Home » Intelligent Design » Responding to Dr Liddle’s challenge as to whether science can study “the supernatural”

Responding to Dr Liddle’s challenge as to whether science can study “the supernatural”

In Gil’s recent ANNOUNCEMENT thread, Dr Liddle has made a summary of her core challenge to design thinkers, at no 6:

Science necessarily involves an a priori commitment to the proposition that natural causes are the reason for everything.

It does not possess the methodology to discover any other kind of cause.

What methodology would you recommend for investigating an un-natural/supernatural cause?

I have thought this is sufficiently focussed to respond on points (currently awaiting moderation, on I think number of links . . . ). I augment that response here where I can use colours [Dr Liddle's remarks are in bolded green], fill in diagrams and links:

=============

>>Science necessarily involves

a: This is a claim of MUST, i.e this is already a commitment that suggests that apart from this no science, so how do you account for the facts of the founding of modern science and the views of the actual founders thereof, as I have documented say here?

an a priori commitment to the proposition that natural causes are the reason for everything.

b: NIX. Science only implicates the study of empirically observable and testable phenomena, which in turn implicates the question of inference from well-tested sign to signified cause.

c: We may and do categorise these as tracing to chance, necessity and choice, whereby we may further cluster the first two as material or natural, and the latter as artificial. This categorisation is for instance used by Plato, by Newton and by Monod [cf his, Chance and Necessity]

d: We may characterise and study each of these causal factors on their general signs, and further investigate on the specific observed object or phenomenon. To wit, we may see that:

i: by mechanical necessity, we get lawlike regularities — i.e. low contingency of outcomes — under sufficiently similar starting conditions (a dropped heavy object falls at g), a common enough goal of scientific investigation being to identify such laws, e.g. F = m*a

ii: by chance, under similar initial conditions, we have highly contingent outcomes (a dropped die will tumble and settle to various readings) in accordance with a statistical distribution. Sometimes scientific investigations try to characterise such distributions and their roots, e.g. the Weibull distribution of wind speeds etc.

iii: by choice, we will also get highly contingent outcomes under similar starting conditions, but credibly linked to purpose not chance, e.g. the pattern of symbols in messages as opposed to noise — studied in and foundational to information theory.

It does not possess the methodology to discover any other kind of cause.

e: This is premised on an assumption that the only way we may categorise the world is on natural vs supernatural, where the later may be derided.

f: In short, this is an implicit — perhaps unrecognised — assumption of a priori MATERIALISM, not an open-minded, empirically based investigation of the world as is, in light of empirical facts and observations, explained without ideologically censoring possibilities

g: Do we know that all that there is, is “natural,” or that science may only study and explain by the “natural”? That depends, crucially on what you mean by “natural.”

h: If you mean a smuggling in of materialism by assumptions and definitions, that is a major begging of the question, for what science studies is the EMPIRICALLY OBSERVABLE in a world that credibly had a beginning.

i: Such a cosmos, is credibly contingent, i.e. it entails a cause external to itself, as if something may not exist or had a beginning, it has conditions under which it may/may not exist.

j: In turn that points to a causal root in a necessary being, that has no external causal dependency. Such a being has no beginning, and has no end. By logic. (Formerly, until it was recognised that the evidence points to a beginning for the cosmos we live in, the Steady State type view assumed the wider observed cosmos was that necessary being, but now Humpty Dumpty has fallen. [We need not go into the wider discussion of contingency, contingency on a credible beginning is enough to force consideration of possibilities, then.])

k: Multiply by the evident fine tuning of our observed cosmos, that supports C-chemistry cell based life; which is also relevant even in the case of an assumed or speculated wider multiverse, as LOCAL fine tuning is enough. As John Leslie put it:

. . . the need for such explanations [[for fine-tuning] does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor [[emphasis original] alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.

[[Our Place in the Cosmos, 1998. The force of this point is deepened once we think about what has to be done to get a rifle into "tack-driving" condition.That is, a "tack-driving" rifle is a classic example of a finely tuned, complex system, i.e. we are back at the force of Collins' point on a multiverse model needing a well adjusted Cosmos bakery. (Slide show, ppt. "Simple" summary, doc.)]

l: That points to functionally specific, complex organisation of a cosmos [and associated complex information], something that is habitually and empirically associated with choice and purpose, i.e. design. Indeed, in every case where we directly know the cause for such FSCO/I, it is designed.

m: So, we have as a reasonable possibility — and, arguably a best explanation — that the observed cosmos is externally caused by a purposive, powerful, necessary being, which has no beginning, no ending, and that based on scientific observation and the logic of contingency. Such a being is warranted on our contingent world, and is causally self-sufficient, i.e. self-explanatory. The real issue is the nature of the necessary being, not its existence, once we have a contingent cosmos to be explained. And, blind necessity or a chaos are vastly inferior to intelligence as explanations of FSCO/I, absent imposition of a priori materialism — i.e. we here see the censoring effect of the materialistic question-begging above.

n: Since, too, we have here a case in hand where science has indeed studied origins, and the beginning of our world, and — absent question-begging censorship — a serious alternative points beyond the contingent “natural” world we inhabit to root cause by an entirely different category of being, we already see that science can not only study natural vs artificial, but design by an entirely different category of being that can credibly be termed, supernatural. That is, beyond nature in the sense of our observed cosmos. (The proposed multiverse we hear about so often today is UN-observed.)

What methodology would you recommend for investigating an un-natural/ supernatural cause?

o: First, stop begging metaphysical questions by imposing a priori materialism, or going along with such imposition, not hard as that evolutionary materialism (aka scientific materialism aka [scientific] naturalism etc etc) is already self-referentially incoherent, self refuting and necessarily false, by undermining mind itself. As Haldane summed up the challenge it faces:

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

p: Then, recognise that it is more useful to scientifically study natural and artificial causes on an empirical basis, and so to focus their characteristic signs, than to beg metaphysical questions.

q: Nor should we allow ideologues to rattle us with their Alinskyite uncivil bully-boy tactics of distortion, denigration, censorship and intimidation.

r: For instance, this pattern as follows is reasonable and quite often actually used, tracing to say Hippocrates of Cos and early medicine, and also reflecting Peirce’s more recent logic of abductive inference:

I: [si] –> O, on W

(I infer from a pattern of observed signs, to an objective state of affairs, on a particular warrant [often, inference to best explanation], each to be specified case by case, cause by cause.)

s: Then, proceed on the understanding that we commonly observe causal patterns that may be described with profit as natural or material [= chance and/or necessity], and intelligent [= art or design or choice contingency].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig. A: the Explanatory Filter algorithm [framework] for empirically warranted per aspect inference to design, chance and necessity  on empirical signs.  (Courtesy IOSE)

t: In that light, identify and test characteristic reliable signs of these causal processes for aspects of phenomena, processes or objects.

u: Just as, in say studying a pendulum [a case of direct manipulation as experimental design], we identify what is caused by the experimenter manipulating the string’s length, what is or is not due to varying the mass of the bob, what is chance-based random scatter around a line that characterises a law of mechanical necessity, and what is due to the dynamics of a pendulum swinging across an arc in a gravity field. (And similarly, how — using ANOVA — we isolate factors in a control vs treatment study across blocks and plots.)

v: In short, we routinely apply the explanatory filter algorithm in doing scientific studies, so it is not unreasonable to identify general signs of the relevant causal factors, and to trust them if they pass reasonable tests, e.g. necessity produces lawlike regularities, chance produces statistical scatter, and choice produces FSCO/I.

(If you see a pendulum experiment set up with apparatus fitted to the purpose of adjusting length of string, arc, and mass, with a timer sitting nearby and a record of results on say a coded digital tape, do you infer to chance or choice or necessity? Why?)

w: Now, the hard step: have the courage to trust the patterns of warranted inference beyond where we have direct access to observe the causal process. This is the step taken by Newton when he said, in his General Scholium to Principia:

. . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another . . .

x: In short, if we see a tested, reliable pattern of inference from sign to signified state of affairs, we have good reason to trust that it will expend to cases where we cannot directly check.

y: Now, simply apply to the origin of our cosmos, as above. We see signs of art, i.e FSCO/I, in the context of fine-tuning that facilitates C-chemistry, cell based intelligent life. We see also that we have an evidently contingent cosmos that cries out for a root cause in a necessary being.

(You will note that I do NOT use the case of evidence pointing to design in life, as this is a case where, from the very beginnings of modern design theory [i.e. Thaxton et al in TMLO in 1985] — as utterly contrasted to the caricatures being used by objectors — it has been recognised that design of cell based life on earth would be sufficiently accounted for by a designer within the cosmos. Say, a molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond Venter et al.)

z: That is as far as science and logic proper will take us, but:

1: that is far enough to see that a very viable candidate will be an intelligent, extra-cosmic, powerful, purposeful and deeply knowledgeable necessary being;

2: this being a case of empirically based, observationally anchored inference to design or art, as opposed to

3: a priorism-driven inference to or against “the supernatural.”

4: Philosophy and theology will take the ball and run with it from there.

5: Such a being would be a very good example of the super-natural, pointed to by investigations of nature on empirically well warranted patterns of cause and effect.

6: So, we see that science needs not essay to study “the supernatural” only to study natural vs artificial causes on empirically tested warrant.

7: It therefore is high time that the materialists’ favourite “natural vs supernatural” strawman caricature of our alternatives, was laid to rest, with a stake through its heart.

8: We only need to study, on empirical signs, natural vs artificial causes. As was pointed out by Plato, 2,350 years ago, in The Laws, Bk X. Namely:

[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .
Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them . . . .
all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body? . . . .
when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second . . . .
If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

___________

In short, the matter pivots on breaking a powerfully institutionalised strawman caricature of the scientific method, and our investigatory and warranting options.

Our real, as opposed to strawman options are to study:

Natural vs supernatural artificial causes.>>

=============

In short, I argue that the whole issue being raised of inference to natural vs supernatural as opposed to the reasoning on natural vs artificial causes and signs thereof, is a strawman fallacy, and so also a red herring distractor.

What are your own thoughts, on what grounds? END

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

157 Responses to Responding to Dr Liddle’s challenge as to whether science can study “the supernatural”

  1. 1
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, it may be that the problem is in the definition of “supernatural”.

    ba77 seems to include minds and quantum effects as “supernatural” in which case, science certainly has the tools to investigate them.

    But in that case, the charge that scientists have an a priori commitment to excluding the supernatural is unfounded because clearly many scientists do quite happily investigate minds and quantum effects.

  2. 2
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Our real, as opposed to strawman options are to study:

    Natural vs supernatural artificial causes

    I absolutely agree.

    In which case there is no problem. Science is perfectly capable of investigating artificial causes, and there is no a priori commitment against them :)

    It is, as you say, a straw man.

    Gil, do you agree?

