Home » Intelligent Design » Now Materialists Are Trying to Turn Occam’s Razor On Its Head

Now Materialists Are Trying to Turn Occam’s Razor On Its Head

 Give me a break will ya.  In their feverish efforts to prop up the teetering materialist paradigm, to justify the unjustifiable, our materialist friends have now resorted to saying, essentially, black is white.  In a recent post a commenter turns Occam’s Razor on its head when he states:

 

It is a common misconception among ID supporters that scientists deliberately defy Occam’s Razor and pursue multiverse theories simply because they are uncomfortable with the idea of a designer.  This is false.

 

The commenter cites physicist Aurélien Barrau in support.  In this article Barrau states:

 

In any case, it is important to underline that the multiverse is not a hypothesis invented to answer a specific question.  It is simply a consequence of a theory usually built for another purpose. Interestingly, this consequence also solves many complexity and naturalness problems.  In most cases, it even seems that the existence of many worlds is closer to Ockham’s razor (the principle of simplicity) than the ad hoc assumptions that would have to be added to models to avoid the existence of other universes.

 

The sheer presumption, the overweening fatuity, of these statements (both the commenter’s and Barrau’s) beggars belief.  One must conclude that either they simply have no idea what Occam’s Razor means or they are deliberately trying to distort its meaning to support their conclusion.  I suspect the latter.

 

So, to set things straight, we will discuss first, what the Razor means, and secondly how it applies to the multiverse.

 

What Does Occam’s Razor Say?

 

William of Ockham (or, commonly, “Occam”) was a Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher from the village of Ockham in Surrey, England who lived from the late 1200’s to the mid-1300’s.  Today, he is best remembered for Occam’s Razor.  Ockham’s formulation of the Razor, like all learned texts of the time, was expressed in Latin.  He stated:  entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.”  This is usually translated: “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” 

 

What Does Occam’s Razor Mean?

 

Occam’s Razor is anothe way of statig the “principle of parsimony.”  Britannica Concise Encyclopedia states that Occam’s Razor is:

 

A rule in science and philosophy stating that entities should not be multiplied needlessly.  This rule is interpreted to mean that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be attempted in terms of what is already known.  Also called law of parsimony.

 

Karl Popper argued that a preference for a simpler theory over a complex theory, other things being equal, is justified by his falsifiability criterion, because a simpler theory applies to more empirical cases and therefore is more “testable” and may be falsified more easily. 

 

If Multiverse Theory Violates the Razor, Does that Mean it is False?

 

We concede at the outset that should we conclude multiverse theory violates the Razor that would not, in itself, be the death knell for the theory.  Occam’s Razor is not a scientific theory itself.  It is a heuristic maxim.  Thus, a theory could violate the Razor and still be true.

 

Nevertheless, the Razor has stood the test of time, and remains useful.  A theory that violates the Razor has less standing than a theory that does not.  That is the very reason our commenter and Barrau have tried so hard to fit multiverse theory within the confines of the Razor, which, as we shall see, is like trying to fit Andre the Giant’s foot into a ballerina’s slipper.  No matter how you stretch it, it ain’t gonna fit.

 

Does Multiverse Theory Violate the Razor?

 

Of course it does.  Let’s go back to the original formulation of the Razor:  “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” 

 

The multiverse theory posits that there are an infinite number of universes, and we just happen to live in one where the conditions for the existance of life are just right.  In other words, if there are an infinite number of universes, every condition that is not logically impossible will somewhere be instantiated. 

 

Thus, multiverse theory clearly violates the Razor. because it does not keep entities to an absolute minimum.  Indeed, by definition, the multiverse theory multiplies entities to an infinite degree!  This is why our commenter’s and Barrau’s statements are so staggering.  Far from meeting the conditions of the Razor, multiverse theory is the exact opposite of a theory that would meet the conditions of the Razor.  In other words, if multiverse theory, which posits the existence of infinite entities, does not violate the Razor, no theory does.

 

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

115 Responses to Now Materialists Are Trying to Turn Occam’s Razor On Its Head

  1. There can not possibly be a greater violation of Occam’s Razar that the multiverse theory. You cannot multiply beyond necessity any other entity greater than the universe itself.

    The multiverse theory is also the complete destroyer of science. If all possible configurations of events, matter, energy and laws are instatiated, then nothing, however improbable, can be falsified. Anything and everything exists somewhere.

    Any physicists (or any other scientists) that accept the multiverse ought to just lock their office doors and go home. They would have to agree that their existence has been multiplied beyond necessity.

  2. This is another case of scientists trying to apply science beyond what it is capable. Science can not know what happened before time, or observe anything that is outside of the universe (which is a contradiction). Another case is the ridiculous claim that evolution created all life. How is that ever testable? Suppose there was only one occasion when life began spontaneously. Such an occurrence would disprove evolution. However it is very unlikely to be found. It is impossible therefore to verify how every life form was created in all of history. What is needed is people knowledgeable of science reigning in these extreme claims. The ID community is doing an excellent job of just that. Keep up the excellent work.

  3. Barry:

    You seem to be ignoring the “beyond necessity” part of Occam’s Razor. Of course multiverse theory involves positing more entities. I’m sure Barrau hasn’t failed to notice this fact. His argument is that the multiverse idea is a by-product of theories that might be the best account of the structure of our universe. If the multiverse were merely an ad hoc solution to the fine-tuning problem, one might think that they violate Occam’s razor. Maybe positing some kind of intelligent designer would solve the same problem without the multiplication of entities. But Barrau’s point is that the multiverse isn’t an ad hoc postulation of this sort. It is (according to him) strongly suggested by string theory, independent of fine-tuning issues. If one could come up with a simpler theory accounting for the phenomena in this universe than string theory, then yes, the multiverse would fail Occam’s razor. But in the absence of such an alternate theory, claiming that the multiverse violates the razor because of its profusion of universes is simply to misunderstand the razor. It’s like saying the Standard Model violates Occam’s razor because it posits 18 different particles. Surely it would be simpler if there were only 13 particles. Yes, it would, but until you’ve given me an alternate theory with only 13 particles, all 18 are necessary entities. Occam’s razor isn’t violated.

  4. Understand that I am equally skeptical of multiverse theories, which obviously are a desperate attempt to prop up materialism. But I thought it would be interesting to compare the number of ad hoc assumptions from a strictly logical point of view.

    Multiverse:
    1. Such an entity exists
    2. It has infinite complexity (numbers of subentities)
    3. It was created for a purpose (rejected for ideological reasons)
    or
    4. It always existed and had no cause

    Creation by a Diety beyond the universe:
    1. A Deity exists
    2. The Deity may have but does not have to have infinite complexity, since the universe has finite complexity
    3. The Deity had a purpose
    4. The Deity is the foundation of existence and has no cause
    or
    5. There is an infinite regress of Creators with ultimately no cause

    It seems to me it is basically a draw, looking at it from the principle of parsimony.

  5. The multiverse theory posits that there are an infinite number of universes, and we just happen to live in one where the conditions for the existance of life are just right. In other words, if there are an infinite number of universes, every condition that is not logically impossible will somewhere be instantiated.

    This is a non-sequitur. The sentence beginning “In other words…” has nothing to do with multiverse theory, and it isn’t a consequence of the previous sentence.

    Physicists who believe in some sort of multiverse are usually committed to the existence of an infinity of domains instantiating different laws of nature, but this is in no way entails that every logically possible event occurs in some universe or the other. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a serious scientist who defends the latter claim. All serious multiverse theories involve extra-logical constraints on the laws of the universes involved. Events that violate these constraints won’t occur anywhere in the multiverse, even though they are logically possible.

  6. When appealing to Occam’s razor, materialists always ignore the primary qualification to the rule, which is, “don’t multiply UNECESSARILY.” Really what they do is to multiply selectively, depending on which politically correct objective they have in mind.

    On the one hand, they translate the rule to mean “don’t multiply AT ALL.” On the other hand, they translate it to mean, “go ahead and multiply LIKE MAD. So, if God represents omniscience, they use Occam’s razor to REDUCE mind to matter, but if God represents design, they use Occam’s razor to EXPAND a designed rational universe into an un-designed multi-verse.

    Welcome to the wacky world of materialism.

  7. —–”You seem to be ignoring the “beyond necessity” part of Occam’s Razor. Of course multiverse theory involves positing more entities.”

    Occam’s razor was conceived with the hope the the one who does the cutting is both rational and sane.

  8. Thus, multiverse theory clearly violates the Razor. because it does not keep entities to an absolute minimum.

    But wait! Every single one of those universes is necessary to avoid buckling to the necessity of a designer, so Occam’s isn’t violated after all! :)

  9. Barry Arrington,

    Your rhetoric hinges on equivocal use of the term entities.

    Let’s go back to the original formulation of the Razor: “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

    Why would we do that, when your Britannica quote gives a fairly good idea of what the phrase Occam’s razor means in the 21st Century?

    This rule is interpreted to mean that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be attempted in terms of what is already known.

    In other words, the concern is with the simplicity of the theory itself, not with the simplicity of what it implies. For instance, the equations of relativity and quantum mechanics are simple (parsimonious), no matter that they entail views of physical reality that are much more complicated than the Newtonian view.

    The article on simplicity in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins:

    Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better. But what exactly does theoretical simplicity amount to? Syntactic simplicity, or elegance, measures the number and conciseness of the theories basic principles. Ontological simplicity, or parsimony, measures the number of kinds of entities postulated by the theory. One issue concerns how these two forms of simplicity relate to one another. There is also an issue concerning the justification of principles, such as Occam’s Razor, which favor simple theories. The history of philosophy has seen many approaches to defending Occam’s Razor, from the theological justifications of the Early Modern period, to contemporary justifications employing results from probability theory and statistics.

    Occam’s razor addresses syntactic simplicity. You point out that multiverse theory is not ontologically simple–that it multiplies ontological entities–and then claim that it violates Occam’s razor–i.e., that it multiplies syntactic entities. And this is where you engage in the logical fallacy of equivocation.

  10. Another logical error is to go from the term multiverse theory to the belief that there is a scientific theory of the multiverse. There is no such theory. The term simply reflects the fact that multiverses arise in various physical theories.

    The term multiverse was coined by William James in 1895. Multiverses of several sorts pop up in several theories that were not conceived with any consideration whatsoever of whether there might be universes other than the one we perceive.

    An interpretation of quantum mechanics (syntactically simple, ontologically complex) entailed a multivers long before the issue of cosmological fine-tuning came to the fore. String theory (syntactically fairly simple, ontologically very complex) originated as an attempt to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics. The notion that the multiverses of contemporary physics are attempts to prop up materialism is, as an historical fact, flat-out wrong.

    By the way, it strikes me as very strange that IDists do not make a different sort of hay of so-called multiverse theory. Clearly physicists are exhibiting their willingness to accept that empirical science may lead to inference of the existence of physical entities that cannot be observed empirically. This is closely akin to design inference.

  11. Sal Gal,

    Over the last 10 years or so I’ve been reading books written by string theorists. I’ve gotten into the habit of earmarking pages where the author’s personal worldview is the deciding factor in guiding the science and not the data. I’ve made a lot of earmarks.

    For example, the hierarchy problem is only considered a “problem” because of philosophical commitments from what I’ve seen. Without new physics the only way aound the problem of the large mass of the Higgs particle is to assume that its classical mass takes precisely the value that would cancel the large quantum contribution to its mass. The parameters in the theory that that determines the masses would have to be such that all contributions add up to a number with more than thirteen digits of precision. In other words, the mass must be a fine-tuned parameter and this is rejected as unacceptable and derisively called a fudge. The funny part is that while some mathematical models may potentially “solve this problem” they then produce another instance of fine-tuning.

    (BTW, it’s possible these physicists may be completely right that in reality the “fudge” is not real, but I point out this example since it shows how the philosophical commitments distorts the science.)

    I’d agree with you that the general concept of the multiverse and also string theory can be derived from physics. The problem is that prior philosophical commitments are guiding the formulation of specific models. The multiverse concept has taken on a completely new connotation in order to protect a worldview. In fact, I would say it’s the rational atheist’s last stand since there is nothing left to resort to.

    Also, I would presume that most theists would not oppose the general concept of the multiverse. After all, God is supposed to reside in heaven, so many religions insist that there exists a type of multiverse. In fact, I have a Christian friend who believes that God has created universes without end. But it’s specific models tailored to reject any possibility of design that theists oppose.

  12. 12

    Astonishing, absolutely astonishing, the mental gyrations and contortions materialists will resort to to prop up their pet theories. Some of the commenters continue to suggest that a theory that posits INFINITY in support of itself is parsimonious. I will not even attempt to counter their arguments. By denying the self-evident they have demonstrated beyond the slightest doubt that they are beyond rational discourse.

  13. Barry Arrington wrote:

    Astonishing, absolutely astonishing, the mental gyrations and contortions materialists will resort to to prop up their pet theories. Some of the commenters continue to suggest that a theory that posits INFINITY in support of itself is parsimonious.

    As compared to the parsimonious and falsifiable theory that holds that an infinite Designer created the universe, and that it has the characteristics it does because the Designer wanted them that way?

    Parsimony cuts both ways, Barry, and so does falsifiability.

    More on this later.

  14. Just a question. Does the multiverse theory(s) necessitate infinite universes, or does it (they) just posit more than one?

  15. ribczynski–As compared to the parsimonious and falsifiable theory that holds that an infinite Designer created the universe, and that it has the characteristics it does because the Designer wanted them that way?

    Actually, that’s not what ID says. ID says the universe can only have the characteristics it has if it were designed. No motive is attributed to the designer.

    Why would you think the multiverse is a better explanation than design?

  16. 16

    rib writes: “As compared to the parsimonious and falsifiable theory that holds that an infinite Designer created the universe, and that it has the characteristics it does because the Designer wanted them that way?”

    Straw man, rib. As tribune 7 writes, ID does not attibute any characteristics to the designer except the ability to design. It certainly does not posit God. Keep your categories straight.

    Now, if I were talking about God, I would demonstrate that God is not complex. Indeed, He is utterly simple. Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent, but, in essence, simple.

  17. It certainly does not posit God.

    Barry, exactly!

    ribczynski, ID does not even attempt to describe the designer. It involves itself only with tangible, measurable, and observable objects whether it be etchings on a stone or DNA.

    It does not attempt to apply itself to the unmeasurable.

  18. ——–”As compared to the parsimonious and falsifiable theory that holds that an infinite Designer created the universe, and that it has the characteristics it does because the Designer wanted them that way?”

    So, let me get this straight:

    [I] {a] An undefined, multiverse generator {b} cranks out infinite multiple universes of varying texture and variety, {c} numerical infinity unexplainably becomes instantiated in concrete reality, {d} allowing for one meaningless universe to emerge.

    [II] One creator designs a purposeful universe.

    And you say that [I] is more parsimonious than [II]?

  19. Patrick says,

    The problem is that prior philosophical commitments are guiding the formulation of specific models.

    Empirical science is primarily inductive learning, and there is no such thing as inductive learning without bias. (No one should argue this point without first reading about inductive bias.) Inductive bias is essentially “prior philosophical commitment.”

    Occam’s Razor is a philosophical commitment of science (an aspect of inductive bias). Empiricism is another commitment of science. And, yes, methodological naturalism (materialism) is a philosophical commitment of science.

