thus fraud.

    Similarly, if it can be seen from a credible patch of its cloth that the body of the cloth is medieval, that would be disconfirmatory from another direction.

    At any rate what this plainly shows is that inference to design is NOT logically equivalent to inference to the supernatural, and it shows that it is in fact inference to art.

  138. kairosfocus,

    I always marvel at how often the anti ID people will not address the substance of the discussion but instead bring in irrelevant ideas, equivocations or distortions. I haven’t paid much attention to the discussions here in the last two years but see nothing has changed. A frequent tactic is to try to win by a “clever put down.” This is the strategy in so many debates on the internet especially in political discussion but has always been a staple of the ID discussions. Substance is not the method of choice to win an argument but rather ridicule or disdain.

    I made a claim that ID subsumes all of regular science but adds a new dimension in interpretation and the response is to ridicule. It is one I have made frequently in the past. If there was a substantive argument against it, why do they not bring it up.

  139. Jerry:

    You are fundamentally right, the design approach — the original approach to modern science — in refined modern form allows us to explicitly address the full framework of causal factors on a case by case, aspect by aspect basis.

    The design restoration — that’s a better term than revolution — allows us to focus on the issue of empirical signs and patterns, across causes and factors that trace to mechanical forces, chance circumstances and choice. I cannot speak for others, but the per aspect cumulative explanation on traced factors approach gives me a more coherent, comprehensive view of phenomena and objects. Indeed, it fills in a hole in the understanding of scientific methods that was always niggling at the back of my mind, so that I can see how one can be truly scientific in say a forensic or archaeological context.

    But you are right the name of the game is too often nasty rhetoric, and the trifecta pattern is the standard tactic: red herring distractions, led away to set up strawman posed in the fever swamps and duly soaked in ad hominems, then set alight. That distracts, poisons, intoxicates, polarsises and clouds the air, which then spreads out from the fever swamps to the culture at large.

    It has been going on a lot online, but it is now all over the place as the culture of civility disintegrates.

    It is as though those who are doing it revel in chaos and spewing venom, not caring on the damage they do.

    I guess, until they trouble the wrong party who will come for them, claws out and not verbally. Especially when they threaten innocents who such have a duty to protect.

    (Let’s just say that those who recently tried to hold my wife and children hostage by playing outing games crossed a nuke tripwire. In case they have forgotten, UK law is quite stringent on making threats, and religious hostility is an aggravating factor in what you Americans call the penalty phase.)

    Bydand . . .

    GEM of TKI

  140. BTW, the ridicule response is diagnostic about the source of the infection: Alinsky. Unsurprisingly, a darling of the fashionable leftish radicals.

  141. You misunderstood my comment.

    Do you believe there is such a thing as Psuedoscience? If so, then there must be a meaningful difference between Science and Psuedosceince, yes? So what I objected to was this characterization, which seems to dismiss the necessity for the scientific methodology:

    The ID proponent would say we must not be forced to constrict our conclusions to a limited subset of potential answers. What I have seen is that the materialist scientist forces a limited sub set of choices arbitrarily not because it is logical but for ideological reasons. That is not good philosophy let alone good science.

    By the way its been framed, the Scientific method is capricious line in the sand. If so, then I would like to know how it could be changed so that it is more agreeable to ID without letting Psudeoscience in through the backdoor.

  142. RH7:

    Sorry, it’s not so easy to brush this aside. For, your comment above, in context, speaks — all too plainly, for itself:

    So Pseudoscience is really just a derogatory label for legitimate science conducted outside the arbitrary limits of a prejudicial, illogical, and ideologically-driven system?

    The obvious intent and subtext — in the context of Lewontin’s article and exchanges above — is to tag design theory with the opprobrium that attaches to astrology, palmistry or UFO cults.

    That is why I responded to it.

    And, it is evident that you have paid little attention to the utter discredit of the demarcation issue and the responsible view put forward nearly 30 years ago by Laudan et al in closing the books on the demarcation pseudoproblem.

    The real issue is warrant, not rhetorically loaded labels such as “pseudoscience.” And, warrant is an epistemological issue.

    The answer to any legitimate concern about loosening standards of warrant is in the above: science is a general label for fields of study that investigate our experienced and observed world. So, accepting the limits on empirical warrant by inference to best explanation — the underlying epistemological approach — we seek provisional warrant for empirically reliable results.

    Which, automatically shuts out ideas that lack empirical warrant, and cuts off the a priori materialist intellectual gerrymandering and censorship exposed in the original post.

    Which is the serious problem.

    (BTW, it would help you to note that there is no THE scientific method that all and only scientists in good standing apply. There are only responsible methods of empirical investigation that are used in the various empirically focussed fields, some called sciences, some not. The schools “method” in particular is not confined to the conventional list of all sciences, nor are all sciences even able to do experiments or make direct observations of the focal subjects. Astronomy is an observational science, and sciences of origins cannot observe the remote actual past. [Wiki is particularly poor on this sort of topic, because of its deeply institutionalised materialist bias and typical want of philosophical balance.])