  3. How do we differentiate artificial causes from supernatual causes?

    Say we are studying something tat we think has an artificial cause only to detemine it had supernatural cause. What should we do- stop and go on to something else?

  4. Dr Liddle:

    I have no commitment to delve and argue on the points raised by BA (though I suspect that some quantum phenomena point to a higher dimensional manifold that links to diverse points in our space-time domain, which may mean that the hoped for hyperspace may be real).

    My concern is that the natural vs supernatural dichotomy is often used as a way to wedge a censoring a priori into the very definition of science, namely a priori materialism. This begs the quesiton and erects and knocks over a strawman.

    As I have pointed out over and over for years, the real issue is inference to causal factor per aspect, on empirically tested warrant, across material [chance and necessity] and intelligent causes.

    When we see this and we have the courage of our inductions, we see that there is no good reason to dismiss an inference to design on matters of origins based on tested signs such as FSCO/I.

    That is the context in which I infer to design on the sign of digitally coded FSCI in life forms, and it is why I infer to design on seeing the FSCO of the cosmos that sets up an operating point for such cell based life.

    At once, it is evident that — as Newton exemplified — inference to cosmological (and even biological) design is not an undermining of science or its methods. Indeed, just provide warrant that a particular sign is not valid,a nd the inferences will be repaced throught he normal process of provisional explanation and testing of science.

    I fidn that the heat and the poisonously polarsised atmosphere are utterly unnecessary, but reveal that in the heart, the advocates of evolutionary materialism sense that their paradigm is in trouble in an information age.

    What we are seeing is really a worldviews clash over the control of key cultural institutions, not an issue of what is a reasonable way to do science.

    The rhetoric that seeks to dismiss the design inference is dead. But it looks like it needs a stake through the heart to make sure it stays pinned down in its grave.

    GEM of TKI

  5. Joseph:

    We need not worry about the ontology of the artist involved in a given case.

    Simply let us do science on what is a good warrant for a conclusion, on causal factors.

    Let the philosophers and theologians address worldview level issues.

    It is no business of science to tolerate ideological censorship, whether by the old Inquisition or by the new Magisterium in the Holy Lab Coat.

    You can see that is the case that is really relevant already: cosmology.

    GEM of TKI

  6. 6
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, I think that’s the question at issue, Joseph.

    “Artificial” is related to “artifice” or “by art”, and thus to something generated by a living being, usually human (though you might apply it to the product of some other species in some circumstances).

    So to detect “art” is to detect “design”. Yes?

    And I would agree with most IDists that detecting design is a legitimate scientific activity. I disagree with those scientists who say it is outside the realm of scientific enquiry (it isn’t – ask any forensic scientist), and with those IDists who say that science has an a priori commitment against it (it doesn’t – or there wouldn’t be scientists interested in design processes and, indeed, intelligence).

    So I think we have a double sided straw-man here!

    But when we get to the difference between “artifical” and “supernatural” – that’s where there really is a divide. Scientists, I would argue, cannot investigate the “supernatural” (unless we use ba77′s definition, in which case they clearly can, and do) because the only methodological option is to regard “supernatural” as the default – the null.

    In other words, the only way a scientists could make a supernatural inference is by declaring that s/he does not think any natural cause is possible.

    Which would be silly, because next week, someone else could come along and publish a perfectly good paper in Nature that posits, with evidential support, a perfectly good cause. It would be an entirely arbitrary decision, and would be simply “supernatural of the gaps”. And if the only reason a gap isn’t shrinking is because people have decided not to try to shrink it, then it’s not a very sound inference!

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, I don’t share your paranoia, kf, but I do agree that the idea that design cannot be detected by scientific methods is false.

    But by the same token, so is the claim that science has an a priori commitment to natural (if that means non-design/artificial) causes

  8. Elizabeth you state:

    ‘ba77 seems to include minds and quantum effects as “supernatural” in which case, science certainly has the tools to investigate them.’

    When I posit ‘supernatural cause’, I am positing a cause which is not reducible to any of the reductive material entities within the space-time matter-energy constraints of General Relativity, whereas a materialists, and neo-Darwinists in particular, have, a-priori, chosen to operate solely within those materialistic constraints. ,,, Thus explaining my delight upon learning of quantum non-locality in molecular biology!!! ,,,

  9. of related note on the irreconcilability of General relativity and Quantum Mechanics:

    Quantum Mechanics and Relativity – The Collapse Of Physics? – video – with notes on plausible solution materialists have missed
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6597379/

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, my position, ba77, is that complex high level phenomena, such as minds, do not “reduce” to fundamental material forces – they have properties that are not shared by the forces from which they emerge. But I do not call them “supernatural”. “Superfundamental” might be a better description.

    Just because a whole is more than the sum of the parts does not mean that anything extra has been added.

  11. 11

    Dr Liddle,

    Wouldn’t your time be better spent writing the promised simulation demonstrating that the origin of information is not artificial? :)

  12. Elizabeth you state;

    ‘Just because a whole is more than the sum of the parts does not mean that anything extra has been added.’

    And yet, despite your protestations to the contrary, it does,

    In Evolution, the Sum Is Less than Its Parts.
    Excerpt: Both studies found a predominance of antagonistic epistasis, which impeded the rate of ongoing adaptation relative to a null model of independent mutational effects.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....47151.html

    ,,,,

    As to that ‘emerged’ word,,,

    It is very interesting to note that quantum entanglement, which conclusively demonstrates that ‘information’ in its pure ‘quantum form’ is completely transcendent of any time and space constraints, should be found in molecular biology on such a massive scale, for how can the quantum entanglement ‘effect’ in biology possibly be explained by a material (matter/energy) ’cause’ when the quantum entanglement ‘effect’ falsified material particles as its own ‘causation’ in the first place? (A. Aspect) Appealing to the probability of various configurations of material particles, as Darwinism does, simply will not help since a timeless/spaceless cause must be supplied which is beyond the capacity of the material particles themselves to supply! To give a coherent explanation for an effect that is shown to be completely independent of any time and space constraints one is forced to appeal to a cause that is itself not limited to time and space! i.e. Put more simply, you cannot explain a effect by a cause that has been falsified by the very same effect you are seeking to explain! Improbability arguments of various ‘special’ configurations of material particles, which have been a staple of the arguments against neo-Darwinism, simply do not apply since the cause is not within the material particles in the first place! Yet it is also very interesting to note, in Darwinism’s inability to explain this ‘transcendent quantum effect’ adequately, that Theism has always postulated a transcendent component to man that is not constrained by time and space. i.e. Theism has always postulated a ‘eternal soul’ for man that lives past the death of the body.

    Further notes:

    The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings – Steve Talbott
    Excerpt: Virtually the same collection of molecules exists in the canine cells during the moments immediately before and after death. But after the fateful transition no one will any longer think of genes as being regulated, nor will anyone refer to normal or proper chromosome functioning. No molecules will be said to guide other molecules to specific targets, and no molecules will be carrying signals, which is just as well because there will be no structures recognizing signals. Code, information, and communication, in their biological sense, will have disappeared from the scientist’s vocabulary.
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....-of-beings

    The ‘Fourth Dimension’ Of Living Systems
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Gs_qvlM8-7bFwl9rZUB9vS6SZgLH17eOZdT4UbPoy0Y

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time – March 2011
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

  13. Elizabeth Liddle: “Well, it may be that the problem is in the definition of “supernatural”.”

    Exactly. Any rational discussion of the topic depends upon a clear agreed-upon definition of the item in question.

  14. 14
    CannuckianYankee

    Lizzie,

    “So to detect ‘art’ is to detect ‘design’.”

    How do you feel about the explanatory filter that KF highlighted in the OP? Do you think it’s a legitimate instrument for detecting design? Do you think the methodology highlighted in the EF is scientific?

  15. My personal take on “supernatural” and how it applies to science is that supernatural events CAN be studied by science but it is their source mechanism that science cannot know of.

    For example if we were to see a man being created out of dust ex nihilo, we could perhaps observe and describe and study the process where by that dust was transforming into a man, but the source of the event, the agency and organized power from which is comes, science probably cannot investigate.

    My other thought on the supernatural is that there is nothing in science or philosophy that rules out supernatural events. In fact, one can argue that the big bang was indeed a supernatural event, as it resulted in the most incredible effect and its source and origin is beyond the comprehension and pure rationalization of scientific inquiry.

    And so the existence of supernatural events is perfect permissible in science so long as Occam’s razor and the like are applied first.

  16. CannuckianYankee (#14)

    How do you feel about the explanatory filter that KF highlighted in the OP?

    Automate it. Mechanize it. Specify the steps in complete detail, so that it can be followed in ways that avoid human biases.

    If you can do that, then you might have the basis for a scientific research program.

  17. 17
    CannuckianYankee

    Neil,

    I don’t think it can be mechanized (at least for use in every situation of an attempt at design detection) as you say, because it’s a model, which can be used in various situations. It works as a model IMHO. The issue is: is it a model that can be used scientifically or not? If the answer is “yes,” then I think we can reasonably work on the issue of “mechanizing” or “automating” it to specific situations where we want to know if there is design. I’m asking the question because Lizzie stated that the detection of design is legitimate science. Here’s a model for the detection of design. Is it a scientific model or not? And if not, why not?

  18. NR:

    Perhaps, I used a word in an improperly suggestive fashion when I spoke of algorithm, meaning only step by step exercise.

    Scientific methods are precisely based on the action of intelligent, imaginative reasoning creatures so it exactly cannot be reduced to an automatic exercise.

    How do you automate the creation of those educated, inspired guesses that are the cores of the explanatory scenarios that are evaluated on inference to best explanation? How do you automate the judgement based evaluation across an undefined cluster of possible factors, as to which of competing explanations is “best”?

    Scientific inferences and explanations are not even subjects of mathematical proof, much less reducible to automation.

    And, BTW, mathematics is itself a creative process, of inherently irreducible complexity. It too is a product of mind, not a subject of automation.

    GEM of TKI

  19. PS: What can be warranted and expressed in a “mechanical” formula, up to direct or indirect empirical tests needed to evaluate the proper value of a dummy variable, is this:

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

    I is of course an explicit or implicit information metric, and S is a metric of specificity on a dummy variable set to 1 based on criteria such as observed vulnerability to perturbation, or use of a defined code [think of what random changes to the ASCII code behind this post would do] etc.

    The expression is that if Chi_500 goers positive sand the scope of resources is within our solar system [our effective cosmos], then we have good reason to infer that the entity with that value is designed not a credible product of chance. That is because the number of Planck-time quantum states for our solar system’s ~ 10^57 atoms is at most 10^102, where 10^30 such states are required for the fastest chemical reactions.

  20. Dr Liddle:

    As I pointed out the key problem is that the claim that design thought is trying to improperly inject “the supernatural” into science is false.

    All that science needs to study is the empirical signs that warrant inference to cause that traces per aspect to chance, necessity, and art or choice.