    The idea of many IDists that science is a matter of just listening to what the data say is incredibly naive. There is no such thing as passive interpretation of observations (or even passive observation, quantum mechanics tells us). I would mention, also, that ID could have taken a great many trajectories other than those it has, and it is abundantly clear that making ID jibe with a Christian worldview has been a dominant concern of the leading proponents like Johnson, Behe, and Dembski.

    The multiverse concept has taken on a completely new connotation in order to protect a worldview.

    That’s a very strange claim. I will interpret charitably. You may be able to produce something stronger, but what I typically see is statements along these lines: “It is possible that there are, or have been, many universes other than the one we live in. Therefore your argument from improbability is not sound.” This is not a claim that the multiverse is a fact. It is a claim that it is a live possibility that spoils certain design arguments. And I repeat an incontestable point: Historically, defense of materialism had absolutely nothing to do with the appearance of multiverses in physics.

    In fact, I would say it’s the rational atheist’s last stand since there is nothing left to resort to.

    I suspect that neither you nor the “rational” atheist is any more capable of imagining how relativity and QM will be reconciled than Michelson and Morley were of imagining relativity when they failed to detect a luminiferous aether. The way people use scientific results to feather their nests is no argument against the science itself.

    People here are complaining constantly about “materialistic science.” Scientists are quite conscious of embracing methodological naturalism (equating naturalism with materialism). What biases are IDists conscious of embracing? The claim that IDists simply look at the data is utterly bogus. The fact is that no one was worked out a detailed proposal for a non-materialistic science.

  20. Sal Gal:

    “The notion that the multiverses of contemporary physics are attempts to prop up materialism is, as an historical fact, flat-out wrong.”

    I agree with you. But it is equally true that the recent, unjustified, sometimes ridiculous attempt to use a generic multiverse hypothesis to explain away the ever growing evidence of fine tuning in the physical universe is a definite historical manipulation of science, and does not serve any real necessity of physics.

    Indeed, it is only materialist propaganda. It should be clear that no serious (that is, arising from considerations in physics, and not from the necessity of propaganda) multiverse theory can justify an approach of the kind “anything can happen or be real, provided we multiply appropriately our imagination of the number and level of numerosity of existing universes”.

    That “Library of Babel” kind of assumption is simply not scientific and an insult to reasonable thought. It vilifies any attempt to an understanding of reality.

    Just think, in that super-infinite multiverse, there must certainly exist one universe where the physical laws contradict themselves at a definite moment. Maybe it’s ours. Maybe it happens tomorrow. Maybe it’s the single universe where it happens and nobody realizes it, for a sort of global hypnotism. And so on…

  21. Just a question. Does the multiverse theory(s) necessitate infinite universes, or does it (they) just posit more than one?

    There is a large, but finite, number of universes in some theories.

    Even in Big Bang cosmology, everything we perceive emerges from a singularity. That is, in the first instant, matter was infinitely dense, occupying a space of zero volume.

  22. Clearly there are some physical theories and models in need of “renewal” because they include infinity in some way or another.

    I already mentioned Big Bang cosmology. To tell you the truth, I think we have to do away with all treatment of the origin of the universe in cosmology, because there’s intrinsically the pesky issue of something versus nothing. Any least something is infinitely more than nothing, you know.

    We’re going to have to nix black holes, as well as the theory that the fate of the universe is a Big Crunch (i.e., collapse into a singularity of infinite density). And we’re going to have to insist that time does not go on infinitely. Oh, gee, but then we have a problem analogous to that we had with the origin — something in the last instant of time is infinitely more than nothing.

    So what we need is a cosmological model in which the universe does not exist for infinite time, but has no beginning and no end. Hmm. I think I’ll wait until I get to Heaven to work on that. Given infinite time, I can solve any problem. Right?

  23. Barry Arrington wrote:

    Some of the commenters continue to suggest that a theory that posits INFINITY in support of itself is parsimonious.

    The theories in question do not posit the multiverse; they entail it after positing much less.

    I will not even attempt to counter their arguments.

    A cynic might suspect that it’s because you can’t.

    ID does not attibute any characteristics to the designer except the ability to design.

    And the ability to implement the design.

    It certainly does not posit God.

    Besides God(s), who are the designers you have in mind who are capable of designing and implementing universes?

    Now, if I were talking about God, I would demonstrate that God is not complex. Indeed, He is utterly simple. Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent, but, in essence, simple.

    That’s an interesting double standard. In your world God gets credit for being utterly simple, despite the complexity of his creation, but materialist theories get labeled as complex, regardless of the sparseness of their assumptions, if they entail the multiverse.

  24. gpuccio,

    I agree that there are some ridiculous invocations of the mere possibility that there are multiple universes. For one thing, theories giving rise to multiverses do not necessarily say that “anything goes” in some universe or another. In Everett’s many-worlds interpretation of QM, for instance, every possible outcome of an event in fact happens in some universe (“world”). If I understand correctly — I have only a superficial knowledge of QM — the “laws” of nature are identical in the parallel universes.

    I am big on distinguishing models from what is modeled, and unlike a great many scientists, I do not believe it is at all possible to make a valid statement as to whether “the parameters of the universe are fine-tuned.” Models have parameters, and the modelers have fine-tuned them. It such an awful philosophical error to treat abstractions of a model as though they are physically real. And yet I see extremely bright scientists do it all the time.

  25. Sal Gal:

    Thank you for your answer. I agree with you on most.

    I believe that the fine tuning argument is strong, but not so strong as the ID argument about biological information. The reasons? What you say:

    “Models have parameters, and the modelers have fine-tuned them. It such an awful philosophical error to treat abstractions of a model as though they are physically real.”

    has some validity. The fine tuning argument is, IMO, a valid scientific argument with some philosophical facets. It has to make some assumptions which go beyond the empirical interpretation of data. That does not make it less valuable, but if one does not share those assumptions it is difficult to force the assumptions using only scientific arguments.

    But the fine tuning argument remains IMO completely valid as a philosophical argument with solid scientific basis, indeed one of the strongest formulations of the cosmological argument for God’s existence.

    None of those reservations, instead, can be applied to the ID argument about biological information, which is completely empirical in all its parts.

    The sad fact is that the logical abuse of the multiverse argument, on which you seem to agree, has been recently used to support not only a generic refutation of the fine tuning argument, which I still could find tolerable, but even a “refutation” of the ID arguments about biological information, which is silly and ridiculous at best. In other words, something of the kind: “It is true, we cannot explain biological information, but in the multiverse hypothesis there could well be one universe where some millions or billion of very structured proteins arise by chance, and if we take into account the anthropic principle…” and so on!

    As you correctly say, there is no physical multiverse model where “anything is possible”. Even in Everett’s model, which you cite, “every possible outcome of an event” happens, which is quite different from “anything”.

    PS: I apologize for my “partial post”: just a typing mistake.

  26. Sal Gal–Historically, defense of materialism had absolutely nothing to do with the appearance of multiverses in physics.

    It’s not something I’d argue with but the observation that those who seriously consider the multiverse are treated respectfully while those who seriously consider ID are treated with scorn and persecution should make one go hmmmm.

    And for the record there is nothing wrong with seriously considering multiverses.

  27. 27

    That’s an interesting double standard. In your world God gets credit for being utterly simple, despite the complexity of his creation, but materialist theories get labeled as complex, regardless of the sparseness of their assumptions, if they entail the multiverse.

    I agree. Along the same line, one of the arguments that keeps coming up around here is something along the lines of: We don’t see complex things (airplanes, computers, etc) forming naturally, we only see them as a creation of intelligence – therefore, other complex things (us) must have been created by an intelligence.

    However, that could be stated a different way, as in: We don’t see complex things (airplanes, computers, etc) forming naturally, we only see them as a creation of complexity, indeed greater complexity – therefore, other complex things (us) must have been created by an even greater complexity.

  28. You know, the multiverse concept does not falsify ID :-)

    Actually, you can argue it provides evidence for Biblical literalism.

    Physics may one day show that one these dimensions where our natural laws don’t apply is a place called Heaven.

    And it may one day show that another of these dimensions is a place called the Other Place.

  29. Sal Gal,

    Now that you’ve explained your position further like gpuccio I’d say I mostly* agree with you. There is of course a level of bias inherent to the ID movement (BTW, I would not conflate ID theory with ID movement) and I was not trying to claim otherwise. In fact I’d say we’re pretty open about it since we list our agenda on the About page. But personally in other ways I’d say it’s been purposely limited since a) most of the major ID proponents started out as Darwinists before the data convinced them otherwise and b) the leaders who are also Christians have not pushed for an adoption of an ID-compatible hypothesis to fit their view and instead prefer the “big tent”.

    But my main point was that many supporters of specific models are pushing an agenda yet at the same time seem to want to claim to be unbiased practitioners of science.

    *I say mostly since not all instances of fine-tuned parameters are limited to variables within cosmological models (like the energy density in some models required to make the universe flat). Some are observables like the ratio of electromagnetic force to gravity, proton decay rate, the velocity of light, etc.

  30. tribune7 wrote:

    Actually, you can argue it provides evidence for Biblical literalism.

    Physics may one day show that one these dimensions where our natural laws don’t apply is a place called Heaven.

    And it may one day show that another of these dimensions is a place called the Other Place.

    If the multiverse provides evidence for heaven, it provides evidence for every other mythical otherworld ever concocted by humans.

    Get out the mead horns, boys. We’re going to Valhalla!

  31. Winston Macchi wrote:

    Along the same line, one of the arguments that keeps coming up around here is something along the lines of: We don’t see complex things (airplanes, computers, etc) forming naturally, we only see them as a creation of intelligence – therefore, other complex things (us) must have been created by an intelligence.

    However, that could be stated a different way, as in: We don’t see complex things (airplanes, computers, etc) forming naturally, we only see them as a creation of complexity, indeed greater complexity – therefore, other complex things (us) must have been created by an even greater complexity.

    Hi Winston,

    You’ve just described Dembski’s argument, more or less: that what he calls ‘complex specified information’, or ‘CSI’, cannot be generated by purely natural processes, and that any natural object containing CSI must therefore have received it from an entity with equal or greater CSI.

    It’s interesting that Barry defends Dembski’s ideas while not realizing that his own claim — that God is utterly simple — runs afoul of Dembski’s need for God to be the ultimate source of CSI in the world.

  32. Winston Macchi:

    The “simplicity” of God in many (but not all) religious philosophies is a cognitive requirement: God is concieved as simple because he transcends phenomena. Complexity is inherent in phenomena. An uncaused cause (the only reasonable answer to the infinite regress of phenomenological causation) is more easily conceived as simple, or at least as undefinable on the simplicity-complexity axis (being undefinable is one of the inherent consequences of transcendence).

    You cannot easily judge the only observable example of functional CSI generation (design), which is human design. We don’t really know what in humans makes them capable of generating new CSI so easily and in such an abundance (just by talking or writing, or creating new knowledge).

    So, when you say:

    “We don’t see complex things (airplanes, computers, etc) forming naturally, we only see them as a creation of complexity, indeed greater complexity ”

    that’s just your unwarranted assumption. We see them as a creation of “human cosnciousness”, but we don’t know which properties of human consciousness allows us to generate new functional complexity. I have often argued that we have no evidence that complex machines can really generate new CSI, and not simply transform the CSI they receive as input. Dembski’s work (with Marks) about the conservation of information supports that view. I have often argued that the conscious component is indispensable to generate new CSI.

    So, we have no evidence that CSI is “a creation of complexity, indeed greater complexity”. If that were the case, CSI should always stay the same or decrease. Where does human knowledge come from, then?

  33. 33

    We see them as a creation of “human consciousness”, but we don’t know which properties of human consciousness allows us to generate new functional complexity.

    Does that include intelligence? Is then the I in ID unwarranted?

    You cannot easily judge the only observable example of functional CSI generation (design), which is human design.

    But one of the basis of ID is judging human design, indeed, is judging that because ‘natural’ methods cannot make what humans make (meaning they only exist because they were designed) we can infer that, because natural methods cannot make us (so say the ID proponents) that design must be the answer. The only reason design comes into the picture is because on human design. Indeed, if you don’t judge off of human design, you have nothing else to work with.

  34. ribczynski (@31):

    Before putting words into Dembski’s mouth you should maybe first try to understand him. Dembski has never stated “that what he calls ‘complex specified information’, or ‘CSI’, cannot be generated by purely natural processes”. Do you mean that human deigners are not “natural”? Or that Dembski does not believe that human are the designers of human artifacts? Or do you just argue for the sake of it?

    You say, of Barry: “not realizing that his own claim — that God is utterly simple — runs afoul of Dembski’s need for God to be the ultimate source of CSI in the world”. You are the only one who seems not to realize something here. For the relationship between a simple God (or a simple transcendental consciousness) and CSI, please check my previous post here (#32), or one of the many where I debated the question in other threads, answering to you, if I remember well.

    And I don’t know exactly Dembski’s theological positions, but I know that he personally believes that the designer of biological information is God, and I think very likely that he conceives the transcendent God as simple. But I certainly don’t want to put words into his mouth…

  35. gpuccio wrote:

    Before putting words into Dembski’s mouth you should maybe first try to understand him.

    gpuccio,

    You are the one who has failed to understand Dembski’s position.

    Dembski claims that human knowledge does not violate his principle because the CSI comes from the human intellect, which transcends nature. Dembski’s thesis depends on the idea that the human mind (or at the very least, any part of the human mind that is creative) is actually immaterial.

    That is one way in which Dembski’s ideas necessarily invoke the supernatural, despite the denials of ID supporters.

    There is another way, as well: If CSI cannot be generated by purely natural means, then all of the CSI present in nature must ultimately have come from outside — in other words, from the supernatural. Since Dembski claims that life itself is an instance of CSI, where else could the CSI have come from 3.5 billion years ago?

  36. gpuccio while I often admire your steadfast resistance to the men with empty chests and the willingness, in contrast to the darwinists, to evaluate the logical basis of claims and assertions.

    but I would call your attention to the fact that human designers are NOT natural. the latent desires of the chance worshippers to deny the exceptionalism of living things (which after all are miracles of design and not tiny machines or turbines or self-replicating automatons) aside, we know that all life is designed because of it’s inherent complexity. thus the distinction between ‘natural’ designers and ‘un-natural’ designers (or chance) is a category error: there is no ‘undesigned’….

    Too often we cede this ground to those who hold that All phenomena may be explained without any sort of Recourse to something larger than themeselves. We Do not have the same initial axioms that are held by Secularist design deniers, so let’s not equivocate.

  37. Winston Macchi:

    I can’t understand well your last post (@33).

    You say:

    “Does that include intelligence? Is then the I in ID unwarranted?”

    What do you mean? For me it’s simple. Human consciousness is the subject of human intelligence and the cause of human design, obviously. I had stated that “we don’t know which properties of human consciousness allows us to generate new functional complexity”
    In other words, we (intelligent conscious beings) can generate new CSI, while machines can’t.

    Are you conflating intelligence with CSI? That’s a very strange thing to do. Intelligence is a property of consciousness, while CSI is a property of objective information. Is that clear?

    You say:

    “But one of the basis of ID is judging human design, ”

    Why do you say that? ID acknowledges human design as a causal fact (it is observable that human designers design things which exhibit the property of CSI) but does not give any judgment of how or why the human designer is capable of creating CSI. We just observe that happening. That does not mean we know how it happens.

    You say:

    “indeed, is judging that because ‘natural’ methods cannot make what humans make”

    Since when ‘natural’ has come to signify ‘not human’? I have witnesses many abuses of the word “natural”, but this really surprises me.