    End of distraction.

    Now, please address the 14 points of concern on Lewontin et al and their views that based on not only testimony but acts of institutions like NAS and NSTA, are institutionally dominant.

    GEM of TKI

  143. I’m not brushing it aside. You, however, seem to brush aside that my comment was directed to Jerry and his description of the scientific method. That’s why you find my comment appended to his and not to the article itself.

    And I honestly don’t see how your vague description of an alternative is any better. Note that ID does not claim that design is supernatural or that a material cause (for life on Earth) is impossible. The theory lacks the ability to make such a determination. Furthermore, ID uses the same scientific method as did Charles Darwin (Stephen Meyer has made this point on more than one occasion). But Jerry, and I suppose you as well, seem to think the scientific method is substantially lacking.

    Now think about the limits of ID. It can not tell us what or who is behind the design, nor how said design was implemented. This is not a problem created by a cadre of hostile scientists bent on protecting a Darwinist ideology, but upon ID theorists themselves who, voluntarily, constrain their work to the Scientific Method.

  144. RH7:

    You made a very clearly barbed dismissive remark, which I corrected.

    Beyond that, you seem to miss that the ability to detect design on tested, reliable signs, is sufficient to effect a restoration in science, given the problems addressed in the OP. Which is highly significant.

    As to issues over detecting design methods, the how tweredun issue is at best tangential to reliably detecting that tweredun in the material context. And, it serves rhetorically as a handy strawman to pummel.

    More could be said but already all of this is on a tangent to the primary issue.

    If you are really interested in the pseudoscience issue, there is sufficient above to focus the epistemological matter for sound work. It is now 30 years since the issue was laid to rest. Science vs pseudoscience is a pseudoproblem, and the demarcation approach is dead. The proper focal issue is warrant of empirically grounded claims, and warrant on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power is sufficient to address that which is loose [astrology etc] and that which is censorship [evolutionary materialism]. And, the schools level scientific method we all learned is over simplified.

    And if you seriously wanted specific steps of thought on inference to best explanation in an empirical context, the already linked pages provide that. (Suggestion: start here, work through here. Do, tell me now whether the actual case at the core of the sci rev traced from 300 BC to 1700 AD — and complete with Newton’s own remarks on methods — is “vague” etc. for you. Is Peirce on abduction too “vague” also? And, did you read this and the onward linked on design inference as scientific methods?)

    GEM of TKI

  145. Now think about the limits of ID. It can not tell us what or who is behind the design, nor how said design was implemented. This is not a problem created by a cadre of hostile scientists bent on protecting a Darwinist ideology, but upon ID theorists themselves who, voluntarily, constrain their work to the Scientific Method.

    Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

    Regardless of your answer, ID theorists have already made their answer known. They chose to abide by the scientific method, hence ID theory has practical limits upon what it can discern – that is, conclusions are deliberately limited to a subset of potential answers for “ideological” reasons.

    Jerry was being very sloppy is his phrasing, so much so that he invited psuedoscience to the table. I strongly objected because it is scientific method – employed by Behe, Dembski, Meyer, et. al. – that allows ID theory to be a proper field of study.

  146. RH7:

    Pardon, but at this point, you are just repetitively spewing tangential talking points as you were doubtless taught — after all, in school we all learned about THE Scientific Method and were warned against Pseudoscience, and were told of the long war of Religion against Science — complete with gross misrepresentations of what happened with Columbus and Galileo.

    Also — pardon directness, but it seems something has to be directly said to focus attention — you are still trying to play at prosecuting attorney using demonstrably outdated and faulty ideas, pushing Design Theory in the dock instead of getting your own ducks in a row first.

    Meanwhile, as the OP and even the double post you are commenting into the middle of document beyond reasonable doubt, the real problem is that origins science has been taken ideological captive to a priori materialism and is twisting sound empirical investigatory methods into pretzels of censorship as a result, undermining the credibility of what it presents as “science.”

    Wake up, please!

    For instance, you are still talking as though there is a THE Scientific Method.

    There simply is not.

    There are only empirical investigative methods, that are commonly used by scientists and others, and are adapted to the circumstances of a particular subject. Methods —

    as in, what do ““If Tom is a cat then Tom is an animal” does not entail “Tom is an animal, so he must be a cat”” and the fallacy in F/n 3, “affirming the consequent” mean and why are these directly relevant to the limitations of scientific inference? [Link, yet again, please read and respond] –

    . . . that are not capable of guaranteed delivery of the ultimate truth, but can only guide us in seeking the empirically reliable and possibly true.

    In the case of the particular problem being pursued by design theory, you need to respect the issue on the table: can we credibly, reliably know the source-cause of certain phenomena reflecting things like specified complexity or irreducible complexity and Wicken wiring-diagram complex, specific functional organisation, from the patterns in front of us, where we do not directly know the causal story and/or agents that may have been involved?