    And, there is no reverse strawman.

    Sciences, pure and applied, routinely involve themselves in inferences to design, but many tie themselves up in knots if such an inference process just might possibly allow “a Divine Foot” in the door. That is there is a problem of being tied up in the coils of a priori materialist ideology. It is in that context that the claim of trying to inject the supernatural, creationism etc is used as a verbal smear designed to excite emotions and shut off reasoned discussion.

    Careers have been unjustly busted over it, and it is only that here are a few cases recently where fines have had to be paid, or compensation or apologies, that have led to some pullback.

    Six years ago, when this was in full cry, there was a raw, ugly triumphalism in enforcing the politically correct ideology of materialism by indefensible means, while casting guilt and blame on the victim that I recall all too vividly.

    As I said, I have seen all of this before, in dealing with the communists in my youth.

    GEM of TKI

  21. kairosfocus (#18):

    Scientific methods are precisely based on the action of intelligent, imaginative reasoning creatures so it exactly cannot be reduced to an automatic exercise.

    Scientific methods are carefully specified so that, at least in principle, they can be automated. It is by insisting on precise formulations, that we avoid the kind of biases that have led to “Clever Hans” and “polywater” kinds of false trails.

    On the other hand The Scientific Method has never been precisely specified, and some of us suspect that there is no such thing as a singular scientific method.

    Scientific inferences and explanations are not even subjects of mathematical proof, much less reducible to automation.

    These days, most scientific inferences are done in a computer.

    Perhaps you were referring to “inference to the best explanation” (or abduction). As best I can tell, scientists don’t use that terminology. That kind of talk mostly comes from philosophy. And when philosophers say that something is “an inference to the best explanation”, I don’t know what they are talking and I seriously doubt that they know what they are talking about.

    Science works with theories. Where theories come from is contentious, and I agree that the creation of theories seems to depend on intelligent humans. But once we have the theory, then what is done in accordance with that theory is rather precisely specified. Proofs and inferences are carried out within the specifications of a theory.

    There is a separate question, that of how well the theory fits the world. That’s where there are no proofs, and where science is tentative.

    Getting back to the explanatory filter that you presented, I am taking that as intended to be comparable to a scientific theory. For that, we require two things:
    (1) the theory should fit the world well enough to be useful;
    (2) the theory should be precise enough in its specification that we can automate or mechanize it, at least in principle.

    My previous comment was with respect to point (2). I wasn’t asking about point (1). We cannot even hope to make judgments about (1), until the “theory” is in a form that meets the requirements of (2).

  22. NR:

    Certain experimental or observational procedures can be automated, the process of inference and that of hypothesis/theory formulation cannot.

    Such processes are irreducibly complex, intuitive and fuzzy.

    Similarly, many aspects of the process of evaluation are not subject to such automation by a machine, hard or soft ware.

    In short they are intrinsically non-algorithmic. (That is where the idea that once you can precisely describe a process it can be automated fails. There are many, many processes that cannot be reliably so reduced. That is why there is a premise that insightful, deeply intuitive judgement is one of the key distinctives of professional grade jobs.)

    GEM of TKI

  23. Well, it may be that the problem is in the definition of “supernatural”.

    It may well be that the problem is in the definition of “natural.”

    Science is perfectly capable of investigating artificial causes…

    I don’t even know what an artificial cause would look like.

    1. Is there an operational definition out there for “natural cause” that science has decided upon?

    2. Is there an operational definition out there for “artificial cause” that science has decided upon?

    3. I thought we agreed that science studies effects. So why are we now going back over this same old tired ground?

  24. 24
    William J. Murray

    When a single causal agent – a human being – can produce artifacts with FSCO/I that exceeds the computational capacity of the entire known natural universe to otherwise acquire, and can do so trivially – I think we have at least one reasonable definition of “supernatural” and it’s intervention into the otherwise “natural” universe.

  25. Dr. Liddle,

    Please forgive me, but i think you are foolish. You seem to be confused about some terms, but overall, it just appears that you are desperate for there not to be a supernatural explanation necessary, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    Nevertheless, I feel you are intelligent, and a formidable debate opponent, and I respect your thinking processes.

    So I ask you to find the hole in the following argument.

    1. Science purports to be a search for rational solutions.

    2. Rational solutions imply a choice between two or more explanations that has some arbitrary nature to it, other beings are perfectly able to make the other, irrational choice.

    3. This implies that at least scientists can make arbitrary choices.

    4. But arbitrary choices ( read rational choices ) can not be necessary or random. Otherwise they are not arbitrary and not rational.

    5. Therefore by the a priori assumption of the practice of science, there exists some beings ( scientists ) who are able to take actions that that are not necessary and not random.

    6. These actions which are not necessary and not random are by definition supernatural in nature.

    7. Since some class of beings ( scientists ) can take supernatural actions, they must have a supernatural basis for their creation.

    QED

  26. It does not possess the methodology to discover any other kind of cause.

    This implies that science has a methodology in place to discover natural causes. It does not.

  27. 27
    William J. Murray

    *Rather, and the location of its interventions into the othwerwise “natural” universe – human beings.

  28. WJM @ 24

    Precisely.

  29. PS: Theories [and more broadly explanatory models], precisely are based on abductive inferences to best explanation — BTW, Peirce was a philosopher-scientist one of a long and distinguished tradition now often despised by a largely philosophically illiterate generation, whereby the cluster of material facts F1, F2 . . . Fn are subject to explanation by alternative models E 1, E 2, . . . Em. Where Ek => F1 . . . Fm, but is not equivalent to them, i.e. the facts observed provide provisional empirical support not proof, on pain of affirming the consequent. These are evaluated per factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power, leading to a judgement of the collective. That process is non algorithmic, and deeply unstructured, i.e. judgemental.

  30. kairosfocus (#22)

    Certain experimental or observational procedures can be automated, the process of inference and that of hypothesis/theory formulation cannot.

    Such processes are irreducibly complex, intuitive and fuzzy.

    I am not asking for a mechanistic account of how you (or Dembski and others) came up with that explanatory filter. I don’t expect an automatable process for that.

    Now that you have the explanatory filter, I am asking how to mechanize and/or automate the application of that filter. If that cannot be done, then the filter is not science in its current form.

  31. 31
    William J. Murray

    JDH:

    Well done!

  32. Mung:

    We can best clarify cases of chance, necessity and design by concrete cases and family resemblance thereto. We may never be able to identify genus-difference categories, or necessary and sufficient descriptive statements to identify all cases.

    Think about the definition of “life,” the subject of biology.

    This is yet another aspect of the irreducible complexity and need for rational, intuitive judgements in the practice of science.

    BTW, I recall a case of a scientist who spent years studying the Cichlids. He says he got to a point where he could see a fish out the corner of his eye and instantly judge that it was a cichlid. This is of course a case of judgement on a cluster of weightings enforced by an apprenticeship of experience.

    The same obtains across vast swathes of pure and applied science, and it is why when I see someone suggesting that key scientific inferences are being made by computers, I shake my head.

    We have increasingly lost touch with and humility before reality. Including that of genuine expertise.

    Think about Einstein’s thought experiments, or Newton watching an apple fall while the moon swings by in the sky, or Kekule’s dream of a snake eating its tail. Or Lorentz playing with some equations and noticing that the simulation could not be accurately backed up and rerun.

    Science is in the end an exploration by those who have developed skill and insight on years of experience, not something simply reducible to a blind step by step procedure.

    Maybe, that is another aspect of the profound difference going on here.

    GEM of TKI

  33. NR:

    You have already seen a description of how that filter can be put to work, reduced to a mathematical formula. A fairly simple one, that only requires processes for identifying informational capacity, and a means for identifying empirically, sufficient specificity that accessible resources will not credibly access it on chance.

    But then, objectors spent months finding every species of way to avert the force of that result, which fits in quite simply into the above, and indeed results in hand strongly indicate its power. For instance take ASCII text in English in t5his thread.If we are beyond about 72 characters, we have confidence to infer that no chance process on the gamut of our solar system will be able to produce such a string. If we bump the threshold up to 143 characters, we will be confident that no chance process on the gamut of our observed cosmos can access it.

    this sort of case is one of many billions of tests the EF has passed. There are no credible counter examples.

    DNA in t5he living cell is similarly funcitonally specific and well past the threshold, by 100 – 1,000 ties at he lower end of unicellular life.

    That is the basis for pointing to design for such cells, but the intensity of denial has to be seen to be believed.

    GEM of TKI

  34. kairosfocus (#33):

    You have already seen a description of how that filter can be put to work, reduced to a mathematical formula.

    Right. But it is a vague description. It needs to be completely specified, so that the filter can be put to work with no possibility of human bias. It needs to be so specific, that an ultra-Darwinist and an extreme creationist will get exactly the same results from applying the filter.

    That needed specificity is still missing.

    But then, objectors spent months finding every species of way to avert the force of that result, which fits in quite simply into the above, and indeed results in hand strongly indicate its power. For instance take ASCII text in English in t5his thread.If we are beyond about 72 characters, we have confidence to infer that no chance process on the gamut of our solar system will be able to produce such a string. If we bump the threshold up to 143 characters, we will be confident that no chance process on the gamut of our observed cosmos can access it.

    I can watch on TV, and see a purely mechanical application of random data select a winner for the state lottery. And now you are trying to tell me that it could not have been completely mechanical.

    Sorry, but those probabilistic arguments to design are mistaken.

  35. Science is perfectly capable of investigating artificial causes, full stop? Really?

    Alright. How would science go about determining whether we are brains in a vat?

    How would science determine whether or not we’re living in a computer simulation?

    These are two of many possible examples.

  36. I’ll add – science is capable of investigating natural causes, full stop?

    Again, alright. Last thursdayism is an entirely natural possibility. It’s a natural possibility that the laws of nature changed in the past or distant past – perhaps briefly, perhaps permanently. It’s a natural possibility that the act of observation itself alters or determines the results we observe (depending on your interpretation of quantum physics, this can be regarded as an actuality too.)

    How does science investigate such claims?

  37. NR:

    See what I mean?

    A standard metric of information used since the days of Shannon is the start point, one as close as your computer file sizes.

    Relevant criteria of specificity are applied, commonsense ones like what happens if digits are randomly disturbed, or does this use codes under a grammar.

    These deliver a result quite directly, and with a consistent message that stands the test of billions of known cases.

    What is the response: it is vague, so brush it aside.

    My point is proved; the problem is not that there are no good answers, but that hey are unacceptable for fundamentally ideological reasons.

    GEM of TKI

  38. Nullasalus @35,

    Science is perfectly capable of investigating artificial causes, full stop? Really?

    Absolutely. There’s nothing in science preventing such an investigation.

    Alright. How would science go about determining whether we are brains in a vat?