    You say:

    “meaning they only exist because they were designed”

    Who exists bevause was designed? Humans? What has that to do with ID? ID says that objects exhibiting CSI are designed: that is true of my computer, of a ant, of you. And it has nothing to do with “existence”. It means that the special configuration of information we observe is a sign of design.

    You say:

    “we can infer that, because natural methods cannot make us (so say the ID proponents) that design must be the answer”

    Perhaps you can infer that. I would never make such a meaningless inference.

    You say:

    “The only reason design comes into the picture is because on human design”

    That’s correct: if we could not observe the fact of human design, both objectively and subjectively, we would probably not be here to discuss. But that does not mean that it is easy to understand design, in other words to have a good theory of what it is, of its properties and laws, etc. That was exactly my point.

    You say:

    “Indeed, if you don’t judge off of human design, you have nothing else to work with.”

    Again, although what you say is rather confused, you seem to conflate “observing” design with “judging” it, in the sense of understanding its nature.

    Perhaps I should mention that, in your previous post, you seemed to conflate human complexity (the undeniable presence of CSI in human genome, for instance), with human consciousness (a subjectively observable empirical fact) and intelligence (a property of human consciousness, both subjectively and objectively observable). That’s why I wrote:

    “We don’t really know what in humans makes them capable of generating new CSI so easily and in such an abundance (just by talking or writing, or creating new knowledge).”

  38. ribczynski:

    Let’s do ourselves a favor: let’s try not to use the word “nature”, or at least not to use it with ever new meanings.

    Now you are using “natural” as “material”, and “supernatural” as “immaterial”. It’s impossible to discuss this way. Are energy, forces, gravity, “innatural”, just because they are not “material”? I do you define “material”? Photons have no mass: are they “immaterial”? Are they “innatural” or “supernatural”?

    You say:

    “Dembski’s thesis depends on the idea that the human mind (or at the very least, any part of the human mind that is creative) is actually immaterial.”

    Having never read in detail Dembski’s theological work, I have to restrain myself here to his work about ID. I don’t remember any discussion about “necessary immateriality” in it. If I am wrong, please correct me.

    Coming back to me, I have always affirmed that human consciousness is transcendental, but that’s my philosophical view of it. It is not necessary for ID to believe such a thing. Indeed, as I have tried to affirm many times here, it is not necessary to suppose anything about the designer (both of biological beings and of human artifacts), out of its simple existence (which is an observed fact for humans, and an inference in the other case).

    ID just affirms an observed causal relationship between human artifacts exhibiting CSI and human designers, and infers a similar kind of causation for biological information, on the basis of the formal fact of the presence of CSI in both cases, and only in those two cases.

    If you want to define “nature” as anything which does not contain designers, then please yourself. For me, “nature”, “natural” and “supernatural” are just useless, often dangerous words.

    We are interested in reality and in our maps of it: whatever exists is real, and should be considered in our maps.

  39. Sola Raison:

    I had not yet read your post when I wrote my previous answers.

    I hope I have clarified enough how much I dislike the concept of “natural” and so on. It is so ambiguous that it seems only to be useful when one wants to increase the level of confusion.

    I just wanted to affirm that, if one does not restrict “nature” to a reductionist intepretation (materialism), and therefore does not start with a dogmatic assumption in the investigation of reality, there is no reason to consider human intellect as “less natural” than, say, a stone. Both things abound (I was writing “in nature”, but I wiil write instead:) around us! :-)

    But I think we probably agree on most things. I just try to avoid being cornered by a wrong use of language made by others to support inconsistent views.

  40. ribczynski –If the multiverse provides evidence for heaven, . . .

    Are you conceding it might? :-)

  41. Bill wears many hats: philosopher, scientist/mathematician, and theologian. While there is obviously some overlap I would think people should by now know how to separate statements made from those distinct disciplines.

    And, yes, I have criticized Bill since in his books he sometimes switches hats without directly letting the reader he just did so, which can create confusion.

  42. Sola Raison wrote:

    gpuccio while I often admire your steadfast resistance to the men with empty chests…

    Sola Raison,

    I think the phrase you’re looking for is “men without chests”. In any case, The Abolition of Man is way overrated.

    gpuccio,

    Substitute ‘physical’ for ‘material’ and ‘natural’ if you insist. My point remains the same: Dembski believes that CSI cannot be produced by matter and energy acting according to physical law. It comes from Beyond.

    Gravity is physical. The source of CSI, according to Dembski, is not.

    That is tantamount to saying that the ultimate source of CSI is supernatural, in the generally recognized sense of the word.

  43. Dembski believes that CSI cannot be produced by matter and energy acting according to physical law. It comes from Beyond.

    Dembski believes that as a philosopher/theologian. He cannot justify that as a mathematician, nor does he attempt to do so.

    Never mind that there are ID proponents who would disagree with some of Dembski’s beliefs as a philosopher/theologian.

  44. Patrick wrote:

    Bill wears many hats: philosopher, scientist/mathematician, and theologian… And, yes, I have criticized Bill since in his books he sometimes switches hats without directly letting the reader he just did so, which can create confusion.

    Patrick,

    This is not a case of hat-switching.

    Dembski makes the scientific claim that CSI cannot be generated by matter and energy operating according to physical law.

    If that’s true then it follows, scientifically, that the CSI we now see in the universe was either present at the beginning or inserted over time.

    If we assume that the CSI was present at the beginning, then the origin of life by blind, physical processes is no longer ruled out. But Dembski clearly does make the claim that life cannot have originated that way.

    Even if he accepted the possibility that it did, the original CSI of the universe still has to have come from somewhere outside the universe — a supernatural source.

    He takes the other approach and insists that his principle of CSI conservation precludes the origin of life by purely physical means. That means that insertions must be the source of CSI.

    But any insertions of CSI must originate from a non-physical source, according to Dembski’s original scientific claim. (I originally wrote “Dembski’s original scientific clam”, which, if it existed, would surely be an Internet phenomenon by now.)
    One way or another, his idea as science demands a source of CSI outside of the universe.

  45. The claim is that CSI contained within OUR biological system cannot be generated by matter and energy operating according to KNOWN physical law. Nor does OUR biological system allow for instances of intermediate probability to produce macro-evolution based entirely upon none-foresighted mechanisms and no intelligence involved at the OOL. This says nothing of the nature of the intelligence nor whether any other form of intelligence could evolve elsewhere in this universe based upon different parameters.

    Seriously, show us exactly how you can take the results of the Explanatory Filter and then connect that to ANY source. If you could conceive a reliable method we’d be more than happy.

    But I know you cannot do that; other tools/methods outside of the EF are necessary. The only reason ID opponents like yourself make this assertion is so they can redefine ID at whim in order to make theological/philosophical arguments.

  46. gpuccio

    Looking back, my post was rather poorly written. Allow me to try again.
    “Human consciousness is the subject of human intelligence and the cause of human design, obviously”

    Why should this be obvious? Seems like a rather large leap of faith to me.

    “I had stated that “we don’t know which properties of human consciousness allows us to generate new functional complexity” In other words, we (intelligent conscious beings) can generate new CSI, while machines can’t. … Intelligence is a property of consciousness”

    But, if we don’t know what properties of human consciousness allow us to generate CSI, and, as you state, intelligence is a property of human consciousness, we don’t know if intelligence is one of the properties needed to generate CSI. Therefore, is the I in ID unwarranted?

    “Are you conflating intelligence with CSI? That’s a very strange thing to do. … Is that clear?”

    No I’m not, and yes it is.

    “ID acknowledges human design as a causal fact (it is observable that human designers design things which exhibit the property of CSI) but does not give any judgment of how or why the human designer is capable of creating CSI.”

    It certainly credits intelligence as a how and/or why. That is something that, if your earlier statements are correct, is conflicting with your current statements.

    “Since when ‘natural’ has come to signify ‘not human’? I have witnesses many abuses of the word “natural”, but this really surprises me.”

    Indeed, it surprises me too. But it seems to be an idea in constant use on this site, hence my use of it here. But it is really beside the point.

    “That’s correct: if we could not observe the fact of human design, both objectively and subjectively, we would probably not be here to discuss. But that does not mean that it is easy to understand design, in other words to have a good theory of what it is, of its properties and laws, etc. That was exactly my point.”

    And that is exactly me point. IDers seem to transfer one of the properties of humans (intelligence) to a designer, but choose not to transfer other properties (complexity) and they have no basis for such a claim, as you make clear from your earlier statements.

    It seems to me that the property of intelligence is given based on the human ability to design and the presumed association between the two. If, as you state above, we don’t know what it is about humans that allows us to design (and I would argue that your specifying consciousness is even a step too far, based on your statements) that how can you say that the designer is intelligent?

  47. ribczynski:

    we are maybe nearer to an understanding now, but there are still problems. Patrick has already underlined the main point, but I will add some comment. I will no more call Dembski into the discussion, but nothing will change, because I completely agree with his scientifical points.

    Let’s speak of CSI in human artifacts, first of all. We have undeniable facts: human artifacts exhibit CSI, and nothing else in nature (with the only exception of biological information) seems to share that property. Humans have been “outputing” that CSI daily, for millennia. That’s part of our experience, therefore part of observable reality. If it is part of the “universe” is again a question of term definition.

    Let’s go to matter and energy and physical law. First of all Patrick hit the nail saying “KNOWN physical law”. I understand that modern scientism has accustomed the general public with the bizarre idea that science understands and defines all, and you seem to share that strange conviction, but we have to remember that our science is only “our” science, a mixture of theories about reality which have certainly some interesting value, but which could be very different in, say, 100 years. Our science is not absolute truth, and it does not explain everything. Not even about matter. Especially about matter.

    QM is at present the real core of our physics. It is, no doubt, a remarkable achievement of human thought. And yet, if you look at Wikipedia, “Interpretation of quantum mechanics”, you will find that there are at least 12 different theories about its possible meaning (there is a table summerizing them). So much for scientific theories being “facts”.

    I don’t accept that we know what matter is, any more than we know what consciousness is. I don’t accept that we can arrogantly decide what is “inside” the universe and what is “outside”. I think we should more humbly look at known facts, and see how we can build reasonable maps of reality through them, and through a creative use of our inner resources.

    You say:

    “Even if he accepted the possibility that it did, the original CSI of the universe still has to have come from somewhere outside the universe — a supernatural source.”

    Did the original matter and energy of the universe come from outside? Was the singularity which supposedly existed before the Big Bang “outside”? Is Dark Matter, whatever it may be, “outside”? How can we say? We have no idea of its possible nature. And yet physicists spend much of their time discussing about it.

    Are they epistemologically confused? No, I think you are. All that exists can be discussed and investigated by a scientific approach, provided that science has awareness of its instruments and of their limitations, and does not posit itself as the only instrument of knowledge.

    So, I make very simple assumptions: that reality cannot be explained entirely by our present knowledge, not even at the level which we like to call “material”; that there are parts of reality, like consciousness, design, etc, which are at present completely outside the instruments of description, least of all understanding, of known physical laws; that these things are just the same observables, and therefore part of our empirical treasure; that no one can impose, at a scientific level, any arbitrary notion of what is material or immaterial, inside or outside the universe, natural or supernatural. For the nth time, we should be interested in what is real and exists, and in the quality of our maps of reality.

    What Dembski and ID state is that biological information (and therefore, if you want, life, but the object of ID is biological information, not life, so please be precise in your affirmations) cannot arise “only” by means of necessity (according to known physical laws), or as an effect of randomness, or as an effect of any known mixture of the two. It cannot, because it exhibits CSI. The same is true for human artifacts.

    We call “design” the process through which humans output CSI in the external world. We don’t know how it happens, if it comes from inside or outside any concievable entity, if it will ever be understood in terms of laws, be they physical or not. We just don’t know. Still, we see it happen all the time, and we, being humans, give a name to whar we see: “design” to the process, “designer” to the conscious intelligent being who originates it.

    For biological information, we infer a similar process, but as we suppose that humans were not around 3,5 billion years ago, we infer that some other conscious intelligent agent can be the origin of that set of CSI. Period.

    You can like it or not, but it is a scientific theory. Completely empirical, completely consistent. Is it true? You know my point, scientific theories are never “true”. They are, when they are good, “best explanations”, or at least “explanations”.

    And ID is not only the best explanation. It is, at present, the only one we have.

  48. Winston Macchi:

    “Why should this be obvious? Seems like a rather large leap of faith to me.”

    No, it’s just an empirical fact. We can observe the design process (in humans) both subjectively (when we ourselves design something) and objectively (when others design).
    I am just using the terms that we use to describe such an experience. The subjective “I” (human consciousness) is the subject which perceives itself in the act of designing. Intelligence is the name usually given to the subjective faculty of consciousness which allows us to deal with meaning, both in input (cognition) and in output (design).

    “But, if we don’t know what properties of human consciousness allow us to generate CSI, and, as you state, intelligence is a property of human consciousness, we don’t know if intelligence is one of the properties needed to generate CSI. Therefore, is the I in ID unwarranted?”

    No, as I have already said intelligence is clearly subjectively perceived as the faculty of consciousness implied in the process of design. That’s how the name, and the concept, originate. From subjective perception, and an association of that subjective perception with objective results (designed things, CSI). All of that is empirical. Intelligent is not observed through the senses: it is not an object. It is directly perceived in ourselves as a faculty, and is part of many inferences of our mind. We never observe a process of design in ourselves where the faculty which is called “intelligence” is not at work.

    “That is something that, if your earlier statements are correct, is conflicting with your current statements.”

    I can’t understand: what is conflicting with what?

    “IDers seem to transfer one of the properties of humans (intelligence) to a designer, but choose not to transfer other properties (complexity) and they have no basis for such a claim, as you make clear from your earlier statements”

    Intelligence “defines” a designer (together with consciousness), for the reasons above. “Complexity” is in no known necessary relationship with designers or with the design process. In other words, while I can easily accept that humans are complex, I don’t accept that that’s the reason why they are designers. Again, computers are complex, but they are not designers, because they are neither conscious nor intelligent. So, unless you can demonstrate a necessary relationship between compelxity and the capacity to design, your argument about complexity is not valid.

    “If, as you state above, we don’t know what it is about humans that allows us to design (and I would argue that your specifying consciousness is even a step too far, based on your statements) that how can you say that the designer is intelligent?”

    Let’s put it that way: we know that the subjective events of consciousness and intelligence, as defined by direct subjective perception, are always associated to the process of design in humans. But we don’t know how that process originates in consciousness and intelligence, and least of all how it succeeds in imparting a functional order to matter which could never be obtained through necessity and/or randomness. Is that clear? Many things are perceived, but not understood. That does not make them less real.

    The inferred designer of biological information is supposed to be conscious and intelligent for the same reasons. There is no reason, as previously stated, to suppose that it need be complex.

  49. Getting back to Occam’s razor…

    The key point that has emerged from this online discussion of Occam’s razor and ID is that it isn’t about the explanatory merits of God vs. the multiverse, but rather about the explanatory merits of a Cosmic Designer, as opposed to the physical theory (say, string theory) underlying the multiverse.

    Some contributors have argued that explaining the CSI we see in the world by invoking a complex Cosmic Designer is actually less parsimonious than doing so by invoking the elegant theory which gives rise to the multiverse; while invoking a simple Cosmic Designer instead of a complex one reeks of theological ad hoc-ery, as the only designers we know are complex ones.