    The well-founded answer is that we can investigate this and draw reasonable best current explanation conclusions, by extending scientific investigatory methods used to look at and reconstruct or model the past. Namely, inference to best explanation driven by empirical facts of traces and consequences of the past of origins accessible in the present; which also looks at the tested, reliable signs of forces acting in the present that are known to be capable of leaving essentially similar traces.

    For the moment, such investigations may not tell us whodunit, or howdeydunit.

    Just as, investigations into say Stonehenge have not to date told us specifically whodunit, or howdeydunit. (The rafting theory has failed, and the overland transport theory seems incredible. Maybe they built bigger more seaworthy boats than we now imagine 2500 or 3500 or whatever BC.)

    Do we let what we don’t know about Stonehenge block us from what we can learn using reasonable methods?

    Why then, do you — and so many others — want to use what current methods of investigating causal factors cannot tell us, to block us from considering what the methods we have and have confirmed as reasonably reliable, can and do tell us?

    Apart from, these methods are pointing to conclusions that the materialists who dominate science, education, media and policy institutions are uncomfortable with or have the sort of agendas against that the original post exposes through the 14 points of concern?

    What an investigation cannot tell us for the moment should not ever be allowed to distract us from what it can and does tell us, on reliable sign and in light of good procedure.

    So, when Design Theorists point out what their methods can soundly do, and where the methods do not go for now, that should be respected, not twisted into the sort of talking point objections you are making up. You are misleading yourself, and perhaps others.

    Then, when I look at your latest, I see no sign that you have even begun to attend to the serious methodological issues and related matters epistemological that have been put on the table.

    Much less, signs of regret that you have used quite improper dismissive rhetorical devices.

    You are still stuck on defective talking points that have passed sell-by date c. 1983 with Laudan’s very soundly argued critical review. Let’s excerpt Wiki on Laudan on the demarcation issue [hence also the THE Scientific Method issue . . . and I am not even calling up Feyerabend in support for the moment], as you seem to have failed to note it above:

    He [Laudan, 1983] noted that many well-founded beliefs are not scientific and, conversely, many scientific conjectures are not well-founded. He also found that demarcation criteria were historically used as “machines de guerre” in polemical disputes between “scientists” and “pseudo-scientists.” . . . In his judgment, the demarcation between science and non-science was a pseudo-problem that would best be replaced by focusing on the distinction between reliable and unreliable knowledge, without bothering to ask whether that knowledge is scientific or not. He would consign hollow phrases like “pseudo-science” or “unscientific” to the rhetoric of politicians or sociologists.[11: Laudan, Larry (1983), "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem", in Cohen, R.S.; Laudan, L., Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 76, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 111–127, ISBN 90-277-1533-5]

    You need to stop, think and re-tool your mental tool-box, tossing out a lot of rhetorical tactics and talking points along the way.

    Start by acknowledging that the demarcation problem is dead (in light of the relevant grounds), and with the related challenge that the “Science” vs “Pseudoscience” talking point has turned out to be utterly misdirected and rhetorical. Please, focus for a few moments on the key principle, not whether we can attach prestigious labels such as “scientific,” or derogatory ones such as “pseudoscience,” but that we need to identify and use the best tools of investigation that offer the best warranting support to our explanations that we have. Which turns out to be inference to best explanation on empirical evidence and ability to accurately predict or retrodict.

    Please, think again.

    And, address the substantial context on the table, the 14 key concerns, as that exposes the real problem of our time: question-begging materialist a priorism that is crippling science from using sound and balanced investigations, and is eating out the heart of the integrity of science: objective, open-minded, open-ended progressive pursuit of the truth about our world in light of empirical evidence and correctly reasoned analysis.

    Please, think again.

    GEM of TKI

  147. SA:

    Just spotted this — we need that chronological view.

    Actually materialism is not compatible with not just science but with rationality and even morality. As has been known since the days of Plato in The Laws Bk x, 2350 years ago

    The problem with materialism in science is the imposition of a question-begging a priori on scientific investigations that warps the ability of science to pursue the truth about the cosmos. Cf the OP above and the 14 points of concern to see this.

    Remember Lewontin is simply being the Young Turk who blurted the matter out loud, spilling the cat out of the bag.

    GEM of TKI

  148. “Jerry was being very sloppy is his phrasing, so much so that he invited psuedoscience to the table.”

    Maybe I did not phrase it best but I suspect most readers know what I meant. An ID scientist could come to the same conclusions as other scientists in 99.9% of the studies published in the history of science but in a few would offer different conclusions using the framework of the scientific method and the tools of modern science. Somehow this became the equivalent of admitting pseudoscience into the discussion.

    If the ideas were sloppily presented which I am willing to concede then the correct way to approach this is to suggest how to phrase it more accurately and not imply what was said was nonsense by suggesting that pseudoscience would now be the same as science.

    I introduced the idea that ID scientists actually practice better science because it is not the first time in the last 6 years that I saw Lewontin’s article being discussed. I felt it appropriate to add this perspective to the discussion since it goes to the heart of what this article seems to be saying, namely what is good science.