    Better question: why would science go about investigating such in the absence of any indication that we are brains in a vat? In other words, why should anyone care?

    How would science determine whether or not we’re living in a computer simulation?

    See above: why would any scientist invest any time investigating whether we living in a computer simulation when there’s no evidence to suggest we are.

    These are two of many possible examples.

    They really aren’t. The reason they aren’t is that science – or more specifically scientists – don’t investigate concepts out-of-the-blue, but rather investigate the effects of phenomena to try to understand said phenomena and provide an explanation. That you (and/or some group) posit that humans may well be brains living in vats is all very well and good, but isn’t actually scientifically compelling. Basically, from a scientific standpoint there’s no reason to hypothesize that humans are brains living in vats because there’s no phenomenon for which that explanation provides any utility.

    As to an example of science investigating artificial causes, one of the better examples is the science behind determining whether a fire was man-made or not.

  39. Null:

    Good points, you are showing how empirically equivalent worlds can be vastly diverse in reality, whether brains in vats or last five minute worlds.

    That is why science cannot stand on its own, but lives in a context of philosophy, and comparative difficulties across worldviews.

    It is that wider context that leads us to the conclusion that absent strong reason to believe it, we have no good grounds to assume that our senses are systematically deceiving us, which would fatally undermine our confidence in our ability to reason or know about anything of consequence. But, you are precisely correct, such worlds are empirically equivalent to the one we think we inhabit.

    That is part of why I normally speak of knowledge as warranted, credibly true belief, and hold that such warrant is not equivalent to proof beyond all rational dispute.

    There is no escaping faith in the task of reasoning, and it is especially evident that the notion that science is the only — or even just the primary — begetter of truth is nonsense.

    GEM of TKI

  40. Doveton,

    Better question: why would science go about investigating such in the absence of any indication that we are brains in a vat? In other words, why should anyone care?

    I notice you didn’t answer my question at all, but just asked another.

    Alright: Tell me how science would determine what is or is not an indication that we are brains in a vat?

    See above: why would any scientist invest any time investigating whether we living in a computer simulation when there’s no evidence to suggest we are.

    What would the evidence look like? Can science tell us this?

    I notice you said ‘Sure, science can investigate artificial causes, full stop!’ – I give a couple examples of artificial causes, and your response is to punt and say “Well why would we even want to investigate that to begin with?”

    That you (and/or some group) posit that humans may well be brains living in vats is all very well and good, but isn’t actually scientifically compelling.

    And I’m asking how one could make it ‘scientifically compelling’. You have no response to that so far.

    Which really makes it look as if no, science is actually not capable of investigating ‘artificial causes’, full stop. The statement has to be qualified: Certain kinds of artificial causes, given certain assumptions, or particular scopes, can be investigated. In various cases, science can’t even get off the ground to begin the investigation.

  41. Doveton:

    Please see above. The point of brains in vats worlds as a scenario is that it is empirically equivalent to the world we think we live in. To think that science gives us access to and ways to warrant provisional knowledge claims about the external world, is a matter that lives in a context of worldviews choices that go well beyond science.

    GEM of TKI

  42. kf,

    Good points, you are showing how empirically equivalent worlds can be vastly diverse in reality, whether brains in vats or last five minute worlds.

    That is why science cannot stand on its own, but lives in a context of philosophy, and comparative difficulties across worldviews.

    Sure, anyone who thinks that science stands on its own utterly devoid of philosophy is fooling themselves. A greater point I was going for was that science is very limited. The methodologies that bind it are not ‘science can only study what is natural’, because even many “natural” possibilities are necessarily or practically beyond science’s capacity to investigate.

  43. KF@41,

    Please see above. The point of brains in vats worlds as a scenario is that it is empirically equivalent to the world we think we live in.

    Which is fine and all, but that’s really then a philosophical quandry, not a scientific one.

    Science is only concerned with evidence of phenomena and the possible explanations appropriate to usefully predict aspects of said phenomena. When we say that science can investigate the artificial, this doesn’t mean that science will entertain any and all concepts surrounding the possibility of artificiality of the world we perceive, but rather that a given phenomenon we perceive might best be explained as being the products of man and/or some other tool using entity.

    To think that science gives us access to and ways to warrant provisional knowledge claims about the external world, is a matter that lives in a context of worldviews choices that go well beyond science.

    True, but only if the provisional knowledge claim is the product of something other than a perceived phenomenon.

  44. Null:

    The definition of natural is itself a major challenge, as I pointed out from Plato.

    G

  45. Doveton:

    Are you aware that science — at least,t he physical sciences — used to be called natural philosophy?

    GEM of TKI

  46. kairosfocus (#37):

    See what I mean?

    Indeed, I do. I see that you are confused between absolute probability and conditional probability. Trying to wrap up your argument in the terminology of information theory won’t help.

  47. NR:

    Could you kindly tell us how you know that you are dealing with a real participant in an exchange and not lucky noise over the internet?

    (Hint: on a flat random, chance hyp — BTW, this is the benchmark search algor, on average no algor will outperform it without specific knowledge of the situation [a major part of the Marks-Dembski results] — any particular outcome is as likely as any other. It is sheer statistical weight of the nonsense possible outcomes that makes such a scenario maximally unlikely, by comparison to the alternative, an intelligent source. And, until your islands of specific function in your space of possibilities are sufficiently accessible on your chance resources, random walks will face the problem that overwhelmingly there will be no relative function to reward on a hill-climbing process.)

    But, an intelligence can toss off a post like this in a matter of minutes, because such a poster is using knowledge and skill, not a chance-driven search.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I think you would profit by observing UB’s answer to Doveton, here.

  48. kairosfocus (#47):

    Could you kindly tell us how you know that you are dealing with a real participant in an exchange and not lucky noise over the internet?

    It doesn’t actually matter. I am not expecting to persuade whoever or whatever I am replying to. Rather, I am leaving an honest response, and any real persons who are reading this can then examine the various arguments that they read and decide for themselves how they will judge the arguments.

    (Hint: on a flat random, chance hyp — BTW, this is the benchmark search algor, on average no algor will outperform it without specific knowledge of the situation [a major part of the Marks-Dembski results] — any particular outcome is as likely as any other.

    I was aware of the “No Free Lunch” results of Wolpert and others, well before Dembski followed in that direction. I happen to disagree with the underlying assumption that search is primarily what is happening, either in human learning or in evolution. So I doubt that the “No Free Lunch” theorems are actually relevant.

    Evolutionists are quite clear that evolution is not random. I keep wondering why the critics of evolution repeatedly assert that it is random, and repeatedly use arguments based on randomness in their flawed criticisms of evolution.

    For myself, I believe that there is such a thing as natural purpose. I have several posts on that at my blog (check the “intentionality” category to find them). I see this natural purpose as involved in the creativity of evolution, which is why I do not consider myself a Darwinist.

  49. 49
    Elizabeth Liddle

    JDH @ 25:

    Dr. Liddle,

    Please forgive me, but i think you are foolish. You seem to be confused about some terms, but overall, it just appears that you are desperate for there not to be a supernatural explanation necessary, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    I like straight talk :)

    But I’ll make two comments: I may well be “confused” but that is because the word “natural” is confusing – it is used to mean different things. I don’t think I’m confused about what I think, but I am certainly confused by what people mean by “natural”. I’d like some clarification.

    Secondly: no I am by no means “desperate for there not to be a supernatural explanation necessary”. A number of people have said this, so I figure it’s a widespread assumption made about non-IDists here, but in my case at least it is simply untrue. My issue is that I think “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron (with the caveat that it depends a little on what people mean by “supernatural”). To use a cliche: “God did it” is not an explanation at all (“God did it because it seemed like a good idea to him at the time” might be, if not a very persuasive one).

    That’s why I agree with kairosfocus that a more sensible division is between “natural” (in the sense of not guided by an intentional process) and “artificial” (in the sense of being guided by an “artist” with some kind of vision of what the end product should look like).

    But to give you some reason to accept that I am not “desperate” – I was a theist for half a century (and, in a sort of sense, still am). If, during that time, I had been provided with “scientific evidence of the supernatural” it would have made not the slightest iota of difference to my belief in God. I would simply have said: if there is scientific evidence for it, then it’s not supernatural, it’s just evidence for something natural that we don’t know anything about yet. In fact, at bottom, my objection to the idea that science can provide “evidence for the supernatural” is not so much scientific as theological! I think it’s really bad theology :) It implies that God is more evident in some parts of God’s universe than in others – that God is a detectable inhabitant of our universe, not the ground of its very being.

    OK, so let me have a look at your argument (not that I’m a logician!)

    Nevertheless, I feel you are intelligent, and a formidable debate opponent, and I respect your thinking processes.

    *blush* Thanks. Nice to talk to you too.

    So I ask you to find the hole in the following argument.

    1. Science purports to be a search for rational solutions.

    2. Rational solutions imply a choice between two or more explanations that has some arbitrary nature to it, other beings are perfectly able to make the other, irrational choice.

    3. This implies that at least scientists can make arbitrary choices.

    4. But arbitrary choices ( read rational choices ) can not be necessary or random. Otherwise they are not arbitrary and not rational.

    5. Therefore by the a priori assumption of the practice of science, there exists some beings ( scientists ) who are able to take actions that that are not necessary and not random.

    6. These actions which are not necessary and not random are by definition supernatural in nature.

    7. Since some class of beings ( scientists ) can take supernatural actions, they must have a supernatural basis for their creation.

    QED

    heh.

    Well, one problem with your argument is your use of the word “arbitrary”. You say that for “arbitrary” read “rational” but then some of your statements become circular. Could you explain how you are using the word “arbitrary”?

    But more importantly, you seem to be using the word “supernatural” to mean “not necessary and not random”. That’s interesting. I think that one might also rephrase your argument as: “if we have free will then we must be supernatural”.

    If so, it’s an argument I made myself for many years (decades!)

    I no longer think it is a valid argument, but the reason I do not would probably take a lot longer than this thread to explain (and I still probably wouldn’t be convincing – after all, I took 50 years to convince myself!)

    But I will say this: I guess until recently I assumed that in some very important sense, the world must have been created ex nihilo by an act of will, and I “modeled” the “will-er” in question as “God”. So far so orthodox – God as the Prime Mover.

    I now take the view that the world is sui generis, and that that also applies to will itself

    The turning point was not evidence (as I’ve said, I think the idea that there could be evidence for a Prime Mover within the Moved is bad theology, and also bad logic!) but what felt like the shaking out of a wrinkle in a piece of fabric that reveals the pattern to be both more beautiful and simpler than it appeared in its wrinkled state – the realisation that freedom, will, moral responsibility, consciousness, love, the lot, could be modeled more elegantly as emergent property of the world as opposed to the genesis of it.