    I’d like to make a few points in response. First, any attempt to explain the cosmos in terms of a theory of any sort is unavoidably ad hoc, no matter how elegant the theory may be. One can always ask: why is THIS theory right, and not some other one?

    Second, the explanatory entities invoked by any physical theory are always: (a) multiple, and (b) separable from one another, at least in our thought. A theory which didn’t invoke multiple, separable entities to explain the cosmos would no longer be a physical one, in any meaningful sense of the word. This in turn implies that any physical theory has an element of intellectually unsatisfying arbitrariness about it, as we can always ask: why does the theory posit THESE entities, and why does it posit THESE relations between them?

    Third, the nature of intelligence (human or otherwise) is critical to the discussion of how Occam’s razor should be used, in relation to explaining the cosmos. For if the word “intelligence” merely denotes a physical process or set of physical processes, then of necessity it will be unable to explain the laws underlying these processes. There are, however, sound reasons for believing that intelligence cannot be identified with any physical process, even for minds (such as our own) which cease to function unless certain physical processes (e.g. respiration) are occurring. Philosopher David Oderberg expresses this point with admirable clarity:

    “The reason for the proposition that the intellect is immaterial is that there is an essential ontological mismatch between the proper objects of intellectual activity … and any kind of potential physical embodiment of them: we might call this the embodiment problem, but looked at in a slightly narrower way, in cognitive-scientific terms, it might be called the location or storage problem. Concepts, prepositions, and arguments are abstract; potential material loci for these items are concrete. The former are unextended; the latter are extended. The former are universals; the latter are particular. Nothing that is abstract, unextended, and universal – and it is perhaps hard to see how anything abstract could be other than unextended and universal – could be embodied, located, or stored in anything concrete, extended, and particular. Therefore, the proper objects of intellectual activity can have no material embodiment or locus.”

    (‘Hylemorphic Dualism’, in E.F. Paul, F.D. Miller, and J. Paul (eds) Personal Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005): 70-99. (Originally in Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2005): 70-99.) Web address: http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/.....ualism.pdf .)

    Fourth, if the foregoing argument is correct, then we have an interesting result: any physical theory of the cosmos implies some version of ID, as the mathematical concepts it employs can only exist in some sort of Super-Mind which generated the cosmos. To say that the concepts exist in some purely abstract, mathematical realm is nonsensical. It is absurd to suppose that concepts can float around free of minds, and in any case, such an “explanation” fails to account for the physical reality of the cosmos: mathematics alone cannot explain why the concepts invoked by one physical theory (say, string theory) are endowed with reality, while those of others are not. The only mathematical way to avoid this move is to say that the concepts invoked by all mathematical theories are equally real, each in their own separate realm – but them we really DO have a nightmare that would make Occam turn in his grave: all possible mathematical theories are true somewhere!

    Fifth, the disparate components of a physical theory CAN be unified on a non-physical level, if we view the theory itself as the embodiment of a “great thought” by a transcendent Super-Intellect. To discern the nature of that thought, we have to reason backwards: look at the salient features of the world (especially CSI) and ask what the Intelligence creating them was aiming to accomplish. Once we can figure that out, we can see how the entities and relations invoked by the theory underlying the cosmos “hang together.”

  50. gpuccio and Patrick,

    Thanks for your responses. Here’s just a hint of where I would go in a (necessarily a very long) discussion of cosmological ID: I think that order and design are operationally indistinguishable in the cosmos.

    Deciding whether to identify order as design is a personal matter. There’s not a rational basis for going one way or the other (which is not to say that there is no experiential basis). It’s absurd to say that the world is just the way it is. It’s absurd to say that something — even information — came out of nothing.

    I believe that the secret love of anti-theists and IDists is founded on common idolatry of reason. Each camp believes that rational interpretation of scientific findings leads to the truth, and that the other camp exhibits flawed reasoning as a consequence of prior commitment to obtaining certain conclusions.

    My perspective, as someone who has taught logic more than fifty times, is that everyone who believes in the rationality of his or her worldview is terribly irrational. Science and reason are of no use when one confronts questions of the ultimate nature of existence.

    I’m not going to follow up with discussion of this. But now you know that what I object to in ID is what I object to in anti-theism — irrational idolatry of reason. And I will end by saying that I believe irrationally in a created universe.

  51. Barry:

    ID does not attibute any characteristics to the designer except the ability to design. It certainly does not posit God. Keep your categories straight.

    So, to be 100% clear, you think that “the designer” might not be God but still has the power to create universes?
    Out of interest, what would “the designer” have to do before you would call it God?

  52. gpuccio,

    Before putting words into Dembski’s mouth you should maybe first try to understand him. Dembski has never stated “that what he calls ‘complex specified information’, or ‘CSI’, cannot be generated by purely natural processes”. Do you mean that human deigners are not “natural”? Or that Dembski does not believe that human are the designers of human artifacts?

    How far back does your reading go? From early on, Phillip Johnson opposed naturalistic explanations of human behavior, equating naturalism with materialism as just about everyone does. Dembski followed suit, and held that intelligence was a “non-natural” source of information. And, yes, this implied that human beings were not entirely natural. (Many religious and otherwise spiritual people are quite comfortable with the idea that they have an essence — a spirit — that sets them apart from nature, though they live within nature.)

    Dembski originally put a bound of 500 bits on the CSI a purely natural process could generate. The shift to regarding intelligence as natural, but not material, came after his statement of the Law of Conservation of Information in No Free Lunch.

    Branding the opposition as materialists, rather than naturalists, is a relatively new thing for IDists. When this blog was new, the epithet naturalism was far more common than materialism.

    The declaration that intelligence is natural has profound theological ramifications. Some Christians may be willing to regard the Holy Spirit as God-in-Nature, but there is no corresponding “attitude adjustment” for Jews and Muslims. That is, most people who believe that the God of Abraham is the Creator of the universe insist that the Creator’s intelligence is supernatural.

  53. Patrick,

    The claim is that CSI contained within OUR biological system cannot be generated by matter and energy operating according to KNOWN physical law.

    Then it follows that the CSI we ASSIGN to events is generally decreasing in time. Loosely, the reason is that the probabilities we ASSIGN to events generally go up as our understanding of them increases, and CSI decreases as probability increases.

    IDists speak as though CSI inheres in material entities. But there is no direct observation or measure of CSI. In its latest form, CSI is defined relative to a probability distribution on events and an agent that labels events with strings of symbols. The distribution and the agent are chosen by the individual performing the CSI computation, not given by nature.

  54. —-Sal Gal: “My perspective, as someone who has taught logic more than fifty times, is that everyone who believes in the rationality of his or her worldview is terribly irrational. Science and reason are of no use when one confronts questions of the ultimate nature of existence.”

    If, as a starting point, you assume any one of the following five things, you can demonstrate a great many things with reason:

    [A] Existence is a fact,

    [B] Some things are in motion,

    [C] Causes are related to effects

    [D]Some things are contingent, or

    [E] Being, goodness, and truth exist.

    If one accepts all five of these conditions and follows the light of reason, much about the ultimate nature of existence will become evident. The problem is that some skeptics reject the conditions necessary for rational demonstration and then complain that reason can’t demonstrate anything.

  55. I’ve seen a brain without a mind but I’ve never seen a mind without a brain.

    To be perfectly honest, the only type of “mind without a brain” I can think of are ghosts.

    Are you honestly saying here that people are ghosts who still have bodies?

    When a mind is observed to function without a brain let me know. I’ll believe that minds and brains are two seperate things then. Until then, minds need physical brains to exist, full stop, and nobody has even come close to showing otherwise.

    Patrick:

    This says nothing of the nature of the intelligence nor whether any other form of intelligence could evolve elsewhere in this universe based upon different parameters.

    Are you saying that intelligence could evolve in the universe without the help of any type of “intelligent designer”?

    If so, how would that naturally evolved intelligence determine if an “intelligent designer” was present at their OOL or not? And why can’t we apply the same to our OOL?

  56. Over and over, we hear from ID supporters that ID is not about the supernatural. It is amusing to juxtapose these denials with their constant protests against methodological naturalism.

    Their mixed message? “ID isn’t about the supernatural, no sir, but it just happens to be really, really, really important to us for science not to rule out the supernatural.”

    A couple of questions for the ID supporters on this thread:

    1. As I asked Barry earlier in the thread, while we were discussing the fine-tuning argument: Besides God(s), who are the designers you have in mind who are capable of designing and implementing universes???

    Nothing to do with the supernatural, no sir.

    2. Read this quote from Bill Dembski:

    So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, intelligent design has no chance of success.

    If ID has nothing to do with the supernatural, then why should methodological naturalism be an impediment, much less an insurmountable obstacle?

    3. Patrick argues that when Dembski says something that implicates the supernatural, it’s because he has “switched hats”, replacing his scientist hat with his philosopher/theologian hat.

    If so, then why would Dembski invoke science so confidently in the following quote?

    Unlike design arguments of the past, the claim that transcendent design pervades the universe is no longer a strictly philosophical or theological claim. It is also a fully scientific claim and follows directly from the complexity-specification criterion…Demonstrating transcendent design in the universe is a scientific inference, not a philosophical pipedream…

    Transcendent design. Nothing supernatural here, no sir.

    4. While we’re quoting leaders of the ID movement, here’s Phillip Johnson:

    My colleagues and I speak of “theistic realism” — or sometimes, “mere creation” –as the defining concept of our movement. This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology. We avoid the tangled arguments about how or whether to reconcile the Biblical account with the present state of scientific knowledge, because we think these issues can be much more constructively engaged when we have a scientific picture that is not distorted by naturalistic prejudice.

    Hmmmm…

    5. And Michael Behe:

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

    I see. ID gains strength when scientists refuse to be constrained by methodological naturalism. Nothing supernatural here, no sir.

  57. vjtorley,

    You quote David Oderberg’s argument that the mind must be immaterial because abstract concepts cannot be embodied.

    I criticize a similar argument by Mortimer Adler here:

    http://www.tinyurl.com/5qrbx2

  58. Sal Gal:

    This is just to let you know that your points are not so distant from my perspective.

    About your post #50:

    I don’t think I really share what you define as an “irrational idolatry of reason”. Nor I think ID does. I have often argued that the only way science can be credible is if it does not posit itself as the only instrument of cognition. The same is valid for philosophy.

    I do believe that most cognition is intuitive and experience-based. But that does not mean that reason, science and philosophy, when used sincerely and humbly, cannot be a great help.

    Rational knowledge is important, but is not absolute truth. It is a useful map. I have used often the concept of “map of reality” in the last days. I do believe that. We use different maps every day. Some are good, some are bad. A map is useful as far as it help us in our journey, but a map is never the territory.

    As for cosmological ID, I have already said that it is IMO a good map with some limits. But biological ID is different (see next point).

    About your post #51:

    Thank you for your historical notes about the use of language in Dembski and the initial ID theory. I appreciate that. I am probably more acquainted with the more recent trend, both in Dembski and in UD.

    Anyway, I don’t share the attraction for terms like “naturalism”, as I have already said. Even “materialism” is too ambiguous for my taste (we should define before what we intend with “matter”). In general, I don’t love “isms”, and I am happy that ID is not called “designism”, or something like that.

    But I must say that, when you say:

    “Dembski originally put a bound of 500 bits on the CSI a purely natural process could generate.”

    it should be clear that the UPB, just from the beginning, was defined in terms of a comfortable limit to exclude that a random search could generate the observed CSI even if all he computational resources of the universe were destined to that task. In other words, here it isonly the total number of possible physical events which is in discussion, and not the concept of “natural”. The context is clear enough: number of elementary particles by number of elementary time particles from the beginning of the universe. It is an approximate computation of the total number of physical bits (states) available in the physical universe according to our present understanding of it.

    I am really not interested in definitions of what is “natural” both in science and in theology. I am interested in understanding what is real. If a God exists and his real, and if His interactions with the world are real, I am not interested in labeling them as “natural” or “supernatural”. I am just content in knowing they exist.

    Biological ID is not an idolatry of reason. It is a reasonable way to scientifically understand realities which have been not correctly investigated up to now. the “negative” part of ID does not consist in branding the “adversaries” as naturalists or materialists, but rather in falsifying a bundle of scientific theories which are bad scientific theories and yet are vastly successful. The “positive” part of ID consists in proposing a design-based scenario for future scientific investigations. In its true essence, ID is simple and humble, like all good scientific theories.

    About your post #52:

    I don’t agree that “there is no direct observation or measure of CSI”. The complexity part of CSI is measurable, even if it is often difficult to measure it exactly. It is the probability of a target set against the whole search space. Once the target set is defined (specification), the probability can be measured. The search space is usually very simple to compute. You are correct that you need to assume a probability distribution, but usually, as I have discussed recently, it is perfectly reasonable to assume a practically uniform probability distribution for most relevant biological issues (genome and protein sequences). That does not mean that the distribution is “chosen by the individual performing the CSI computation”: it is chosen because it is the most reasonable assumption. But probability distributions are always assumed, and when possible empirically verified, in empirical sciences. There is no apriori way to assign with absolute certainty a probability distribution to observable events. That’s empirical science, and ID is empirical science.

    On the contrary, I agree that the specification part is not measurable, and is assigned by the observer. we could say it works this way: the observer (an intelligent conscious being) recognizes in input (cognition) the meaning inherent in the observed information (specification), which was imparted to it in output by the designer. Once the information has been classified as being specified (an “all-or nothing process, a two bit categorization), then its complexity can be measured, and it expresses a measure of CSI. So a measure of CSI could be defined as : a measure of the complexity of the observed information, once it has been recognized as specified information.

    In that sense, a measure of CSI must always be referred to some unit of information, be it one gene, one protein, one system, and so on.

    Measures are always a product of intelligent measurers: they are not inherent in nature, or given by it.

  59. ribczynski:

    it seems that all that is left in your arguing is a monotonous recycling of ambiguities about natural and supernatural.

    You seem not to understand very simple truths. For instance, I do believe that the designer is God, but that conviction does not come from ID. ID just infers scientifically a designer What is there so difficult in that, that you can’t understand?

    Non design theories try to explain biological information in term of known physical laws and undirected processes. ID shows that it is not possible to do so. Obviously, those who, for their personal reasons, are committed not to believe in the existence of a god, either you call him natural or supernatural, are more at ease with darwinian explanations, and vice versa. But, as you know, that is not an absolute rule: there are theistic darwinists, and atheistic IDists. Human mind is very flexible, it seems.

    But all that does not change a comma of he main truth: ID is scientific theory, and in itself it cannot be committed to any philosophical or religious view. Obviously, individual supporters of ID can do that, and do that. But it never comes directly from ID theory. It comes from personal considerations about ID theory. So Dembski can believe one way, Johnson another way, DaveScot another way, and so on. But we happen to agree about the substance of ID theory.

  60. ribczynski: In writing to vjtorley, you claim to have refuted Adler’s argument. On the contrary, not only do you not refute them, you do not even address them.

    Universals, that is concepts, names etc, cannot be in matter. If I have two balls, each occupies a different space. That is what makes them two. The “concept” of ball cannot be in matter. Indeed, you cannot imagine the concept of “ball”, you can only imagine this red ball or that white ball etc. Only your mind can pick up on universals.

  61. ribczynski: I can sum up your error on #54 in one short sentence: In paragraph after paragraph, you confuse motives with methods. Even if the scientist was a raving proselytizer, his religious zeal would have nothing at to do with the quality of his scientific approach.

