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Methodological naturalism: If that’s the way forward, … let’s go sideways

Having connected the dots of the vast conspiracy run by the Discovery Institute so as to include non-materialist neuroscience, Steven Novella goes on to cheerlead, for methodological naturalism – about which I will say only this:

Methodological naturalism is usually described as meaning that science can consider only natural causes. But by itself that doesn’t mean anything because we don’t know everything that is in nature. For example, if – as Rupert Sheldrake thinks – some animals can demonstrate telepathy, then telepathy is a natural cause. And so?

And so Richard Dawkins goes to a great deal of trouble to attempt to discredit Sheldrake because the hidden assumption is that nature mustn’t include telepathy.

In practice, methodological naturalism frequently becomes a method of defending bad – and often ridiculously bad.- ideas in order to save naturalism. Think of the persistent efforts to “prove” that humans don’t “really” behave altruistically. In fact, we sometimes do. Here’s a recent story, for example, about a Texas woman named Marilyn Mock who went to an auction of foreclosed homes, ran into Tracey Orr – an unemployed woman she had never met – who had come to endure the sale of her home, and …

Orr couldn’t hold it in. The tears flowed. She pointed to the auction brochure at a home that didn’t have a picture. “That’s my house,” she said.

Within moments, the four-bedroom, two-bath home in Pottsboro, Texas, went up for sale. People up front began casting their bids. The home that Orr purchased in September 2004 was slipping away.

She stood and moved toward the crowd. Behind her, Mock got into the action.

“She didn’t know I was doing it,” Mock says. “I just kept asking her if [her home] was worth it, and she just kept crying. She probably thought I was crazy, ‘Why does this woman keep asking me that?’ “

Mock says she bought the home for about $30,000. That’s when Mock did what most bidders at a foreclosure auction never do.

“She said, ‘I did this for you. I’m doing this for you,’ ” Orr says. “When it was all done, I was just in shock.”

But it was true. Mock bought the house for her and said she would accept as repayment only what Orr can afford. Why?

“If it was you, you’d want somebody to stop and help you.”

Now, a “methodological naturalist” would

(1) try to find a chimpanzee who does something similar and make up a story that explains how that behaviour was naturally selected for in primates

or (since that might take a while)

(2) assign a selfish motive for Mock that is consistent with survival of the fittest.

One might at first be tempted to conclude that methodological naturalism is methodological idiocy. But no, let’s look a bit more carefully. Notice what is not a permitted assumption: We can’t assume that some people just think they should help others – even at considerable cost. In other words, the plain evidence of human behavior cannot be accepted at face value.

Now, there is nothing especially scientific about that belief. “Scientific” means “dealing with the evidence from nature,” which includes a fair sprinkling of unselfish or not-very-selfish humans (as well as of the other type). Indeed, superior human intelligence probably explains the tendency to imagine another’s feelings (= “If it was you, you’d want somebody to stop and help you”). So we can account scientifically for why humans can behave as Mock did.

The problem is that such an account, while useful, fails to support a key false belief underlying methodological naturalism: That humans are really the 98% chimpanzee and cannot in principle have motives absent in chimpanzees. Apart from that false belief, no one would bother trying to find an exotic explanation for Mock’s behaviour.

The principle role that methodological naturalism plays right now is to enable false beliefs to pose as science and to prevent them being discredited by evidence.

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105 Responses to Methodological naturalism: If that’s the way forward, … let’s go sideways

  1. I like how the common idea of science includes only purely naturalistic explanations, so of course evolution can explain everything we see. xD

    Why can’t people just be nice? It seems like with evolutionists it all has to do with better surviving, or in other words: being selfish.

  2. The problem is always the same. “Nature” is a word which has no definite meaning, because it can have (and definitely has) too many of them.

    The consequence is that anybody can use it as it is good for him, implicitly defining it in a convenient way so that his personal position be warranted.

    Because, while having no precise meaning, that word holds, for unknown reasons, a very strong suggestion of “goodness” and “positivity” for most people.

    So, let’s be “natural”, and nobody will dare be against us.

    In modern scientistic materialism, the only real meaning which is implicitly attributed to the word “nature” is something like “the things we believe about reality”, in other words “the general model of present day science”, or still “any model of the universe where matter and energy and the laws of physics, as we conceive them today, are still the only reality”. Those definitions are more or less equivalent: what they have in common is reductionism, reducing everything, more or less directly, to what we already believe to be true.

    So, affirming that “science can consider only natural causes” is more or less equivalent to stating that “science can consider only what it already believes to be true”, or “science can know only what it already knows. The fundamental assumption is that science, while being free to ascertain interesting details (what would scientists otherwise do for a living?), in essence already knows all. That assumption is not new: its last incarnation was at the end of the 19th century, when it was generally believed that physics was practically finished, and that all that was left to mathematics was a detailed final formalization.

    And then came Einstein, Bohr, Godel, and other good friends…

  3. Excellent point from gpucci regarding the definition of “nature”. One of the frustrating things about the materialist sciences is that because they’ve been the established doctrine for so long, the materialists have gotten to define all the language- at least as far as the public is concerned.

    “Darwinism” its self for example; these days most people seem to think it’s synonymous with “evolution”. At least, most of the people I’ve tried to argue with do…

  4. For what its worth , here is my two cents on this whole methodological naturalism controversy:

    The Quantum Teleportation experiment is truly a wondrous experiment. The experiment goes to the very foundation of what is currently known, scientifically, about reality and dramatically restructures our understanding. In the experiment, through some very clever manipulation, scientists have the entire information content (properties) of one photon of energy being teleported, instantaneously, onto another photon of energy. The second photon of energy assumes the complete identity of the first photon, while the first photon loses its complete identity. Yet, the shocking thing is, scientifically, energy is currently understood to be the ultimate foundation of all matter in this universe. From Einstein’s equation of E=mc^2, we know that all matter was ultimately created out of energy, and is theoretically reducible to energy. From Einstein’s equation we can also gather that time, as we understand it, comes to complete stop at the speed of light (Light is understood to be eternal). And From James Joule, the author of the First Law Of thermodynamics, “Conservation of Energy”, we understand that energy can not be created nor destroyed by any known material means. These facts give some impressive weight to energy as the ultimate and irreducible basis of reality, yet here we have information, which is completely transcendent of any energy/material basis, telling energy exactly what to be/do in these teleportation experiments. Anton Zeilinger, a top notch scientist in quantum research, went so far as to, very unscientifically, quote Bible scripture in trying to get a handle on this revelation from quantum teleportation.
    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe? By A. Zeilinger, Paul Davies http://www.metanexus.net/magazin e/ArticleDetail/tabid/68/id/5896/Default .aspx

    excerpt from article:
    “In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word (Logos).”

    Needless to say, when I read Dr. Anton Zeilinger quote John 1:1 from the Bible, my ears perked up immediately. And as I have mulled this experiment over during the past few months, I’ve realized that there is a overwhelming line of logic that solidifies this inference of Dr. Zeilinger’s to the Word (Logos) of John 1:1-3. It may be stated that since energy cannot be created or destroyed, anything displaying control over energy cannot be created of destroyed also. (this experiment is actually the establishment of the law of Conservation of Information in science since the information is shown, unlike simple quantum entanglement experiments, to be completely independent of any possible energy basis) That is to say; All logically true information that can possibly exist, which would most likely be infinite information, can and already does exist completely free of any known energy/material basis and as far as the energy/material basis of this universe in concerned can be said to precede and even exceed it.
    Or to put it in more concrete terms we may more readily understand as Christians: All things that can possibly be known are already known by the Infinite and perfect mind of God. It may also be stated; since information is enforcing this “teleported” control completely free of any known energy/material basis, that information must of necessity be foundational, in some major and significant way, to energy/matter just as energy itself is found to be foundational to matter and to exert control of matter in a major and significant way (producing work and force in matter). Indeed the Genesis account of creation; And God said, “Let there be light”: and there was light, just gained a tremendous amount of credence as far as the methodological naturalism of hard science is concerned.
    This revelation also dramatically changes the whole fight between atheistic evolutionists and Theistic creationists. Atheistic evolutionists have always chided Theistic creationists for being out of the scientific scope of the methodological naturalism of science for not explaining to a energy/material basis, yet here we have transcendent information being brought into the very foundation of reality and science and into the center of the scope of methodological naturalism. Indeed, now atheistic evolutionists have had their feet taken completely out from under them, scientifically speaking, and now they must defend why should science (as practiced in methodological naturalism) presuppose that information can arise by totally energy/material means in an organism’s genome when information is now known to be foundation to energy/matter in the first place. Indeed since the fossil record shows a sudden appearance of fossils with much required rich information content, especially in the Cambrian explosion, and the DNA molecule is now also known to be the “richest information storage device” known to man (far surpassing mans ability to do as such in computers by orders of magnitude), as well as the universe is now known to have suddenly appeared with “preset information” parameters (fine-tuned transcendent constants) that defy definition to any energy/material basis, Why should science be forced to presuppose that energy/material is generating this hyper-rich information content in any of the parent species genomes of living organisms (especially since all concise mutational studies to genomes are known to be overwhelmingly negative) and the universal constants. No Indeed, since information is now shown to be foundational to energy/matter the burden of proof is now shifted to Atheistic Evolutionists and they now must defend why they are out of the scope of methodological naturalism and why are they being “unscientific” as far as requiring information to be generated by something information is shown to be foundational to.

    resources: Spooky action and beyond http://www.signandsight.com/feat ures/614.html

    excerpt: What are you doing? Transferring the properties of light particles over certain distances onto other light particles, with no time delay. The procedure is based on phenomena which exist only in the quantum world, and is known as “quantum teleportation.”

    http://www.newscientis t.com/channel/fundamentals/quantum-world /mg15721254.900

    WHAT does a financial index have in common with Shakespeare’s Richard III, a drawing of a cat and this sentence? Easy. No matter how important any one of them may be to you, they can all be reduced to the ubiquitous digital bits of the information age. And, as such, they can pass from a mind to a machine, flow down telephone lines and spill out unchanged onto a page halfway across the world. Information is nothing but patterns of 0s and 1s. Or so everyone has believed. But now a growing band of physicists is putting forth a more alarming notion. They believe that information is a superweird new substance, more ethereal than matter or energy, but every bit as real and perhaps even more fundamental. For them, information is a kind of subtle substance that lies behind and beneath physical stuff. “Information is deeper than reality,” says Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the University of Innsbruck.

  5. I agree that science shouldn’t be identified with methodological naturalism. Science can evaluate any hypothesis, natural or supernatural, monistic or dualistic, so long as it has some testable content. For instance, scientists have evaluated young earth creationism and found the evidence for it lacking, same for ID. This is why neither have thus far found a place in public school science classrooms.

    Science should also not be identified with materialism, since there might turn out to be categorically mental entities according to some empirically testable specification. For instance philosopher of mind David Chalmers thinks the best explanation for consciousness might be that there are categorically mental phenomena related to physical phenomena by psycho-physical laws. I happen to think he’s wrong, but it can’t be ruled out.

    If he’s right, and materialism is proven false, that doesn’t get us to supernaturalism, since it’s still a theory about the natural world and what it contains. To get supernaturalism into the picture, you’d have to use something other than science to establish truth claims about the world, since what science confirms to exist is what we call nature. Thus far, it doesn’t seem science has much competition when it comes to mapping reality reliably. More about this in Appropriating science.

    best,

    Tom Clark
    Naturalism.Org

  6. I like what Tom said. The natural/supernatural distinction is not very useful because if we can study something in the sense of experience it in an objectively testable manner, then it is natural.

  7. twclark,

    “Science can evaluate any hypothesis, natural or supernatural, monistic or dualistic, so long as it has some testable content. For instance, scientists have evaluated young earth creationism and found the evidence for it lacking, same for ID. This is why neither have thus far found a place in public school science classrooms.”

    I’m sorry, but this rundown is entirely wrong in just about every direction.

    The overwhelming argument against ID has been that legitimate science is literally incapable of investigating claims of design, certainly on the level that ID necessitates. The evidence has not ‘been lacking’ – what ID proponents cite as evidence and implied conclusion has been argued to be outside the bounds of science altogether. It’s precisely because of the perceived religious commitment that ID has been barred from mention in public schools – if it were purely a question of science, there would be zero legal justification for excluding it if some school board chose to allow it.

    Further, the only way that scientists are capable of ‘investigating the supernatural’ is if the supernatural has discernible natural effects. But in such a case it is the natural effects that would be investigated – they wouldn’t be able to scientifically classify anything as ‘supernatural’ because the natural is the sole domain OF science in mainstream consideration.

    This sort of intentional confusion is part of the problem in this debate. Science starts off philosophically bounded in such a way that it’s only capable of investigating the natural. Then the explanation comes that all science has discovered is what we would call ‘natural’, therefore only the natural exists. Which is like arguing that only visual data is scientific data, and then it being announced that science has proven that only the visual exists.

  8. nullasalus,

    You seem to have misunderstood Tom Clark’s comment. He is arguing (and I would agree) that what determines whether a hypothesis is scientific is not whether it refers to the natural or to the supernatural, but rather whether it is testable.

    Young earth creationism posits a God who created the universe several thousand years ago. Most of us would consider the YEC God to be a supernatural entity, but Tom’s point is that the natural/supernatural distinction is irrelevant to the question of YEC’s scientific status. What matters is that young earth creationism makes testable predictions, and that these predictions are not congruent with the observational evidence.

    In other words, science shows us that the YEC God does not exist, regardless of whether you label him ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’.

    There are claims within ID that are testable, and others that are not. The former can be investigated scientifically; the latter cannot.

  9. ribczynski,

    He’s misrepresenting the debate, whether purposefully or not.

    First, YEC != ID. No matter how many times people repeat that, they are not the same thing. Further, the legal opposition to ID – an idea which is extremely broad, a collection of viewpoints and perspective rather than a narrow and single scientific claim – had next to nothing to do with scientific falsification. The issue came down to whether ID’s claims are legitimately ‘science’ at all, or a concealed religious / philosophical argument. So Tom is flatly wrong on this.

    Second, insofar as Tom claims that a supernatural hypothesis can be ruled on by science, he’s either being tremendously sloppy or he’s equivocating immensely. YEC’s claims are capable of being explored by methodological naturalism only to the extent that a particular YEC argument makes naturalistic claims. If a YEC argues that the scientific evidence is invalid and the product of deception by a powerful malevolent force, science is incapable of ruling on this claim. If a YEC makes a specific naturalistic claim that is shown to be false, it does not become the case that science ‘has shown that the YEC God does not exist’, any more than the OJ Simpson trial was an attempt to discover if the OJ Simpson who killed Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman existed. It indicates, if anything, that either the YEC’s God did not do what they claim He did, or He removed (or allowed the removal of) all scientific evidence pointing at as much.

    On the flipside, if by some twist new scientific evidence were discovered that strongly indicated a several thousand year old earth… science would not have verified a supernatural hypothesis either. Such evidence (no, I’m not a YEC, nor have I ever been) would turn our world upside down. Such evidence could lend support to a (non-scientific) YEC claim about God. But science’s role in such an investigation would abruptly stop at the naturalistic aspects. No supernatural claim is testable, such that any ‘supernatural’ part of a hypothesis would be effectively be either removed by, or invisible to, the scientific investigation.

    The first step of respecting science is realizing just how limited it is.

  10. I confess I have some sympathy with skeptics of altruism. Quite often people do “nice” things simply because it makes them feel good. I think God made us to feel good when we do something nice. Like everything else God has done, this can be perverted by perverting what people believe to be “good” or “bad”. People are sometimes altruistic. This does not mean however that every altruistic act is always the right one.

    Just my two cents.

  11. Tragic Mishap, you may have misunderstood my point.

    Altruism, like any other human quality, can be studied, and yes, it has complex roots, as we might expect.

    However, a false paradigm in science requires us to study it as if it were a quality demonstrated by, say, chimpanzees. That necessitates finding explanations that do not include the factor of high intelligence.

    Invariably, the people who do this stuff start spouting about “methodological naturalism” (= “What we are doing doesn’t make any sense but we want to do it this way anyway to protect our elaborate system from collapsing in ruins.”)

  12. It indicates, if anything, that either the YEC’s God did not do what they claim He did, or He removed (or allowed the removal of) all scientific evidence pointing at as much.

    Or we haven’t found it yet. If radioactive decay should be found not to be a constant so much for the main pillar of evidence of an old Earth.

  13. I think the fatal assumption that materialist mentalities endorse is that there is nothing at all testable within the realm of the “supernatural.” This is a common mindset held by atheists and those who share the same worldview.

    If you are going to confine science to natural methodology, then you’re never going to perceive evidence for a supernatural intelligence because the very foundation of natural methodology presumes there is none before evidence is even weighed. So given this, if there is in fact a super intelligent creator who designed the universe and everything within it, then this type of “science” would never be capable of finding the truth. The example is as follows:

    Imagine the entire global population of organic life on earth was completely wiped out without leaving any trace of biological signatures, yet all of the machinery and inorganic mechanisms survived this event. Later down the road an outside intelligence stumbles upon this barren planet and sees nothing but the remnants of what used be populated cities in many locations around the world. If this being were to solely use natural methodology to find out the history of this planet, the efforts would be absolutely fruitless in detecting the intelligence that was responsible for creating all of the complex machinery that’s left after this apocolyptic event. Instead the being would opt to try and understand how cars, planes, factories, power plants etc… came about from natural causes. Obviously constricting his methods to naturalism would never provide any accurate history of how these machines and complex assemblies came to be. But I bet he’d be able to use his imagination and come up some very very complex theories to explain how everything left on this planet did arise from naturalistic processes. These theories would seem sound at face value, but would completely fail when the details are put into the spotlight.

    So ultimately this methodology could come up with flimsy theories at best. Of course this is a theoretical scenario and I realize this, but if science truly is the pursuit of knowledge and truth, then how can we ever know the truth if we’ve already ruled it out? The point I’m trying to make is that if intelligence is indeed a significant source of our origin, then we’d be completely incapable of coming to that conclusion given the current constraints of “science.” Maybe the scope of science is what needs to be broadened.

  14. I hope that you guys understand that Tom Clark of Naturalism.org is, I think, agreeing with you that declaring that science can only deal with what is natural, not with what is supernatural, is a misleading distinction. Science deals with what is empirically testable – that’s the crucial distinction. Do I understand you correctly, Tom?

  15. Well that’s the problem however, not all signs of intelligence are supernatural. So we can apply our knowledge of existing intelligences to detecting a greater intelligence, to say that this is outside the bounds of naturalism would be correct. To say that this would be outside the bounds of science would be incorrect. The problem is that it’s presumed by most scientists today that naturalism is science and science is naturalism. The main issue is that science today is predefined by naturalism. So when Tom Clark says that “supernatural” isn’t detectable, that statement I’m sure actually includes detectable things such as intelligence.