    Although tbh, I think it’s essentially a quibble – even in my orthodox days I regarded God as being outside time, not “before” it, so I still don’t think there’s any essential difference between a theological conception that has God emerge from the world rather than the other way round. Causal direction is just another way of talking about time anyway :)

    But it solves a heck of a lot of logical (and theological )problems, so I’m happy with my new view :)

    (But not “desperate” to retain it :))

  50. My issue is that I think “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron (with the caveat that it depends a little on what people mean by “supernatural”). To use a cliche: “God did it” is not an explanation at all (“God did it because it seemed like a good idea to him at the time” might be, if not a very persuasive one).

    And here I thought your issue was with causation, not with what counts as an explanation.

    Is it just me, or are the goalposts moving yet again.

  51. I have always maintained it to be irrational for a materialist to a priori rule out the supernatural. By doing so they have painted themselves into a corner.

  52. Elizabeth:

    Why not deal with an actual supernatural event?

    I’m speaking of the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood which takes place whenever the vial containing the dry blood of the martyr is placed nearby his head.

    This miracle has taken place for centuries upon centuries. And there is no plausible scientific explanation for this miracle.

    So, in the presence of the supernatural, how do you propose we proceed?

  53. Neil,

    The explanatory filter (or some reasonable fascimile thereof) is just a process all scientists must use to fulfill Newton’s first rule:

    “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.”- Sir Isaac Newton

    Have a good day.

  54. Neil:

    Evolutionists are quite clear that evolution is not random.

    Right and others have been quite clear they don’t have any justification for that.

  55. Liz Liddle:

    I think it’s really bad theology It implies that God is more evident in some parts of God’s universe than in others – that God is a detectable inhabitant of our universe, not the ground of its very being.

    St. Paul talks about the God “in whom we live, and move, and have our being.”

    That sounds like a lot more than God simply being the “ground” of the universe’s being.

    (BTW, St. Paul is, of course, quoting an anonymous Greek saying. Unaided reason leads to belief in God.)

  56. Elizabeth:

    You write:

    The turning point was not evidence (as I’ve said, I think the idea that there could be evidence for a Prime Mover within the Moved is bad theology, and also bad logic!)

    Isn’t this very poor logic?

    If there is no evidence of “a Prime Mover within the Moved”, then you cannot claim that the “Moved” moved. So where does that get you?

  57. A few passing comments.

    1) I’m usually not game for dealing with a person’s claims about their personal beliefs, but this much should be obvious: The idea that ‘anything we become aware of empirically/scientifically must be due to entirely natural, not supernatural, forces’ is not an ‘orthodox belief’ re: Christianity. Not unless someone is defining God as natural (note: Not ‘identical with nature’ but just ‘in the category ‘natural”), in which case one can’t object to ID on the grounds that ‘science investigates the natural, not the supernatural’ even with the false assumption that ID’s designer must be God. After all, God would just be yet another natural entity, and inferring to natural entities is supposed to be fair game.

    But if God is supernatural, and anything we can observe or discover must be viewed as ultimately being the result of nature, then one is dealing with a view of God that strictly rules out any divine intervention, any miracles, any acts of God by fiat. Saying it’s ‘bad theology’ is saying that orthodox theology is ‘bad theology’. Not much of an argument, and certainly not orthodox by any stretch, if we’re talking Christianity.

    2) Saying ‘I don’t think there’s any essential difference between the world emerging from God or the other way around’ while talking about ‘bad theology’ is ironic. As is asserting that ‘causal direction is just another way of talking about time’. This isn’t just bad theology, it’s bad philosophy – the “Prime Mover” was not supposed to be temporally prior to the universe, but causally prior. Now, someone can argue pro or con regarding simultaneous causation or the greater arguments for a Prime Mover, etc, but the fact remains that no, ‘causal direction’ really was not another way of talking about time for people discussing the Prime Mover.

    3) Saying ‘God did it’ is not an explanation, no. But this has nothing to do with the natural or the supernatural – ‘Chuck did it’ is not an explanation either. Nor is ‘Nature did it’. Now, the objection may be ‘Well, I can produce a model or make reference to theories or experiments – that’s the sort of explanation I mean’. But in that case, A) Those sorts of explanations aren’t necessarily in conflict with ‘Chuck did it’, much less ‘God did it’, B) In fact, they can explain in part ‘How’ both God did it or Chuck did it, and C) attribution of an act to an agent is rarely meant to be much of an ‘explanation’ in a model sense anyway, but it still is meaningful. Saying ‘Einstein came up with the theory of relativity’ and being told ‘But that doesn’t tell us anything about how to create a theory of relativity!’ is missing the point.

  58. OH MY! I seem to have done it again. My posts seem to ignite a firestorm of controversy at UD.

    Actually, that is my goal. My purpose is to shine the transparent light of reason on the transparent idiocy of Darwinian orthodoxy. Some people get it, and some don’t.

    I hope that UD readers understood the point of my MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: I Believe in Evolution essay.

    I intentionally included the Read more >> link immediately after my obviously provocative introduction in hopes that it would lure devout Darwinists — whose fundamentalist faith in materialism (which I now consider to be completely irrational) I once shared — into a trap.

    The trap is the following: Those of us in the ID movement are constantly confronted with stuff like:

    They “reject” evolution.
    “Evolution” is a scientific fact, as well established as the earth orbiting the sun.
    ID proponents are “evolution” deniers (an obvious reference to Nazi Holocaust denying kooks).

    My point was that Darwinian fundamentalists use trickery in an attempt to convince the public that anyone who expresses doubts about “evolution” is a knuckle-dragging, science-destroying, mindless person.

    I am none of the above. And I do not deny that evolution is a scientific, empirically verified fact, when defined as I did in my admittedly provocative initial post.

    Here’s the bottom line: The notion that all of life can be explained by Darwinian mechanisms (including Rachmaninoff, his piano concerti, musical instruments invented and refined for centuries, and those inspired to learn to play them) is just simply preposterous.

    Oh, and all of this is based on sophisticated nano-technological information-processing hardware and software that those of us involved in analogous human-designed technology marvel at, and hope, one day, to be able to sufficiently understand so that we might be able to emulate it.

    Evolution, defined as change over time, is obviously true. But Darwinism is junk pseudoscience. Actually, Darwinism deserves a much lower classification in the heirarchy of historical junk pseudoscience. I believe that a new category should be devised for this unique brand of transparent pseudo-scientific idiocy. Perhaps it should be termed: less-than-worthless-destructive-junk-pseudoscience.

    Unfortunately that wouldn’t result in a particularly effective acronym.

    Oops, sorry, I must get back to my piano. Here are some youtube links to a superb live performance of that great Rachmaninoff Rhapsody:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Z-HCq5EeU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....&NR=1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....&NR=1

    Enjoy! And just remember, we owe it all to random mutation and natural selection. That should inspire some inspiration.

  59. PaV: “St. Paul talks about the God “in whom we live, and move, and have our being.””

    Paul co-opted part of Epimenides’ poem ‘Cretica’ in which Epimenides is referring to Zeus, an entity distinct from the Pauline God. How does this co-opted quote lead to “Unaided reason leads to belief in God.”?

  60. #52 Pav

     

    Why not deal with an actual supernatural event?

    I’m speaking of the liquefaction of St. Januarius’blood which takes place whenever the vial containing the dry blood of the martyr is placed nearby his head.

    This miracle has taken place for centuries upon centuries. And there is no plausible scientific explanation for this miracle.

    So, in the presence of the supernatural, how do you propose we proceed?

    Surely you have made Elizabeth’s point for her.  There have of course been proposed scientific explanations for this phenomenon – but they are very limited because scientists are not allowed to extract a sample of whatever is in the tubes.  However, as you point out, the inference to the supernatural is because there is no scientific explanation.  If there were a scientific explanation it would not be supernatural. And if it is supernatural there is no scientific explanation and no scientific way to proceed.  Which, as I understand it, is exactly Elizabeth’s point.

  61. 61
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Mung:

    And here I thought your issue was with causation, not with what counts as an explanation.

    Is it just me, or are the goalposts moving yet again.

    It’s you, Mung.

    But I guess I have to take at least partial responsibility for the failure to communicate.

  62. 62
    Elizabeth Liddle

    OH MY! I seem to have done it again. My posts seem to ignite a firestorm of controversy at UD.

    But Gil, you seem simply to “light the touch paper and retire” – you do not actually engage with the counter-points put to you!

    I mean, that’s your prerogative, but it would be nice to have the ball returned.

    I’m no more a knuckle-dragger than you are :)

  63. NR,

    Re 48 (on 47 in response to assertions in 46):

    [KF:] Could you kindly tell us how you know that you are dealing with a real participant in an exchange and not lucky noise over the internet?

    {NR:] It doesn’t actually matter. I am not expecting to persuade whoever or whatever I am replying to. Rather, I am leaving an honest response, and any real persons who are reading this can then examine the various arguments that they read and decide for themselves how they will judge the arguments.

    In a context where you have already played the “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked card,” THIS IS POINTEDLY, REVEALINGLY EVASIVE.

    It is plain that you know the import of the matter, but do not wish to deal with it. Your actions imply that you know that contextually responsive text in English, ASCII characters is overwhelmingly more likely on an intelligent source than it is on lucky noise, given the isolation of clusters of functional configs in the space of possibilities for strings of the same length.

    You then continue in much the same vein:

    I happen to disagree with the underlying assumption that search is primarily what is happening, either in human learning or in evolution. So I doubt that the “No Free Lunch” theorems are actually relevant.

    Evolutionists are quite clear that evolution is not random. I keep wondering why the critics of evolution repeatedly assert that it is random, and repeatedly use arguments based on randomness in their flawed criticisms of evolution.

    First, from TMLO on in 1985, the issue is not moving around within an island of function, but arrival at such islands, starting with first life. And in that context, the dominant issue is the thermodynamics of mixtures of chemicals, which strongly points to deep isolation of functional configs, so, the issue IS how to get to such islands. Search, given the cluster of possibilities of variation across chiralities, different reaction possibilities and interfering cross reactions in the warm little pond, or undersea vent [etc], not to mention the dominant tendency to break down to smaller compounds, would dominate. And, such contexts, or the imagined clay templates, will NOT favour the formation of relevantly functional macromolecules, or their clustering into functionally organised clusters. The “Humpty Dumpy” experiment of putting cells in saline solutions, and pricking them open shows why, on the dynamics of diffusion. Which IS driven by a random walk process.

    FYI, until you have function, you cannot have population variation on differential function. The evolution card, here, therefore begs a big question.

    Already, absent a priori imposition of evolutionary materialist assumptions per Lewontin et al, this leads to a strong likelihood in favour of the design of life, one sharply increased by our knowledge of the presence of code-based, algorithmic information systems in life forms. (Note, onlookers, this is in a context where on the evidence of Venter et al, all that would be required for a sufficient explanation of such would be a molecular nanotech lab some generations ahead of where we now are.)