  62. #58 should read, “not only do you fail to refute (Adler’s argument) it, you do not even address it.”

  63. StephenB wrote:

    I can sum up your error on #54 in one short sentence: In paragraph after paragraph, you confuse motives with methods.

    Stephen,

    Did you even read those quotes? Not one of them deals with motives.

    Take Dembski’s, for example:

    So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, intelligent design has no chance of success.

    There’s absolutely nothing in there about motives. Dembski is clearly, obviously saying that ID cannot succeed as a science unless methodological naturalism is relaxed.

    I realize that this embarrasses you, and that you wish Dembski hadn’t said it, but there it is.

    Even if the scientist was a raving proselytizer, his religious zeal would have nothing at to do with the quality of his scientific approach.

    If you changed that to “wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of his scientific approach”, then I would agree.

    There are certainly cases where religious zeal is pernicious. Think Jonathan Wells or Kurt Wise.

  64. StephenB wrote:

    Universals, that is concepts, names etc, cannot be in matter.

    Sure they can. As I wrote in the other thread ( http://www.tinyurl.com/5qrbx2 ):

    Think of the class of all circles. When we think of this class, we aren’t holding all members of this class in our minds simultaneously. Instead, we are thinking of the characteristic that unites them: the fact that for each circle, all of its points are equidistant from a given point, the center.

    Nothing about this characteristic defies material representation.

    Adler is simply wrong.

    StephenB:

    If I have two balls, each occupies a different space. That is what makes them two.

    Your point being?

    The “concept” of ball cannot be in matter.

    Sure it can. A computer can be programmed to recognize balls as well as circles.

    Indeed, you cannot imagine the concept of “ball”, you can only imagine this red ball or that white ball etc. Only your mind can pick up on universals.

    Um, aren’t you a bit confused here, Stephen? You’re trying to show that only the mind can represent universals, but you cite a case where the mind cannot do so. That doesn’t exactly prove your point, does it?

  65. —–ribczynski writes: “There’s absolutely nothing in there about motives. Dembski is clearly, obviously saying that ID cannot succeed as a science unless methodological naturalism is relaxed.”

    Well, of course. Methodological naturalism is a rule that dictates that design inferences may not be made in the name of science. How can ID succeed if the academy decides in advance that it may not use its own methodology? Dembski is simply stating the obvious but you are trying to read into it some sinister motive concerning the “supernatural.”

    —–“I realize that this embarrasses you, and that you wish Dembski hadn’t said it, but there it is.”

    Why would I mind Dembski saying the only thing that can be said? It is a fact that intelligent design cannot function with the rule of methodological naturalism? Are you sure you are thinking these things through? The rule was made up especially to stop intelligent design in its tracks. This is news to you? I think that you had better go back through the literature and read up on the birth of methodological naturalism. Pay close attention to the dates.

    —–”There are certainly cases where religious zeal is pernicious. Think Jonathan Wells or Kurt Wise.”

    What these men say has nothing to do with the explanatory filter or the anthropic principle or any other ID paradigm. They are empirically anchored. I don’t want to be unkind here, but frankly, your objections are not even relevant.

  66. —–ribczynski writes,

    —–” Think of the class of all circles. When we think of this class, we aren’t holding all members of this class in our minds simultaneously. Instead, we are thinking of the characteristic that unites them: the fact that for each circle, all of its points are equidistant from a given point, the center.”

    No, you still don’t get it. Your brain considers anything that has been sensitized, or imagined, such as various instances of this or that—–it is particularized.

    Your mind abstracts the universals. Your brain cannot conceive of a universal; only your mind can do that.

    You can only imagine or experience this red ball or this large ball, but it is your mind that comprehends the universal, the concept of ball.

    —–“Um, aren’t you a bit confused here, Stephen? You’re trying to show that only the mind can represent universals, but you cite a case where the mind cannot do so. That doesn’t exactly prove your point, does it?”

    I am afraid that you are the one who is confused. The imagination, which is sensitized can pick on only on particulars; the intellect.which is the organ of thought, abstracts universals.

    Knowing has a sense component and an intellectual component. If I experience you personally, my brain or imagination experiences your particular instance of human nature. My mind, on the other hand, understands the universal common human nature that is present in everyone. That is why I can know why you are different that everyone else, but, at the same can know what you have in common with everyone else. The brain does the former, the mind does the latter.

    Brain=particular; mind=universal.

    Brain=sense; mind=intellect.

  67. gpuccio wrote:

    it seems that all that is left in your arguing is a monotonous recycling of ambiguities about natural and supernatural.

    gpuccio,

    I’ve noticed that when you’re unable to answer my arguments, you hide behind what you claim are ambiguities in the terminology. That gives you an excuse for not having an answer.

    You did it on the “Horrid Doubt File” thread by claiming that someone in a dreamless sleep or in a coma is conscious, and that in a living person, consciousness is “always there.” Never mind that to the rest of the world, consciousness comes and goes, and “the patient is unconscious” does not mean “the patient is dead”, as it would if you were correct.

    You’re doing the same thing now, pretending that there is some insurmountable ambiguity in the words “natural” and “supernatural” that makes it impossible to engage my argument. Yet we can easily define our terms precisely enough to make discussion possible.

    Let’s define two categories, A and B. Category A includes matter, energy, space, and anything else, discovered or (contra Patrick) undiscovered, that operates according to what Dembski calls chance and necessity. Category B is everything else — assuming there is anything else. Category B includes gods, souls, immaterial minds, demons, ghosts, angels, etc. — what most people refer to as the supernatural.

    In terms of those definitions, Dembski’s view can be described thus:

    1. Entities in category A cannot generate CSI.

    2. At least some entities in category B can.

    3. Therefore, all CSI in the universe ultimately comes from category B, whether it is present at the beginning of the universe or inserted thereafter.

    In normal English, Dembski’s ideas about CSI absolutely require the supernatural.

    It’s not just that there is a supernatural interpretation of his ideas. The ideas themselves demand the existence of the supernatural as a source for the CSI we see around us. Without the supernatural, his ideas don’t work.

    Yet amazingly, you continue to deny this obvious implication.

    For instance, I do believe that the designer is God, but that conviction does not come from ID.

    I think that’s true of most ID supporters, who see ID as providing scientific support for ideas that they already hold for non-scientific reasons.

    The issue is not whether you (or anyone else) conclude that God is the creator because of ID. The issue is whether ID itself requires the supernatural. As I’ve shown, the fine-tuning argument and Dembski’s specified complexity arguments both require the existence of the supernatural (or category B, to use our terminology) as a source of CSI.

    ID is scientific theory, and in itself it cannot be committed to any philosophical or religious view.

    Dembski’s formulation of ID as science requires the existence of the supernatural/category B as a source of CSI. This is not a religious or philosophical view — it’s the scientific view that must follow if you accept Dembski’s premises (I, of course, do not).

  68. StephenB wrote:

    Methodological naturalism is a rule that dictates that design inferences may not be made in the name of science.

    Not true. If it did, it would lead to absurdities like denying that the pyramids of Egypt were designed. Methodological naturalism precludes supernatural design, but it does not preclude design in general. Scientists aren’t idiots, Stephen.

    What these men [Wells and Wise] say has nothing to do with the explanatory filter or the anthropic principle or any other ID paradigm.

    Who said it did? I mentioned them to show that the following statement of yours is wrong:

    Even if the scientist was a raving proselytizer, his religious zeal would have nothing at to do with the quality of his scientific approach.

    That is simply not true, which is why I amended it to read:

    Even if the scientist were a raving proselytizer, his religious zeal wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of his scientific approach.

  69. StephenB wrote:

    Your mind abstracts the universals. Your brain cannot conceive of a universal; only your mind can do that… If I experience you personally, my brain or imagination experiences your particular instance of human nature. My mind, on the other hand, understands the universal common human nature that is present in everyone. That is why I can know why you are different that everyone else, but, at the same can know what you have in common with everyone else. The brain does the former, the mind does the latter.

    Lots of assertions about what the brain and mind can and cannot do, but you provide absolutely no justification. Tell us why you think a material brain cannot represent universals.

    Failing that, why not follow crow thrall’s lead? (He’s the one who linked to Adler’s argument.) After some debate, he conceded that Adler was wrong.

  70. ribczynski:

    First of all, I have always been able to answer your arguments, and I have done it. If you don’t like, or don’t understand, my answer, it’s not my fault. Frankly, saying that “you hide behind what you claim are ambiguities in the terminology. That gives you an excuse for not having an answer.” is really unfair. But at this point, that does not surprise me much.

    I hide behind nothing. I have defined my terminology, and asked that you do the same, when the meaning is ambiguous. I have stressed that it is useless to fught about words, when we are not sure what words mean.

    Just a note about our previous discussion about consciousness: it is perfectly true that I believe that a person in a coma or in a dreamless sleep still has some consciousness, although that consciousness is percieving something very different from what normal waking consciousness perceives. I have affirmed that belief, but I have not asked you to share it: I have only affirmed, and I do it again here, that you have no way to prove your opinion, that instead consciousness is completely absent there. Indeed, you did not even answer my observation that, at least in sleep with dream, we are sure that consciousness is there, while in a previous post you had affirmed quickly that consciousness is absent in sleep. As our discussion was about NDEs, which certainly are not a common state of consciousness, and ehich seem to show that consciousness continues to exist even when there is no way to objectively detect it from outside, including measurement of brain function, my reasoning was completely appropriate. Against that, you just appeal to how “the rest of the world” uses words in common language, while that has completely no relevance in a difficult cognitive discussion about a difficult cognitive point, and them accuse me of “hiding” behind ambiguities: that’s really a very poor trick. But again, I am not surprised.

    But let’s go to the “naturality” again. You say:

    “You’re doing the same thing now, pretending that there is some insurmountable ambiguity in the words “natural” and “supernatural” that makes it impossible to engage my argument. Yet we can easily define our terms precisely enough to make discussion possible”

    No, I am not saying that “there is some insurmountable ambiguity”: I am saying that ambiguity remains until people clearly define their terms, and that terms like “natural” are often used withour being clearly defined, including by you.

    If the term is define clearly, I have no problem. You can call it “natural” ot “nice” or “cool”, it’s OK for me. It’s not the term which counts, but its meaning.

    So, as I notice that in your last post, maybe because of my “hiding pressures”, you have taken the time to give some understandable definitions, I can finally engage better your arguments. Let’s do that.

    You say:

    “Let’s define two categories, A and B. Category A includes matter, energy, space, and anything else, discovered or (contra Patrick) undiscovered, that operates according to what Dembski calls chance and necessity. Category B is everything else — assuming there is anything else. Category B includes gods, souls, immaterial minds, demons, ghosts, angels, etc. — what most people refer to as the supernatural.”

    So, if I understand well, category A includes everything which operates according to chance and necessity, while category B includes everything else which exists (if it exists) which is not in category A. So, the only discriminating criterion is the fact that the behaviour of objects in A must be fully understandable in terms of chance and necessity. You call A “natural” and B “supernatural”.

    I have no problem tith that. That is a clear definition. You have to admit that it is not an intuitive one, and that I had no way to understand that you meant that with “natural” and “supernatural”, neither in terms of common language, nor in terms of common philosophy. I have to mention that the assumption that nature is all that works according to law and necessity is a very strong apriori assumption, and a very specific and reductionist approach to the problem of nature. So it must be clear that in the following discussion I accept your definition only here and because I am talking to you and we have agreed on it in this context, but that I would never accept it in a general context.

    So, according to your definition, my point is very simple: there are a lot of things which are not in “A” in reality: some of them we know (practically all the events in consciousness); some we may discover (for instance, dark energy could well be found not to be in “A”: I am not affirming that, but it is absolutely possible, as we have no idea what it is). Another important point: if entities in “B” exist, there is noe reason apriori to affirm that they cannot interact with entities in “A”. In a sense, we cannot even be completely sure that there is any entity in “A”, but I can accept that as a reasonable hypothesis for now.

    You say:

    “In terms of those definitions, Dembski’s view can be described thus:

    1. Entities in category A cannot generate CSI.

    2. At least some entities in category B can.

    3. Therefore, all CSI in the universe ultimately comes from category B, whether it is present at the beginning of the universe or inserted thereafter.”

    At last, that’s a good summary of the conclusions of ID.

    “In normal English, Dembski’s ideas about CSI absolutely require the supernatural.”

    Let’s say “in your English”. As I have said, I find no reason in general to link the concept of natural and supernatural to “completely describable according to chance and necessity”.

    “It’s not just that there is a supernatural interpretation of his ideas. The ideas themselves demand the existence of the supernatural as a source for the CSI we see around us. Without the supernatural, his ideas don’t work.”

    With the above definition of supernatural, that’s certainly correct. But, as your defiintion of supernatural has no general value, that has no particular consequence in the general debate. If you are trying to link any connotative meaning to your definition of “supernatural”, then you are failinf. In your definition, “supernatural” only means “completely describable in terms of chance and necessity. Substitute that in your description of ID thought, and you will see that it is perfectly reasonable and consistent.

    “Yet amazingly, you continue to deny this obvious implication.

    ‘For instance, I do believe that the designer is God, but that conviction does not come from ID’.”

    Why are you amazed? I believe the designer is God for other reasons (am I free to believe what I believe?) ID makes me scientifically sure that there must be a designer. What is the reason of your amazement?

    “I think that’s true of most ID supporters, who see ID as providing scientific support for ideas that they already hold for non-scientific reasons.”

    I certainly see ID as providing support for ideas that I already hold for non-scientific reasons, just like an atheist certainly sees darwinian evolution as providing support for ideas he already holds for non-scientific reasons. Where is the problem? Anybody is free to see scientific results in the more general view of reality that he entertains. Still I can’t see your point or the reason of your apparent indignation.

    “The issue is whether ID itself requires the supernatural. ”

    It requires the supernatural as you have defined it. In other words, it requires entities which cannot be completely described in terms of chance and necessity, entities like consciousness and intelligence. I thought that was clear from the beginning. Have we discussed so long for that simple and obvious point?

    “Dembski’s formulation of ID as science requires the existence of the supernatural/category B as a source of CSI. This is not a religious or philosophical view — it’s the scientific view that must follow if you accept Dembski’s premises (I, of course, do not).”

    I perfectly agree with you, provided that you add “the supernatural as I have defined it here”, or just stick to “category B”. Again, I agree with what you say here. It’s absolutely trivial, but true.

  71. ID does not require the supernatural.

    Atheism requires faith.

    Attempts to deny reality — that “design” exists and has observable characteristics — is anti-science.

  72. ribczynski:

    Regarding you assertion that concepts can be in matter: you seem to assume that having a concept of X is equivalent to being able to reliably distinguish between X’s and non-X’s. Not so.

    While the view you have put forward might seem plausible at first glance, it fails to account for some fairly straightforward cases. For instance, the concept of a closed three-sided figure is logically distinct from that of a closed figure having three angles; and yet the two concepts necessarily coincide: all trilaterals are also triangles. Which concept, if either, does a computer have? Questions of intensionality (as distinguished from intentionality) arise here.

    Professor David Oderberg discusses the triangle case, and the issue of whether animals can have concepts, in his paper, “Concepts, Dualism and the Human Intellect” in A. Antonietti, A. Corradini, and E.J. Lowe (eds) Psycho-Physical Dualism Today : An Interdisciplinary Approach (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman and Littlefied, 2008): 211-33, at Web address http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/.....ellect.pdf . Although Professor Oderberg’s remarks are chiefly directed at those who would argue that the difference between human and animal concepts is a purely quantitative one, his arguments should also give pause to those who would contend that the discriminatory capacities of computers show that they are capable of having concepts.