  16. Sure thing Denise. I think it’s valuable to offer alternative explanations for the same thing though.

  17. nullasalus,

    I think you need to read Tom’s comment again.

    He does not claim that YEC = ID, and he does not assert that methodological naturalism can be used to investigate supernatural hypotheses (of course it can’t, since it rules them out a priori).

    Regarding your final point, I agree that the existence of a deceptive God is not a testable claim. However, most Christians (including most YECs) claim that God is honest. When I said that “science shows us that the YEC God does not exist”, I was referring to an honest God.

  18. Hazel,

    The problem is that the only things ‘empirically testable’ are within nature. I think even ID proponents would typically agree with this. The YEC example illustrates that YEC claims can be investigated by science – but only insofar as YEC claims are claims about the natural world. ‘The world is 6000 years old’ can be investigated by scientific methods in various ways. ‘The world is 6000 years old, and all current mainstream scientific attempts to investigate this are either mistaken or are false results from a malevolent entity’ cannot be. Even if the world were verified to be 6000 years old, you would not have verified a supernatural claim – verifying the earth’s age does not verify the existence of God, though some would certainly take that as a launching point for an argument.

    So the only way science can deal with ‘supernatural’ (in the common sense of above or behind nature) claims is indirectly. This point gets confused due to how sloppily ‘supernatural’ topics are handled. Look at Sheldrake’s contentions – he believes telepathy may well be real. To him, telepathy would simply be natural. Hell, he believes it would have been developed via evolutionary methods. But I’ll bet you many people would describe his beliefs on the subject as supernatural – and that quite a lot of the reason would be because they think those claims are false. If Sheldrake ever provided overwhelming evidence of his claims’ truth, I have no doubt said claims would be labeled ‘naturalistic’ upon the instant.

  19. Oops. Sorry Denyse. :D

  20. “But I’ll bet you many people would describe his beliefs on the subject as supernatural – and that quite a lot of the reason would be because they think those claims are false. If Sheldrake ever provided overwhelming evidence of his claims’ truth, I have no doubt said claims would be labeled ‘naturalistic’ upon the instant.”

    So true, so true.

  21. Well, if I can twist a phrase, Methodological Naturalism (MN) is Philosophical Naturalism (PN) in a cheap tuxedo!

    MN places a completely arbitrary restriction on the practice of science and the category of explanatory resources to which science can turn to explain data. If the real explanation is something outside the restriction, then science must pretend to be blind to it for the sake of “doing science.”

    The only way MN makes sense is if we know a priori that nature is a completely closed system of natural cause and effect. But since no one has ever established that scientifically, philosophically, metaphysically or any other way, then MN as an a priori restriction on the practice of science guarantees that if nature is NOT a completely closed system of natural cause and effect, then if the true explanations fall outside the restriction of MN, then science will not see any explanatory possibility beyond that. That’s powerfully close to importing PN into the heart of science by disguising at MN. Science is NOT a collorary of PN and no one has ever provided an argument as to why it should be.

  22. ribczynski,

    “I think you need to read Tom’s comment again.

    He does not claim that YEC = ID, and he does not assert that methodological naturalism can be used to investigate supernatural hypotheses (of course it can’t, since it rules them out a priori).”

    I think you should read Tom’s again, as well as my own. Here’s the first from Tom.

    “For instance, scientists have evaluated young earth creationism and found the evidence for it lacking, same for ID. This is why neither have thus far found a place in public school science classrooms.”

    So right away, he’s making the claim that ID = YEC without qualification – certainly insofar as why they aren’t allowed in a public school curriculum, and how their claims are judged by the scientific community. If you go read Judge Jones’ decision on ID, this simply is not the case. Questions of scientific evidence hardly applied – the question was whether ID was primarily a religious / philosophical / theological project. It was on those grounds that ID was ruled out – ID was overwhelmingly viewed as ‘not scientific theory/theories’ in the court decision, not ‘a scientific claim that is wrong’. Questions of scientific evidence for ID claims barely registered on the legal radar. Between that and the fact that ID and YEC are two vastly distinct paradigms (though technically YEC may be under ID’s ‘big tent’), arguing they’re rejected for the same reasons is either due to a lack of understanding, or otherwise.

    Contrast that response to ID with YEC. Do scientists believe the claim that the earth is several thousands of years old is ‘not testable’ or ‘not a scientific claim’?

    As for whether methodological naturalism can be used to investigate a supernatural hypotheses, here’s Tom again.

    “I agree that science shouldn’t be identified with methodological naturalism. Science can evaluate any hypothesis, natural or supernatural, monistic or dualistic, so long as it has some testable content.”

    Sounds nice, until you realize that ‘having some testable content’ entails methodological naturalism by the current mainstream standards of science. Again, go back to the Kitzmiller decision where you can see Judge Jones, citing claims from the NAS and others (along with, supposedly, nearly photocopying the ACLU’s papers to write his verdict) the the effect that “Methodological naturalism is a ‘ground rule’ of science today.” If there’s another standard of science in play, then it’s an alternative definition compared to what was laid down in Kitzmiller. Guess which side was arguing that?

    Be aware of what is involved with arguing that science need not be committed to methodological naturalism. The price you pay in order to argue that science directly disproves the supernatural is that you justify any person in arguing that science proves the universe (and anything in it) was designed and therefore God exists. Many ID proponents would love such a standard, especially when so many ID opponents try to have it both ways by dabbling in this little game.

    “Regarding your final point, I agree that the existence of a deceptive God is not a testable claim. However, most Christians (including most YECs) claim that God is honest. When I said that “science shows us that the YEC God does not exist”, I was referring to an honest God.”

    Are you aware that some YECs claim that the devil, not God, is doing the deceiving? Or that scientists are flat out wrong and will eventually realize their error (‘promissory supernaturalism’ perhaps)? They have no need of positing a dishonest God to explain false appearances – not when the options of ‘powerful but lesser being’ and ‘the data we have is simply incorrect or inconclusive’ is on the table.

    And again – ‘science has proven the YEC God does not exist’ is a tortured way of describing the situation even among people who accept the scientific data in question, done apparently to get that little penny ante ‘science disproved God’ quip in there. But if we’re going to abuse language that much, then hey – science has demonstrated that an atheist eternal universe does not exist by way of the Big Bang. Science has demonstrated that atheist neurology is invalid by way of rejecting Skinner’s behaviorism. Science has been disproving atheistic ideas about the universe left and right for centuries.

    How convenient.

  23. Hazel:

    “Science deals with what is empirically testable – that’s the crucial distinction. Do I understand you correctly, Tom?”

    Exactly.

    In response to nullasalus:

    It’s true that the main argument against teaching ID has been its religious motivation, but the issue of its testability and truth is independent of its motivation. As a naturalist, I might be motivated to find altruistic behavior in other species, but that doesn’t bear on the truth of that claim, which has to be evaluated on its evidential basis.

    ID and creationism could usefully be mentioned in science class as examples of failed hypotheses – students could read Victor Stenger’s book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. ID is a logically possible scenario: that the Earth and its denizens were created by some sort of super-intelligence. The hypothesis fails not because it involves what people often think of as a supernatural agency, but because there’s as yet no evidence for it.

    To say that science only investigates natural effects is simply to say that whatever science shows to exist is what we call nature. Science can study creationism and ID (and has done so), and were evidence found of a designer, its characteristics, and the mechanisms of its operations, that designer would perforce be incorporated into nature. If something is certified to exist by science, it gets naturalized. This is why those wanting to use science to confirm ID should be careful what they wish for.

    So I’d say science isn’t “philosophically bounded in such a way that it’s only capable of investigating the natural.” The scientific method as actually practiced doesn’t invoke the natural/supernatural distinction, it only invokes methods of investigation and criteria of explanatory adequacy that certify whether phenomena reliably exist or not. Science gets to weigh in on the existence of purportedly supernatural phenomena if they have any testable characteristics. For more on this, see http://www.naturalism.org/science.htm , especially “Some criteria for good scientific explanations.”

    The claim that only the natural exists isn’t part of science, but rather the conclusion you reach if you stick with science as your mode of knowing about the world (and no student is forced to do this). So science isn’t biased toward naturalism as proponents of ID often suggest. It’s only that what science shows to exist is what we call nature.

    Re YEC: if its proponents make testable claims about the actions of their god, and those claims are disproven (as they have been), that lowers the probability of the claim that their god exists. Likewise for claims about anonymous intercessory prayer. The studies showing zero or negative effects of such prayer can’t help but reflect badly on the god hypothesis. Of course science can’t prove god doesn’t exist, but by providing no support for claims about god’s action in the world, it lowers the probability of god’s existence, if you take intersubjective evidence as dispositive about what exists. See Yonatan Fishman’s paper on this, “Can science test supernatural worldviews?” linked at http://www.naturalism.org/science.htm , especially section 2 starting on page 8.

    When Christians and others make empirical claims about the existence of the supernatural, they are making claims about reality, period. Science, kept honest by philosophy and critical thinking, is by far our most reliable method of deciding what’s the case about reality, so it seems to me it can, and should, weigh in on such claims. The purported existence of the supernatural is too important a question to be left to religion. This gets discussed in “Reality and its rivals” at http://www.naturalism.org/epistemology.htm .

  24. Some excellent and well-stated thoughts, Tom.

  25. Wow! Back the train way, way up.

    students could read Victor Stenger’s book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. ID is a logically possible scenario: that the Earth and its denizens were created by some sort of super-intelligence.

    First you reference a book about God and then automatically conflate core ID theory with a Creationist scenario. There are multiple competing ID-compatible hypotheses. Yet the one you choose to highlight is an ID-compatible hypothesis made by Creationists where not only is life created directly (instead of seeding, front-loading, etc.) but so is the entire planet.

    Then it gets worse.

    Science can study creationism and ID (and has done so), and were evidence found of a designer, its characteristics, and the mechanisms of its operations, that designer would perforce be incorporated into nature.

    You insist that core ID theory must identify a specific Designer or Designers in order to be valid…something core ID theory does not even do!

    These are two huge misunderstandings about ID theory right from the start. With these basic misconceptions about ID how can you even comment on it? Can you even list a single testable claim of core ID theory that has been falsified? Or even how about a prediction that turned out to be false?

  26. Tom writes:

    ID and creationism could usefully be mentioned in science class as examples of failed hypotheses – students could read Victor Stenger’s book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. ID is a logically possible scenario: that the Earth and its denizens were created by some sort of super-intelligence. The hypothesis fails not because it involves what people often think of as a supernatural agency, but because there’s as yet no evidence for it.

    I have take issue with this statement, especially that last sentence. The claim of “no evidence” is often used to dismiss ID. But what does that claim really mean? As commonly used, it seems to mean that science doesn’t know of or see any connection between some data set and the possibility that the data set is the way it is because of the actions of a supernatural intelligence. Put another way, science views all data through the lens of MN. But data isn’t data per se. That is to say, data in the form of some observed phenomenon doesn’t come with a little label attached telling the observer what it is evidence for. Rather, the observer (i.e. the scientist) assigns evidential value to the data based on other considerations and background knowledge.

    An example I’ve seen elsewhere. Suppose it is sometime before 1900 and two physicists are talking and one says “you know, I think that atoms are mutable and can be either split apart or mashed together.” The other physicist would have sniffed “Hogwash, you have no evidence for that.” And at that time, the second scientist would have been right because the relevent discoveries that would connect the concept of the mutability of atoms to the data had not yet been made. On the other hand, the was overpowering evidence for the claim of the first scientist that the entire world experienced that rose every morning and set every night: Sunshine! If not for the mutability of atoms, there would be no sun. But, no one knew that prior to (or about) 1900. But the evidence for it was there all along.

    Why couldn’t ID be in the same category? It seems to me that there’s all sorts of evidence…that is to say data, observed phenomenon, for ID across all of Nature. What the ID critic means with the claim “no evidence” is that there isn’t any data set that she takes to be evidence for ID, which is a very different sort of claim. That claim usually implies that no one knows of any relevent data or background knowledge that legimately connects certain data sets with ID. And, usually the ID critic goes one step further and claims that no such connection will be forthcoming ever…that is the gist of taking MN seriously into the heart of scientific practice.

    The relevant and obvious question to put to any ID critic claiming there’s “no evidence” for ID is “what would you take to be evidence for ID?” That’s a question I’ve asked repeatedly in forums like this, but have to receive an answer that doesn’t betray the a priori assumption of MN.

    When one understands the role of evidence in science and when and how evidentiary status is actually ascribed to a specific data set by a scientist, a lot of the starch of saying “no evidence” goes out the window.

  27. Tom, quick question. According to your long elaboration on how science “naturalizes” what it observes, would this mean that you would consider intelligence to be natural? How about design? If so, then why can’t they be under the consideration of scientific observation?

    Basically what you’re saying is anything that science doesn’t deal with isn’t “natural.” Therefore concepts such as design and intelligence wouldn’t be “natural.” Yet the search for intelligence in outer space remains a “scientific pursuit.” It seems your assessment of how science naturalizes what it observes has more than one standard. You can try and explain it however you like, but ultimately you’re going to end up contradicting something that’s already been established (i.e. detecting intelligence in outer space).

    I’m sorry but you’ll have to come up with something new or explain more specifics on how IDers can’t detect intelligence but “mainstream scientists” can…

  28. Also, I checked out naturalism.org and found it wanting. There are multiple variants of naturalism but this not even elaborated upon. For example, pragmatic naturalism is relegated to a sidenote:

    Writing in the earlier half of the 20th century, John Dewey—a widely read philosopher, theorist of education, cultural critic, and public intellectual—inspired generations of philosophers in the United States with a system he called “pragmatic naturalism.”

    That’s the only page I found it mentioned based upon a google site search. Some variants of naturalism are not mentioned at all. Essentially the whole site seems to be biased toward branding naturalism as a whole as BEING a particular/preferred variant. Never mind the blatant references to humanism (what is that even doing on there?). It’s not an unbiased informational site, it’s a site intended to convert!

    Further the same paragraph asserts:

    Here, at last, naturalism took its place as an explicit worldview (albeit with many variations), based in a broadly empirical, scientific epistemological commitment, but going beyond science by making that very commitment the basis for ontological claims about the world – namely, the denial of the supernatural.

    oookay. The philosopher Willard Quine was a pragmatic naturalist: “If I saw indirect explanatory benefit in positing sensibilia, possibilia, spirits, a Creator, I would joyfully accord them scientific status too, on a par with such avowedly scientific posits as quarks black holes.’” How does that square with naturalism.org’s assertion?

    Personally I get slightly annoyed when a relative newcomer like methodological naturalism, which was not even coined as term until 1983, is claimed to represent science. Gee, was science not being done properly until 25 years ago? (Yes, that’s hyperbole…I realize the generalized concept of MN was around for quite a while before being formalized recently.)

    As I’ve been saying for a while, philosophies of science are good working models, not necessarily a hard and fast rule, so equating a single philosophy to BEING science seems a dodge more than anything else. As in, they all have their pros and cons and I don’t have a personal preference when it comes to how people choose to actively pursue their work. If you find that MN works for you, then so be it…just don’t claim others are not doing science.

    (Although I should note that I see nothing wrong with trying to convince people they would be better served by adopting your preferred philosophy. Just be honest about it.)

  29. Tom,

    “ID and creationism could usefully be mentioned in science class as examples of failed hypotheses – students could read Victor Stenger’s book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. ID is a logically possible scenario: that the Earth and its denizens were created by some sort of super-intelligence. The hypothesis fails not because it involves what people often think of as a supernatural agency, but because there’s as yet no evidence for it.”

    There’s plenty of evidence for design – and Stenger’s book is a blatant example of the sort of double-standard hypocrisy that goes on with regards to ID. When it’s argued by ID proponents that there is evidence or inference of design in nature (whether biological, geological, cosmological, or otherwise) the response is that such claims go beyond science, are the stuff of religion and philosophy, and therefore are not appropriate to teach in a school setting. When Stenger argues the opposite – that science proves that there is no God – he’s either ignored or celebrated. Somehow, it’s only an abuse when the conclusion is not atheistic.

    Methodological naturalism is the standard for scientific investigation, argued by the plaintiffs (among whom were some major scientific organizations and representatives) – and methodological naturalism, even conceded ribczynski, cannot investigate supernatural claims. For Stenger to make the move he does, he has to adopt a new standard for scientific investigation – in which case, one has to decide whether he’s doing exactly that (Which means he’s making the same move most ID proponents are) or he’s being dishonest (By arguing ‘science’ diisproves something which it rules out from the beginning.)

    “To say that science only investigates natural effects is simply to say that whatever science shows to exist is what we call nature. Science can study creationism and ID (and has done so), and were evidence found of a designer, its characteristics, and the mechanisms of its operations, that designer would perforce be incorporated into nature. If something is certified to exist by science, it gets naturalized. This is why those wanting to use science to confirm ID should be careful what they wish for.”

    No, Tom. Methodological naturalism and mainstream science operate with a starting ground rule that all it can and will investigate is nature itself, and ‘natural things’ are all it is capable of proposing as explanations. Further, science does not ‘certify to exist’ anything – all science is capable of doing is falsifying proposed natural explanations, and shaping theories as a result.

    Further, ID proponents do not want science ‘to confirm ID’. They believe a proper definition of science would include ID explanations and proposals. Big difference. The argument at Kitzmiller was not that ‘science proves ID’. It was that ‘ID theories and explanations are scientific’.

    If you want to argue that ID explanations and theories are themselves scientific, you’re the one who should be careful what you wish for. The price of making ID scientific is not that you get to disprove God on the cheap a la Stenger – you make design (and by way of inference, God) a scientific argument, even if it’s a minority viewpoint. This sort of hijacking of science to pursue desired social and political ends always turns out to spoil.

    “So I’d say science isn’t “philosophically bounded in such a way that it’s only capable of investigating the natural.” The scientific method as actually practiced doesn’t invoke the natural/supernatural distinction, it only invokes methods of investigation and criteria of explanatory adequacy that certify whether phenomena reliably exist or not. Science gets to weigh in on the existence of purportedly supernatural phenomena if they have any testable characteristics.”

    Are you even reading what you’re writing here? You already said that whatever science ‘shows to exist’ is naturalized. It goes without saying that anything science can investigate is natural – that’s part of the package of methodological naturalism. The point was that a supernatural phenomena amenable to investigation and testing by science is – guess what? – not supernatural. It’s natural.

    “The claim that only the natural exists isn’t part of science, but rather the conclusion you reach if you stick with science as your mode of knowing about the world (and no student is forced to do this). So science isn’t biased toward naturalism as proponents of ID often suggest. It’s only that what science shows to exist is what we call nature.”