    I will just add this following observation about pseudoscience. Are the Darwinists practicing pseudoscience? One of the problems today is that we have a lot of activity masquerading as science not because the studies are a sham (though some may be) but because the conclusions do not stand up to the data.

    It has been almost two years since I read Richard Dawkins’ book, “The Greatest Show on Earth, The Evidence for Evolution.” But I did not find any evidence in the book for the origin of anything really complicated. I found plenty of evidence on how modern genetics plays out over time as influenced by environmental forces. So when Dawkins claims that Darwinian processes as modified by the latest synthesis is responsible for all changes in the history of life, is he practicing pseudoscience? He is making conclusions that are not warranted by the data.

    I also remember watching on youtube the debate at Stanford between Will Provine and Phillip Johnson. At the end Provine could not summon any evidence to support his conclusions, only faith that deep time made it happen. Actually Provine presented almost no evidence during the debate at all. Did this make Provine a pseudoscientist? Definitely in this case, though he was extremely well respected in the science community and a lot of what he ascribed to was genuine science.

    Was Johnson a pseudoscientist as all he did was present evidence from the very studies that evolutionary biology produced and make conclusions off the evidence? Johnson was not a scientist but used the evidence of science to make his points. I don’t think that would classify him as a pseudoscientist though I am sure some would like to label him that way.

    My point being is that “pseudoscience” was brought into the debate as a rhetorical device to undermine a point of view and that it is selectively misapplied. A better response would be to make a suggestion that would clarify what was meant if one thought it was needed.

  149. kairosfocus,

    You need to get this straight. I did not say that ID was Psudeoscience, in fact I said it was legitimate science because the ID theorists voluntarily, purposely use the Scientific Method (which does encompasses more than one method, yet still retains the singular title).

    FAQ: Can we positively say something was designed?
    If nothing in science can be positively said with 100% confidence, how then do we learn through the scientific method? Inductive reasoning, or inference, is used to validate hypotheses in science. While no hypothesis is ever said to be “proven”, it can be supported, to varying degrees, by evidences which it predicts. Thus, science is tentative, incomplete, and never completely final. Well-supported theories are often said to be “fact”, though in the strict sense of the word, there is no such thing as a true “scientific fact” . . .

    Epistemology is the study of knowledge–It asks the question, “how do we know what we claim we know?” Design and evolution are on the same epistemological level: both evolution and design are based upon historical unrepeatable events, and we “infer” the past action of one process or the other by working like “detectives” to try to find clues as to what happened. Neither can be proven 100%, but when we find the predicted evidence of design or evolution, we are justified in inferring one (or the other):

    and

    Coverage of Last Night’s ID Lecture at OU
    The way Stephen C. Meyer came to that conclusion, was using Charles Darwin’s own scientific method of determining which cause to accept for scientific questions in the remote past. “The irony of that is that a conclusion that points to intelligent design” is reached by Darwin’s own methods, Meyer said.

    You need to discriminate: objecting to the a priori exclusion of design is not the same thing as objecting to the Scientific Method in principle (a.k.a various accepted scientific methodologies employed in the Sciences).

    ID theorists did not event a whole new Science to study Design, instead they engage in the same practice with the same methods. That means ID theory relies upon the Scientific Method to present its case, and why, repeatedly, ID theorists claim that their field of is legitimate Science.

  150. Dr Liddle:

    I still await your substantiation of your assertion of profound misunderstanding, in light of your response to the 14 points of concern in the original post above and the wider context of the behaviour of key sectors of the materialist elites of our day; not to mention the “quote mining” talking point that has been pushed as an attempt to deflect attention from the issues in the 14 points of concern. I note, this is now Oct 21, and the comment has been pending since the evening of the 18th.

    GEM of TKI

  151. RH7:

    Pardon, but I will have to be fairly insistent: we live in a world where we have to address the rhetoric of suggestive subtext and invidious associations.

    Let us compare:

    [RH7, at the first:] So Pseudoscience is really just a derogatory label for legitimate science conducted outside the arbitrary limits of a prejudicial, illogical, and ideologically-driven system?

    [RH7 now:] You need to get this straight. I did not say that ID was Psudeoscience, in fact I said it was legitimate science because the ID theorists voluntarily, purposely use the Scientific Method

    It is strictly accurate in the narrow sense but highly misleading in the wider context to assert that you did not SAY that ID is pseudoscience, when in context that is precisely what you suggested by associations, and that in a context that does the same, only much worse.

    You compound the problem by proceeding to try to lecture me on how ID uses methods in use in origins sciences, highlights the provisionality of scientific findings, and points to the methodological equivalence of design and descent. These, as though that is not what I have said and/or linked all along. In short, that refusal to acknowledge or respond to what I have put on the table right from the outset, is a smoking gun.

    In fact, you raised the issue of “pseudoscience,” and used a very sarcastic remark that in context — Lewontin’s notorious article! — would naturally associate design theory with the likes of astrology and UFO cults (the latter at a time when there had been a cultic mass suicide). I therefore corrected you that the science/pseudoscience demarcation issue is a pseudoproblem. The sounder approach is that which asks what is well warranted as an empirically grounded knowledge claim, rather than worrying overmuch about laudatory labels like “science” and namecalling tags that suggest fraud, like “pseudoscience.”