  73. Anyone who thinks Dembski is committed to supernatural explanations clearly never read anything he’s written on the nature of nature.

    In Defense of Intelligent Design

    In a nutshell Dembski argues that intelligence or “mind” is a part of nature and we simply don’t know the extent of it or what conspires to cause the emergence of it. We have only our own minds as proof that minds exist in nature. We see complex machines in nature with many interdependent components all arranged to serve a purpose yet wherever the origin of those machines can be determined unambiguously we find they are creations of mind. Some of us suppose that mind is an emergent property of matter ordered in just the right way. Suppose that it is. According to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics the order in a closed system does not increase, it only decreases. Therefore, if that holds, then all the order in the entire universe, which as far as we know is a closed system, must have been present since its beginning. So if mind is an emergent property of order and the greatest order in the universe was present at the very beginning, what speaks against the case that mind has been a part of nature as long as nature itself has existed?

  74. Hmmph. Seems I missed most of the conversation.

    Dembski addressed the fact that ID is not a supernaturalist theory in his book The Design Revolution, devoting a chapter to it.

    Here’s another quote from Bill from this very site:

    The conflation of ID with supernaturalism is inappropriate. What’s at issue is the nature of nature. Is nature the sort of place where telic organizing principles can operate? That’s all ID requires. It does not require supernatural designers who operate outside nature. Intelligence can be a PERFECTLY NATURAL aspect of the physical world.

    So what it really comes down to is defining intelligence. We know it exists and operates, but we cannot currently describe how in detail. We also do not know what type of phenomena can generate intelligence (there can be multiple). It’s sort of like how in the pre-Newton era we could see gravity operating but could do little to describe it.

    gpuccio,

    I don’t agree that “there is no direct observation or measure of CSI”. The complexity part of CSI is measurable, even if it is often difficult to measure it exactly.

    Discussed on Thanks for Professor Olofsson

    Although I’d say that the measurement part is easy. There’s four possible states. The hard part is figuring out what information is linked to the functional system.

    On the contrary, I agree that the specification part is not measurable, and is assigned by the observer. we could say it works this way: the observer (an intelligent conscious being) recognizes in input (cognition) the meaning inherent in the observed information (specification), which was imparted to it in output by the designer.

    I would have to disagree, at least in regards to biological information and many other categories of design. For example, you are perfectly correct when it comes to much of art. But the specification for a signal could be the encoding or cipher. Mount Rushmore’s Specification is that it bears the likeness of the presidents. And biological information is a direct abstraction of machine functionality, which is the Specification independent of any observer.

  75. —–“Not true. If it did, it would lead to absurdities like denying that the pyramids of Egypt were designed. Methodological naturalism precludes supernatural design, but it does not preclude design in general. Scientists aren’t idiots, Stephen.”

    Incorrect. Methodological naturalism was invented in the 1980’s for one purpose and one purpose only—-to combat the science of intelligent design. That is simply a fact that can be verified by consulting the literature on the philosophy of science. You cannot find one reference to he subject at any earlier time. Also, it forbids any inference to design that COULD be INTERPRETRED as supernatural even, as it turns out, if the identity was not supernatural. In theory, a superHUMAN identity could have designed the universe, bue methodological naturalism will not permit that either. Once again, you resort to the meaningless natural/supernatural dichotomy. With regard to scientists being idiots, I will deal with that on a case by case basis.

  76. —–ribczynski writes,

    “Lots of assertions about what the brain and mind can and cannot do, but you provide absolutely no justification. Tell us why you think a material brain cannot represent”

    Universals cannot be in matter. Matter particularizes because it takes up space. Take two balls that appear to be absolutely identical. (take two of anything) —they are two because one takes up this space and another takes up that space. If they took up the same space, they would be one. If fact, two balls CANNOT take up the same space, meaning they cannot be “one” in matter. No “one” can be in matter, no concept—no universal. The only way to counter the point is to suggest that two concrete entities can occupy the same space. Now explain to me why you think that they can.

    —–“Failing that, why not follow crow thrall’s lead? (He’s the one who linked to Adler’s argument.) After some debate, he conceded that Adler was wrong.”

    That is not a good argument. Perhaps CT thought, like many, that Adler was a radical dualist like Descartes. Many make that error. In any case, your point is hardly persuasive. I might as well suggest that you concede on the basis that vjtorley did NOT think Adler was wrong.

  77. StephenB

    Matter and energy are equivalent according to the formula e=mc^2. Both matter and energy also exhibit wave/particle duality. In the wave state two waves can occupy the same space at the same time but are still each distinct and upon measurement or observation separable. Matter and energy are exceedingly strange at the smallest (quantum) scales and there’s no theory of nature yet that bridges the great divide between quantum and classical mechanics.

  78. Patrick:

    what I mean is that specification, especially in biological systems, is an all-or-nothing judgement (it is either persent or absent in a single piece of information, however defined), and is context-dependent. I did not mean that specification is not objectively present, but that it is a meaning whose evaluation must be formalized by an observer.

    The observer does two important things: first of all he must define the piece of information for which we want to evaluate the presence of CSI. That is important, because we can evaluate CSI at different levels: a single protein, or a protein machine which involves different proteins (like a cascade), or a whole cell, and so on. Obviously, everything is easier if we remain at the single protein level, but it is intuitive that CSI complexity tends to increase, and not linearly, in complex systems. For instance, the complexity of a protein cascade, or of the flagellum, has to consider not only the sum of the search spaces of each individual protein, but also the search space of all possible interactions netween those proteins, which is influenced by extremely complex considerations of regulation, availability, cellular location, time patterns, and so on.

    After having defined the piece of information for which the calculation is being executed, the observer has to compute the search space (easy for single proteins, more difficult for complex systems).

    Then he has to define the function in the appropriate context. For instance, for an enzyme the function could be to catalyze a biochemical reaction which has meaning and usefulness in the cell which is being observed, with a minimum level of effectiveness. For the flagellum, the function could be that of providing effective and reliable motion in space. And so on.

    The observation of a specific function in the appropriate context is in itself a positive judgement of specification: we are observing a piece of information which has a discernible function in the appropriate context where that information if observed. Therefore it is functionally specified. That judgement, IMO, is very easy for most biological structures, because almost all biological structures we know are highly functional. But it is important that we define exactly the function and the context, for the next point.

    Now the observer has to compute the complexity. That is the most difficult part, because it requires at least an approximate judgement about the size of the target space, the functional space inside the search space. And that has to be done according to the definition of function and context we have given in the previous point. In other words, how bif is the target space of sequnces which can perform that function in that context with that minimum of effectiveness? At present we cannot usually have a detailed measure of that quantity, but as I have argued we can make reasonable assumptions, or at least assign reasonable limits. But I am sure that we will quickly understand more about that, especially through the growing experiences in protein engineering.

    Finally, the observer must be sure that no law of necessity can generate that piece of information, even with the contribution of randomness. That is easy, because it can be easily shown that there is no known law, or combination of laws, or special probability distribution, or else, which can generate the richness of functional information we observe in biological structures outside of design.

    I would like to add that, if we just ascertain that the information is specified and that its probability is lower than the UPB, we have qualitatively assessed the presence of CSI in it. But if we can in some way give a quantification, even approximate, of the target space, we can give a quantitative, or semi-quantitative, evaluation of the complexity of that instance of CSI.

    An interesting and creative application of similar principles was in the paper about Shannon entropy in protein families. Do you remember it?

  79. Barry Arrington: “In other words, if there are an infinite number of universes, every condition that is not logically impossible will somewhere be instantiated.”

    Even this is not true.

    There are an infinite number of even numbers. Not one of them is odd. There are an infinite number of rational numbers. Not one of them is irrational. And so on.

    It is not enough to suppose an infinite number of entities. One must suppose that the prolific variation both exists and happens to cover all desired possibilities — but (key requirement) for no directed reason at all.

    However, there is no inherent reason to suppose an undirected/random infinity would supply this. Even supposing infinite universes (for no directed reason), there could easily be an infinity of dead universes.

    So the multiverse faith system must assert, not merely infinite universes, but rather that there are sufficient universes of sufficient kind and variety such that we can disregard any indication of design (now or in the future) due to the perceived improbability of the state of the universe.

    In short, blank-check denial is required.

    As others have noted, this must be selectively applied only to questions of directed vs. undirected causes, since its general application would make anything possible and the ruling out of anything impossible.

    For the materialists that want to rule out reports of events that violate materialist expectations, that is a deal breaker, even though they have no basis for saying that in the infinity of universes, this universe couldn’t have been one that would permit such an event. Nothing apparently exceptional is excludable, regardless of improbability.

    Multiverse is selective blank-check denial of design, not a framework that anyone seriously applies uniformly.

  80. StephenB wrote:

    Methodological naturalism was invented in the 1980’s for one purpose and one purpose only—-to combat the science of intelligent design. That is simply a fact that can be verified by consulting the literature on the philosophy of science. You cannot find one reference to the subject at any earlier time.

    Stephen,

    I’m surprised that this isn’t obvious to you, but the practice of methodological naturalism long preceded the coining of the term itself.

    In theory, a superHUMAN identity could have designed the universe, but methodological naturalism will not permit that either.

    Of course not. A superhuman entity who created the universe and exists outside of it is a supernatural being. Most people would call it God. Methodological naturalism doesn’t permit the invocation of supernatural entities.

    That is not a good argument…your point is hardly persuasive. I might as well suggest that you concede on the basis that vjtorley did NOT think Adler was wrong.

    It was a suggestion, not an argument.

  81. —–ribczynski: “I’m surprised that this isn’t obvious to you, but the practice of methodological naturalism long preceded the coining of the term itself.”

    No, as a matter of fact, it did not. There was no such rule, and I invite you to provide one example in all of history to support your assertion. That science has come to be “primarily” about natural causes is obvious; that science cannot be “exclusively” about natural causes should be equally obvious. At no time in history has any scientist stated that science is exclusively about natural causes.

    How could they? Science is always changing. It should be obvious that since the scientist knows which problem he wants to solve, only he can choose the appropriate methods. One can hardly use methodological naturalism to acquire knowledge about the contemporary phenomenon of biological “information.” That should be equally obvious.

  82. StephenB wrote:

    Universals cannot be in matter. Matter particularizes because it takes up space. Take two balls that appear to be absolutely identical. (take two of anything) —they are two because one takes up this space and another takes up that space. If they took up the same space, they would be one. If fact, two balls CANNOT take up the same space, meaning they cannot be “one” in matter. No “one” can be in matter, no concept—no universal. The only way to counter the point is to suggest that two concrete entities can occupy the same space. Now explain to me why you think that they can.

    Stephen,

    You’re confusing the concept being represented with the representation itself. The concept may encompass more than one instance, or even an infinite number of instances, but the representation itself is just one representation.

    To repeat: It is just one particular representation that represents multiple members of a class, or even an infinite number. There is no reason why one representation cannot be realized in physical form.

    I can’t write all of the odd integers on a finite piece of paper, but I can represent them there as “all integers not evenly divisible by 2″.

    Your argument would make sense only if your brain represented a particular ball by forming a little ball of the appropriate size in your brain tissue. Then it would be true that two of those balls could not occupy the same space at the same time. I’m pretty sure that our brains don’t contain lots of little physical balls, and little physical people, and little physical hot fudge sundaes. Nor would they need to in order to represent these concepts. Wouldn’t you agree?

  83. I wrote:

    I’m surprised that this isn’t obvious to you, but the practice of methodological naturalism long preceded the coining of the term itself.

    StephenB replied:

    No, as a matter of fact, it did not. There was no such rule, and I invite you to provide one example in all of history to support your assertion.

    Stephen,

    Is the 14th century early enough for you?

    In his book Science and the Study of God, p. 79, Alan Padgett quotes Jean Buridan:

    Natural philosophers like Roger Bacon (ca. 1220-1292) and Jean Buridan (ca. 1292-1358) examined the secondary causes by which God upheld the common course of nature. Buridan wrote, for example, that “in natural philosophy we ought to accept actions and dependencies as if they always proceed in a natural way.”

    That’s practically a textbook definition of methodological naturalism.

    Padgett adds:

    We should note, however, that Buridan was devoutly Christian and that his natural philosopohy was framed within a Christian worldview. After the quotation just given, for example, Buridan goes on to state, “Nevertheless God is the cause of this world.”

    So Buridan is a perfect example of how one can embrace methodological naturalism without being a philosophical naturalist.

    Stephen, you really ought to do a little research before issuing these categorical statements of yours. They make you look sloppy and careless.

  84. ribczynski writes, “Stephen, you really ought to do a little research before issuing these categorical statements of yours.”

    You really ought to read more carefully before writing. I have already done the research and have chosen my words carefully.

    You will notice that I expressly pointed out that there was no such thing as a “rule.” which forbade scientists from deviating from natural causes, meaning that there was no such thing as institutional enforcement of the principle that this is the only acceptable methodology. The quote you refer to was an exhortation for scientists to abandon the notion that God acts frivolously and to analyze nature in a systematic way. It was not a rule to be administered for all people, at all places, and at all times. Much less was it a call to disfranchise other scientists and persecute them for disagreeing with their point of view..

    You materialist bias is showing, and it does not help your analysis.

  85. —–ribcyzanski writes, “Your argument would make sense only if your brain represented a particular ball by forming a little ball of the appropriate size in your brain tissue. Then it would be true that two of those balls could not occupy the same space at the same time. I’m pretty sure that our brains don’t contain lots of little physical balls, and little physical people, and little physical hot fudge sundaes. Nor would they need to in order to represent these concepts. Wouldn’t you agree?”

    Why on earth would you characterize what I said in that fashion? There are two things to think about: the objects being investigated and the investigator.

    Let’s take them in order. The objects of the investigation could be two chairs. Each of these chairs contains a particular, that is, all its sensible qualities, and a universal, one might say, its “chairness.” The universal exists, “in” the chair. It has a real immaterial existence. It is not just an idea. The chairs would have something in common even if no one ever saw them. It is more the collection of all its parts, it has a real essence. That is why taking away one of its parts will not change what it is as long as it still has the form of a chair. It will simply become a broken chair. No one could seriously think of saying that, as material objects, these two chairs can occupy the same space at the same time. On the other hand, they do have something in common, a oneness, a commonness that is more than an idea. What they share is a real, immaterial, universal. Obviously, this oneness, this universal, cannot be “in” the matter, but it most definitely is “in” the chair. Each chair is distinct from all other chairs, but each chair has something in common with all other chairs. The distinctness and the commonness are both real—not imaginary.

    When the investigator comes to experience this chair, two things happen. First, he experiences “this” chair, (leather, high neck, brown etc) as a particular, meaning that he has a sense experience. He cannot experience it as a universal, he cannot feel it, see it, or touch it, or even imagine it as a universal, because his brain is an organ for sensing, not an organ for knowing, it cannot conceive of what all chairs have in common. If you ask the investigator to imagine a chair, he cannot imagine “chairness,” he can only imagine some shape, size, texture of a chair. On the other hand, his mind can conceive of “chairness,” because, though it is dependent on the brain for its operation, it does, nevertheless, function as an organ of knowledge. It creates a mental IMAGE (obviously not a physical chair) that corresponds to the universal outside the mind. This image is a concept and REPRESENTS something outside the mind that is real.