    Methodological naturalism does not make the claim that only the natural exists. Methodological naturalism makes no claims in and of itself – it’s a method, a standard of investigation for the scientific field. Further, if you ‘stick with science as your mode of knowing the world’, you do not ‘arrive at’ naturalism. You’re already there the moment you make that intellectual commitment, because science as defined in the mainstream only does – and only can – concern itself with naturalistic explanations. Committing yourself to only (under the methodological naturalism standard) scientific explanations for anything does not lead to metaphysical naturalism – it IS metaphysical naturalism.

    “Re YEC: if its proponents make testable claims about the actions of their god, and those claims are disproven (as they have been), that lowers the probability of the claim that their god exists.”

    No, Tom, it doesn’t. Any more than making a claim about Abraham Lincoln that is later disproven would in and of itself lower the probability that Lincoln existed. It indicates that, if anything, they have a wrong belief about God. Science is incapable of estimating probabilities of God – or even investigating the existence of God, certainly God as classically imagined in western theism.

    “Likewise for claims about anonymous intercessory prayer. The studies showing zero or negative effects of such prayer can’t help but reflect badly on the god hypothesis. Of course science can’t prove god doesn’t exist, but by providing no support for claims about god’s action in the world, it lowers the probability of god’s existence, if you take intersubjective evidence as dispositive about what exists.”

    Science under methodological naturalism is utterly incapable of providing evidence in favor of or against God by the very ground rules it operates under. Science redefined to be outside the scope of methodological naturalism necessarily entails metaphysical, philosophical, and theological commitments and additional ground rules that explode the possibility to evaluate these questions within science, because the evaluation changes depending on the metaphysical and philosophical assumptions you’re now including (and which will surely change from person to person, or group to group).

    Further, controlled ‘anonymous intercessory prayer’ is utterly foreign to the western theistic tradition (as is the idea that you can use prayer to test God – this idea is closer to blasphemy in tradition than anything else), nor has it ever been viewed as a surefire miracle-making method. Prayer was first and foremost between person and God, focused centrally on ‘thy will be done’. Which is why Christians ministered to the poor and sick, rather than tried to pray themselves up some ministration. When they wanted to help people, they didn’t pray and make sure to do so anonymously – they built hospitals.

    Meanwhile, if we’re going to play this game, atheistic psychology and neuroscience argued for decades that the ‘mind’ had no causal role on the brain, and that behavior was the only thing that needed to be studied. Now that view has been jettisoned (after doing quite a lot of damage to the mental health of many people unfortunate enough to be treated under that paradigm), the placebo effect is a widely-recognized reality, and people’s minds are viewed as instrumental to mental health. Surprising, I know.

    “When Christians and others make empirical claims about the existence of the supernatural, they are making claims about reality, period. Science, kept honest by philosophy and critical thinking, is by far our most reliable method of deciding what’s the case about reality, so it seems to me it can, and should, weigh in on such claims. The purported existence of the supernatural is too important a question to be left to religion.”

    You are equivocating here to such a degree that I can’t help but think it’s purposeful. When ‘Christians and others make empirical claims about the supernatural’, they are making naturalistic claims by default. But the claims that ‘Christians and others’ make regarding the supernatural are far and away hardly ever empirical in nature, and with the possible exception of YEC almost never fundamental to their faith. The ‘existence’ of the supernatural is forever walled off to the investigation of science (unless the mainstream definition of science in changed, in which case congratulations for doing exactly what some ID proponents have been asking for for some time), and the fact that you think science has been ‘kept honest’ – by philosophy, no less – indicates that either your understanding of science and naturalism is woefully inadequate, or that you’re willing to misrepresent both to further social and political aims.

    Why are the people who praise science the loudest inevitably the ones abusing it the most?

  30. Methodological naturalism is nothing but political correctness in a lab coat—an arbitrary rule established by bureaucrats to protect other bureaucrats who have nothing new to say. No one ever heard of such a thing until the 1980’s, and it just happened to rear its ugly head at the very same time that the ID movement began to define itself. That alone should tell us something. It is beyond presumptuous for one group of scientists to establish an “acceptable” methodology for another group of scientists or to insist that only those who agree with that methodology are really doing science.

    In fact, only the individual scientist can decide which methods he should use, because only the individual scientist knows which problem he is trying to solve. That is why the 20/80 rule applies to most scientific progress. It is the vital few scientists, the minority, that drive most of the new discoveries. The others are just dutiful little worker bees that cling to the status quo and use the power of inert institutions to justify their existence. They need the academy to help them plug in to the established technology, secure grants, and inform us about such mind bending truths as the fact that men are different than women, or that self control may help people to stop smoking.

    Meanwhile, the geniuses are persecuted for breaking away from the herd and trying to say something interesting and useful. It hasn’t been that long, after all, since the astronomers caught all kinds of hell for doing that very thing—-discovering evidence for the big bang. And who was it that gave them all that hell? Why it was the herd, of course. And what was their rationale? Well, it seems that they were fearful that [hide the kids now and pull down the shades] someone might think that God created the universe. To suggest that this same herd should now be telling innovators like Dembski and Behe how to do their business is beyond unconscionable.

    It is also a rather curious fact that, for some unknown reason, advocates for methodological naturalism always just happen to conflate creation science with intelligent design. For those who continue to blur that distinction, either through ignorance or malice, I can only offer the following exhortation: Please learn the difference between a religious presupposition, which is faith based, and a design inference, which is empirically based. Your capacity for dialogue will improve immeasurably.

  31. DonaldM,

    I like your post but think it needs a few emendations, as below, (with a few minor typos also corrected).

    Well, if I can twist a phrase, Methodological Naturalism (MN) is Philosophical Naturalism (PN) in a cheap tuxedo!

    MN places a completely arbitrary restriction on the practice of science and the category of explanatory resources to which science can turn to explain data. If the real explanation is something outside the restriction, then science must pretend to be blind to it for the sake of “doing science.”

    The only way MN makes sense is if we [assume that PN is true and therefore] know [have faith] a priori that [what PNers think constitutes] nature is a completely closed system of [what PNers think constitutes] natural cause and effect. But since no one has ever established that [PN is true] scientifically, philosophically, metaphysically or any other way, then MN is an a priori restriction on the practice of science guarantees that if nature is NOT a completely closed system of [what PNers think constitutes] natural cause and effect, then if the true explanations fall outside the restriction of MN, then science will not see any explanatory possibility beyond that. That’s powerfully close to importing PN into the heart of science by disguising [it] as MN. Science is NOT a collorary of PN and no one has ever provided an argument as to why it should be.

    What do you think of that?

  32. Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Here are some responses, necessarily incomplete given the volume of discourse.

    Hazel: thanks for the kind words.

    Patrick: Sorry about the conflation of various ID/creationism hypotheses, I was merely adverting to a generalized “god did it” hypothesis and saying that science could weigh in on it if it has testable content. Re falsifying testable claims of ID, isn’t the issue that such claims on the part of ID are nearly non-existent? Possible example: I think it’s Behe that argues the flagellum couldn’t have been the result of natural selection, but there are eminently plausible accounts of how it could be. But the main problem with ID/creationism is that it doesn’t specify a mechanism for how the designer/creator did it, or any independent evidence for the existence of a designer/creator apart from the fact that things might seem designed/created (although that’s debatable too, given all the functionally sub-optimal forms and processes in nature). Unexplained and unevidenced explainers that are tailored to fill explanatory gaps don’t survive in science since they don’t add to our understanding.

    Re Naturalism.Org: You’re quite right – it isn’t intended as an unbiased informational site about naturalism in all its varieties. As a production of the Center for Naturalism, it’s intended to present and promote a particular version of naturalism as a worldview. As it says at the top of the home page: “For background and FAQs on *this understanding of naturalism*, please see…” That said, I think the version of naturalism presented is broadly consistent with many currents of philosophical naturalism as it’s developed over the last century, in particular the naturalistic turn of philosophy in taking science as an epistemological resource.

    So Naturalism.Org is on board with Quine’s statement you quoted. Entities and processes gain existential support – that is, we start believing they’re real – if they provide explanatory benefit in science (and, I would add, aren’t merely posited to fill an explanatory gap: there has to be independent evidence for them). This isn’t the case for an intelligent designer. Once entities gain existential support from science they are of course no longer considered supernatural (if indeed they were in the first place) – they are perforce naturalized.

    I agree with you about MN. I think it’s a total distraction and red herring, used by science-promoting organizations in an effort to reassure religionists that science won’t encroach on their turf (but of course it does, see “Reality and its rivals” at Naturalism.Org). Science should be characterized by it’s actual method, which in practice makes no reference to the natural/supernatural distinction, see for instance here.

    Donald M: You make some good points about evidence, e.g., “the observer (i.e. the scientist) assigns evidential value to the data based on other considerations and background knowledge.” No one can rule out that evidence might eventually surface that we are indeed the creations of a super-intelligence. At the moment, however, there’s no evidence, independent of what seems (to some) like the appearance of intentional design in organic forms, that establishes the existence of a designer, or anything about its characteristics or modes of operation. This is what I would take to be adequate evidence of ID. Until such evidence surfaces, the ID hypothesis is empty of content and thus a scientific non-starter. This is what explains its notable absence in established scientific theory – not any conspiracy to suppress it on the part of nefarious Darwinists, nor a bias on the part of science that rules out consideration of supernatural hypotheses (the MN rule you rightly object to).

    PaulN: The way I see it, whatever science discovers to exist ends up included in what we call the natural world, so if it discovers an intelligent designer, the characteristics and operations of which can be specified and observed (instead of merely posited), then that designer ends up within nature. ID claims to detect the existence of intelligence, but that claim is based simply on the appearance (to some) of the intentional design of organisms; there’s no independent evidence for the existence or characteristics or mode of operation of the designer. These are the things that would need to be detected for mainstream scientists to accept ID.

    nullasalus:

    “Stenger’s book is a blatant example of the sort of double-standard hypocrisy that goes on with regards to ID. When it’s argued by ID proponents that there is evidence or inference of design in nature (whether biological, geological, cosmological, or otherwise) the response is that such claims go beyond science, are the stuff of religion and philosophy, and therefore are not appropriate to teach in a school setting. When Stenger argues the opposite – that science proves that there is no God – he’s either ignored or celebrated. Somehow, it’s only an abuse when the conclusion is not atheistic.”

    Stenger, myself, Yonatan Fishman and some others think that science can indeed weigh in on the question of god’s existence, not that claims for his existence go beyond science. Stenger’s standard for scientific investigation, and mine, is simply to look at the evidence for a claim, irrespective of whether the phenomena involved are called natural or supernatural. So we reject the MN restriction on science, and thus disagree with the Kitzmiller plaintiffs and Judge Jones’ decision in this regard, which appealed to MN. The reason ID, etc. shouldn’t be taught in school, except as examples of failed hypotheses, is because they are *bad* science, not because they go *beyond* science.

    “If you want to argue that ID explanations and theories are themselves scientific, you’re the one who should be careful what you wish for. The price of making ID scientific is not that you get to disprove God on the cheap a la Stenger – you make design (and by way of inference, God) a scientific argument, even if it’s a minority viewpoint. This sort of hijacking of science to pursue desired social and political ends always turns out to spoil.”

    I’m of course not saying that ID explanations and theories are scientific, only that they can be evaluated on the basis of empirical evidence (to the extent they have testable content). As I said earlier, they are good examples of *failed* science, of *failed* hypotheses. The proper definition of science gives it latitude to evaluate any hypothesis with testable content since that’s exactly what it does in practice: it has evaluated both YEC and ID and found them fatally wanting. This isn’t to hijack science in service to social and political ends, but simply to adjudicate factual claims about reality using our best available tool. Moreover, if science by definition or fiat isn’t allowed to evaluate creationism and ID, and discard them as failed hypotheses, then one wonders what discipline of investigation, what mode of knowing, *does* have jurisdiction to evaluate supernatural claims? If only religion and other non-empirical domains of discourse are permitted to pronounce on the reality of god and the supernatural, then their existence is a fait accompli, but only by declaration, not by proof anyone should trust. This is why IDers and some other religionists understandably want to get science on their side: only science and other forms of intersubjective empiricism give us convincing evidence for existence claims. Unfortunately, however, science rules against them.

    Re science and naturalization, you said that “It goes without saying that anything science can investigate is natural – that’s part of the package of methodological naturalism.” It isn’t the case that science can only investigate what is natural (as per MN) since it can investigate the existence of what are claimed to be, or called, supernatural phenomena, should there be any testable content to the claim. But should these so-called supernatural phenomena actually be shown to exist as demonstrated by science, then of course they end up being natural phenomena – they get naturalized. This could conceivably happen with ID (see Dembski, Naturalist?). If it turns out there’s no scientific evidence for them, the naturalist (who sticks with science in deciding what’s real) concludes they likely don’t exist. The supernaturalist still might claim they exist on the basis of non-scientific modes of knowing.

    “Science under methodological naturalism is utterly incapable of providing evidence in favor of or against God by the very ground rules it operates under. Science redefined to be outside the scope of methodological naturalism necessarily entails metaphysical, philosophical, and theological commitments and additional ground rules that explode the possibility to evaluate these questions within science, because the evaluation changes depending on the metaphysical and philosophical assumptions you’re now including (and which will surely change from person to person, or group to group).”

    I don’t think that science, in evaluating any and all factual claims, whether termed natural or supernatural, necessarily entails any commitments beyond its method. The commitment comes when one decides to stick with science as one’s only mode of deciding existence claims, which as you properly point out leads directly to metaphysical naturalism. People are free to commit to other modes of deciding what exists.

    “When ‘Christians and others make empirical claims about the supernatural’, they are making naturalistic claims by default. But the claims that ‘Christians and others’ make regarding the supernatural are far and away hardly ever empirical in nature, and with the possible exception of YEC almost never fundamental to their faith. The ‘existence’ of the supernatural is forever walled off to the investigation of science (unless the mainstream definition of science in changed, in which case congratulations for doing exactly what some ID proponents have been asking for for some time)…”

    The claims that Christians and others make about god and the supernatural are factual claims about the nature of reality, claims that science can test to the extent they have testable content (many don’t, in which case they are safe from science, but also barred from the sort of evidential support most folks think really counts and would love to have for their religion). People are of course free to define science however they like, but in practice the existence of the supernatural is perfectly open to scientific investigation, and indeed is currently being investigated to the extent that scientists bother to consider such things as creationism and ID (most don’t waste their time, unless it’s to keep these from being confused with good science). To admit that science isn’t restricted to MN seemingly plays into the hands of ID proponents, because they imagine science done properly would lend them support. But of course it doesn’t. Science done properly thus far shows supernatural hypotheses to be vacuous, lacking in evidential backing, unfalsifiable, and for other reasons untenable. Again, see Yonatan Fishman’s paper on this, and “Some criteria for good scientific explanations,” both linked at http://www.naturalism.org/science.htm .

  33. Re falsifying testable claims of ID, isn’t the issue that such claims on the part of ID are nearly non-existent?

    Not really. Take something of known non-design and show that an ID methodology declares it to be designed and you have falsified ID.

  34. And how would you falsify macroevolution?

  35. “As I said earlier, they are good examples of *failed* science, of *failed* hypotheses. The proper definition of science gives it latitude to evaluate any hypothesis with testable content since that’s exactly what it does in practice: ”

    By this criteria, Darwinian macro evolution should be removed from all science textbooks and from science classes. There is not one example of it ever having worked.

    Don’t you agree?

  36. It looks like Tribune7 and I had the same thought at the same time.

  37. nullasalus comments on my claims regarding science and the YEC God:

    And again – ’science has proven the YEC God does not exist’ is a tortured way of describing the situation even among people who accept the scientific data in question, done apparently to get that little penny ante ’science disproved God’ quip in there. But if we’re going to abuse language that much, then hey – science has demonstrated that an atheist eternal universe does not exist by way of the Big Bang. Science has demonstrated that atheist neurology is invalid by way of rejecting Skinner’s behaviorism. Science has been disproving atheistic ideas about the universe left and right for centuries.

    How convenient.

    nullasalus,

    You misquoted me as saying that science had ‘proved’ that the YEC God does not exist, when I had carefully used the word ‘shown’ instead. How convenient.

    Science does not deal in certainties, and it only ‘proves’ things if ‘to prove’ is understood to mean ‘to show to be very highly probable.’

    When I claim that science shows that the YEC God does not exist, I mean precisely that. You attempt to conflate this with a “penny-ante” claim that “science disproves God” in general, but that is not my claim.

    You’re right that this constitutes an abuse of language, but the abuse is yours, not mine.

    The YEC God is falsified by science, but not all conceptions of God are falsifiable.

    Cling to an untestable idea of God if you like, but don’t pretend that science has nothing to say about a falsifiable conception of God such as the YEC God.

  38. Tom:

    Sorry to be so late in joining this very interesting debate. I appreciate many of the things you say, and completely disagree on others. I will try to detail my thought:

    Let’s start from the beginning:

    You say:

    “I agree that science shouldn’t be identified with methodological naturalism. Science can evaluate any hypothesis, natural or supernatural, monistic or dualistic, so long as it has some testable content.”

    I perfectly agree with you. I will add later some thoughts about the word “testable”, anyway.

    You say:

    “For instance, scientists have evaluated young earth creationism and found the evidence for it lacking, same for ID.”

    One good example (probably, I must admit that I have never taken time to correctly evaluate that debate, being not personally interested in it) and one very bad one. Tom, I really think that, while many of the things you say are reasonable, you have completely misunderstood ID. But for simplicity I will try to group together all my arguments for ID later.

    “Science should also not be identified with materialism, since there might turn out to be categorically mental entities according to some empirically testable specification.”

    Here we are. That’s probably the important point which I agree and disagree at the same time. I agree with the basic assumption: science should not be identified with materialism. And I agree also with the rest. And I need to spend some thought on two important aspects:

    1) Science, as conceived today, is not the only instrument of cognition.

    2) The word “empirically” is ambiguous. The word “testable” implies some assumed methodological pattern.

    To make me understood, I will try a slightly different sentence, which well conveys my point:

    Cognition should also not be identified with science, since there might turn out to be categorically existing entities according to some objectively satisfying specification.

    What I am trying to say is rather trivial, or at least it should be. There are a lot of contents in reality, objectively existing, which at present are not addressed by science. Consciousness, with all its functions and manifestations is the single most important one. And consciousness is “very” common in nature. The objective existence of subjectivity is a problem about which present science has very little to say (although scientists love just the same to say a lot of arrogant and irritating things about it). That’s the “hard problem of consciousness”, and if you like you can check the ongoing debate on the “Horrid doubt file” thread for further inputs.

    So, what is the meaning you give to the word “empirically”? There are observables which are cognized by the senses, and are at present the basis for scientific theories. There are observables which are cognized in other ways (so called “subjective ways”), and yet do objectively exist (you cannot a priori conflate the concept of “observable by the senses” with the concept of “existing”). Our personal consciousness being the first, and most important, of all.