    I then went on, in response to further demands on your part, to draw out some details on scientific methods and their limitations on warrant.

    These, you have not responded to, instead your latest acts as though I did not put the matters on the table with linked substantiating details. Pardon, but that is not good enough, please do better next time.

    Anyway, let us see if we can build on what you now acknowledge.

    Design theory uses standard Origins Science methods, and appeals to reasonable principles of provisional empirical warrant. Design theorists may be in error — scientific methods are not foolproof, as Newton highlighted in Opticks Query 31 — one of the key points in Newton’s presentation that is too often left out in school level summaries of “THE scientific method.” But, abstract potential for error should not deter us from acknowledging the force of empirically reliable findings. In this case, the known source of key signs such as functionally specific complex organisation and associated information.

    (I find, too, that the tendency not to acknowledge antecedents such as Newton in Opticks, Query 31 interesting, probably because the text is explicitly design oriented, analyses the roots of the cosmos and the system of reality in terms of chance, necessity and choice as alternative key causal factors, and is also explicitly Biblical in its Theism.)

    The real issue on the table today is that which is highlighted in the 14 points of concern in the original post: a priori materialism imposed on especially origins science and distorting its ability to respond to the actual force of the relevant evidence on the empirically known cause of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information.

    I trust we can now move forward on a more reasonable and balanced footing, now that the “pseudoscience” suggestion is off the table.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Given your remarks on plurality presented as singular, I should add a note on scientific methods of investigation. One of the problems with the usual presentations of THE scientific method, is that it suggests that there is a method that only and all scientists in good standing use. In fact, the methods of inquiry are inductive methods, using variations on abductive inference to best current explanation. If we survey the fields that are conventionally labelled sciences, we will see that there is no one method that covers the sciences [especially when we contrast observational and experimental sciences and origins/deep past reconstruction and operations sciences that study the current world]. Similarly, the same or substantially equivalent methods are used in a host of fields of responsible endeavour that are not conventionally labelled sciences. So, the wise approach is to study inductive methods, define sciences as fields that use such methods, and highlight the principles and practices of sound inductive investigations, with notes on their limitations similar to those noted by Newton. In particular the challenge of the affirmation of the consequent in the logic of science and the principle of abduction need to be far better presented to students.

  152. Apologies for the delay, kairosfocus. Here is my response:

    First of all, the NYRB article was a review of a book by Carl Sagan, called The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. It is very important, I would argue, to keep this in mind as you read the review.

    Lewontin starts off by contrasting Sagan with Gould: Gould, he says, was concerned to explain how knowledge is constructed; Sagan’s project, he says, is “more elementary” – simply to disseminate a “knowledge of the facts”. But he then says:

    But Sagan realizes that the project of merely spreading knowledge of objective facts about the universe is insufficient. First, no one can know and understand everything. Even individual scientists are ignorant about most of the body of scientific knowledge, and it is not simply that biologists do not understand quantum mechanics. If I were to ask my colleagues in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to explain the evolutionary importance of RNA editing in trypanosomes, they would be just as mystified by the question as the typical well-educated reader of this review.

    This paragraph is vital as it puts your first quotation into perspective. Let me emphasise: Lewontin is emphasising the ignorance of scientists, and the fact that “no one can know and understand everything”. This is important, because what follows is that in some respects, we have no choice but to accept an expert view. We cannot afford simply to disbelieve a scientific proposition simply because we personally do not understand the evidence and reasoning that went behind it. In order to do this, clearly, it is important, Lewontin goes on to say, that we establish a “social and and intellectual apparatus” that can, on our behalf, establish truth. This “social and intellectual apparatus” he says, is Science. Now I am convinced, although I may be wrong, that when Lewontin talks about “truth” he is not talking about philosophical or moral truths, but simply about what causes what – the truth about how tornados form; what makes thunder and lightning; where mountains come from; why we get smallpox; why some children are born with Down Syndrome; why we get cancer – this becomes very clear as we go through the review. On that assumption I will proceed: However, Lewontin next says, that to ready ourselves for reception of the propositions that science will present us with, but which most of us will be ill-equipped to check personally, first we have to rid ourselves of erroneous ideas. So here is your first commented quotation:

    [Second] to put a correct view of the universe
    [1 --> a claim to holding truth, not just an empirically reliable, provisional account] into people’s heads
    we must first get an incorrect view out
    [2 --> an open ideological agenda]

    Which you comment amounts to “a claim to holding truth, not just an empirically reliable, provisional account into peoples heads”, and “[opening an] ideological agenda”. (I hope I have parsed your comments correctly). No, I don’t think he is doing this at all, and he certainly doesn’t say so. In the context I have just given, it seems to me he is quite clearly saying: we need to construct a “social and intellectual apparatus”, namely Science, which will reliably tell us the truth about things we ourselves cannot be equipped to check, but in order to receive such knowledge, we must first rid ourselves of what has been shown to be false. This interpretation is to my mind supported by the immediately following passage, that ends immediately before your next quote:

    People believe a lot of nonsense about the world of phenomena, nonsense that is a consequence of a wrong way of thinking. The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of, for that vast project is, in its entirety, hopeless.