    Materialists deny both the reality of the universal outside the mind and the reality of the image of a universal inside the mind. They don’t understand that knowing is both a sense experience and a mental experience, which is another name for epistemological realism. It is through this MODERATE duality that we know how a given object is different from all other objects in its class, and what it has in common with them. It is, therefore, possible to fall into two materialist extremes: One extreme is rationalism, whereby, the mental operation is acknowledged and the sense function is denied. The other extreme is radical empiricism, in which the sense operation is acknowledged and the mental operation denied. Materialism fails in many respects. First, it confuses the investigator with the investigation, treating them as if they were both of the same substance. Second, it denies both the reality of universals outside the mind and mental images that correspond to those universals. For the materialist, everything is particular and nothing is universal. Everything is in flux; nothing is constant. Naturally, this ties in very well to materialist Darwinism. Without universals, there is no morality, no objective truth, no “human nature,” no purpose, no design, no justice, no unity, no truth, no beauty, no goodness, nothing at all of any consequence. That is why it is important for everyone to understand that your world view of materialism is both destructive and false.

  86. Stephen,

    You’re being dishonest.

    I wrote that “the practice of methodological naturalism long preceded the coining of the term itself.”

    You replied: “No, as a matter of fact, it did not.”

    I showed you that it did (in the 14th century, no less).

    That means that your categorical statement was wrong. Deal with it.

  87. —–ribczynski writes, “Stephen, you’re being dishonest. I wrote that “the practice of methodological naturalism long preceded the coining of the term itself.”

    Here is a quote from Panda’s Thumb, one of the most militantly anti-ID blogs around, and the source that almost everyone draws from to obtain the quote that you used. Notice the second sentence in the paragraph (which precedes your quote)

    By the late Middle Ages the search for natural causes had come to typify the work of Christian natural philosophers. ALTHOUGH CHARACTERISTI CALLY LEAVING OPEN THE POSSIBILITY OF DIRECT DIVINE INTERVENTION, THEY FREQUENTLY EXPRESSED CONTEMPT FOR SOFT MINDED COMTEMPORARIES WHO IINVOKED MIRACLES RATHER THAN SEARCHING FOR NATURAL EXPLANATIONS…..

    Even Panda’s Thumb admits that scientists CHARACTERISTICALLY left the door open to Divine intervention. It is exactly as I phrased it earlier. Then, as now, science was supposed to be “primarily” but not “exclusively” about natural causes. The general consensus was that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” which means, of course, that they were ALL design thinkers. Even those who preferred natural causes exclusively, and that number grew slowly, did so to discourage the practice of counting on frivolity and miracles, not to rule out a design inference. I am well aware that some earlier scientists expressed their desire to limit scientific investigation to natural causes. If that is what you mean by methodological naturalism, then I agree that it is nothing new. But that is not really the way methodological naturalism is understood.

    Under the aegis of “methodological naturalism,” institutions of science now claim that researches may not use systematic methods to detect design in the name of science. In other words, they may not consider or seek evidence for the very same thing that earlier scientists took for granted, even the one that you quote. If the scientist does dare to do any such thing, the academy will discredit him, slander him, and, if possible, ruin his career. Until the enlightenment, design thinking dominated science; after the enlightenment, design thinking became a scandal. Now it is an academic crime. You can’t reasonably assert that this radical change was really no change at all.

  88. StephenB wrote:

    Even Panda’s Thumb admits that scientists [of the late Middle Ages] CHARACTERISTICALLY left the door open to Divine intervention.

    Of course they did. They were Christians, after all. Even modern-day Christian scientists such as Ken Miller and Francis Collins believe in miracles such as the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ. Yet they are methodological naturalists, and they don’t invoke miracles when doing science.

    As for Buridan, note his exact words:

    “in natural philosophy we ought to accept actions and dependencies as if they always proceed in a natural way.” [emphasis mine]

    Did he believe in the possibility of divine intervention? Sure. Did he think it had any place in science (aka ‘natural philosophy’)? Absolutely not.

    You’re simply wrong about methodological naturalism, Stephen. Why is that so hard for you to accept?

  89. ribczynsk: This is not the first time you have tried to pass off an anomaly as a trend, and it is not the first time I have called you on it. Let’s get realistic here.

    Francis Bacon developed a God-centered methodology. Does that sound like methodological naturalism to you?

    Newton indicated numbers as involved in understanding God’s plan for history from the bible. In his system of physics, God is essential to the nature and absoluteness of space. Does that sound like methodological naturalism?

    Boyle developed his theological views in The Christian Virtuoso, which he wrote to show that the study of nature was a central religious duty.” Does that sound like methodological naturalism?

    Faraday was a devoutly Christian member of the Sandemanians, which significantly influenced him and strongly affected the way in which he approached and interpreted nature. Does that sound like methodological naturalism?

    Planck made many contributions to physics, but is best known for quantum theory, which revolutionized our understanding of the atomic and sub-atomic worlds. In his 1937 lecture “Religion and Naturwissenschaft,” Planck expressed the view that God is everywhere present, and held that “the holiness of the unintelligible Godhead is conveyed by the holiness of symbols.” Does that sound like methodological naturalism?

    Einstein expressed a belief in “Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists.” This actually motivated his interest in science, as he once remarked to a young physicist: “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” Einstein’s famous epithet on the “uncertainty principle” was “God does not play dice” – and to him this was a real statement about a God in whom he believed. A famous saying of his was “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    Does any of these sound like methodological naturalism to you.

    I could list many more. How many more do you have to support your theme? You google Panda’s Thumb to find one quote from one scientist who offers an isolated opinion about methodology and suddenly you think you have something? You have hundreds of years of history going against you.

    You look very foolish trying to argue that methodological naturalism was the rule for all the great scientists.

  90. ribczyncksiv

    Last I heard from you, you were defending Nick Matzke’s assertion that the malaria parasite cannot reproduce below 68ºF because all the mosquitoes freeze.

    Now you are defending the theory that infinite universes exist. Which means every possible universe exists – including bizzaro world were Superman is evil and mosquitoes freeze at 68ºF. And don’t forget the universe where God exists and creates life- unless that is the one universe you don’t believe in.

  91. On @90, I pulled some of those from the archives and I forgot to put the source and the quotes around the last three or four examples.

  92. #90 StephenB

    I have called you on it. Let’s get realistic here.

    Francis Bacon
    Newton
    Boyle
    Faraday
    Planck
    Einstein

    You look very foolish trying to argue that methodological naturalism was the rule for all the great scientists.

    Good point. Bu t I would be a bit more indulgent with R. After all he is only following the mainstream opinion; that’s the more economic way to think, obviously not the better one

  93. Jehu wrote:

    Last I heard from you, you were defending Nick Matzke’s assertion that the malaria parasite cannot reproduce below 68ºF because all the mosquitoes freeze.

    No, I was telling you that you owed Nick an apology for making this false claim about him:

    I debated Matzke on the topic of Behe’s Edge and Matzke resorted to the claim that malaria causing parasites had never evolved the ability to reproduce below 68ºF because all of the mosquitoes freeze below that temperature. Unbelievable. Matzke is simply not a credible source -ever.

    You continue:

    Now you are defending the theory that infinite universes exist.

    More accurately, I’m defending theories that entail the multiverse (as opposed to positing it) against Occam’s Razor. These theories are still incomplete (though promising), so the jury is out on the existence of the multiverse.

  94. Stephen,

    You’re just digging yourself in deeper.

    To review, yet again:

    1. I wrote that “the practice of methodological naturalism long preceded the coining of the term itself.”

    2. You replied: “No, as a matter of fact, it did not.”

    3. I showed you that it did (in the 14th century, no less).

    Now, to hide your mistake, you want to claim that a) Buridan and his like-minded contemporaries were an anomaly (as if that would get you off the hook, even if it were true), and b) you want to pretend that I’ve claimed that “methodological naturalism was the rule for all the great scientists.” Where do you get these ideas?

    Item (b) is just something you made up, so we can dispense with it without further discussion.

    Regarding (a):

    1. Buridan et al. were not anomalies.

    2. Even if were true that they were, it is still true that methodological naturalism was practiced in the 14th century, and so my claim is valid.

    The rest of your comment shows that you still haven’t grasped the difference between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism.

    For example, you reproduce this quote about Planck:

    In his 1937 lecture “Religion and Naturwissenschaft,” Planck expressed the view that God is everywhere present, and held that “the holiness of the unintelligible Godhead is conveyed by the holiness of symbols.”

    Then you ask:

    Does that sound like methodological naturalism?

    The answer is no, it doesn’t sound like methodological naturalism, but neither does it preclude methodological naturalism.

    Methodological naturalism is simply an approach to science. Philosophical naturalism is about actual beliefs. The quote shows that Planck was not a philosophical naturalist, but it says nothing about whether he was a methodological naturalist.

    Think about that for a while. The difference is crucially important.

    By the way, you left this out of your quote about Planck:

    …he believed “the faith in miracles must yield, step by step, before the steady and firm advance of the facts of science, and its total defeat is undoubtedly a matter of time.”

    So much for divine intervention.

    And Einstein was not a theist, so divine intervention was not a possibility in his worldview, either.

    Oops.

  95. ribczynski writes:

    —–”Even if were true that they were, it is still true that methodological naturalism was practiced in the 14th century, and so my claim is valid.”

    No one disputes the fact that one or two scientists preferred to limit their research to natural causes. This trend started slowly.

    Warning: Do not limit your education to Panda’s Thumb. It is hazardous to your intellectual health.

    One subject you must still educate yourself on is the matter of definitions. The “practice” of methodological naturalism by my definition did not precede the coined term; the practice of methodological naturalism by your definition did, in a few rare cases. That point has already been made. The critical point is that I don’t accept your self-serving definition. You continue to miss that point. I define and have always defined the “practice” of methodological naturalism as a RULE, which is exactly what it is. THERE WAS NO RULE. You, of course, defined nothing until the last moment.

    Further, as I indicated, methodological naturalism will not permit the scientist to even consider ANYTHING OTHER than natural causes. Clearly, that situation has never occurred until recently.

    Further still, to shy away from miracles is not synonymous with methodological naturalism. Dembski and Behe are also dead set against appealing to miracles.

    The evidence is so heavily weighed in my favor that you accuse me of making up things. Obviously, that is not true. I don’t need to make things up because I have many more examples to support my carefully defined thesis. You, apparently have only ONE example even using your self-serving definition.

    —–”Methodological naturalism is simply an approach to science”
    (Ah. at last a definition!)

    Oh really. Well can you tell me then exactly why it is that Dembski, Behe, Meyers, and many others have been slandered for not using that “approach.” Can you explain to me why it is that Darwinists take people to court for failing to accede to the approach.

  96. crow thrall

    Thanks very much for posting the Web addresses of Gerald Casey’s papers, “Immateriality and Intentionality” and “Minds and Machines.” I hope you enjoy reading David Oderberg’s paper at http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/.....ellect.pdf .

    Here are two more papers you might like, by John O’Callaghan and Alfred Freddoso:

    http://www2.nd.edu/Departments.....allagh.htm and http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/soul.pdf . Enjoy!

    Seriously, we’ll have to put together a collection of good quality philosophical papers refuting materialism. I have a list of some useful papers at this address:

    http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....ieve2.html .

  97. crow thrall: Thanks for taking time out to provide those links–they do look interesting.

  98. vjtorley: It appears that the word is getting out that the materialists have been using the excesses of radical dualism to attack the common sense of moderate dualism—thanks. I will check it out.

  99. ribczynski writes:

    More accurately, I’m defending theories that entail the multiverse (as opposed to positing it) against Occam’s Razor. These theories are still incomplete (though promising), so the jury is out on the existence of the multiverse.

    Apparently it is you who does not understand methodological naturalism. You are supporting theories that entail the multiverse, and yet it is impossible to test for a multiverse. The universe is defined as all that we can observe. You may want to point to some effect as result of another universe, but there is no way that you can actually observe said universe to prove or disprove such a claim. So, far from supporting methodological naturalism, you are supporting theories that rely on entities that can never be observed in nature. You are not practicing methodological naturalism, but super-natural wishful thinking.
    I remember taking complex analysis in university. The theories were beautiful, complex, and extremely useful, unlike the multiverse (unless you are Theophobic). Just because a theory is useful and complete (unlike your theories) it does not stand to reason that the entities are real. You seem to be striving to make philosophical points, not scientific ones. Me thinks you do protest a little to much.

  100. gpuccio says,

    the “negative” part of ID does not consist in branding the “adversaries” as naturalists or materialists, but rather in falsifying a bundle of scientific theories which are bad scientific theories and yet are vastly successful. The “positive” part of ID consists in proposing a design-based scenario for future scientific investigations. In its true essence, ID is simple and humble, like all good scientific theories.

    You are not at all the typical ID proponent. I’d find ID much more interesting if your characterization of it were correct.

    A great deal of ID-related writing is indeed name-calling and branding.

    ID is in fact preoccupied with debunking modern evolutionary theory.

    If Popperian falsification is so important to science, then where are ID theorists’ public proposals of specific and practical experiments that would falsify their theories? Theorists in the physical sciences commonly describe experiments to test their theories. A theory unaccompanied by doable tests it is effectively not “at risk” (harking to Popper), and is essentially unscientific. The prevailing notion among IDists that their theories are good until their adversaries figure out how to test them is wrong, wrong, and wrong. A group of scientists advancing an explanation are responsible for testing the explanation, perhaps with division of labor between theorists and experimentalists.

    The notion that all beliefs are tenuous is at the heart of science. ID proponents typically believe that intelligent design of the cosmos and / or biological life is fact that, once accepted, cannot possibly be overturned. This is a religious, not scientific, mode of belief. And I think I have just given a partial explanation of why offering practical experimental tests of theories is not part of ID culture. Put simply, when you’re sure you’re right, it doesn’t occur to you that you need to advance means of showing that you’re wrong. (The rest of the explanation, I think, is that Phillip Johnson’s emphasis on rhetoric is deeply ingrained in ID culture.)

    To tie this back to multiverses, the Steinhardt-Turok and Baum-Frampton cyclic models (i.e., positing that the universe has been through an infinite cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches) predict different values for a physical measurement that will actually be made by a space probe. Furthermore, the standard Big Bang model and the Steinhardt-Turok model differ in their predictions about gravity waves, which are, if memory serves, presently under observation. The upshot is that theories Barry A. thinks are absurd are being put to strong empirical tests, quite unlike ID theories.

  101. gpuccio says,

    I don’t agree that “there is no direct observation or measure of CSI”. The complexity part of CSI is measurable, even if it is often difficult to measure it exactly.

    The only sense in which probability is physically measurable is though observation of outcomes of repetitions of a controlled experiment. This is at the heart of the notion of objective probability (i.e., the frequentism emphasized by Dembski).

    How, precisely, do you make a material object into the outcome of a controlled experiment? You have to know the process giving rise to the object and repeat the process over and over. The objective probability of the object is the limit, as the number of repetitions of the experiment goes to infinity, of the ratio of the number of times the object results to the number of times the experiment was conducted.

    If you review Dembski’s neat-and-clean examples of application of CSI, you will see that there is knowledge of the process that “would have” generated the event in the absence of intelligent intervention. When you don’t know the process giving rise to an event (e.g., the flagellum), you have no basis for claiming to have access to the objective probability of the event. It seems to me that the frequentist approach does not work for historical events occurring under unknown circumstances. Simply knowing the processes theorized by evolutionists does not get you the historical conditions under they operated. I have a feeling that Dembski has heard something along these lines from probabilists reviewing his journal submissions.