    Besides, the concepts of empirical, and especially testable, imply a lot of philosophical and methodological assumptions, which must not a priori be shared by all, and which can generate dangerous self-references. I am not denying any validity to them, just recommending caution.

    “If he’s right, and materialism is proven false, that doesn’t get us to supernaturalism, since it’s still a theory about the natural world and what it contains.”

    I agree, but again I have some unease with the terms you use. If we agree about the dangers of the concepts of natural and supernatural, why use them? I think the final purpose of all cognition is to understand what is real, what really exists. So, why not say that:

    “If he’s right, and materialism is proven false, it’s still a theory about reality and what it contains.”

    So, we avoid any unnecessary, even unconscious, restrictions about what reality can contain. In that way, just to make an extreme example, even if we had reasonable assurance of the existence of a god, we would have no reason to call that “natural” or “supernatural”: we could just state that god is real, which is a perfectly legit cognitive statement, about a god or anything else.

    “To get supernaturalism into the picture, you’d have to use something other than science to establish truth claims about the world, since what science confirms to exist is what we call nature. Thus far, it doesn’t seem science has much competition when it comes to mapping reality reliably.”

    Here is where I disagree with you more strongly. Indeed, you take a leap here. To state that “what science confirms to exist is what we call nature” is really an unwarranted assumption. You can certainly say that what science confirms to exist is what “you” call nature, but extending that concept to everyone is rather bold.

    I would never use “nature” in that sense, If ever I decided to use the term “nature” at all. As it should be clear by now, it really has no sense.

    Now, it is obvious that if you define “nature” as “what science confirms to exist”, then your sentence is correct, but is obviously a tautology. So, what are you saying here? IMO, you are trying to say, without arguing for it, that science is the main, or the only, way to affirm that something exists. On that, I definitely don’t agree, and you may perhaps agree with me that it is a very strong assumption, which can be discussed, but should not a priori be accepted.

    Indeed, you reinforce that concept when you say that “Thus far, it doesn’t seem science has much competition when it comes to mapping reality reliably.” Can you see that here, where your real thought is more explicit, you had to use the word “reality”? At last we agree on the term, but certainly not on the statement.

    You may be or not be a methodological naturalist or a materialist, but it seems that you definitely are a methodological, or maybe philosophical, scientist. I have all the possible admiration and respect for good science, but he best way to transform good science into bad science is to force on it an epistemological status that it does not really own.

    Cognition is vastly broader than scientific cognition. You cannot even have a concept of science itself, unless you have already done a lot of work at other cognitive levels. That’s why science must always and necessarily be “molded” and critically evaluated by philosophy of science, an obvious concept which many seem to forget.

    So, your same concept that “it doesn’t seem science has much competition when it comes to mapping reality reliably” brings us to the strange conclusion that science has never been mapped into reality reliably. In other words, science, however you define it, is not complete and self-sustaining.

    Like many scientists, methodological or philosophical, you seem to give great consideration to problems of methodology. I agree, but provided we remember that they are just that: problems. There is no real consensus about method, if not among dogmatic scientists. Just to be extreme, what about Polanyi or Feyerabend? Were they completely deluded about what science is?

    So, long live good science, but: no a priori commitment to it as the main, or only, way to ascertain what is real, no a priori commitment to a specific method, and let’s remember the mportance of philosophy of science in debating what science is and can or cannot do. And above all, let’s remember that the purpose of all cognition is to ascertain what is real, what really exists. That’s the method I love. That’s my only a priori commitment.

    And finally, and in brief, my comments about your position on ID. I am really disappointed by what you say about ID, because it in no way corresponds to the clarity of thought in the rest of your posts. I hope you are only misinformed about that.

    “ID is a logically possible scenario: that the Earth and its denizens were created by some sort of super-intelligence. The hypothesis fails not because it involves what people often think of as a supernatural agency, but because there’s as yet no evidence for it.”

    That’s obviously completely false. There are a lot of evidences, according to ID proponents, and that’s exactly the content of the ID theory. Yous affirmation is totally gratuitous, unless you substantiate it. Let’s see if you have done it.

    I can find no argument about that in your post #23.

    in your post #29, you say:

    “Re falsifying testable claims of ID, isn’t the issue that such claims on the part of ID are nearly non-existent?”

    No, it isn’t. I give you one of the strongest examples. ID (see Dembski) strongly state thatv there exists a special kind of information, CSI, which can be strictly defined in its formal properties, which can never be produced outside a design scenario.

    That’s a very clear and testable statement. It is detailed, empirical, and can easily be falsified: it would be enough to reasonably show that CSI can come out outside of a design scenario, that is without any intelligent designer as its source. That falsification has never been made.

    You say:

    “Possible example: I think it’s Behe that argues the flagellum couldn’t have been the result of natural selection, but there are eminently plausible accounts of how it could be.”

    Again, I can’t understand why easy critics of ID (see Adam Rutherford on another thread, whose response I am still waiting for) simply ignore CSI, which is the strongest argument of ID, and promptly “escape” to IC and the flagellum.

    The reason is apparently simple, but sad: it’s because folks like Miller and Matzke have argued against the IC of the flagellum, and everybody feels free to consider the issue as settled, apparently an an authority basis.

    Well, that’s exactly what bad science and bad method are. Tom, have you thoroughly evaluated those arguments? Are you ready to discuss them with me here? I am. Believe me, those are not arguments. Those are only very bad interpretations of both Behe and facts, and a good example of blind dogmatism in science.

    It is perfectly right to try to discuss arguments against IC. That’s exactly what science is. But it’s all another thing to affirm from authority that the issue is settled: it isn’t at all, it doesn’t matter how many times Miller goes on fixing his tie with a mousetrap.

    You say:

    “But the main problem with ID/creationism is that it doesn’t specify a mechanism for how the designer/creator did it, or any independent evidence for the existence of a designer/creator apart from the fact that things might seem designed/created (although that’s debatable too, given all the functionally sub-optimal forms and processes in nature).”

    Well, first of all, let’s leave creationism alone, will you? We are debating ID here, and it is the least courtesy to accept that we are not creationists. So your statement becomes:

    “the main problem with ID is that it doesn’t specify a mechanism for how the designer did it”

    That’s correct, but is not a problem. It can certainly be the object of further research and/or reflection, but it is not a problem. Why should it be?

    Again, you are projecting your own prejudices on the concept of science. I think you are familiar with the debate about dark energy in astrophysics. It has important similarities with the supposed “problems” of ID. There, too, we have definite facts (the acceleration of the expansion of the universe) for which no possible mechanism is really known. But theories are built just the same, and the prevailing one (dark energy) even uses a name which means really nothing, just to say that we have no idea about the cause, but we know that a cause different from all that we know “must” be there.

    The interesting thing is that, while this is at present the position of the majority, not all agree neither about the “facts” (not that they don’t exist, but that their immediate meaning is the one we think) nor about the theory, however generic it may be. Other theories exist, as generic as the main one.

    That’s science. Physicists still know how science should be done. They are not “methodological scientists”, thanks God!

    The lack of a mechanism is no problem at all. ID is affirming two things:

    1) The existence of CSI “only” in human artifacts and biological information.

    2) The similarity of the two scenarios, and the plausibility of a similar cause (intelligent designs).

    Please, notice that even for human artifacts we have really no clue of how the intelligent designer (us) generates the new CSI. That’s a point that many forget. No real mechanism is known. What shall we do? Shall we say that designing things is not scientific? Must reality follow human prejudices?

    A mechanism can always be investigated, if the correct scenario is applied.

    And again:

    “or any independent evidence for the existence of a designer apart from the fact that things might seem designed”

    Let’s drop the “might”. Biological things “do” seem designed, even Dawkins admits that.

    And it’s not only that: biological thins do exhibit CSI, and there is no theoretical model nor any scientific evidence that CSI can be achieved without design. Isn’t that a perfectly scientific reason to assume design as a likely cause of what cannot be explained in any other way? That’s not the only argument of ID, but it’s one of the best. Please, debate it, instead of denying it from authority.

    You say:

    “although that’s debatable too, given all the functionally sub-optimal forms and processes in nature”

    I really don’t understand what you mean. Please, clarify. If it’s debatable, let’s debate it.

    “Unexplained and unevidenced explainers that are tailored to fill explanatory gaps don’t survive in science since they don’t add to our understanding.”

    That’s only bad philosophy of science. New scientific hypotheses are always tailored to fill explanatory gaps. That’s the accepted scientific method, if one exists.

    Later, you say:

    “At the moment, however, there’s no evidence, independent of what seems (to some) like the appearance of intentional design in organic forms, that establishes the existence of a designer, or anything about its characteristics or modes of operation.”

    The appearance of intentional design in organic forms “is” evidence of a designer. You may disagree that such an appearance exists, or find another explanation for it, but to do one of these two things you must correctly debate the ID specific arguments.

    It is true, instead, that that kind of evidence does not tell us “anything about its characteristics or modes of operation”. That’s exactly what ID has always affirmed. But you cannot conflate the two points. And the second point is not a problem, as I have already argued.

    “This is what I would take to be adequate evidence of ID”

    What? The first point, or the second. For the first point a lot of evidence exists. You cannot dismiss the first point only because, in your opinion, without the second it has no value. That’s false reasoning. You are entitled to your personal preferences about evidence, but we need not follow you.

    You say:

    “Until such evidence surfaces, the ID hypothesis is empty of content and thus a scientific non-starter.”

    Again, that’s only bad philosophy of science, and I would say bad propaganda.

    “This is what explains its notable absence in established scientific theory – not any conspiracy to suppress it on the part of nefarious Darwinists, nor a bias on the part of science that rules out consideration of supernatural hypotheses (the MN rule you rightly object to).”

    I think exactly the opposite is true. If your ideas about theoretical science prevent you from seeing what is happening in practical science culture, then there must be some problem. And if you think that most scientific powers and scientists are not dogmatically committed to MN, well, then you just don’t hear or read what they say or write.

    You say:

    “So we reject the MN restriction on science, and thus disagree with the Kitzmiller plaintiffs and Judge Jones’ decision in this regard, which appealed to MN.”

    Ah, no! I apologize! You hear and read them.

    “The reason ID, etc. shouldn’t be taught in school, except as examples of failed hypotheses, is because they are *bad* science, not because they go *beyond* science.”

    I am not interested in the school problem, but again you say one correct thing (ID is not beyond science) and one incorrect, or at least unsubstantiated, thing. Maybe ID is bad science. Please, show why. But not on the basis of an ideological prejudices (I can’t accept it as science unless it gives me details of the designer) which have no real methodological foundation, but please show that the specific arguments of ID (CSI, IC, and others) are bad science. That’s why we are here: to debate those things.

    Have you reasons, personal, sharable reasons, to believe that the concept of CSI is wrong? Have you reasons to believe that CSI can be generated outside of intelligent design? Please, argue.

    You say:

    “I’m of course not saying that ID explanations and theories are scientific, only that they can be evaluated on the basis of empirical evidence (to the extent they have testable content)”

    That’s true. And all the affirmations of ID have testable content.

    You say:

    “As I said earlier, they are good examples of *failed* science, of *failed* hypotheses”

    Again, propaganda. Why? I am as sure as you are, indeed I believe much more sure, that all “darwinian” theories are failed hypotheses. And I am ready to argue about that. Indeed, do that here daily.

    “The proper definition of science gives it latitude to evaluate any hypothesis with testable content since that’s exactly what it does in practice:”

    True.

    “it has evaluated both YEC and ID and found them fatally wanting”

    False (I am speaking for ID). I am afraid your habit of conflating is becoming something of a problem…

    “If only religion and other non-empirical domains of discourse are permitted to pronounce on the reality of god and the supernatural, then their existence is a fait accompli, but only by declaration, not by proof anyone should trust. This is why IDers and some other religionists understandably want to get science on their side: only science and other forms of intersubjective empiricism give us convincing evidence for existence claims. Unfortunately, however, science rules against them”

    Here you are really conflating too much. Science has all the rights to give scientific opinions on any aspect of reality, and in the same way philosophy has all the rights to give philosophical opinions abou any aspect of reality, including the opinions of science. “only science and other forms of intersubjective empiricism give us convincing evidence for existence claims” is plain dogma, as already discussed. Unless you include philosophy and other things (maybe even religion) in the “other forms of intersubjective empiricism”. I definitely would. “Unfortunately, however, science rules against them” is, again, propaganda.

    “I don’t think that science, in evaluating any and all factual claims, whether termed natural or supernatural, necessarily entails any commitments beyond its method.”

    Right. Indeed, as I have argued, I don’t even think science can afford to commit to a specific, fixed method.

    “The commitment comes when one decides to stick with science as one’s only mode of deciding existence claims, which as you properly point out leads directly to metaphysical naturalism. People are free to commit to other modes of deciding what exists”

    I agree. And why not recognize that many different modes can contribute and effectively interact?

    You say:

    “The claims that Christians and others make about god and the supernatural are factual claims about the nature of reality, claims that science can test to the extent they have testable content”

    True.

    “People are of course free to define science however they like, but in practice the existence of the supernatural is perfectly open to scientific investigation”

    True.

    “and indeed is currently being investigated to the extent that scientists bother to consider such things as (creationism and) ID”

    How kind of them! (I am speaking for ID).

    “most don’t waste their time, unless it’s to keep these from being confused with good science”

    How dogmatic of them! That’s sadly very, very true.

    “To admit that science isn’t restricted to MN seemingly plays into the hands of ID proponents, because they imagine science done properly would lend them support”

    It does.

    “But of course it doesn’t”

    That’s what you say. Please, argue (not from authority, please. We can do without that).

    “Science done properly thus far shows supernatural hypotheses to be vacuous, lacking in evidential backing, unfalsifiable, and for other reasons untenable.”

    Again with natural and supernatural… don’t you think that’s a bad way to finish a good post?

    Waiting for an answer…

  39. ribczynski,

    “You misquoted me as saying that science had ‘proved’ that the YEC God does not exist, when I had carefully used the word ’shown’ instead. How convenient.

    Science does not deal in certainties, and it only ‘proves’ things if ‘to prove’ is understood to mean ‘to show to be very highly probable.’

    When I claim that science shows that the YEC God does not exist, I mean precisely that. You attempt to conflate this with a “penny-ante” claim that “science disproves God” in general, but that is not my claim.”

    The equivocation and nitpicking here is hilarious and obvious. You didn’t say prove, you said shown! And by shown the YEC God doesn’t exist, you meant it’s improbable! You meant precisely what you wrote, so long as what you wrote is understood to be other than what you wrote!

    All in the service of awkward phrasing, such that when police investigate a suspect for a crime, they’re trying to determine whether the suspect exists. Wonderful.

    “The YEC God is falsified by science, but not all conceptions of God are falsifiable.”

    And if we’re going to engage in such tortuous language, atheistic claims have been falsified by science time and again for decades.

    “Cling to an untestable idea of God if you like, but don’t pretend that science has nothing to say about a falsifiable conception of God such as the YEC God.”

    ‘Cling to’? There’s no clinging. There’s no choice in the matter, period. God’s existence is unfalsifiable, along with a suite of other metaphysical and philosophical claims. You may as well argue naturalists cling to their unfalsifiable worldview – gee, it sounds like naturalists are all cowardly if I shoehorn that word ‘cling’ in there, doesn’t it?

    Further, I said outright that science is entirely capable of investigating YEC claims insofar as they are claims about the natural world. Claiming that this proves the YEC God doesn’t exist is what’s inane, for reasons I’ve demonstrated. Your response is to complain that ‘proven the YEC God does not exist’ does not reasonably mean ‘shown the YEC God does not exist’ – though why you’re complaining about it, I don’t know. After all, at worst I was just quoting a ribczynski that doesn’t exist. I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

  40. Tom,

    “Stenger, myself, Yonatan Fishman and some others think that science can indeed weigh in on the question of god’s existence, not that claims for his existence go beyond science. Stenger’s standard for scientific investigation, and mine, is simply to look at the evidence for a claim, irrespective of whether the phenomena involved are called natural or supernatural. So we reject the MN restriction on science, and thus disagree with the Kitzmiller plaintiffs and Judge Jones’ decision in this regard, which appealed to MN. The reason ID, etc. shouldn’t be taught in school, except as examples of failed hypotheses, is because they are *bad* science, not because they go *beyond* science.”

    You can repeat until you’re blue in the face that you think science should be able to test claims regardless of whether they are natural or supernatural. The fact will remain that the only things amenable to scientific testing are things that are natural. If you think that by changing the definition of science to include subjective proclamations on metaphysical and supernatural entities by, frankly, very angry and emotionally involved partisans, hey – more power to you. Do keep in mind that once you’re playing that highly subjective game, your ‘*bad* science’ becomes another’s ‘*good* science’ – they’ll have free reign to change what counts as scientific evidence and reasonable conclusions as well.

    Lysenko already played the game you’re trying to play. Philosophically inconvenient viewpoints on genetics were denounced and excluded. It didn’t make the crops grow any better. And Victor Stenger’s cringe-worthy desire to redefine scientific boundaries so he can abuse the field to pursue personal social and political goals won’t make his proclamations true. He’ll just be ensuring that science becomes even more politicized than it already is.

    Once again – why do the people who make the loudest noise about respecting science so frequently turn out to be the ones taking a dump on the practice?

    “I’m of course not saying that ID explanations and theories are scientific, only that they can be evaluated on the basis of empirical evidence (to the extent they have testable content).”

    Naturally. After all, what’s the point in changing the rules other than to awkwardly rig them? So ID explanations and theories suddenly fall into the realm of science, but only if they’re utterly ruled out by this ‘new definition’. They can’t even have the status of a minority viewpoint under the new rule – otherwise, why change the scope of science?

    “Moreover, if science by definition or fiat isn’t allowed to evaluate creationism and ID, and discard them as failed hypotheses, then one wonders what discipline of investigation, what mode of knowing, *does* have jurisdiction to evaluate supernatural claims? If only religion and other non-empirical domains of discourse are permitted to pronounce on the reality of god and the supernatural, then their existence is a fait accompli, but only by declaration, not by proof anyone should trust. This is why IDers and some other religionists understandably want to get science on their side: only science and other forms of intersubjective empiricism give us convincing evidence for existence claims. Unfortunately, however, science rules against them.”

    ‘Science rules against them’ only using the hilarious biased, socio-politically motivated ‘new definition’ you want to use, and that frankly has even a smaller number of adherents in the scientific field than YECs themselves. Again, you’re envisioning the Lysenko solution to unfortunate worldviews all over again – why, if we just change the standards for science to make them subject to our primary philosophical commitments, everything will work out fine!

    And ‘what *does* have the jurisdiction to evaluate supernatural claims’? I don’t know, Tom. What has the jurisdiction to evaluate moral claims? Philosophical claims? Can science disprove solipsism now? Can science demonstrate that racism is immoral?