    This then sharply affects the credibility of onward hypotheses regarding origin of novel body plans.

    OOL requires 100,000 – 1 mn+ bits of information, on DNA as an indicator. For novel body plans, we are looking at 10 – 100+ million bits of further increments of information, dozens of times over, and that within 600 or so MY. Again, until one has an embryologically feasible body plan — defining islands of function again — one is in no position to play the incremental change on population variation card. In short, another begging of a big question.

    How do I know that we are looking at islands of function? Simple, once we consider embryogenesis, we are looking at the development of a complex body plan with specialised cells organised into tissues, organs and integrated systems, step by step, based on stored information to make the proteins etc and cell types. The required step by step, multipart code based process requiring and leading to closely integrated multiple functional parts is more than enough to point to such deep isolation of functional clusters.

    In short, the smoothly varying branching tree of life is not only counter to the observed dominant fossil layer pattern of appearance, stasis, disappearance or continuity to the modern world, but it is counter to the known engineering requisites of creating complex functional systems.

    In short, the evidence is that the high contingency in life forms, form first cells to complex body plans, indeed, was not dominated by chance variations in components in pre-existing environments. The only other credible source of high contingency is choice.

    If one wishes to object that “natural selection” can work creative magic, the truth is that this is yet another distractive and question-begging claim. For, natural selection, so called, is in actuality simply this: that once variant populations exist, some will do better and will thrive, others will be culled out in the competition for scarce resources. The selection part, in short is not an information add-er, but an information subtract-er. And, as you will know as one familiar with mathematics, subtraction is the opposite to addition.

    High contingency, the source of variation, traces to chance or choice. Chance, here is confronted by vast spaces of possibilities, overwhelmingly non-functional; so choice — the known, directly observed source of codes, algorithms, data structures etc, is the best alternative,. At least, absent a priori materialist question-begging.

    In that context, a random walk driven trial and error process is an entirely appropriate model for what the proposed non-intelligent processes will have to do.

    As to claims regarding “natural” purpose, that is another case of trying to have one’s cake and eat it. If life is programmed into the laws and processes of our observed cosmos, which is being deemed purposive, that is strongly pointing to design.

    AmHD:

    pur·pose (pûrps)
    n.
    1. The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal: “And ever those, who would enjoyment gain/Must find it in the purpose they pursue” (Sarah Josepha Hale).
    2. A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention. See Synonyms at intention.
    3. Determination; resolution: He was a man of purpose.

    GEM of TKI

  64. F/N: The inference to choice not chance is reasonable in cases where chance is not a credible explanation for complex, functionally specified and relevant information, given the overwhelming dominance of the space of possibilities by nonsense combinations, AND in light of the related fact that necessity does not credibly account for wide variety in possible outcomes under given similar initial conditions.

    Choice, is a very well-known and highly satisfactory explanation [e.g. it explains the text of this and other posts in this thread, while neither chance nor necessity nor any combination thereof can explain it]. But of course, there are those who imagine that choice reduces, directly or indirectly to chance plus necessity; which fatally undermines their own claim to be rational. As Haldane summed up the evolutionary materialist self-referential incoherence on mind:

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

    As to whether a given chooser for a given case is “natural” or “supernatural,” that is a matter of evidence across potential candidates to be making the relevant choice.

    And of course, to beg the question of a reality beyond the observed physical cosmos, by imposing a priori materialism in the teeth of evidence such as the credible contingency of our observed cosmos [given the observational evidence pointing to a beginning a finite time in the past], compounded by its evident fine tuning, is plainly just that: a fallacy of circular argument.

  65. Just what is natural about the natural??? I ask this because it seems obvious to me that any part of reality that one chooses to take a close look at, one is immediately drawn to the ‘supernatural’. There simply is no simple ‘natural’ explanation for any part of reality one may choose to observe. For instance, if we look at the ‘simple’, ‘natural’, atom:

    The complexity of computing the actions of even a simple atom, in detail, quickly exceeds the capacity of our most advanced supercomputers of today:

    Delayed time zero in photoemission: New record in time measurement accuracy – June 2010
    Excerpt: Although they could confirm the effect qualitatively using complicated computations, they came up with a time offset of only five attoseconds. The cause of this discrepancy may lie in the complexity of the neon atom, which consists, in addition to the nucleus, of ten electrons. “The computational effort required to model such a many-electron system exceeds the computational capacity of today’s supercomputers,” explains Yakovlev.
    http://www.physorg.com/news196606514.html

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
    Max Planck – The Father Of Quantum Mechanics – Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)(Of Note: Max Planck Planck was a devoted Christian from early life to death, was a churchwarden from 1920 until his death, and believed in an almighty, all-knowing, beneficent God (though, paradoxically, not necessarily a personal one) This deep ‘Christian connection’, of Planck, is not surprising when you realize practically every, if not every, founder of each major branch of modern science also ‘just so happened’ to have some kind of a deep Christian connection.)

    ,,,Or if we look at 4-D space-time,

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

    Or the double slit,,

    Double Slit Experiment – Explained By Prof Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6101627/

    Or if we look at fine tuning,,,

    Evidence for Belief in God – Rich Deem
    Excerpt: Isn’t the immense size of the universe evidence that humans are really insignificant, contradicting the idea that a God concerned with humanity created the universe? It turns out that the universe could not have been much smaller than it is in order for nuclear fusion to have occurred during the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang. Without this brief period of nucleosynthesis, the early universe would have consisted entirely of hydrogen. Likewise, the universe could not have been much larger than it is, or life would not have been possible. If the universe were just one part in 10^59 larger, the universe would have collapsed before life was possible. Since there are only 10^80 baryons in the universe, this means that an addition of just 10^21 baryons (about the mass of a grain of sand) would have made life impossible. The universe is exactly the size it must be for life to exist at all.
    http://www.godandscience.org/a.....ntro2.html

    or if we look at the ‘eternality’ of the speed of light:

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight Into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6545941/

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    or etc.. etc.. etc..

    Does the Probability for ETI = 1?
    Excerpt; On the Reasons To Believe website we document that the probability a randomly selected planet would possess all the characteristics intelligent life requires is less than 10^-304. A recent update that will be published with my next book, Hidden Purposes: Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, puts that probability at 10^-1054.

    Linked from “Appendix C” in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters ? 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate ? 10^324
    longevity requirements estimate ? 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters ? 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe ? 10^22

    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part3.pdf

    Hugh Ross – Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere (10^-1054) – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236

    Hugh Ross – Four Main Research Papers
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Sl5SCBtcO6xMjwgrkKysBYIOJzjZEcXX68qZ9rwh85s

    Thus my question, “JUST WHAT IS NATURAL ABOUT THE NATURAL???”

  66. Nullasalus@40,

    Doveton,

    Better question: why would science go about investigating such in the absence of any indication that we are brains in a vat? In other words, why should anyone care?

    I notice you didn’t answer my question at all, but just asked another.

    Well…technically that is a type of answer. It is not a direct answer, nor is it an answer that provides a conclusion to the inquiry, but it is an answer.

    More to the point, there is a reason for the answer I gave. To wit:

    Alright: Tell me how science would determine what is or is not an indication that we are brains in a vat?

    Without any initial indication (e.g., “evidence”) that we are brains in a vat, science has nowhere to begin with this question.

    In other words, science doesn’t take place in a vacuum, which is what your question above requires. Thus, without an answer my question – why would science care – your question can’t be answered by science.

    See above: why would any scientist invest any time investigating whether we living in a computer simulation when there’s no evidence to suggest we are.

    What would the evidence look like? Can science tell us this?

    Not unless you can point to evidence that suggests we are living in a computer simulation.

    I notice you said ‘Sure, science can investigate artificial causes, full stop!’ – I give a couple examples of artificial causes, and your response is to punt and say “Well why would we even want to investigate that to begin with?”

    I did not punt – you just haven’t provided actual artificial causes. You’ve provided artificial explanations without any associated phenomenon.

    My answer to you then stays the same: science can’t investigate explanations in absence of phenomena.

    That you (and/or some group) posit that humans may well be brains living in vats is all very well and good, but isn’t actually scientifically compelling.

    And I’m asking how one could make it ‘scientifically compelling’. You have no response to that so far.

    I did respond to that – “Basically, from a scientific standpoint there’s no reason to hypothesize that humans are brains living in vats because there’s no phenomenon for which that explanation provides any utility.” In other words, what phenomenon are proposing that science study that you think indicates we are brains living in vats. If you can’t answer the latter, there’s nothing for science to investigate.

    BTW, this actually underlies one of the issues most scientists have with ID. This is a good exercise to illustrate that weakness.

    Which really makes it look as if no, science is actually not capable of investigating ‘artificial causes’, full stop. The statement has to be qualified: Certain kinds of artificial causes, given certain assumptions, or particular scopes, can be investigated. In various cases, science can’t even get off the ground to begin the investigation.

    The issue I’ve pointed out has nothing to do with artificial causes; it has to do with lack of phenomena.

  67. KF,

    Doveton:

    Are you aware that science — at least,t he physical sciences — used to be called natural philosophy?

    GEM of TKI

    Indeed I am. I’ll return the question: are you aware that science is no longer referred to as natural philosophy and more importantly why?

  68. kairosfocus (#63):

    In a context where you have already played the “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked card,” THIS IS POINTEDLY, REVEALINGLY EVASIVE.

    There was nothing evasive about my answer. You asked a question of the form “How do you know X?” My direct and honest answer is that I do not know X, I do not claim to know X, and my own participation in this discussion does not require that I know X.

    I participate here in the interest of engaging in honest open discussion. It was not my expectation that I would thereby become the target of completely unwarranted insult.

    As for the origin of life question that you raise: I make no claims of knowledge about how life originated. It is an unsettled question. Science does not currently claim to have any answers, though some scientists have speculative hypotheses. In short, I will not be responding to what you wrote on that issue.

  69. But I guess I have to take at least partial responsibility for the failure to communicate.

    You do understand the difference between a cause and an explanation then, right?

    That’s not a “scientific explanation” because it does not invoke a natural cause.

    That’s the latest beef?

    Please tell us the scientific methodology that science uses to establish scientifically whether a cause is natural or not.

    You will not. You cannot. The only way to do so is to become irrational, the very thing that ‘Science’ is supposed to save us from.

    oops.

  70. PaV, you wrote…

    I’m speaking of the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood which takes place whenever the vial containing the dry blood of the martyr is placed nearby his head.

    This miracle has taken place for centuries upon centuries. And there is no plausible scientific explanation for this miracle.

    I’m curious. What is your explanation of this event?

  71. NR:

    LOL!

    Wheel, and tun and come again, but dis time don’t dance wrong but strong:

    [KF:] Could you kindly tell us how you know that you are dealing with a real participant in an exchange and not lucky noise over the internet?