    There are subtleties in interpretation of probability that most folks do not begin to appreciate.

  102. Sal Gal–If Popperian falsification is so important to science, then where are ID theorists’ public proposals of specific and practical experiments that would falsify their theories?

    Um, where are the public proposals to falsify NeoDarwinism?

    Anyway, Michael Behe just finished a book showing that NDE has a limit. Show how his observations are fundamentally unfounded and you falsify a good chunk of ID.

    A great deal of ID-related writing is indeed name-calling and branding.

    Can you give some specifics? Anyway, no one in ID is demanding anybody lose their job/grant money/college admission etc. just for believing in NDE.

    ID is in fact preoccupied with debunking modern evolutionary theory.

    If NDE is right — that all life and biodiversity can be explained by natural selection acting on random genetic changes — then ID is wrong. OTOH, if NDE is wrong that doesn’t necessarily make ID right. An undiscovered law that’s not design, could explain life and biodiversity, for instance.

    So to say that something is incompatible with a particular paradigm, or that one paradigm is better than another doesn’t mean one is motivated to “debunk”.

    If NDE is fatally flawed, why defend it?

  103. Sal Gal:

    I don’t agree with you.

    You say:

    “The only sense in which probability is physically measurable is though observation of outcomes of repetitions of a controlled experiment.”

    That’s simply not true. There are tons of examples, for instance in medicine, where probabilities are calculated without any controlled experiment taking place, using only already existing, often historical, data. They are called retrospective studies. And how would you suggest to perform a “controlled experiment” about science of origins? Are you saying that all science of origins is not a science, but only natural history? Please, take notice that science does not take place only in the lab.

    Moreover, I think that you, while certainly understanding fully the subtleties in interpretation of probabilities which remain hidden to us common folks, are strangely missing a fundamental epistemological distinction between “physically measuring probabilities” (which is not very precise however, because what you measure are not probabilities, but empirical occurrences), and “calculating the probabilities implied by a specific explanatory model”, which is what we in ID (and most scientists all over the world) regularly do.

    In other words, if I (the darwinists) am proposing a causal explanatory model for an information sequence (say a protein) where random variation plays an essential role, I have the duty to detail that model and to compute, as precisely as possible, its theoretical probabilities to verify that they are in accord with the model itself, otherwise my model is simply not credible. And if I don’t do that, others (ID) have the right and the duty to correct me.

  104. Peter wrote:

    Apparently it is you who does not understand methodological naturalism. You are supporting theories that entail the multiverse, and yet it is impossible to test for a multiverse. The universe is defined as all that we can observe. You may want to point to some effect as result of another universe, but there is no way that you can actually observe said universe to prove or disprove such a claim. So, far from supporting methodological naturalism, you are supporting theories that rely on entities that can never be observed in nature. You are not practicing methodological naturalism, but super-natural wishful thinking.

    Peter,

    You are wrong to claim that the universe is defined as all that we can observe. The visible universe is defined that way, but astronomers know that our universe is much larger than the part we can ever hope to observe.

    Even within the visible universe, there are aspects that are unobservable. The Standard Model entails the existence of quarks, for example, and their existence has been inferred experimentally, but it is impossible to observe a quark in isolation because of the monstrously high energies required.

    Even so, methodological naturalism does not require us to deny the existence of quarks or of parts of our universe that are too distant to see. Likewise, it does not require us to deny the existence of other universes if our best theories entail them.

    While it’s true that methodological naturalism excludes the supernatural, your mistake lies in regarding other universes as supernatural. If they are subject to the same fundamental laws as our own universe and derived from a common source, then it makes sense to consider them as part of nature.

    The supernatural consists of hypothetical entities that are not limited by the fundamental laws underlying nature.

    Incidentally, I am not a methodological naturalist. I believe that science can address falsifiable supernatural hypotheses that have observable consequences. Alas, so far there seems to be no evidence for any such hypotheses.

  105. Sal Gal:

    My previouse post was in response to your #102. I have read only now #101, and so here are a couple of comments (I apologize for the disorder, it’s the consequence of always being in a hurry!):

    First of all, you say:

    “You are not at all the typical ID proponent.”

    As I suppose it is intended as a compliment, thank you! But I must say that, if you mean that I stick to the substance of scientific discussion, I am certainly not the only one to do that here. Others may do different things, and IMO they are entitled to that (in the limits of convenience, obviously). This is a blog, after all. It is true, we discuss sometimes (I hope often) very important things, but still it is a blog.

    Moreover, it would be useful, IMO, if you distinguished the ID “movement” from the ID “theory”. They are not the same thing. While you are perfectly entitled to have, and express, your personal judgement on the ID movement, why judge ID theory from the behaviour of some of its supporters? In that way, you could easily discard any of the many scientific theories, philosophies, religions and political ideas in the world. First of all darwinian evolution, a social territory where name calling and similar seem to abound more than in any other known place (maybe for natural selection) :-)

    For the rest, I believe I have in some way answered in the previous post. I will repeat it here in a slightly different way, form, the sake of clarity:

    a) Not all science is done by “practical experimental tests”, least of all a science of origins. That is obviously valid for both ID and darwinian evolution. In that case, science is mostly done by gathering indirect data and reasoning on them (that is, retrospectively).

    b) It is not ID which needs support from data and theory: it is darwinian evolution. Everybody forgets that when we compute probabilistic model about darwinian evolution, we are not doing something essential for ID: we are ding something essential for darwinian evolution, which darwinists have never done.

    You say:

    “The notion that all beliefs are tenuous is at the heart of science.”

    That’s perfectly true. I agree with all my heart. Bravo.

    Then you say:

    “ID proponents typically believe that intelligent design of the cosmos and / or biological life is fact that, once accepted, cannot possibly be overturned.”

    But that’s not true! Where do you get that strange idea from? Maybe someone can think that way, but it’s not in the theory. ID posits itself as a scientific theory, as a “best explanation”, not as absolute truth! If at present it is, IMO, the “only credible explanation” available, it’s just because other available explanations are so poor…

    Moreover, it’s darwinists who have made the infamous epistemological affirmation that darwinian evolution is a fact and not a theory, and that it is not only better, but even different in nature, from common scientific theories like gravitation or quantum mechanics. You can find their foolish ramblings about that everywhere.

    You say:

    “This is a religious, not scientific, mode of belief.”

    You are right, if you are speaking of darwinists.

    You say:

    “Put simply, when you’re sure you’re right, it doesn’t occur to you that you need to advance means of showing that you’re wrong. ”

    Put simply, ID is easily falsifiable: you just need to show, in a lab or on a computer, how CSI can be generated according to a definite credible model based on randomness, and incorporating correctly NS. Or just in any possible way, in absence of a designer.

    About multiverses, I have already written that one thing is a definite multiverse hypothesis which arises from independent considerations in physical models, and therefore can in some way be tested together with those models, and another thing is postulating without reason a super infinite, super continuous set of multiverses where anything is possible, just to discredit serious scientific and philosophic arguments of design.

  106. 107

    “Put simply, ID is easily falsifiable: you just need to show, in a lab or on a computer, how CSI can be generated according to a definite credible model based on randomness, and incorporating correctly NS. Or just in any possible way, in absence of a designer.”

    I think that most EvoBiologists and plenty of compScientists would argue that this has been done, and done again and again.

    There may be a couple of obstacles to getting ID theorists to agree though so if I can pick apart what you said…

    We of course would need to agree if a model in question is ‘credible’ which has some issues, and of course what constitutes NS in the context of a designed experiment. It could be argued that ANY lab experiment, whether with biological matter or in a simulation, can’t reproduce NS because these experiments are designed and therefore not ‘Natural’.

    I would also be easy to claim (but possibly harder to demonstrate) that any experiment had CSI built in (I think the term is front loading?).

    In order to construct such an experiment both sides would have to agree on the credibility of the model, which I think could be hard.

    Incidentally, although I’m a little hazy on what Dembski means by CSI I have seen people on this site claim that computers cannot generate novel information – as far as I can see (as a computer scientist) they can generate ANY information you want given enough time and memory.

  107. gpuccio,

    you quote me as saying, “The only sense in which probability is physically measurable is though observation of outcomes of repetitions of a controlled experiment.” I’ve added emphasis to indicate that I’m not actually saying that probability is physically measured. My objective was to make a statement consistent with the dubious QM slogan “information is physical.”

    The only justification for saying that information is physical in QM is the predictability of distributions of outcomes, and not particular outcomes, with large numbers of replications of tightly controlled experiments. There is no similar justification for saying that the CSI of, say, the flagellum is physical. As an event, the flagellum has occurred only once, to our knowledge, and we can do nothing analogous to QM experiments to obtain an empirical distribution on outcomes.

    This brings us back to my original claim, which is that most IDists believe that CSI inheres in, say, the flagellum, when it is in fact imputed. Keep in mind that all Dembski does to get information is to take the negative logarithm of a probability. It is of paramount importance to keep in mind the source of the probability. Again, the probability is not given to us by nature. It does not come from empirical observation. It is calculated in terms of a model, implicit or explicit.

    I think some confusion arises from terminology. In math, a probability space is a measure space, but this does not mean that probability is measured in the same sense that, say, temperature is.

  108. Sal Gal, very good post (107)

    (CSI of the flagellum) is calculated in terms of a model, implicit or explicit.

    How is the model flawed?

  109. Sal Gal:

    I perfectly agree with your post #107. Especially where you say:

    “Again, the probability is not given to us by nature. It does not come from empirical observation. It is calculated in terms of a model, implicit or explicit.”

    That’s exactly what I have often tried to say. Most problems here are problems of models and methodology, and not only statistical issues. Statistics acquires empirical meaning only if the model which incorporates it is correct.

  110. Sal Gal writes:

    Keep in mind that all Dembski does to get information is to take the negative logarithm of a probability. It is of paramount importance to keep in mind the source of the probability.

    Yes. And that probability is the sum of the probabilities of all of the non-design hypotheses.

    Unless you can establish an accurate upper bound on this probability, Dembski’s method is subject to false positives.

  111. ribczynski:

    Just to understanding your thought.

    Are you stating that all the billions of examples of blatant CSI we observe in the biological world are “false positives”?

    In other words, are you stating that a serious statistical analysis whose rejection limit is drawn at 1:10^150, and which for compelling methodological reasons assumes a practically uniform distribution of the search space which nobody can deny, is still giving practically 100% of false positives just because it cannot “establish an accurate upper bound” of the probability of the target space because it does not account for all of the other non-design hypotheses which nobody can even start to imagine?

    Is that your brilliant argument?

  112. gpuccio asks:

    Are you stating that all the billions of examples of blatant CSI we observe in the biological world are “false positives”?

    Apart from Dembski’s failed attempting at establishing the CSI of the bacterial flagellum, I’m not aware of any attempts to go through the motions and compute the specified complexity of a biological structure.

    Could you point to worked-out examples, if you know of any, where Dembski’s method has been used to show that particular biological structures are designed?

    In other words, are you stating that a serious statistical analysis whose rejection limit is drawn at 1:10^150, and which for compelling methodological reasons assumes a practically uniform distribution of the search space which nobody can deny, is still giving practically 100% of false positives just because it cannot “establish an accurate upper bound” of the probability of the target space…

    You seem to be confused here. Dembski’s method does not compute the probability distributions of the non-design hypotheses. It takes them as parameters.

    …because it does not account for all of the other non-design hypotheses which nobody can even start to imagine?

    Follow this link for a quote in which Dembski confirms that all non-design hypotheses, known and unknown, must be factored into the determination of specified complexity.

  113. ribczynskI:

    Firstly, I would like to thank you for all your effort in this blog critiquing ID. I welcome your critique. If your criticisms are valid then ID will have to improve. If they are not then you show that ID’s views are valid. So far I would have to say that most of your comments are of the later.

    You wrote:

    You are wrong to claim that the universe is defined as all that we can observe. The visible universe is defined that way, but astronomers know that our universe is much larger than the part we can ever hope to observe.

    This clearly shows your difficulty understanding definitions. This could be a result of your worldview. It is difficult to say knowing only what you blog here.
    I said ‘*all* that we can observe.’ “All” is a very simple word, and yet you misunderstand. All means everything. So that includes effects of things that are invisible. I did not restrict my definition to the visible light spectrum. So the pull of the sun’s gravity on the earth is an effect that we observe.

    Now to the point. The universe is defined as the time, matter, energy and space of all (everything) that was created at the big bang. Which includes obviously dark matter and energy. So according to everything science knows at present, there is no way to detect and verify another universe, which would also have been the result of another big bang. The spaces would be different, and therefore there is no possible way an effect could travel between universes. A mutliverse theory is therefore impossible to verify using observable (natural) science. It is therefore outside of the natural. You could call it ‘extra’ natural, or super-natural. Take your pick. They both mean the same. Therefore a theory that entails a multiverse is entailing an entity that can never be verified by methodological naturalism.

    This is the key point of this blog. This is why mulitiverse violates Occam’s razor. It is not the quantity of entities that you multiply unnecessarily. It is that you add one entity that is outside the realm of science. It would be perferable to have no explanation than a multiverse one. That would be consistant with methodological naturalism. Of course, having a natural explanation would be the best. Who is invoking the ‘super’ natural to fill in the gaps now? There are many theories that are incomplete. Nowhere else in science is untestable hypotheses resorted to.

    BTW. I thing science should stick to methodological naturalism. They should stick to things that they can verify. What I object to is when they make unverifiable claims, either for their own status as knowledge purveyors, or to prop up their atheistic worldviews.

    You wrote:

    Incidentally, I am not a methodological naturalist. I believe that science can address falsifiable supernatural hypotheses that have observable consequences. Alas, so far there seems to be no evidence for any such hypotheses.

    In this case your definitions are correct. God is supernatural. However, science can not prove God’s existence. But reason can be used to make a conclusion. We all believe in love, although it is not possible to prove its existence scientifically. For me the big bang creation of the universe, the fossil record of rapid creation of life (Cambrian explosion is one example), the complexity of the cell which entails its extreme improbability, and the mind of man are all strong indications that a God creator exists.

  114. Peter,

    Perhaps we can agree on this: Among competing theories, we should prefer the theory that best explains our observations while making the fewest ad hoc assumptions.

    Take string theory. Much of the excitement surrounding string theory centers on the fact that it actually predicts gravity. Gravity no longer has to be assumed, as was the case with the Standard Model.

    So string theory explains more while assuming less, which is exactly what we want a theory to do.

    Just as string theory predicts gravity, it also predicts the multiverse. As you point out, we can’t observe other universes, so we can’t directly confirm this prediction. At the same time, this means that we can’t falsify the multiverse either (though we can still falsify the theory that gives rise to it). Nothing we observe is incompatible with the existence of the multiverse.

    But we already have a reason to prefer string theory over competing theories: it predicts gravity! So scientists take string theory very seriously, despite the fact that it makes this weird prediction about the existence of a multiverse.

    It’s reminiscent of quantum mechanics. QM makes a lot of predictions that clash with common sense, like the fact that it’s possible for a particle to be in many places at once. Despite the weirdness, scientists embrace QM because it is so overwhelmingly successful at explaining what we observe.

    The bottom line is that while assuming an unobservable should count against a theory, predicting an unobservable should not, particularly if the theory does a better job of explaining what we do observe while making fewer assumptions.

Leave a Reply