    Here’s your answer: Supernatural, metaphysical, and philosophical questions in the vast majority do not get settled or falsified, period. People investigate these questions on their own, consider arguments, reflect, and decide – or sometimes, they don’t even do that. They don’t become any more settled just because you’ve changed the definition of science, any more than you can make us all fly by changing the definition of ‘fly’ to ‘walk’.

    “The claims that Christians and others make about god and the supernatural are factual claims about the nature of reality, claims that science can test to the extent they have testable content (many don’t, in which case they are safe from science, but also barred from the sort of evidential support most folks think really counts and would love to have for their religion).”

    Yes, Tom, you keep repeating that line about how people who believe in God and/or the supernatural are making claims about reality that science can investigate, so long as – well – science can investigate them. Great observation. Now you’re conceding that plenty of claims about the supernatural just don’t qualify for scientific testing – but you want to change the definition of science so you and others can say science ruled on those things anyway, of course.

    “To admit that science isn’t restricted to MN seemingly plays into the hands of ID proponents, because they imagine science done properly would lend them support. But of course it doesn’t. Science done properly thus far shows supernatural hypotheses to be vacuous, lacking in evidential backing, unfalsifiable, and for other reasons untenable.”

    You don’t get it. Either by choice, or by accident. The moment you say you want to change the definition and scope of science – and you’ve stated outright that yes, you are after a change of definition here – you’re screwed. You seem to forget that you and the people you favor are not the only ones capable of dreaming up new definitions and scopes of science – or, for that matter, what qualifies as a tenable belief, evidential backing, vacuity, or otherwise. “Science” can easily, very easily, be changed such that the existence of God or a fundamental deity is taken as axiomatic. Atheism can immediately be ruled out as a perspective not worth thinking about in the same way solipsism currently is regarded in science and philosophy both. Philosophical theistic arguments can suddenly be called scientific laws. You can disagree and argue that none of these conclusions are right or correct, but guess what? There’s a good chance no one will care. Your personal and, frankly, ungrounded convictions don’t determine either the truth of the evidence, or the outcome of poorly-thought-through political disputes.

    But I have to thank you for so clearly confirming the minority hypocrisy I’ve detected in the atheist/naturalistic community for quite some time. Around here, I’m a TE with ID sympathies – now people can see exactly why I have those sympathies. And hearing this kind of – frankly – vile intellectual abuse of science for expressly philosophical and political ends only reassures me that my conditional support is well-placed, lone anonymous individual though I am.

  41. StephenB – if you’re reading this, please note I’d love to see you engage Tom. I know you have your hands full with Hazel in another thread (and doing a great job of proving your points, in my view), but what we have here is a prime example of why I view redefining science to be a confusing enterprise. We’ve amiably duelled on this issue in the past – now maybe you’ll see just where I’m coming from.

  42. Just a reminder to people, the terms

    science, life, intelligence and species

    all have no commonly accepted definitions. So when we get into long assertions of what is and what is not science it may be a meaningless discussion as we talk past each other. Also the term evolution is one that has a problem with definition but here there are more solid attempts to define it.

    Some person a few years ago on another site defined science simply as inferences based on facts. Then one can examine that inference in more detail by generating new facts to see if they are consistent with that inference.

    Let’s take two inferences for evolutionary biology.

    1. Darwinian processes as currently defined lead to macro evolution (and by the way macro evolution is not currently defined but for purposes here we will call macro evolution the origin of novel complex functional capabilities in a population.)

    2. Darwinian processes as currently defined cannot lead to macro evolution

    1 is the current paradigm in biological science and 2 is an ID inference.

    If one examines the evidence for each, 2 is completely supported while 1 is not. A lot of Behe’s work has been to examine the evidence for 1 and 2 and all his finding come down as supporting 2 while the entire evolutionary biology community devotes a good portion of its efforts on 1 so far with no joy.

    Inference 2 is a black swan hypothesis, that is trying to prove a negative by more and more information until possibly a black swan is discovered (I recently saw the black swan while in New Zealand where they were imported from Australia.) It is also subject to a God of the Gaps argument but in no way is it not good science. Do not confuse the two ideas.

    ID and evolutionary biology accept a third innference as having lots of evidence to support it.

    3. Darwinian processes as currently defined lead to micro evolution where micro evolution is just a change in the population gene pool over time to form new characteristics, none of which are novel complex functional capabilities but often lead to new species or variants given that definition for species is problematic.

    Nearly all of what is published in evolutionary biology is about 3 which most of the people who support ID have no problem.

    So as far as I am concerned ID is very much science, uses the tools of science as well as logic to support inference 2. So to say that ID is not science is childish and just a repeat of a template we have seen used here several times over the last few years.

    And by the way ID is more than just inference 2 but 2 is clearly an example of the scientific nature of ID and the lack of scientific process as seen by the fact that there is no evidence for 1 has not disqualified 1 as a major part of evolutionary biology., Dare I say double standard.

    We often use the criticism of evolutionary biology as the only science where one’s imagination counts as evidence. Ernst Mayer was a big proponent of this as he highly encouraged researchers to think of scenarios that would support the Darwinian paradigm. Darwin himself was very guilty of the same approach as he created various scenarios to support his thesis in OOS. Yes, one’s imagination is one of the most prolific tools of evolutionary biology as they continually beg the question of how something actually happened by using the all purpose explanation “it evolved.” It is so scientific.

    So people who criticize ID as not science may be using a restricted definition of the term then over look its lack of use other places. How it has been used on this thread is just a tiresome repeat of the cliché arguments used to put ID down. It is interesting how often the same irrelevant arguments keep showing up. It is because they appear elsewhere and are automatically accepted without any critical thinking and then brought here like someone is inventing the wheel.

    That is one of the reasons the moderation policy was so tough on this site. Why continue to rehash the same old non sequiturs each time someone comes here who thinks they can enlighten us. It would invariably deteriorate into something not fruitful and essentially not add much to what we know and understand here. Well the moderation policy has been changed so we can be assured to see a steady diet of non sequiturs in the future but this time presented in a polite manner, hopefully. Maybe in the process we will learn something because of the new policy.

  43. 43

    What is the difference between methodological naturalism and monism? The former is a modern repackaging of the latter. It seems the only difference is that monists quote Goethe more frequently than their modern counterparts.

  44. nullasalus,

    You wrote:

    I said outright that science is entirely capable of investigating YEC claims insofar as they are claims about the natural world. Claiming that this proves the YEC God doesn’t exist is what’s inane, for reasons I’ve demonstrated.

    I must have missed the demonstration.

    Look — here’s the reasoning, spelled out explicitly:

    1) If you agree that science has shown the earth to be billions of years old, and

    2) if a YEC insists that his God created the world just a few thousand years ago, over a period of six days, formed a man named Adam out of the dust, formed a woman named Eve out of Adam’s rib, and so on; then

    3) the God he has in mind does not exist. A different God — one who created the universe billions of years ago, and is fond of beetles and tsunamis, for example — might exist. That is a separate question. But the God envisioned by the YEC does not exist.

    A hypothesis concerning the supernatural — the existence of a God with certain characteristics — is presented by the YEC. This hypothesis has testable consequences. Science shows that the consequences do not obtain.

    The supernatural hypothesis is falsified by science.

  45. 1) If you agree that science has shown the earth to be billions of years old, and

    Can you falsify the claim that the earth is billions of years old? :-)

  46. In principle, yes, which is why it qualifies as a scientific hypothesis.

    In practice, you’d have to falsify much of current physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology in order to demonstrate that the earth is not billions of years old.

  47. Seems like whenever the subject of MN and PN come up, discussions get long. But that’s a good thing.

    Tom wrote:

    No one can rule out that evidence might eventually surface that we are indeed the creations of a super-intelligence. At the moment, however, there’s no evidence, independent of what seems (to some) like the appearance of intentional design in organic forms, that establishes the existence of a designer, or anything about its characteristics or modes of operation. This is what I would take to be adequate evidence of ID. Until such evidence surfaces, the ID hypothesis is empty of content and thus a scientific non-starter.

    Thanks for responding. With respect to the point I tried to make regarding evidence (i.e. some observed data set, let’s call it ds) and how that ds connects to a particular hypothesis or theory, I can not agree with you that the current state of affairs is such that there is no known ds that can legitimately be connected to some hypothesis or theory of ID. I also don’t agree that the current state of affairs is such that those who do connect a certain ds with ID are only doing so based on “appearance” of ID as opposed to “actual” ID.

    Let’s take the ds known as irreducible complexity (IC). The current state of affairs in science with respect to IC biological systems is that there is no known Darwinian pathway via RM/NS that can build an IC system. There are a number of speculative but as yet untested or unconfirmed hypothesis for various IC systems, but nothing close to the detailed, testable models that science would require of anything else. On the other hand, we know from experience that any IC system we encounter where its history and origin are known involves intelligence to produce. The only reason to claim that a biolocial IC system as a ds can not be viewed as evidence for ID is because of MN. Assigning evidentiary status to an IC system as connected to ID follows the same process and procedure that scientists use every day. This is what I meant by a ds being viewed as evidence for a particular hypothesis or theory also requires other bits of background knowledge and information.

    Saying that “At the moment, however, there’s no evidence, independent of what seems (to some) like the appearance of intentional design in organic forms…” really is saying that none of the background knowledge or relevant information that some claim to justify the connection between a ds and ID actually is relevant or justified. But that isn’t based on science, but a philosophical presupposition: PN disguised as MN. Further, many in science go a step further to say that no one will know of such background knowledge or relevant information ever. That, at least, is the upshot of the more hardcore defenders of PN.

    To legitmately exclude a connection between a ds and ID would require showing that we know scientifically that the properties of the cosmos are such that no ds that gives the appearance of ID has been or could be actually the result of ID, even in principle. Showing that scientifically would be highly problematic! It leaves us dueling over which philosophical considerations are the right and necessary ones for science.

  48. Janice: Your edits of my orignal post are okay. I guess I’m trying to state things a bit more “diplomatically”.

  49. ribczynski:
    “the God he has in mind does not exist. A different God — one who created the universe billions of years ago, and is fond of beetles and tsunamis, for example — might exist. That is a separate question. But the God envisioned by the YEC does not exist.”

    Or they may be envisioning a God based on other qualities (omnipotence, omnibenevolence, intelligence, omnipresence, etc.) yet be incorrect about certain actions of said God. So, the God envisioned by the YEC may exist, yet not act according to how they think he acts or acted in a specific situation.

    For example, let’s say I knew who you were and I knew a bit about you so that I could envision who you were and explain to someone else a bit about you. Now, let’s also suppose that I incorrectly told someone a story about something you actually had never done. If that story about what you had done is shown to be incorrect, does that mean that the ribczynski that I know and could envision does not exist?

    Absolutely not. It only means that I am incorrect in my assertion of how you acted in a specific situation.

    That is the point that nullasalus clearly drove home earlier in reference to the difference between God’s existence (as defined by attributes) and God’s actions as defined by how people believe that he acts/acted in specific situations relative to our universe. It is only the YEC contention over a specific God’s actions in relation to our universe that may or may not have been falsified. However, the other attributes of that God may well not be falsifiable (likewise with many other metaphysical or philosophical claims such as philosophical naturalism or “materialism”). Thus the YECer’s God may exist (as defined by attributes/qualities), but he may not have acted in a specific historical fashion upon which the YEC hypothesis is based and thus the YECer may be incorrect about how his God (as defined by attributes/qualities) has previously acted.

  50. ribcyznski,

    “I must have missed the demonstration.

    Look — here’s the reasoning, spelled out explicitly:”

    Spare me. I’m not questioning the scientific details that lead to the rejection of YEC claims. I reject YEC. Further, you know all of this.

    Your lame linguistic gymnastics comes down to the idea that if you falsify a claim made about an agent, you’ve falsified the existence of said agent. As I said, if you want to walk down that road, that’s fine – then atheist models of the universe, nature, mind, and even materialism itself have been falsified repeatedly and recently.

    Like Tom, you think that if you awkwardly redefine words or concepts to state your position in a way that sounds more impressive, somehow it magically has more authority or power. In which case, once more – science has disproven atheism. Because I’ve redefined science to include apologetics, philosophical arguments, and personal testimony – and I’ve ruled out atheism axiomatically. Don’t worry, science can’t show atheism to be false – only that the likelihood of it being correct is highly improbable.

    If you want to open the door to claims and arguments like that, feel free. Some of us like to keep science free of extraneous philosophical and political baggage. Based on some crazy idea about respecting the process for what it is and does, not for what social uses it can serve if we just twist it the right way.

  51. Excellently said nullasalus!

  52. Tom,

    Re falsifying testable claims of ID, isn’t the issue that such claims on the part of ID are nearly non-existent?…But the main problem with ID is that it doesn’t specify a mechanism for how the designer/creator did it

    First off, the claims of core ID are limited in scope. The others have covered the claims of core ID already in the last few comments. But in short, it is true core ID does not provide a mechanism.

    More on this topic and why that is not a problem:

    How does the actor act?

    But there are various ID-compatible hypotheses in the Big Tent that do provide mechanisms. For example, there is seeding, direct designing using features of quantum physics (Dembski’s idea), etc. One favored mechanism is the multiple variants of “front loading”.

    What is that? In engineered systems various possible contingencies are anticipated and processes are put in place to deal with them if and when any particular contingency actually arises in the future.

    These forward looking predetermined responses are “front loaded” – put in place before they are actually needed.

    Chance & necessity is a reactive process that cannot plan ahead. Intelligent design is a proactive process that can plan ahead.

    Various iterations of this hypothesis:

    1. Design was implemented in the universe itself. Everything is deterministic, and a plan rolled out from the initial implementation. Behe discussed this possibility briefly in his book EoE.

    2. Design is not only in the universe and its laws but in the Origin Of Life (OOL). Darwinian mechanisms are taken into account by the Designer(s) and the architecture of life itself is configured to be modular, so that multi-functionality, gene duplication, cooption, and preadaptation, etc. are able to unmask secondary information.

    Dembski’s recent work shows that in order to find the targets in search space active information is required. Besides “directed front-loading” there is the potential that ID only holds true in regards to the OOL. The front-loaded active information is the design of the system (modular components, plasticity in the language conventions, foresighted mechanisms, etc), which allows the “evolving holistic synthesis” to function without there being a directly embedded plan. I believe this is Mike Gene’s favored hypothesis?

    Of course, this presumes that Darwinian mechanisms are capable of this task, for which we have no positive evidence at this time. I personally believe that given a system intelligently constructed in a modular fashion (the system is designed for self-modification via the influence of external triggers) that Darwinian processes may be capable of more than this. But that’s foresighted non-Darwinian evolution in any case, and even if there are foresighted mechanisms for macroevolution they might be limited in scope.

    3. Similar to variant 2 except there is a specific plan encoded into the original life (a single LUCA) and Darwinian mechanisms play less of a role, only being capable of producing minor variation. This plan may or may not be self-terminating. John Davison is heavily in favor of the self-terminating variant, and I think he believes there may be multiple LUCAs.

    4. Similar to variant 2 or 3 except that there are multiple instances of Design (multiple Origins Of Life, multiple LUCAs) occurring at the level of kingdom or phylum.

    5. Essentially 2 – 4 except with the addition of Designer Intervention for certain information that is/was not modular but specific to a particular organism. I believe this is UD Jerry’s favored position?

    Some might want ID to “officially” incorporate a particular ID-compatible hypothesis in order to be considered “science”. Personally I think that research into all the hypotheses should be encouraged and it’s way too early to be declaring one to BE ID.

    Core ID and ID-compatible hypotheses also have various predictions. For example, there’s the confirmed predictions related to junk DNA.

    Predictions of non-functionality of “junk DNA” were made by Susumu Ohno (1972), Richard Dawkins (1976), Crick and Orgel (1980, Pagel and Johnstone (1992), and Ken Miller (1994), based on Darwinian presuppositions.

    By contrast, predictions of functionality of “junk DNA” were made based on teleological bases by Michael Denton (1986, 1998), Michael Behe (1996), John West (1998), William Dembski (1998), Richard Hirsch (2000), and Jonathan Wells (2004).

    These Intelligent Design predictions of are being confirmed. e.g., ENCODE’s June 2007 results show substantial functionality across the genome in such “junk” DNA regions, including pseudogenes.

    These predictions are further detailed in: Junk DNA at Research Intelligent Design.

    http://www.researchintelligentdesign.org
    http://www.researchintelligent.....i/Junk_DNA

    Identification and analysis of functional elements in 1% of the human genome by the ENCODE pilot project.
    The ENCODE Project Consortium, Nature 447, 799:816 (14 June 2007) doi:10.1038/nature05874
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....e05874.pdf

    There are other predictions such as the genetic nature of the platypus (confirmed), the predictions about designer drugs, foresighted mechanisms for evolution (very recently confirmed), pseudogenes and insertion hotspots, long-term preservation mechanisms for conserving information that is not currently implemented, and retroviruses being capable of being used to implement designed changes. At this time the scientific research we have so far does not provide conclusive positive evidence for some of these predictions, although there are tantalizing glimpses that such predictions may become known to be true. There’s also some types of observed changes that happen so rapidly and repeatedly that they would seem to defy being within the domain of strictly Darwinian processes. But such research is just beginning.

    I think it’s Behe that argues the flagellum couldn’t have been the result of natural selection, but there are eminently plausible accounts of how it could be.

    Really? Then you must have access to better information than Bob Ohara, who ignored my direct challenge of “name the functional intermediates in the indirect pathway.” (Of course, he did the same thing earlier when F2XL asked, “Give me what you think is a realistic pathway for an E. coli population to obtain a flagellum.”) No details on mechanisms, relevant statistics, etc….just make up a general story we could have analyzed.

    Here is that recent conversation on UD where the hypothetical indirect pathway of the bacterial flagellum was discussed:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-289741

    The end of this conversation puts the problem in perspective:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-290187

    Other major points:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-290408

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-289702

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-212175

    Once entities gain existential support from science they are of course no longer considered supernatural (if indeed they were in the first place) – they are perforce naturalized.

    Dembski organized some conferences in the late 90s (or was it the early 00s?) related to discussing the “nature of nature”.

    See here for a discussion point. Bill wrote something else on UD more directly relevant but I can’t remember the title…

  53. CJYman and nullasalus,

    Is Zeus the same God as Yahweh? Odin? Ahura Mazda? Hanuman?

    Explain your answer.

  54. ribczynski –Can you falsify the claim that the earth is billions of years old? . . . In principle, yes, which is why it qualifies as a scientific hypothesis. , , ,In practice, you’d have to falsify much of current physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology in order to demonstrate that the earth is not billions of years old.