    {NR:] It doesn’t actually matter. I am not expecting to persuade whoever or whatever I am replying to. Rather, I am leaving an honest response, and any real persons who are reading this can then examine the various arguments that they read and decide for themselves how they will judge the arguments.

    (Onlookers, cf 63 above.)

    GEM of TKI

  72. Doveton:

    The underlying logic prevails: science as process is applied epistemology.

    And while the daughter has overshadowed the mother, she still depends on her for sustenance and support.

    GEM of TKI

  73. 73
    Elizabeth Liddle
    But I guess I have to take at least partial responsibility for the failure to communicate.

    You do understand the difference between a cause and an explanation then, right?

    That’s not a “scientific explanation” because it does not invoke a natural cause.

    That’s the latest beef?

    Please tell us the scientific methodology that science uses to establish scientifically whether a cause is natural or not.

    This is getting a little bizarre.

    I’m saying that science does NOT have the methodology to establish whether a cause is natural or not. I’ve said that several times.

    I’m not sure how to express myself more clearly.

    The complication has been that people have presented a couple of different definitions of “natural”. So let me be even more specific:

    Science has the methodology to detect whether something is artificial nor not, so if “natural” is defined as “non-artificial” then my statement is incorrect.

    Science has the methodology to investigate minds and quantum effects, so if “natural” is defined to exclude those phenomena, then my statement is incorrect.

    Science has the methodology to investigate any effect it can measure, even if that something is supposed to be “supernatural”. So if there is a class of phenomena such as ghosts, or miracles or prayer, or whatever whose effects can be measured, then science can do that too. What it can’t do is conclude that they are “supernatural” whatever word people use to describe them. If scientists found that prayer worked, scientifically, then that would be cool. But it wouldn’t prove God, nor would it prove “the supernatural” except in a colloquial sense. It would simply add to our understanding of regularities in the world.

    You will not. You cannot. The only way to do so is to become irrational, the very thing that ‘Science’ is supposed to save us from.

    oops.

    Well, exactly. Which is why I keep saying that it’s what science can’t do.

    Is that clear now?

    I’m saying scientific methods cannnot determine whether a cause is supernatural or not

    Not won’t, can’t. It’s not censorship, it’s methodological.

    But it can detect design. So kf is right.

  74. KF @71,

    NR:

    LOL!

    Wheel, and tun and come again, but dis time don’t dance wrong but strong:

    (snipped for brevity)

    (Onlookers, cf 63 above.)

    GEM of TKI

    Just curious, KF, but what difference should it make to Mr. Rickert (or anyone else for that matter) if you are just noise on the internet so long as Mr. Rickert enjoys the perception of posting to that noise?

  75. KF,

    Doveton:

    The underlying logic prevails: science as process is applied epistemology.

    And while the daughter has overshadowed the mother, she still depends on her for sustenance and support.

    GEM of TKI

    Well, while I agree in principle with this, KF, I’m not sure which of my comments you are responding to and thus I’m not sure what the context is. Could you elaborate please?

  76. D:

    1: You will see the issue is to discern between noise and signal on reliable index, which is at the heart of communication theory. We all know that my posts are not noise, what NR is sideslipping is HOW he can know that, and the reason is that the straight answer cuts clean through his objection above in 47.

    2: Science is still dependent for its warrant on philosophy. Technical elaboration has not changed that [we no longer rely on filling a skull with seeds to measure its volume . . . ], nor has the cultural presence of science.

    GEM of TKI

  77. Elizabeth Liddle:

    I’m saying that science does NOT have the methodology to establish whether a cause is natural or not. I’ve said that several times.

    Then does it not follow that it is NOT the case that:

    It [Science] does not possess the methodology to discover any other kind of cause.

    Indeed, if there are only two mutually exclusive causes, natural and supernatural, then it follows that:

    It [Science] does not possess the methodology to discover any kind of cause.

    I’m saying scientific methods cannot determine whether a cause is supernatural or not.

    That’s what I’ve been saying for some time now. Nice to have you aboard.

    But what is the consequence of that?

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Science necessarily involves an a priori commitment to the proposition that natural causes are the reason for everything.

    Well, no. It doesn’t. For that would be irrational.

  78. 78
    Elizabeth Liddle

    CannuckianYankee:

    How do you feel about the explanatory filter that KF highlighted in the OP? Do you think it’s a legitimate instrument for detecting design? Do you think the methodology highlighted in the EF is scientific?

    I think it has some merit, but I think its categories are false. Dividing causes into “Chance” and “Necessity” is often convenient, but it begs a lot of questions.

    For example, kairosfocus brought up ANOVA, but any statistical test will do make a similar point; if we observe a correlation between, for example, weight and shoe size, we may find a “significant” correlation – an ordinarly least squares best fit line through the scatter plot will be “significantly” greater than zero. However, very few points, if any, will fall right on the line – and we can describe the distance between each point and the line as being “randomly” distributed, or due to “noise” – Chance, if you like, in addition to the Necessary relationship between weight and shoe size.

    However, if we add a covariate to our analysis – height, for instance, our “residuals” – the distances between each point and the line – will shrink. Now we have less noise.

    So what have we done? Well, we have explained for some of the variance that we had previously put into the “noise” or “Chance” bucket. And we can go on – if we also covary for BMI we might get an even closer relationship. And there may be other measurable variables that we can include to reduce the “random” variance.

    So in some senses of the word, “random” simply means “unexplained by our model”. If we enlarge our model (explain more of our variance by Necessity and leave less in the Chance bin) then we get a better fit.

    So I don’t actually think that Chance and Necessity are absolute opposites – which is which is a function of what we know, at least until we get down to quantum effects.

    My second issue, with the Filter, which is related, but not identical, is that “Necessity” is described as “Contingent”. Again, I think “Contingent” is a misleading category. One could argue (although I accept that people here don’t) that everything is “contingent” (and even at quantum level, reliably predictable statistically at least, unless you are a Cat in a Box). However, contingencies can be nested, and it seems to me that there is no clear criterion at which to judge that something is contingent or not.

    For instance, if you drop a cannon ball off the Tower of Pisa, it will hit the ground directly underneath with a very high probability. It’s landing is almost entirely contingent on being dropped. However, flutter your wings in Peking and the hurricane that kits New York may be contingent on your flutter (in the sense that it would not have happened otherwise) but also contingent on so many other things that we may as well call the hurricane “Chance”.

    And I would argue that such deeply nested contingent systems can produce patterns that are both complex (not readily compressible) and specified (one of a smallish subset of possible patterns of comparable compressibility). Geology is full of such patterns, but they are not usually ascribed to Design.

    So my version of the Filter is this:

    If a pattern is complex (not very compressible) and specified (one of a smallish subset of patterns that are similarly compressible) what we can infer is that a highly nested system of contingencies was responsible for the pattern.

    Such a set of contingencies could have been those inherent in a an Intentional Design process, but could also emerge from non-linear interactions between factors that themselves possess fairly simple properties.

    Anyway, thanks for asking :)

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  79. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Science can neither prove nor disprove the supernatural. It can it can only push back its limits.

    HERE

    Let me rephrase that for you:

    Science can neither prove nor disprove the natural. It can it can only expand its limits.

    Do you see how irrational that claim is?

  80. Dividing causes into “Chance” and “Necessity” is often convenient, but it begs a lot of questions.

    Neither chance nor necessity is a cause of anything.

  81. EL & M:

    Chance and necessity fall into quite useful categories of causal factors, thank you.

    Try to explain the radioactive decay curve of a given nuclide without them.

    And, try to explain this thread without intelligent cause expressing itself by choice.

    I find that too much of what is going on now is straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

    GEM of TKI

  82. 82
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Science can neither prove nor disprove the supernatural. It can it can only push back its limits.

    HERE

    Let me rephrase that for you:

    Science can neither prove nor disprove the natural. It can it can only expand its limits.

    Do you see how irrational that claim is?

    No, I don’t, unless yet again you have misunderstood me. So I’ll do the rephrasing myself:

    Science cannot distinguish the natural from the supernatural; it can only tell us what is not supernatural.

    Echos of Aquinas: we cannot tell what God is, only what God is not.

    And that’s essentially why I’ve always thought that any argument that tried to prove God on the basis of scientific evidence is bad theology. If we insist that anything with a natural cause is Not God, then we confine God to an evershrinking corner of God’s own creation.

    And it seems to me that one of the things that God is Not is a subset of the phenomena s/he is supposed to have made.

  83. 83
    Elizabeth Liddle

    EL & M:

    Chance and necessity fall into quite useful categories of causal factors, thank you.

    Yes, they do – but my point stands. What is Chance in one analysis may Necessity in another, and the only difference lies in what you have managed to measure.

    Try to explain the radioactive decay curve of a given nuclide without them.

    Of course, which was why I said:

    So I don’t actually think that Chance and Necessity are absolute opposites – which is which is a function of what we know, at least until we get down to quantum effects.

    And, try to explain this thread without intelligent cause expressing itself by choice.

    I find that too much of what is going on now is straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

    Well, I guess I’m suggesting that the camel is an enormous gnat.

    Or rather: that when contingencies become sufficiently nested we start to call them things like “Design”.

  84. Personally, I think Lizzie is supernatural. Dancing in the moonlight?

  85. F/N: On correction: Necessity is precisely NOT described as highly contingent.

    Indeed it is high contingency that points away from necessity (and to chance or choice); that is, if pretty much the same initial conditions gives pretty much the same outcomes you are dealing with a regularity tracing to a mechanical necessity, which can be characterised by tracing the curve so to speak.

    Which is how a lot of experimental science works. Of course there may be a relatively low contingency associated with random scatter typical of experiments.

    Please, look more carefully.

  86. Science cannot distinguish the natural from the supernatural; it [Science] can only tell us what is not supernatural.

    How, pray tell, can it do that?

    What methodology does Science use to tell us what is natural and what is not natural?

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    I’m saying that science does NOT have the methodology to establish whether a cause is natural or not. I’ve said that several times.

    Given that it has no methodological means by which to determine what is natural and what is not.

    From where I sit, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth, and contradicting yourself, and you don’t even seem aware that you are doing it.

    To me, it’s a perfect example of the a priori commitment raised in the OP.

    Your position is contradictory, self-refuting, and irrational.

  87. F/N 2: Chance describes two different things indeed, one where there are accidents of circumstance that give rise to scatter [including the classic clashing of uncorrelated chains that may each be necessary, e.g. how my dad used to use non-correlation between names and phone numbers to get random numbers on the cheap], the other where there are stochastic dynamics at work. Chance may be further analysed, on the relevant aspects of an object or a phenomenon, but that does not entail that it is not real. Provisionality in analysis is a given in science.

  88. F/N 3: Again, I am left to wonder at the straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

  89. Chance and necessity fall into quite useful categories of causal factors.

    Only if you believe that nothing can be the cause of something.