    [ [Rather, ] the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations
    [3 --> a declaration of cultural war],
    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth.
    [ 4 --> this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    As I see it “explanations” for natural events (lightning-bolt-hurling gods; disease-causing witches; fiery horses pulling the chariot of the sun across the sky), and delegate the task of explaining these things to a social and intellectual apparatus (i.e. system of methodologies) we call “Science”. You, on the other hand, read it as a “declaration of cultural war” and a “self-refuting” philosophical claim. I think this is quite wrong. On the assumption that I have made that Lewontin is talking about “factual” truth, not “moral” or “philosophical” truth, which may of course be wrong, but I don’t think so, I think that all he is saying is something with which you would probably agree: that post-Enlightenment, instead of resorting to “superstitious” explanations of natural phenomena, and consulting oracles, or witch-doctors, or even priests about how the universe works, we delegate the task of finding out those explanations to the “social and cultural apparatus” of Science.
    He then sets up his argument that “the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality” thus confirming btw, my interpretation that what he is talking about is, merely “physical reality” not moral or philosophical truth. To do so he says:

    The reason that people do not have a correct view of nature is not that they are ignorant of this or that fact about the material world, but that they look to the wrong sources in their attempt to understand…Sagan’s argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms, so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations, we substitute demons. As one bit of evidence for the bad state of public consciousness, Sagan cites opinion polls showing that the majority of Americans believe that extraterrestrials have landed from UFOs. The demonic, for Sagan, includes, in addition to UFOs and their crews of little green men who take unwilling passengers for a midnight spin and some wild sex, astrological influences, extrasensory perception, prayers, spoon-bending, repressed memories, spiritualism, and channeling, as well as demons sensu strictu, devils, fairies, witches, spirits, Satan and his devotees, and, after some discreet backing and filling, the supposed prime mover Himself. God gives Sagan a lot of trouble. It is easy enough for him to snort derisively at men from Mars, but when it comes to the Supreme Extraterrestrial he is rather circumspect, asking only that sermons “even-handedly examine the God hypothesis.”

    The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on its divine inspiration.

    But of course, I might be wrong.

    I doubt that an all-seeing God would fall for Pascal’s Wager, but the sensibilities of modern believers may indeed be spared by this Clintonesque moderation.

    Although Lewontin doesn’t think much of Sagan’s “But of course I might be wrong” in regard to God, in no way does he contradict it. On the other hand, he thorough approves (as presumably you would too) the rejection of “to UFOs and their crews of little green men who take unwilling passengers for a midnight spin and some wild sex, astrological influences, extrasensory perception, prayers, spoon-bending, repressed memories, spiritualism, and channeling, as well as demons sensu strictu, devils, fairies, witches, spirits, Satan and his devotees”. And he also approves that fact that:

    Most of the chapters of The Demon-Haunted World are taken up with exhortations to the reader to cease whoring after false gods and to accept the scientific method as the unique pathway to a correct understanding of the natural world.

    Again we see, supporting my assumption, that all Lewontin is talking about is “a correct understanding of the natural world”, and commends the Scientific Method as the unique pathway to that understanding. Now you may disagree that the Scientific Method is a good pathway to understanding the natural world, in which case you not only disagree with Sagan and Lewontin but with me! And, I suggest, with a good many ID proponents as well. You then quote what follows:

    [To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident
    [5 --> a self evident claim is that this is true, must be true and its denial is patently absurd. But actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question, confused for real self-evidence]
    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality
    [6 --> Science gives reality, reality is naturalistic and material],
    and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test.
    [7 --> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim: if you reject naturalistic, materialistic evolutionism, you are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, by direct implication] . . . .

    You interpret Lewontin as saying that reality is natural. I think he is saying exactly what he says explicitly, namely that physical reality (why would he add that adjective otherwise?) is “natural”. What else would physical reality be? Why else would physics be called Natural Science? We even talk about the laws of physics as “the laws of nature” which, some claim, are occasionally suspended for Divine purposes. In contrast, he says, explanations that invoke demons and sprites and naiads and dryads and nereids – the pantheon of “nature spirits” that served for “explanations” of natural phenomena and had to be appeased in order that the world would continue to turn and the rains arrive “fail every reasonable test”. And they do. Don’t they?
    So he then asks:

    So why do so many people believe in demons? Sagan seems baffled, and nowhere does he offer a coherent explanation of the popularity at the supermarket checkout counter of the Weekly World News, with its faked photographs of Martians. …
    Nearly every present-day scientist would agree with Carl Sagan that our explanations of material phenomena exclude any role for supernatural demons, witches, and spirits of every kind, including any of the various gods from Adonai to Zeus. …

    Sagan believes that scientists reject sprites, fairies, and the influence of Sagittarius because we follow a set of procedures, the Scientific Method, which has consistently produced explanations that put us in contact with reality and in which mystic forces play no part. For Sagan, the method is the message, but I think he has opened the wrong envelope.