    You are basically saying we should treat the billions-of-years-old earth as unquestionable dogma with the implication that discrimination may be warranted against those whose faith tells them different. What are some of the specific aspects of the various fields that you cited that show the earth to be billions of years old?

  55. tribune7:

    You are basically saying we should treat the billions-of-years-old earth as unquestionable dogma…

    No. As with any other belief, we should continue to hold it only as long as it is supported by the evidence. The evidence is pretty solid at the moment.

    …with the implication that discrimination may be warranted against those whose faith tells them different.

    No, YECs should and do have the same rights as the rest of us. They are as free to disagree with us as we are to disagree with them.

    What are some of the specific aspects of the various fields that you cited that show the earth to be billions of years old?

    Plate tectonics for one. Nuclear physics for another.

  56. Plate tectonics for one.

    Basically, we make assumptions based on contemporaneous observations about tectonic behavior and extrapolate them back to come up with a timeline as to how the continents came look as they do now.

    Nuclear physics for another.

    Basically, we note that isotopes become stable elements at consistent intervals allowing us to date the isotopes.

    Fair summation, or do we need to clarify?

  57. ribczynski,

    “Is Zeus the same God as Yahweh? Odin? Ahura Mazda? Hanuman?

    Explain your answer.”

    Once again: Spare me. Your aims with your tortured language here are transparent. You ignore the points I’ve made about what follows if you insist on playing such verbal games, so your dive to try and drag this out into an argument about technicalities is of no interest. As I said, frame things that way if you please – realize what it opens you up to as a result.

  58. nullasalus,

    My point is entirely relevant.

    You and CJYman claim that science does not falsify the existence of the YEC God; it just shows that he doesn’t have the characteristics that the YECers attribute to him.

    Using that logic you could claim that Zeus, Yahweh, Odin, Ahura Mazda and Hanuman are all really the same God. They just don’t have the attributes that their followers think they do.

  59. Firstly, it’s nice to see the moderation rules changed here and that there is more of a two-sided conversation occurring.

    I’d like to pick up on something TWclark said:

    “But the main problem with ID/creationism is that it doesn’t specify a mechanism for how the designer/creator did it, or any independent evidence for the existence of a designer/creator apart from the fact that things might seem designed/created…”

    The thing that always puzzles me about ID is why there is seemingly an arbitrary “rule” that the identification and characteristics of the designer are ruled “out of scope”. I actually find this more than ironic – on the one hand ID supporters claim that conventional science has no place to ask the questions they would like to ask, and that there should be more “academic freedom” to freely inquire upon any subject or avenue of research. This I agree with, and I think it is essentially the argument Tom is making (in a much more sophisticated way – I’m certainly no philosopher of science!).

    But it has been made clear over and over again that the identify of the ID is somehow taboo from any scientific inquiry or part of the ID mindset. I think that odd, because there are at least a couple of analogous disciplines where the the ‘who’ question is very pertinent. For example, in archeology, if an artifact is found on a dig, it is VERY important to ask questions about who made it, and how, and why (and of course when). These questions are an essential part of the exploration process and guide and shape any conclusions that might be made. And another related discipline is of course forensic science.

    Why then, is it deemed so uninteresting and unimportant not to ask similar questions about the identify of the Designer? Let’s face it – anybody who is new to ID is automatically going to ponder this question? Yet, apparently it seems it is a question only to be considered in the privacy of ones own thoughts. I find this at least more than a little disingenuous. It would be one thing if ID was occupied with the ‘design detection’ part and there was another related philosophical or scientific discipline that researched the identify of the Designer – but there is not. Apparently nobody is even interested in asking the question!

    On a similar train of thought I would like to know why Christian ID supporters make the link that the Designer is none other than the Christian God. Is this just a hunch, or wishful thinking or is it based on any kind of reasoning? I ask because I find it very hard to make any kind of conclusion about this from the Bible (which after is the primary vehicle of God’s revelation). On the contrary it is much easier to make a case for a YEC God than an ID one. So, if that’s the case what are the Biblical underpinnings that support ID? And if there aren’t any, why is God making himself out to be a God of confusion? I’ve yet to see any ID proponent explain clearly why they think the Christian God is the Designer, yet it’s obvious that many (if not the majority) do. Anybody here want to try?

  60. ribczynski:
    “You and CJYman claim that science does not falsify the existence of the YEC God; it just shows that he doesn’t have the characteristics that the YECers attribute to him.

    Using that logic you could claim that Zeus, Yahweh, Odin, Ahura Mazda and Hanuman are all really the same God. They just don’t have the attributes that their followers think they do.”

    Incorrect. There is a different between attributes and a description of how someone may have acted in the past. There can be a connection, but they are most definitely not one and the same. I will speak for myself when I say that science has most likely falsified a claim as to how God may have acted in the past (the YEC model of God’s intervention and creation of earth and man 6000 yrs ago). That is in reference to his actions in relation to our universe and natural laws, not his attributes (such as omnibenevolence, omni-presence, omnipotence, intelligence, etc).

    You seriously think that negating an assertion of how someone has acted somehow negates their existence as well?

    Did you not read my last comment?

    Furthermore, if there is one true God then Allah and Yahweh are two differing ideas of which attributes that God possesses. If one set of attributes could be negated, then the remaining attributes would be possibilities for what defines the one true God. However, if the Christian God exists then the YEC, OEC, TE, and possibly many other models exist which describe how He acts in relation to our universe. If one of these models is negated, the Christian God still remains (the same God that the YEC believes in as the TE believes in based on agreed attributes as covered earlier), however a certain model put foreward for how he has acted in our universe in the past may be negated. But that’s all. You’ve only potentially falsified a specific action in the past.

    What is your point anyway … that science can disprove the existence of God if it shows that he hasn’t acted in a certain way relative to our universe and natural laws? That makes absolutely no sense. You’ve only shown that he probably didn’t perform a specific act in the past. Again, did you not read my example using yourself as the object in my previous comment? Just because I make a false assertion about something you did in the past which is subsequently falsified, does that mean that even if I could correctly state some of your attributes, that I have falsified the existence of those attributes and thus shown that you most likely don’t exist.

    And then there is the can of worms that you open when you try to use science outside of its realm … to falsify the unfalsifiable, as has already been aptly covered by nullasalus.

  61. Gpuccio:

    It’s an interesting question whether there are reliable means of cognition that don’t involve intersubjective evidence. I haven’t seen that there are, since subjective knowledge of one’s experiences (e.g., knowing for sure that one has a vivid experience of god’s presence) is mute on whether those experiences represent reality veridically. This gets discussed in “Reality and its rivals” at Naturalism.Org. But I don’t pretend this is the final word on what is obviously a complex and fascinating epistemological question.

    Re CSI and other ID claims: We at least agree that they are amenable to scientific examination, which was my main point in this discussion about methodological naturalism and its difficulties. I’m not competent to evaluate these claims, not being a scientist or familiar with the literature, but should they eventually win mainstream scientific support and be incorporated into viable scientific theories, that’s fine by me. Like you, I’m committed to a method, one that itself might change as new wrinkles in epistemology are ironed out; I’m not committed to a particular ontology. But at the moment it seems to me that ID remains on the fringe as failed science because it hasn’t generated the sort of concrete, testable and (eventually) viable hypotheses that give scientific paradigms legitimacy. If it should do so, more power to it. Of course many here believe that there’s a conspiracy among mainstream scientists to keep ID from competing in the open scientific marketplace. That’s an empirical question as well, one that will continue to be debated with each side accusing the other of ideological bias. Meanwhile, conventional explanations of organic design and function, based on mechanisms of natural selection and gene expression, continue to make progress. It seems to me that the success of these explanations tends to push ID to the periphery since ID has no mechanisms on offer, but you and others here will disagree, saying that ID explanations are being discriminated against unfairly. I don’t expect this disagreement to be resolved. But at least we’re fortunate enough to live in an open society in which these questions can actually be debated.

  62. Hi nullasalus:

    Yes, I recall with happy memory many of our fruitful discussions, and I celebrate the opportunity to dialogue with many on this thread as well. Of course, you already know my take on science and philosophy, and, in that sense, I would disagree with Tom in different ways than I would disagree with you and probably more intensely.

    Naturally, I find some of Tom’s comments about methodological naturalism acceptable, in the sense that he condemns it, but I have serious misgivings about his proposition that ID must find a “mechanism” in order to qualify as a scientific enterprise. ID’s whole idea is to suggest that not everything can be explained by mechanisms for the simple reason that we do not live in a wholly mechanistic universe. To me, that point is essential, and I see no reason to invest ten paragraphs to say it.

    I am not at all hung up on “testability” or “falsification” or any other of the useful tools that are just that, tools—not rules. For my part, if an archeologist suspects that “nature” did not construct an ancient hunter’s spear, he is doing good science when he hypothesizes that a hunter must have constructed it. If he sees writing on a cave wall, he does well if he draws the evident conclusion that an intelligent agent did the writing. I actually had a materialist Darwinist tell me once that this was, nevertheless, a “natural event” because it occurred “in nature.”

    This is madness. Who knows what “in nature” means? When William Dembski speaks of “natural causes,” we know exactly what he is talking about, namely mechanistic-like laws. For my part, when a caveman starts writing, it is not acting “in nature” because it is primarily his “mind,” not his brain that is at work, and therefore, from my perspective, his brain is in the natural world, while is mind [soul, spirit, will] is not “in” the natural world at all. Indeed, his mind exerts influence on both his brain and the material world of which is brain is a part. Every time you say no to any of the brain’s impulses, as when you use self-control, you provide evidence for the presence of a non-material mind. For a materialist, everything is in nature because there is nothing else to consider other than matter, and anything that happens can be explained materialistically and mechanically.

    In fact, creative acts are different than mechanical laws. While there is a testable process that can describe what happens when a piano hammer strikes a string, there is, at present, no similar way to test the process through which Mozart conceived the patterns that inform which strings the hammers will strike. Still, through the science of intelligent design, we know beyond a reasonable doubt that, while there are natural explanations for mechanics, there is another explanation for the music Translation— the mind of Mozart is also a serious causative factor. So far, no one has yet posited the notion that infinite multiple universes can explain the composition, but I don’t doubt that there are some that would like to.

    So, I take this same approach to intelligent design. I know very well that nature has a mechanistic component because I depend on its regularity every day of my life. But I also know that there is more to it than that. So, I think that the scientist, when he approaches nature, should say the same thing that Newton, Einstein, and all the other greats said: “Speak to me.” “Reveal your secrets.” I promise that my methods will be appropriate for the investigation”. When this approach is used, with systematic methods, of course, we detect the presence of a designer’s intelligence just as surely as we detected the presence of Mozart’s intelligence. There is nothing unscientific about it. In fact, it is very unscientific to run away from it. If the analyst can use systematic methods to detect FSCI-like patters, and, if he can show that these patterns are, most likely, the work of an intelligent agent, then the analyst is doing science. If the scientist finds these same patterns in a DNA molecule, then he is still doing science, even if they indicate the presence of a superhuman designer. (Here, I must ask Tom a straightforward question: Do you know what FSCI patterns are, and how do you explain them?)

    It is also important to know why the great scientists that I alluded to thought so much about God. They were already fortified with the knowledge that, as I have indicated on another thread, through philosophical reasoning, existence itself indicates the presence of a self-existent creator. Also, they believed in Scripture and God’s Biblical revelation. So, their minds were whole and integrated; their theology informed their philosophy and their philosophy informed their science. That prompted them to believe that God must have left “clues” about his existence in nature. They had that confidence because they knew that even without Scripture’s testimony about the Christian God, they still had philosophy’s testimony about the self-existent creator. That was more than enough of an impetus to send them looking for clues using scientific methods based on observation—-and they found them.

    That is because they were open to any kind of evidence and docile enough to follow wherever it might lead. They began to unravel the mysteries because they felt that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Based on what they knew, they hypothesized that God fashioned certain laws, or certain law-like activity in nature and they followed up on that thought. On the other hand, I am sure that they didn’t presume that there was nothing else to consider. They didn’t say to nature, “Reveal your secrets on my terms.” or“If you can’t be falsified, forget it” They fashioned their methodology to accommodate their hypothesis. In fact, it was this same approach that allowed others to put them out of business, so to speak, when they asked nature to reveal yet more secrets, for example when Einstein came along. Imagine someone rejecting the general theory of relativity on the grounds that it emerged out of a non-Newtonian-type methodology.

    If it had occurred to any of these men that nature also contained information, I have no doubt that they would have followed up on that as well, and I have no doubt that they would have been as open to nature’s revelation about functionally complex specified information as they were about its mechanistic laws. Only mindless ideology can subvert such a reasonable approach to science. What it all adds up to is this: Just as science is free to detect nature’s laws, it should also be free to detect the presence of the creative act that gave rise to those laws.

  63. Tom,

    you said

    “conventional explanations of organic design and function, based on mechanisms of natural selection and gene expression, continue to make progress”

    You do not understand the debate. ID has no quibble with basic biological processes. It is macro evolution that is under debate and modern evolutionary biology has no answer for how the real design in organism has appeared. Don’t provide generalities. Your answer indicates you do not have a concrete answer or else you would have pointed to something. And the fact that you tried to say that ID does not accept micro biology means you are also misinformed.

    We are going to get to the essence of the debate and as always happens before those who oppose ID will fail to make their case and then the discussions get more enlightening.

    Good luck in any attempt to support the case against ID. No one before you has done it.

  64. CJYman asks:

    What is your point anyway … that science can disprove the existence of God if it shows that he hasn’t acted in a certain way relative to our universe and natural laws?

    The point is the same one that Tom Clark and I have been trying to make throughout this thread: Science is capable of answering certain questions about the supernatural.

    P.S. Note that your response concedes my point. Even if you insist that science has not falsified the existence of the YEC God, you have conceded

    …that science has most likely falsified a claim as to how God may have acted in the past (the YEC model of God’s intervention and creation of earth and man 6000 yrs ago).

    In other words, science has falsified a claim about the supernatural.

  65. ribczynski,

    Aside from the trouble with defining “supernatural” I have no problem with what you just stated.

    Science has falsified a claim made about how a “supernatural” agent may have operated in the past.

  66. ribczynski –You and CJYman claim that science does not falsify the existence of the YEC God;

    Science does not falsify the existence of the YEC God.

    While the methodology showing an old earth is quite good science it is not definitive.

    If we assume we know everything there is to know about how the continents came to where they are, we are being foolish. Plate tectonic theory is less than a century old.

    And if radioactive decay is ever not found to be a constant, that would raise some serious questons about radiometric dating, you agree?

  67. Tom,

    I am well satisfied with your final summary (#60), which very well sums up both your and my position. As you admit that you are not “competent to evaluate these claims, not being a scientist or familiar with the literature”, I have no reason to push you more. It’s perfectly understandable that, not having evaluated personally the question, you go with the majority. Only I would suggest that you are a little bit more cautious in making statements about what you don’t know, especially here, among people who spend a lot of time and energy debating what they deeply believe. That’s a form of respect, too.

    I really can’t see the progress which “conventional explanations of organic design and function, based on mechanisms of natural selection and gene expression” are doing (are you competent to evaluate them?), while I am very enthusiastic of the progress which biological knowledge is doing at the molecular level. I invite you to take again this discussion in a few years, when the new facts (and, I hope, some more serious attitude in interpreting them) will have vastly changed the relative power of the two competing theories, in favor of ID I mean, obviously. We are all working for that, here.

  68. —–colin evans101: “I think that odd, because there are at least a couple of analogous disciplines where the the ‘who’ question is very pertinent. For example, in archeology, if an artifact is found on a dig, it is VERY important to ask questions about who made it, and how, and why (and of course when). These questions are an essential part of the exploration process and guide and shape any conclusions that might be made. And another related discipline is of course forensic science.”

    It is good that you point to the analogy between archeology, forensic science, and intelligent design, since each of these discilplines does indeed detect the effects of an intelligent agency. But design detection in archeology only tells us, for example, that a certain artifact was designed, it cannot identify the person who did it, unless, of course it draws from other kinds of information that are not related to design detection. To discern functionally specified complex information is to detect the presence of an intelligent agent, not the identity of the agent. Through design detection, the archeologist can differentiate between an ancient hunter’s spear and other kinds of formations that resulted from natural causes. That doesn’t mean that the analyst, using design detection alone, can also detect the identity of the hunter who designed it, or even know for sure that was a hunter and not a sportsman.

    Similarly, in forensic science, design detection, among other things, distinguishes intent or purpose from accidents. If one observes that a house has been ransacked, for example, design detection shows that someone purposefully caused the destruction, and that the event cannot be shrugged of as a natural event (tornado) or an accident. It doesn’t necessarily zero in on the person who caused the destruction. Of course, one could identify the fingerprints of the one responsible for the act, but then the dynamic has changed significantly. That kind of design detection points to the one, if anyone, who created the fingerprints, not the one who committed the act. ID detects the EFFECTS of intelligent agency.

  69. @StephenB:

    ID detects the EFFECTS of intelligent agency.

    I think that ID needlessly and irresponsibly restricts itself to just design detection. As you pointed out, archaelogy does not restrict its search to finding artifacts but, very often, tries to identify the author(s) via other means, whether it be a known historical figure or a previously documented human culture. It makes sense that an advanced intelligent designer that has enough smarts to design intelligent lifeforms could have left some unmistakable clue or message for future generations. This should be a prediction of ID, in my opinion. Or, at the very least, one of its main goals.

    There is no scientific reason that ID cannot use the same methods as archaelogy other than political expediency. This is not a particularly brave stance, at least from my perspective. Courage and persistence are the main tools in the honest researcher’s bag of tricks. The ID camp must not follow in the footsteps of the Darwinians who have chosen a priori to eliminate any possibility of design from their research. Cowardice is not an admirable trait.

  70. Mapou,

    As I’ve argued in the previous page “How does the actor act?” (linked in #52) I believe this to be the role of ID-compatible hypotheses. Core ID theory is currently very limited in scope. Exactly how do tools like CSI and IC allow anyone to identify Designer(s)?

    Now I believe it could be argued that we need not maintain this distinction indefinitely, although personally I’d rather keep it so that communication on this subject is easier. But if any one hypothesis acquires enough evidence that it advances to a theory I think it might be fine to accord it the role of “part of core ID, yet not focused on design detection”.

    Now that’s my personal opinion on the matter. I don’t know how the entire ID movement feels in this matter, nor do I think anyone has bothered finding out, but I believe Bill at least maintains these distinctions as well (perhaps not using the same terminology as myself). What does everyone else think?

    Hmm…I wonder if WordPress has a polling function.

  71. Re: Stephen B (post #68).

    Your post doesn’t surprise me – I already know that ID tries to restrict its sphere of study to the effects of the Intelligent Agency. I guess that is your prerogative. I’m just questioning as to why ID is so narrowly and very specifically delineated in this way, particularly when scientific discipline and “academic freedom” would suggest that any and all questions should be permitted. Again, ID supporters want academic freedom so all kinds of questioning can occur with evolution, but apparently not with ID!

    But I’m not sure I agree with your reasoning and out of curiosity did a tiny bit of research. I found this on the U.S. National Park’s web site (http://www.nps.gov/archeology/.....ident1.htm)

    “Gradually, archeologists have shifted objectives, realizing that understanding the people behind the artifacts is more compelling than the artifacts themselves. Today’s archeology has turned from simply filling museum cabinets to discovering how people in the past actually lived.”

    Similarly, within forensic science, there is a practice called criminal profiling which uses information from the crime scene to figure out the m.o. of the perpetrator.

    But you didn’t still answer the question as to if ID doesn’t consider the identify of the designer important, shouldn’t it at least be part of another discipline? Why is it not an important question. To me it should be a burning issue that everybody here should be discussing all the time? Especially why the designer seems to have deliberately left so few clues as to its identify and whereabouts.

    And why do so many Christians draw the conclusion that the Designer is their own God and on what basis? (other than faith, or is that all they are basing this on?)

  72. Mapou and colin_evans101:

    I think there is a common misunderstanding in your posts.

    ID does not “restrict its search” in any way, nor does it “restrict its sphere of study to the effects of the Intelligent Agency”. And least of all it does it for political or opportunistic reasons.

    The reason is much simpler. ID is a scientific theory, and the theory, at present, can detect design, but has not enough facts, or enough inference power, to do more with sufficient reliability.

    In other words, ID is not a philosophy, is not a religion, and is not a global scientific theory (a theory of all reality). It is a partial scientific theory, on a specific aspect of reality (design in biological information). It is a very important aspect, one that can condition the scenario of research in many other aspects, but it still is an aspect.

    Does ID state that the identity and nature and modalities of action of the designer are not important? Absolutely not.

    Does ID state that those aspects are beyond the scope of science? No, but it cannot argue the contrary, at present.

    I have argued many times, on this blog, that all of these aspects, and especially the third, the modalities of implementation of design, should be scientifically investigated. The problem is that at present we don’t have much to do that scientifically (we can obviously do that philosophically, and we do that daily on this blog). In other words, we need more facts and probably more reflection.

    But science will never try to investigate those aspects, if the ID scenario is not accepted at least as possible. That’s why we are so aware of the importance of supporting ID.

    Does ID give us instrument to investigate the nature and modalities of the designer. It certainly does. For example, just analyzing the properties of a design, you can usually infer some probable aspects of the designer, or at least some specific purposes or modalities of implementation. That’s possible, but nor always realizable.

    Personally, I believe that, as we are fortunate enough to have a lot of design available, we could investigate it for information about the designer. But that requires a lot of scientific work, and you know who owns scientific resources at present.

    So, again, we need more facts, we need more analyzing and researching power, and we need that the ID scenario be recognized as a legit scientific scenario for research.

    In the meantime, ID remains a very strong partial theory, absolutely effective with the facts we already have. Indeed, each day biological research adds facts in favor of ID to our knowledge.

    So, I don’t understand why people are accusing ID for the simple fact that it does what it can do, and does not what it, at least at present, cannot do. That is only epistemological correctness: if darwinists did the same, we would not have all the problems we have.

  73. colin evans: You did not read my post carefully enough. I did not say that archeologists do not study the people behind the artifacts. You will note that I wrote the following: But design detection in archeology only tells us, for example, that a certain artifact was designed, it cannot identify the person who did it, unless, “OF COURSE IT DRAWS FROM OTHER KINDS OF INFORMATION THAT ARE NOT RELATED TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN.”

    So, the point is that, insofar as it does design detection, archeology does not identify the person because functionally specified complex information doesn’t probe that deeply. Archeology uses other kind of information to discover identities.

    Similarly, with regard to forensic science, I wrote, “design detection, among other things, distinguishes intent or purpose from accidents” So, I am well aware of the fact that forensic science uses other methods at the crime scene, but those techniques are not analogous to the science of intelligent design, meaning they do not search for FSCI. That is why didn’t include them. Again, I would ask you to please read for context.

    —–You wrote: “But you didn’t still answer the question as to if ID doesn’t consider the identify of the designer important, shouldn’t it at least be part of another discipline? Why is it not an important question. To me it should be a burning issue that everybody here should be discussing all the time? Especially why the designer seems to have deliberately left so few clues as to its identify and whereabouts.”

    There are several reasons:

    First, ID does consider the identity of the designer important, but it does not have the ability to find out who it is. The theory simply isn’t well-developed enough to probe that deeply into origin of life issues. Complex Specified Information or Irreducibly complex organisms tell us only that they were designed. Apparently another genius will have to come along and add to the ID inventory of tools.

    Second, when ID scientists start talking about the designer, critics assume they are talking about God, slander then, and brand them as religious fundamentalists. Have you not heard about the trial in Dover Pennsylvania where Judge John Jones ruled against reason and declared that intelligent design is nothing more than Biblical creationism?. As a result, any reference to the designer’s identity causes suspicion about the scientist’s motive for bringing up the subject. It’s hard to do good science when your enemies mistakely, or even maliciously deny that you are doing science and expell you from the scientific community.

    Third, there is a question of honesty. ID makes modest claims, but it can back them up easily. Darwinists, on the other hand, make extravagant claims and cannot even come close to defending them. True science knows its limitations.

    Finally, many come here and ask the same question over and over again. “Well, if a designer fashioned the DNA molecule, then who designed the designer?” Sometimes, it is an attempt to prompt a religious discussion and confirm the fact that ID advocates are Christian proselytizers who care little about the science. Other times, it is just a display of gross ignorance. The Christian God has, after all, been described as the causeless cause and therefore is self existent and in no need of a designer.

  74. Similarly, with regard to forensic science, I wrote, “design detection, among other things, distinguishes intent or purpose from accidents”

    You know it’s usually those associated with the fire marshal that determine whether the fire was an arson.

    It is then police detectives that connect the arson to its designer.

    Or, if you will, it’s the medical examiner who determines if the dead body was the result of foul play. Quincy, aside, it’s someone with a different expertise using different techniques who track down the actual killer.

    Design detection and finding the designer are different specialties.

  75. —–”Design detection and finding the designer are different specialties.”

    Could we not say that they are different functions within the same discipline? Doesn’t forensic science, for example, use FSCI-like information to determine whether or not an act of violence was premeditated or motive driven (design) rather than sponteneous (non-design)? On the other hand, does it not also use a wide variety of other techniques to identify the perpetrator.

  76. Could we not say that they are different functions within the same discipline?

    Depends on the point we are trying to make :-)

    Forensic science — using science to address legal issues — does include the search for the designer as well as determining whether an event was law/chance/design BUT it is important for us to remember (and emphasize) that the determination as to whether an event was designed is made by those who generally are not the same as the ones who look for the designer.

    AND often the event is determined to be designed but the designer is not identified.

  77. 77

    Re: #74

    Yes, I agree that archeology and forensic science will have limited value in identifying actual precise identities (although the latter has that capability). I guess the point I’m trying to make is that both these disciplines can do provide useful information about the characteristics, methods, and attributes of the designer, if not a precise identify. That is worthwhile information that for ID could guide future research and approaches. Gpuccio states in #72 that ID can give us the tools to investigate the nature and modalities of the designer. As far as I’m aware nobody has done this yet and the excuse given is that is that it too time-consuming and requires access to resources not controlled by ID.

    StephenB wrote:

    “First, ID does consider the identity of the designer important, but it does not have the ability to find out who it is. The theory simply isn’t well-developed enough to probe that deeply into origin of life issues”.

    OK, fair enough then. But isn’t this in itself useful information about the nature of the designer – that the designer has deliberately obfuscated the design process? in fact, at least at a micro level it has only been in the last 50 years that the purported evidence has even been able to be discovered. I work in IT and the development of software – it is often quite easy to determine who designed a particular piece of software because each designer will inevitably have their own design ‘signature’ in how they architecture a piece of software. Why is it we have not detected similar design ‘signatures’ in ID (who knows, there could even be more than one designer, right). One has to ask, why the designer is seemingly so shy in revealing very much – and why, if as many people believe, the Designer is the Christian God, why religious scriptures to do not account for ID. If the Designer is God, then it is reasonable to expect that some mention of ID should be in God’s revealed word, the Bible – yet there is nothing I know of in the Bible that directly supports an ID viewpoint (although no doubt some people could creatively conquer up one, as clearly people have made the Bible pretty much say anything they want it to say).

    The reality still remains that the majority of ID supporters are not only religious, but Christian. I think that’s worth exploring (rather than just trying to ignore it). I understand too your desire to try separate ID from religious influences but honestly it is a hard sell. You can present ID as a “pure” science, but it doesn’t take much research to realize there are more strong religious influences at work here. One only has to look at some of the major financial contributors of the Discovery Institute (e.g., Ahmanson) to realize this.

    Furthermore, the majority of ID supporters are not only religious, but are Christian. Is this just a bizarre coincidence?

    Clearly, many, many ID supporters DO think the Designer is the Christian God (Dembski himself has acknowledged this several times, including on this blog). I think it’s also probably a fair statement to say that the majority of ID proponents are drawn to ID after they have already become established in their faiths. Sure, there are a few notable exceptions such as Berlinski, but people like Dembski, Behe, Wells and others were clearly people of faith prior to their interest in ID. In fact Wells has even said that his interest in defeating Darwinism is in the service of his religion. So in the end you can whine about how others, in your opinion, have wrongly characterized ID as a religious/political movement, but given the evidence and clear lines of influence, it’s hard not to think otherwise.

  78. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that both these disciplines can do provide useful information about the characteristics, methods, and attributes of the designer

    That’s backwards. It’s the characteristics of the event that leads one to conclude it was design.

    I think it’s also probably a fair statement to say that the majority of ID proponents are drawn to ID after they have already become established in their faiths.

    It would be just as fair a statement to say that the majority of ID opponents reject ID out of hand because it is a challenge to their faith.

  79. I think it’s also probably a fair statement to say that the majority of ID proponents are drawn to ID after they have already become established in their faiths. . . .It would be just as fair a statement to say that the majority of ID opponents reject ID out of hand because it is a challenge to their faith.

    The point is to seek truth.

    Does the existing paradigm — that all biodiversity can be explained by random changes to genome guided by natural selection — fail? Why not?

    Does life appear to be designed? Why not?

  80. —–colin evans: “But isn’t this in itself useful information about the nature of the designer – that the designer has deliberately obfuscated the design process? in fact, at least at a micro level it has only been in the last 50 years that the purported evidence has even been able to be discovered. I work in IT and the development of software – it is often quite easy to determine who designed a particular piece of software because each designer will inevitably have their own design ’signature’ in how they architecture a piece of software. Why is it we have not detected similar design ’signatures’ in ID (who knows, there could even be more than one designer, right). One has to ask, why the designer is seemingly so shy in revealing very much – and why, if as many people believe, the Designer is the Christian God, why religious scriptures to do not account for ID. If the Designer is God, then it is reasonable to expect that some mention of ID should be in God’s revealed word, the Bible – yet there is nothing I know of in the Bible that directly supports an ID viewpoint (although no doubt some people could creatively conquer up one, as clearly people have made the Bible pretty much say anything they want it to say).”

    As it turns out, Scripture includes a number of philosophical statements concerning the fact that the existence of God is evident to reason. Romans 1:20 reads, “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse.” Also, Psalm 19 reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth his handiwork.”

    Notice that these passages (there are others) say nothing at all about the need for faith. Indeed, they insist that no faith at all is needed. Also, philosophy, when grounded in epistemological realism, also points to the “uncaused cause” or a “prime mover.” Once one assumes the fact of existence, a self-existent creator is the logical conclusion.

    Now in the area of science, things are not quite so easy. A design, after all, is a creative act; it isn’t as easy to measure as a law. To discover the laws the govern the way a piano hammer strikes the strings on a piano, for example, does not pose nearly as daunting a challenge as accounting for the way Mozart designed the composition that regulates the choice of notes. Indeed, creativity, at least as it manifests itself in physical events, may not even be accessible to science. Similarly, although science can uncover the laws of gravity, it may never solve the mystery of the creative act that gave rise to them.

    —–“The reality still remains that the majority of ID supporters are not only religious, but Christian. I think that’s worth exploring (rather than just trying to ignore it). I understand too your desire to try separate ID from religious influences but honestly it is a hard sell. You can present ID as a “pure” science, but it doesn’t take much research to realize there are more strong religious influences at work here. One only has to look at some of the major financial contributors of the Discovery Institute (e.g., Ahmanson) to realize this.

    ID, as a “movement,” does indeed have religious overtones AND political overtones. Most people who accept ID, for example, also accept the Constitution as a reliable founding document, believe in natural rights, and agree with its teaching that God grants rights. That’s the way design thinkers think. Those who agree might even provide financial support to the Discovery Institute. In the same way, most Darwinists reject the Constitution, dispute the idea of natural rights, and reject God as the guarantor of rights. That’s the way non-design thinkers think. Those who agree are likely to support the ACLU and the American Secular Humanist Association.

    ID as a methodology, however, has absolutely nothing at all to do with any movement. There is not one religious idea in formulations of “specified complexity” or “functionally specified complex information.” Even the “fine tuning” argument is solely scientific. Design arguments from philosophy are as old as Aristotle, and he was no fundamentalist. ID, as science, asks only to be accepted on the strength of the evidence, and the evidence is certainly on its side. In fact, only irrational people deny it. That is why Anthony Flew, the world’s most famous atheist, finally recanted and wrote a book entitled,“There is a God.” On the other hand, we know that Darwinists do not go where the evidence leads. They are on record of not only running away from the evidence but also persecuting all those in the academy who even mention the subject.

    —–“Sure, there are a few notable exceptions such as Berlinski, but people like Dembski, Behe, Wells and others were clearly people of faith prior to their interest in ID. In fact Wells has even said that his interest in defeating Darwinism is in the service of his religion. So in the end you can whine about how others, in your opinion, have wrongly characterized ID as a religious/political movement, but given the evidence and clear lines of influence, it’s hard not to think otherwise.”

    I don’t whine about those who characterize the ID movement as a movement. I do, however, bristle, when someone characterizes ID science as the ID movement. It is a cheap trick to conflate the two; it is also dishonest. Creation Science depends on a religious presupposition; intelligent design depends on empirical observation. Those who cannot tell the difference are either drunk on ideology or intellectually challenged.

  81. Creation Science depends on a religious presupposition; intelligent design depends on empirical observation. Those who cannot tell the difference are either drunk on ideology or intellectually challenged.

    Well said.

  82. 82

    Re: #80

    Regarding the scripture verses you quoted, is it not fair to say that these could equally apply to a YEC God, a TE God or an ID God? Sure, philosophically they can apply to ID, but in terms of ‘how’ God brought his creation into being, the only real indication of how that happened is in Genesis.

    Now it seems we are talking about ID movements and scientific ID, and that the ID movement can indeed have religious and political overtones. So, as you say, we are left to judge the evidence of scientific ID on its own merits. This is where I always get stuck, because the evidence seems so paltry, so perhaps you can help me out? All I’m aware of are a few cases of irreducible complexity (and a diminishing number rather than a growing number some would say), some stuff about CSI, fine tuning…and…well, I think that’s it, right?

  83. I think it’s also probably a fair statement to say that the majority of ID proponents are drawn to ID after they have already become established in their faiths. Sure, there are a few notable exceptions such as Berlinski, but people like Dembski, Behe, Wells and others were clearly people of faith prior to their interest in ID.

    I don’t know about Wells but Behe and Dembski were Darwinists before the evidence prompted them to formulate ID.

    All I’m aware of are a few cases of irreducible complexity (and a diminishing number rather than a growing number some would say), some stuff about CSI, fine tuning

    Diminishing? It’s not as if such examples are limited to the commonly discussed like the flagellum. We focus on such systems because they are relatively simple to comprehend and are well-studied. Quite frankly, since we–meaning all scientists–do not yet fully comprehend the overall design of the code we cannot look at the majority of the code and say, “This code here makes a horse and this code a fly.”

    CSI applies to any functional system with an IC core composed of 500 informational bits or more. As more is learned I’m sure the ID movement will adopt other examples, but for now we’re sticking with the flagellum since it’s still a good example that most people can understand.

    Also, fine tuning is more in regards to cosmology, although some call it “Cosmological ID”, whereas we’re generally interested in Biological ID.

    But that’s not all. There’s all the ID-compatible hypotheses and related predictions. I listed some in comment #52. Also, keep in mind that these hypotheses are COMPETING and have differing predictions (quick example: self-terminating versus non-self-terminating front-loading). As such, most will get rejected as evidence is accumulated. But there is also a certain overlap with shared predictions (which is what I usually focus on).

  84. My problem is with the usage of the word “supernatural”. The way most people are using the word “supernatural”, it implies that the “supernatural” realm cannot affect the “natural” realm (i.e. the observable universe). If the “supernatural” CAN affect the observable universe, then by all rights, it ceases to be “supernatural” and becomes “natural”, albeit mysterious.

    I see this as more of an attempt to relegate religion into non-effect than anything else.

  85. Stephen writes, “In the same way, most Darwinists reject the Constitution, dispute the idea of natural rights, and reject God as the guarantor of rights. That’s the way non-design thinkers think. Those who agree are likely to support the ACLU and the American Secular Humanist Association.”

    I object. I support the ACLU and the American Secular Humanist Association and ALSO the Constitution, and so do many others support all three of these. Making these kind of politically inflammatory, stereotypical and erroneous comments is needlessly divisive and doesn’t help further civil discussion.

  86. —–”I object. I support the ACLU and the American Secular Humanist Association and ALSO the Constitution, and so do many others support all three of these. Making these kind of politically inflammatory, stereotypical and erroneous comments is needlessly divisive and doesn’t help further civil discussion.”

    I was simply describing the difference between design thinkers and non-design thinkers. On the one hand, design thinkers and supporters of the Constitution believe that God grants natural rights based on the natural moral law. That is what the terms, “the laws of nature” and nature’s God” mean. On the other hand, Darwinists, The ACLU, The American Secular Humanist Association, and you all disagree with that proposition, believing that nature was not so designed.

  87. But that doesn’t mean we don’t support the Constitution – that’s my point. You are essentially saying that anyone who is not a “design supporter” can’t support the Constitution, and that is both obviously wrong and an insult to millions of people. Why you believe such a divisive thing is beyond me – do you really believe that an atheist is somehow intrinsically incapable of being a true and patriotic American, dedicated to our Constitution and the principles for which it stands?