    And here is where Lewontin gets interesting. Sagan, he says, thinks it is the Scientific Method that leads scientists to reject the “demons” of pre-Enlightenment. Lewontin begs to differ, and, indeed, goes on to say a great deal that you probably agree with!
    First of all, having noted that Sagan doesn’t actually describe the Scientific Method, but attempts to show that it works. Lewontin demolishes each of these claims in turn:

    First, we are told that science “delivers the goods.” It certainly has, sometimes, but it has often failed when we need it most. Scientists and their professional institutions, partly intoxicated with examples of past successes, partly in order to assure public financial support, make grandiose promises that cannot be kept.

    and he goes on to note various failures of science to deliver on big promises. Then he says:

    Second, it is repeatedly said that science is intolerant of theories without data and assertions without adequate evidence. But no serious student of epistemology any longer takes the naive view of science as a process of Baconian induction from theoretically unorganized observations. There can be no observations without an immense apparatus of preexisting theory. Before sense experiences become “observations” we need a theoretical question, and what counts as a relevant observation depends upon a theoretical frame into which it is to be placed. Repeatable observations that do not fit into an existing frame have a way of disappearing from view, and the experiments that produced them are not revisited. In the 1930s well-established and respectable geneticists described “dauer-modifications,” environmentally induced changes in organisms that were passed on to offspring and only slowly disappeared in succeeding generations. As the science of genetics hardened, with its definitive rejection of any possibility of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, observations of dauer-modifications were sent to the scrapheap where they still lie, jumbled together with other decommissioned facts.

    A man after my own heart! He agrees with me that “facts” at one levels are merely “models” at another, and must themselves be subject to scrutiny, and their provisional nature borne in mind. Then he says:

    Third, it is said that there is no place for an argument from authority in science. The community of science is constantly self-critical, as evidenced by the experience of university colloquia “in which the speaker has hardly gotten 30 seconds into the talk before there are devastating questions and comments from the audience.” If Sagan really wants to hear serious disputation about the nature of the universe, he should leave the academic precincts in Ithaca and spend a few minutes in an Orthodox study house in Brooklyn.

    In other words, a religious organisation can put scientists to shame when it comes to self-criticism!
    And he adds, amplifying his earlier point, that while

    within each narrowly defined scientific field there is a constant challenge to new technical claims and to old wisdom

    He readily concedes that outside

    ….the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution.

    Eat that, Dawkins :)
    He then re-frames his question: why do scientists believe the propositions of science? Not because those propositions are, intuitively, credible, he says:

    Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. When, at the time of the moon landing, a woman in rural Texas was interviewed about the event, she very sensibly refused to believe that the television pictures she had seen had come all the way from the moon, on the grounds that with her antenna she couldn’t even get Dallas. What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity “in deep trouble.” Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

    In other words: why are scientists prepared to accept such unlikely propositions as wave-particle duality, which comes from scientists, yet balk at the Holy Trinity, which does not?
    This is the question that Lewontin attempts to address in the passage you take most vigorous exception to. He starts by saying:

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural.

    So what is this key?
    He answers:

    We [i.e.scientists] 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
    [8 --> redefines science as a material explanation of the observed world],
    but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes
    [9 --> another major begging of the question . . . by imposition of a priori materialism as a worldview that hen goes on to control science as its handmaiden and propaganda arm that claims to be the true prophet of reality, the only begetter of truth]
    to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.
    [10 --> In short, even if the result is patently absurd on its face, it is locked in, as materialistic "science" is now our criterion of truth!]
    Moreover, that materialism is absolute
    [11 --> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ],
    for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
    [12 --> Hostility to the divine is embedded, from the outset, as per the dismissal of the "supernatural"]

    To which you object that he redefines science as a material explanation for the observed world.

    No, he doesn’t “redefine science” thus. Science is thus already defined. The entire scientific project is, as he points out, set up to find out what, rather than nature-spirits and demons, cause the phenomena we observe in the observed world. There is no scientific method for testing a supernatural hypothesis, as we have been discussing on the “miracles” thread, because scientific methodology involves deriving predictive hypotheses, and miracles, by definition, cannot be predicted. As you seemed to agree when you dismissed (rightly IMO) the big study that showed no effect of prayer. Science operates entirely in the domain of the predictable – it seeks to derive general laws that allow us to make predictive models of the observed world. This is not a “redefinition”. As Galileo allegedly said: “eppur si muove” – our models need to predict data, so that they can be tested against data.

    You also claim that he advocates that science be the “handmaiden” of materialism.

    No, he does not. What he says that having set out to discover natural explanations of phenomena our methodology must be such that natural explanations are what it produces, no matter how counter-intuitive those explanations turn out to be. That is not making science the handmaiden of any “ism” at all – it is devising a methodological “apparatus” that will generate explanations that deliver reliable predictions, no matter how counter-intuitive those explanations may be. To which of course you object!