    P.S. The phrase you mention is from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution

  88. Let me add more: the fact that I don’t believe in the same metaphysical justification that is stated in the Declaration of Independence doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the principles stated therein or in the Constitution that followed, any more than the fact that I don’t believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the Golden Rule. People have all sorts of reasons why they think they have the beliefs they do – to me, what people believe about particular issues, and more importantly, how they act, is much more important that what they think the metaphysical justifications for their beliefs are.

  89. Yes, of course I meant the DOI. Well, I am going to get in trouble for developing this off-topic subject, but since I introduced it, I should probably take the heat, meaning that my comments may get deleted.

    Yes, I would submit to you that atheism and the Declaration of Independence are totally incompatible. Also, as you may know, all the original state constitutions were are unabashedly Theistic and Christian in their formulations.

    —–“You are essentially saying that anyone who is not a “design supporter” can’t support the Constitution, and that is both obviously wrong and an insult to millions of people.”

    I said, “design thinker,” and that is not exactly the same thing. One need not believe in the science of intelligent design to accept the Declaration of Independence, but one does need to believe in the “natural moral law,” which is a design concept. The framers appealed to the natural moral law AND the Bible as the foundation for all civil law. Neither Darwinism, the ACLU, the Secular Humanist Association, or you believe in the “natural moral law.” Do you deny this?

    —–“Why you believe such a divisive thing is beyond me – do you really believe that an atheist is somehow intrinsically incapable of being a true and patriotic American, dedicated to our Constitution and the principles for which it stands?”

    If you don’t believe that God grants rights, then you don’t believe in the Declaration of Independence, and by extension, you do no believe in the rational foundation for the Constitution. If the state can grant rights, then the state can take rights away, which means that that no right can be unalienable.

    —–“Let me add more: the fact that I don’t believe in the same metaphysical justification that is stated in the Declaration of Independence doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the principles stated therein or in the Constitution that followed, any more than the fact that I don’t believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the Golden Rule.”

    The purpose of the Constitution is to apply the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. How can one support the application and reject the principle?

  90. But that doesn’t mean we don’t support the Constitution – that’s my point.

    We just support our interpretation of the Constitution :-)

  91. Stephen, I understand that a political and historical discussion about the Constitution is not appropriate for this site, and I have no interest in doing that. (Which means that I won’t respond to Tribune’s comment either.)

    But there is an appropriate issue that we can discuss here related to the implications of one’s acceptance or rejection of “design thinking.”

    You write, “Yes, I would submit to you that atheism and the Declaration of Independence are totally incompatible,” and you end with, “The purpose of the Constitution is to apply the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. How can one support the application and reject the principle?”

    Your statements contain a logical fallacy: you imply that if person X believes that A implies B and if person Y doesn’t accept A, Y can’t believe B. That is false: there can be many different justifications for accepting something. We can have very different metaphysical beliefs and come to the same conclusions about what to value and support in the world.

    I gave another example that is not political. I believe in the Golden Rule, and I imagine you do also. We have different reasons for accepting it as a fundamental value. Does the fact that you believe the Golden Rule from a religious perspective and I from a humanist perspective mean that my support of the Golden Rule is inferior to yours? In fact, if I were to follow your reasoning about the Constitution, you would say I couldn’t accept the Golden Rule because I don’t accept its Biblical foundation – and that would be absurd.

    Similarly, there are other beliefs and values from Christianity, and from other religions, that I accept. Even though I don’t accept their metaphysics I certainly see religions as a source and repository of much wisdom about the human condition.

    Similarly for the Constitution. The founding fathers believed in God – this was the late 1700’s, you know, and the prevailing worldview was still of a young earth as described in Genesis. They also thought about and fought for important principles that led to the democracy that I live in today. The fact that I don’t believe in the God that they did doesn’t in any way negate my support for the democratic principles they embodied in the Constitution.

    Invoking God doesn’t give you or anyone a monopoly on the values and actions that you see as implications of your belief because people can reach the same conclusions from different metaphysical starting points. Declaring that only “design thinkers” can believe X, or conversely, that atheists can’t believe X, is wrong, factually, logically, and morally.

  92. Hazel,

    If you are really interested in understanding the implications of design thinking then I suggest you spend a considerable amount of time reading Timaeus (an internet handle). Timaeus is a Greek scholar who has written a series of quasi essays and and answers to questions at ASA about ID.

    It is by far the best discussion of Intelligent Design I have ever read and that includes Dembski, Behe, Meyers, Johnson, Wells etc. It was written in the past 3 months and is in bits and pieces

    http://www.calvin.edu/archive/.....uthor.html

    This is the author page for September. Find Ted Davis and his initial introduction of Timaeus to the group at ASA. You need only read the Ted Davis comments from then on through October and November as he summarizes all questions put to him. It is quite lengthy and if you are serious about understanding this topic this is the best place in the world to start. Timaeus is not a member of ASA and all his essays and responses to questions are through Ted Davis. Many people respond but it is not necessary to read them as their questions are summarized in subsequent replies through Ted Davis.

    The people at ASA are Christians who are scientists so the topic of religion pops up frequently but Timaeus’s answers do not reflect a particular religious point of view. The members at ASA have been generally hostile to ID so he was definitely not preaching to the choir even though it is a religious oriented organization, mostly of Protestants.

    After reading this and it will take a while you will understand the argument from design better. The content could fill a good size book. If afterward you are still anti design, so be it.

    If anyone else wants to read the best exposition of ID ever written, obviously my opinion, follow the Ted Davis’s links from September through November at ASA. The last post was on Monday. Timaeus is a good source since design thinking started with Plato and the name Timaeus come from one of Plato’s dialogues and Timaeus is as I said a Plato scholar.

  93. Thanks, Jerry.

    For what it’s worth, I am quite familiar with design arguments, including those that have taken place at ASA involving Ted Davis. In fact, one of the things that has struck me is that many religious people who believe in God, and therefore design, are in fact rejected by the ID movement. It’s hard to actually get a grip on “design thinking” when there seems to be so much disagreement among design thinkers on what that means.

    For instance, if design thinking merely means accepting that our universe is such that all the various parts work together to make things, including life, happen, without a claim as to the source of that design, then even I can go along with that. On the other end of the spectrum, if design thinking claims that human beings were specially created by God, and have a special rational and moral relationship with him, I can’t.

    So without some specifics, it’s hard to know what design thinking even means.

    Returning to the topic immediately at hand, Stephen’s brand of design thinking seems quite exclusionary, and is not what Ted and others are talking about, I don’t think.

  94. Hazel: Once again, you seem to have missed the point. Other belief systems support the Golden Rule, so yes, of course, you can believe in the Golden Rule without accepting the Bible.

    Now let’s examine what it is that we are really talking about. Altruistic and kindly actions are informed by and follow from Golden Rule principle. It would make no sense for you to say, for example, that you supported the kindly and altruistic behaviors that follow from the Golden Rule, while, at the same time, rejecting the Golden Rule. You accept the application because you acknowledge the principle. That being the case, it makes no sense for you to say that you accept the Constitution, which was established to implement the principles written in the Declaration of Independence, while, at the same time, rejecting the DOI’s basic teaching, which is that God grants rights. Sure, as an atheist, you can, at some level, believe in the principles embedded in the Constitution as if there were no such thing as the DOI. In that case, your faith would be without rational grounds, because the constitution draws its moral authority from the DOI.

    At the surface level, you may well believe in all the political freedoms and democratic principles that you allude to. However, as an atheist, you cannot really make the case for freedom or identify with those who made that case.. Granted, you can protest that you “want” to be free, but there is nothing extraordinary about that. People have always wanted to be free, usual to no avail. What they were never able to do, at least until the American Revolution, was to demonstrate in morally compelling terms why they “deserved” to be free.

    Since you don’t agree with the framers’ conception of human nature, namely that we are made in the image and likeness of God, you cannot explain to the prospective tyrant why God’s laws of nature supersede his arbitrary laws. Put another way, you cannot argue that God designed the universe such that tyranny violates the natural moral law because you don’t believe that there is any such thing as God’s designs or God’s natural moral law.

    Further, without that ethical foundation, you cannot fully understand the very things you claim to accept. The Framer’s, for example, defined freedom as the right to follow the light of our moral conscience, which was the internal manifestation of God’s natural moral law. Since you, (along with the ACLU, Secular Humanist Association, and the Darwinist community) refuse to acknowledge any such thing as a moral conscience or a natural moral law, you can talk all day long about freedom without necessarily even knowing what it is or how to preserve it. Much less are you in a position to appreciate its role in maintaining a well-ordered society.

  95. For instance, if design thinking merely means accepting that our universe is such that all the various parts work together to make things, including life, happen, without a claim as to the source of that design, then even I can go along with that

    Hazel, it is more the universe is such that all the various parts work together to make things and the most rational explanation is that it was designed to do so.

  96. Tribune – it is the part about “the most rational explanation” part that I reject. But we’ve been over that enough, I think, and it’s not the main point I want to discuss here.

  97. Stephen writes, “Hazel: Once again, you seem to have missed the point.”

    No Stephen – once again I’ve made a different point, and am arguing against your point. I haven’t missed your point – I got it, and disagree with it.

    You write, “It makes no sense for you to say that you accept the Constitution, which was established to implement the principles written in the Declaration of Independence, while, at the same time, rejecting the DOI’s basic teaching, which is that God grants rights. Sure, as an atheist, you can, at some level, believe in the principles embedded in the Constitution as if there were no such thing as the DOI. In that case, your faith would be without rational grounds, because the constitution draws its moral authority from the DOI.”

    No. For you, the Constitution draws its moral authority from its relationship from God-given rights. I have a different position about the source of its moral authority. The fact that the writers of the DOI invoked God does not mean I have to agree with them about this metaphysics – I can still agree, and do, with the principles which they embedded in the Constitution

    You write, At the surface level, you may well believe in all the political freedoms and democratic principles that you allude to. However, as an atheist, you cannot really make the case for freedom or identify with those who made that case.”

    That is a bunch of arrogant crap, sir, which goes back to my original outrage.

    Your position, I take it, is that only those who believe in God as you do, and as you would claim the founding fathers did, can call themselves genuine supporters of our Constitution and the freedoms which it was written to preserve, and that attitude itself is a blight upon the principles we are discussing.

    Over and out.

  98. Hazel: I invite you to visit one of the many celebrated monuments in Washington D.C. and read the inscription at its base. Fill in the missing blank, “In (*** ) do we place our trust.”

    I contend that the Founding Fathers linked freedom to God’s natural law. Further, I insist that you, as an atheist, cannot make the case for freedom or identify with those tho made that case. You call that “a bunch of arrogant crap.”

    Excellent! Prove me wrong and make your case for freedom without God. The floor is yours.

  99. Stephen, you have more than adequately proved to me that you are utterly assured that you are right and others are wrong, and that there is absolutely no way anyone could “prove” something to you that you didn’t want to believe.

    I don’t believe that “proof” of the sort you think is attainable is possible. I should have learned my lesson about this in my earlier conversations with you.

    I am an atheist and I believe in the freedoms that our Constitution was written to uphold. Your belief that this is not logically possible is your problem, not mine.

    Now I’m done.

  100. Hazel, We both agree that you believe in the freedoms that our Constitution was written to uphold. I don’t question that point, though, I doubt that you can define the freedom that you claim to believe in. But never mind all that.

    I am simply saying this:
    [A] You reject God’s natural moral law as their source of those freedoms,

    [B] insist that another source is possible, yet,
    [C] refuse to disclose what that source may be.

    I am not asking for an airtight argument. I am asking for any possible alternative source, even if you can’t make a case for it.

  101. it is the part about “the most rational explanation” part that I reject.

    I know, and the rejection is based on emotion.

  102. Hazel,

    “It’s hard to actually get a grip on “design thinking” when there seems to be so much disagreement among design thinkers on what that means.”

    Well if you want to get a grip on it then I suggest you read the long series of essays by Timaeus and answers to the questions posed to Timaeus. Ted Davis rarely puts himself forward on this issue though he does in this discussion in places. The real person to read is Timaeus, not Ted Davis. Timaeus is the star. Ted primarily acts as a facilitator for Timaeus and will give his thoughts now and then and occasionally he summarizes.

  103. StephenB wrote:

    I contend that the Founding Fathers linked freedom to God’s natural law. Further, I insist that you, as an atheist, cannot make the case for freedom or identify with those tho made that case. You call that “a bunch of arrogant crap.”

    Stephen,

    It is indeed arrogant, for a couple of reasons.

    1. God is not even mentioned in the Constitution. This is obviously a deliberate omission, considering that God is mentioned in each of the original thirteen state constitutions (eleven of which specified religious tests for officeholders) as well as the Articles of Confederation. The Founders simply did not feel the need to invoke God’s authority to back up the rights and freedoms they were enumerating. “We, the People” was authoritative enough for them. They chose to leave God out of it.

    Skeptical? Look at this passage from the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified unanimously by the Senate in 1797:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    2. Freedoms come from the people and/or their institutions, not from God.

    They certainly don’t come from the Christian God, who (if you believe the Bible) supported kings and approved of slavery.

    Even if you don’t believe any of that, it’s obvious that if God exists, he hasn’t bothered to enforce the freedoms and rights he supposedly endowed us with. Humans have lived under tyranny for thousands of years. Liberty has only begun to bloom significantly in the last few hundred years.

    Let’s perform a couple of thought experiments. Suppose that our rights and freedoms derive from God, as you believe, and that God does not enforce them, just as he has failed to enforce them throughout history. Now imagine that nobody on earth believes that we have these rights and freedoms. Under these conditions, how many free societies do you think there would be? How much freedom would we have?

    Now suppose instead that God does not endow us with any freedoms or “unalienable rights”, but that people everywhere assert that they have those rights and demand that their institutions respect those rights. Guess what? Now we get democracy, freedom and liberty.

    In both cases, what makes the difference is what the people say. The authority comes from them, not from God.

  104. ribczynski: First, I will deal with your perennial strawman.

    The statement you allude to in the treaty of 1797 was designed to assure a radically religious (Muslim) government that America would not depose that government and impose Christianity by force. Translation: that treaty was an anomaly. The 1797 treaty constantly contrasts “Christian nations” (e.g., Article VI) and “Tripoli,” a Muslim stronghold that was used as a base of operations for Barbary pirates. Muslim nations were hostile to “Christian nations.” Translation: It was a temporary act of diplomacy

    In 1783, at the close of the war with Great Britain, a peace treaty was ratified that began with these words: “In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain. . . The treaty was signed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay. Keep in mind that it was Adams who signed the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli.

    Once the 1797 crisis had passed, the treaties were restored to their original language.

    In 1822, the United States, along with Great Britain and Ireland, ratified a “Convention for Indemnity Under Award of Emperor of Russia as to the True Construction of the First Article of the Treaty of December 24, 1814.” It begins with the same words found in the Preamble to the 1783 treaty: “In the name of the Most Holy and Indivisible Trinity.” Only Christianity teaches a Trinitarian view of God. The 1848 Treaty with Mexico begins with “In the name of Almighty God.” The treaty also states that both countries are “under the protection of Almighty God, the author of peace. . . .”

    The treaties of 1783, 1822, 1805, and 1848 all of which contained the same language?

    Are you not aware that atheists always drag out that one exception, hoping that the people they are dealing with do not know the score.

    This is an abbreviated explanation. If you need more information on these treaties, please let me know.

    More to come on the other parts of your post.

  105. —-ribczynski: “God is not even mentioned in the Constitution. This is obviously a deliberate omission, considering that God is mentioned in each of the original thirteen state constitutions (eleven of which specified religious tests for officeholders) as well as the Articles of Confederation. The Founders simply did not feel the need to invoke God’s authority to back up the rights and freedoms they were enumerating. “We, the People” was authoritative enough for them. They chose to leave God out of it.”

    Of course it was a deliberate omission. The point had already been made in the Declaration of Independence. Why write in the by-laws what you have written in the mission statement? But they certainly didn’t want to leave God out of it. On the contrary, right after the proclamation they instituted a day of prayer. Indeed, they had chapels right there in the congress, beginning and ending each day in prayer. God was all over the place.

    —–Freedoms come from the people and/or their institutions, not from God.

    If you think that institutions can grant rights, then our rights are dependent on the whim of whoever runs those institutions. If you think rights come from people, then the wrong person can take them away. In any case, the Founding Fathers obviously disagreed with you, inasmuch as they said so in the Declaration of Independence. It reads, “We are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.”

    —–“They certainly don’t come from the Christian God, who (if you believe the Bible) supported kings and approved of slavery.”

    They come from “Nature’s God,” just as it is written in the documents. (The Bible did not “support” slavery.)

    —–“Even if you don’t believe any of that, it’s obvious that if God exists, he hasn’t bothered to enforce the freedoms and rights he supposedly endowed us with. Humans have lived under tyranny for thousands of years. Liberty has only begun to bloom significantly in the last few hundred years.”

    Liberty began when the founding fathers used Biblical principles to argue for the “inherent dignity of the human person.” This concept is found in no other world view, which explains why freedom is such a rare thing.

    —–“Let’s perform a couple of thought experiments. Suppose that our rights and freedoms derive from God, as you believe, and that God does not enforce them, just as he has failed to enforce them throughout history. Now imagine that nobody on earth believes that we have these rights and freedoms. Under these conditions, how many free societies do you think there would be? How much freedom would we have?”

    God does not “enforce rights.” In any case, if no one believes that our rights come from God, and if they do not believe in the Biblical principle that we are “created in the image and likeness of God,” then freedom will be non-existent. People are free only when they and their leaders recognize the inherent dignity of the human person.

    —–“Now suppose instead that God does not endow us with any freedoms or “unalienable rights”, but that people everywhere assert that they have those rights and demand that their institutions respect those rights. Guess what? Now we get democracy, freedom and liberty.”

    No, you don’t. What you get is a tyrant who will put those people to death. It’s called history. It’s also called current events. In any case, whose rights will be asserted? One person’s right always places a burden on someone else’s right. If we meet at a stop sign and you have the right of way, then I must yield. That’s what a right is—a claim by one person on another. By what standard do the “people” decide which persons will be privileged and which ones will be burdened if they have no universal ethic to inform them.

    —–“In both cases, what makes the difference is what the people say. The authority comes from them, not from God.”

    That is precisely what the framers did not want—tyranny of the majority. Pure democracy or mob rule is no better than tyranny; indeed, it is just a different kind of tyranny. Only the natural moral law can protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority and the whims of the ruling class.
    Also, all nations are informed by a world view. If that world view is atheism, tyranny and death will always follow. If that world view is Islam, sharia law will likely smother freedom and the natural development of culture. Even a theocracy based on Old Testament laws would be likely to create problems. Our freedoms were based Christian principles, not on some non-existent fantasy such as Christian law—I say “were” because atheists and their dumbed-down dupes our currently trying to tear down the whole edifice with no idea about what to put in its place. In fact, most of them don’t even know what they are tearing down.

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