    This is not surprising, given what I consider a misreading of his intention. But what you are reading as the forcing of the improbable at the expense of the supernatural is, I would argue something quite different: what he is saying is that by rigorously insisting that our models deliver reliable predictions, even when they are counter-intuitive, we can trust what they deliver, unbiased by any a priori ideas about what is, and is not, likely. For example, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics are both extremely counter-intuitive – nonsense, on face value. Yet they deliver reliable predictions that other previous models did not. That insistence on reliable predictions is what guarantees even the most counter-intuitive of claims. But by insisting on reliable predictions, by the same token, we must exclude causal mechanisms that posit a “demon” – or, rather, in less fancily poetic terms, we must assume that the universe obeys its own laws. That is the price of our confidence in counter-intuitive propositions. This is why he says the “adherence is absolute”. Not because he has a “fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind” nor because of “hostility to the divine” but because scientists (remember he is talking about scientists) can only uncover predictive models. What he is saying – and it’s a somewhat subtle point – is that it is only because scientists know that in non-predictive models (as non-material models must be) are rigorously excluded that can they have any grounds for believing the hugely counter-intuitive models they may be presented with. To take the quantum example – if we thought that scientists could posit mischievous pixies to account for quantum weirdness, we’d have no reason to prefer science over pixies. But because we know they can’t, however pixie-like their propositions are, we can grant them credibility.
    Which is why Lewontin then quotes Beck:

    [The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything.
    [13 --> a slightly more sophisticated form of Dawkins' ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, certainly, irrational. This is a declaration of war! Those who believe in God, never mind the record of history, never mind the contributions across the ages, are dismissed as utterly credulous and irrational, dangerous and chaotic]

    No it isn’t. Nothing like, though it is certainly provocative. It is explained by his next sentence:

    [To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

    He is saying that in science appeals to a deity are in effect to allow that science is useless – that none of our data can be trusted, that statistically “significant” effects may be “non-significant” and “non-significant” effects may be “significant”, and there is no way to tell, because at any time, the omnipotent deity may be monkeying with the laws we are trying to retrieve. That is why science cannot “appeal to an omnipotent deity”. It doesn’t mean that God can’t exist, or must be denied; it does mean that supernatural hypotheses have no place – and can have no place – in science.
    I’m sure you disagree, but what I am trying to explain is that this is not a “declaration of war” but a perfectly standard view of science, held by theist and non-theist scientists alike, and even by many theist non-scientists – and expressed by Gould in his phrase “non-overlapping magisteria”.
    Finally you say:

    [ [14 --> Perhaps the second saddest thing is that some actually believe that these last three sentences that express hostility to God and then back it up with a loaded strawman caricature of theism and theists JUSTIFY what has gone on before. As a first correction, accurate history -- as opposed to the commonly promoted rationalist myth of the longstanding war of religion against science -- documents (cf. here for a start) that the Judaeo-Christian worldview nurtured and gave crucial impetus to the rise of modern science through its view that God as creator made and sustains an orderly world. Similarly, for miracles -- e.g. the resurrection of Jesus -- to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, there must first be such an ordinary course, one plainly amenable to scientific study. The saddest thing is that many are now so blinded and hostile that, having been corrected, they will STILL think that this justifies the above. But, nothing can excuse the imposition of a priori materialist censorship on science, which distorts its ability to seek the empirically warranted truth about our world.]

    There is no “censorship” of science, kairosfocus, at least not in the manner you seem to think, and Lewontin IMO is not advocating censorship. What he is saying is that the Scientific Method necessarily excludes supernatural hypotheses, not ideologically but methodologically. The project of Science is to retrieve the natural laws that underpin the universe. It cannot retrieve any causal agency that is not subject to those natural laws. If it adjusts its methods in order to accommodate such hypotheses, we are back in the situation of being unable to distinguish between Quantum Weirdness and mere Woo. Science cannot illuminate the supernatural – it can’t even illuminate the Divine. For that you need theology, or philosophy, or, indeed, a pure heart. But not science!

  153. Dr Liddle (and onlookers):

    I have just got back to this thread, and will respond later to the above. I just note right off that I am very aware of the incidental context, which does not change the significance of the major a priori commitments Lewontin undertakes and sets up as controlling scientific reasoning.

    Later on DV, I will do a stepwise response.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: One of the key mis-steps in reasoning that many seem to male today is to confuse cause with a sufficient set of causal factors. Radioactivity for instance is subject to any number of necessary factors, but of course the apparent randomness of the decay — driven by a decay constant — means that we do not know the sufficient set of factors that will cause a particular atom to decay at a particular time. But, for instance,t hat atom must be present under the prevailing laws of physics, to decay. Those are necessary factors. (Cf recent discussion here at UD on causality and its implications.)

  154. I have responded in a new post here, in which I have marked up the above, point by point.

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