    For chance is not something that can be a cause of anything.

  90. Mung:

    Let’s toss a die. It falls and tumbles based on eight corners and twelve edges, exhibiting sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

    We can do a theoretical, Laplace’s Demon type analysis and claim that the initial conditions and forces specify the outcome.

    Then, try to do it with real numbers and calculation.

    Immediately, sensitive dependence on initial conditions beyond our ability to control will trigger an utterly unpredictable outcome that settles to one of the six values basically at random.

    So, which is a better description: (a) the outcome was determined by initial conditions (which are not observable enough to actually test), or (b) the outcome is sensitively dependent on initial conditions and is effectively triggered by chance factors beyond control.

    Next, take up a sample of radioactive material. Let’s say we can look at the individual atoms, let’s say along a line with sensors that will pick up which point on the line decays. Try to specify initial conditions that will predict the sequence of atoms at what times will decay.

    Good luck.

    In both cases, we have statistically distributed outcomes that are highly contingent.

    Highly contingent, statistically distributed outcomes are a signature of chance causal factors.

    GEM of TKI

  91. 91
    Elizabeth Liddle

    kf: you are right, I misread that.

    In that case I am confused:

    What do you mean by “contingent”?

    Contingent on what?

    Thanks.

    Lizzie

  92. Dr Liddle:

    A highly contingent outcome on similar initial circumstances will vary considerably. Sometimes by chance, sometimes by choice.

    The dropping of a die and its tumbling to a value is a good paradigm example.

    In management, if one does a log frame, one needs to account for factors that can vary beyond control that sharply affect outcomes, sometimes due to chance, sometimes to choice [including that of other parties in the situation, cf here a payoff table]. Once there is a widespread field of possibilities under fundamentally similar start points, we have a contingent outcome. Think about how a bit string may be loaded with different values, randomly or by choice. Or how a string of coins can be tumbled at random or set to readings by choice, which is quite similar.

    GEM of TKI

  93. Elizabeth Liddle:

    I’ve left a number of posts which you seem to diligently ignore. May I ask if there is a reason for this?

  94. markf:

    However, as you point out, the inference to the supernatural is because there is no scientific explanation. If there were a scientific explanation it would not be supernatural.

    First, we know that this miracle takes place. You can’t simply deny that it happens.

    Second, it appears to be just what I said: miraculous.

    Third, if it is miraculous, then, quite obviously, “supernatural” forces are at work in our world—and they have been for a long time (this miracle is known to have happened for centuries now.)

    Fourth, we don’t say: “Oh, I can’t explain it scientifically, so it must be supernatural,”, but the other way around: “It’s a miracle—unless some kind of explanation other than the supernatural can be given.”

    Fifth, the onus is on materialists to come up with a “scientific” explanation, else, they can no longer continue to be materialists and intellectually honest at the same time.

    Sixth, if you look at the supposed critique of/explanation for this miracle, you’ll notice a few things:
    a) the spectral lines are those of hemoglobin
    b) the thixotropic mixture they came up with only lasted two years before nor longer being able to liquefy
    c) their thixotropic mixture was mainly clay.

    And if it is supernatural there is no scientific explanation and no scientific way to proceed. Which, as I understand it, is exactly Elizabeth’s point.

    While it is true that if the cause of the miracle is supernatural, no scientific way forward presents itself. BUT, undeniably then, supernatural causes of this-worldy events cannot be excluded as explanations.

    Remember, Stephen Meyers says that ID has more “explanatory power” than Darwinian mechanisms.

    Also, Elizabeth will have to re-think herself on the idea of a Prime Mover not leaving any visible trace in things that are “Moved”.

  95. 95
    Elizabeth Liddle

    PaV

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    I’ve left a number of posts which you seem to diligently ignore. May I ask if there is a reason for this?

    Yes – lack of time! Also, I do, I confess, tend to click on latest post links, so if there’s a big gap between my logins, I often miss bits of a conversation.

    Apologies (also I still owe Upright BiPed a substantial response on yet another thread).

    I will try to address your posts. Thanks for alerting me to them.

    Lizzie

  96. 96
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Dr Liddle:

    A highly contingent outcome on similar initial circumstances will vary considerably. Sometimes by chance, sometimes by choice.

    The dropping of a die and its tumbling to a value is a good paradigm example.

    In management, if one does a log frame, one needs to account for factors that can vary beyond control that sharply affect outcomes, sometimes due to chance, sometimes to choice [including that of other parties in the situation, cf here a payoff table]. Once there is a widespread field of possibilities under fundamentally similar start points, we have a contingent outcome. Think about how a bit string may be loaded with different values, randomly or by choice. Or how a string of coins can be tumbled at random or set to readings by choice, which is quite similar.

    GEM of TKI

    OK, thanks. Well, in that case my errors cancelled out :)

    So by “highly contingent” you seem to me to mean what I was getting at when I said “deeply nested contingencies”.

    Whereas a much more simply contingent event might be something that is contingent on only one other event (the cannon ball will drop to the ground if Galileo lets go, and little else is likely to influence its landing place and time).

    Right?

    Well, in that case I would simply say that if we find a fairly incompressible pattern and that pattern is also one of a smallish subset of possible patterns with similar compressibility, then we can infer that it is the result of a deeply nested system of contingencies.

    Would you agree thus far?

  97. 97
    Elizabeth Liddle

    PaV:

    I had thought I had actually responded to your #52, though it seems I haven’t. Essentially I agreed with markf at 60.

    Re your #55:

    You may be right about Paul. But I’m not arguing from scripture anyway. The reason I think its “bad theology” isn’t because it isn’t scriptural, but because it seems to me illogical at best (how could a creator God be missing from large parts of his/her creation?), and, at worst, no more than the inference of some natural, powerful, and not necessary benign fellow inhabitant of our universe. Cthulhu?

    Re your #56:

    Elizabeth:

    You write:

    The turning point was not evidence (as I’ve said, I think the idea that there could be evidence for a Prime Mover within the Moved is bad theology, and also bad logic!)

    Isn’t this very poor logic?

    If there is no evidence of “a Prime Mover within the Moved”, then you cannot claim that the “Moved” moved. So where does that get you?

    Well, I can see it moving!

    But let me try to be clearer: in science, the way we detect the existence of effective things is by means of differential effects: we compare the effects in the presence or absence of some variable (preferably an experimentally manipulated variable, but often an observed correlation). And if we find a difference, then we can deduce that something that makes a difference is present in one condition and absent in another.

    But if God’s presence is everywhere, and underlies everything – if he is the Prime Mover, the “ground of our being” etc etc, then there can be no differential effect – we can’t compare bits of the universe that differ in some property and infer that the difference must be due to different degrees of godliness.

    That’s what I meant anyway :)

    Apologies for not getting to your posts earlier.

  98. Third, if it is miraculous, then, quite obviously, “supernatural” forces are at work in our world—and they have been for a long time (this miracle is known to have happened for centuries now.)

    But if it’s been happening for centuries, it’s a regular occurrence, and therefore cannot be miraculous!

    ;)

  99. Dr Liddle:

    It is sufficient for the relevant purposes that under similar circumstances, we have significantly varying outcomes. Once the pattern of such outcomes is statistically distributed in the way a relevant random variable model would predict, we have good reason to infer to chance.

    Once that is happening, I have little reason to be concerned for the initial purposes with the way we get to that distribution, though of course that is a later target of analysis. If we go on to detect a signal of a law of necessity lurking in the noise — there are ways and means to do that — that can be inferred as an aspect controlled by necessity that was previously not suspected.

    If on the other hand a complex, highly contingent outcome — large info storage potential — is coming up in a special zone, which is functional and specific [rare in the field of possibilities -- a small fraction of the state space] we have good reason to infer to intelligence, e.g. the config of ASCII characters in this post.

    GEM of TKI

  100. 100
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, I would say that a “complex, highly contingent outcome” indicates a a causal process that is a system of deeply nested contingencies.

    Wouldn’t you?

  101. Elizabeth Liddle:

    You may be right about Paul. But I’m not arguing from scripture anyway. The reason I think its “bad theology” isn’t because it isn’t scriptural, but because it seems to me illogical at best (how could a creator God be missing from large parts of his/her creation?), . . .

    But it what sense is God missing from large parts of the universe? Are you suggesting that God is only present on earth, or in humans,animals, etc.?

    Through this media called the internet, I’m
    “present” to you, but in a completely different way than I’m present to my computer screen. We can’t simply assume that God can be “present” in only one fashion or manner, can we? I don’t see where this is necessary.

    . . . and, at worst, no more than the inference of some natural, powerful, and not necessary benign fellow inhabitant of our universe. Cthulhu?

    My analogy above applies here, as well: I’m not a part of your ‘world’ whatever—that is, the physical world in which you move and interact; and, yet, I can be present to you in thought via the internet.

    But if God’s presence is everywhere, and underlies everything – if he is the Prime Mover, the “ground of our being” etc etc, then there can be no differential effect – we can’t compare bits of the universe that differ in some property and infer that the difference must be due to different degrees of godliness.

    Well, I brought up the instance of the Blood of St. Januarius. Can the liquefaction of blood indicate a “differential effect”? I certainly think so.

    But, again, God can be ‘present’ everywhere, and yet ‘act’ here or there. Different kinds of “presences”.

    If the Prime Mover is just a Mover, then simply imagine a line of dominoes stretching from here to the Sun. Is the “Prime Mover” no more than the first domino that gets the line falling down, and thus moving its falling force forward?

    By that definition, yes, there is no “differential effect”: the fall of the first domino is the same as that of the last; and, further, there is NO DIFFERENCE between the first domino and the last.

    Yet, it is obvious that something should differentiate the Prime Mover from the Moved. So, one cannot ‘identify’ God with the Prime Mover; this is no more than a partial glimpse of who God is. IOW, you’re invoking ‘bad theology’. :)

    The problem here is that the only kind of “creation” we’re familiar with, is the kind we’re capable of. And the fact is that we don’t “create” anything in a physical way. We transform physical phenomena to conform to our ideas. So, in the end, the only thing we really create are “ideas”!! That’s right, non-physical, non-measurable realities.

    This is all I’ll say for right now. I don’t want to get too ahead of the discussion.

    But, please, Elizabeth, what is your honest take on the St. Januarius’ blood?

  102. Liz @ #100 wrote:

    “Well, I would say that a “complex, highly contingent outcome” indicates a a causal process that is a system of deeply nested contingencies.

    Wouldn’t you?”

    To an extent you are correct, but the problem with purely naturalistic mechanical explanations is that they are inescapably reductionist. In other words if you follow those contingencies back far enough along their logical lines in time, you get to a point where there is only an unknown point, but that “unknown” must be able to account for and purchase the entire chain of contingencies that follow. Since we know of no such source in the natural world that can account for the origin of contingencies themselves, we are thus warranted in proposing the “supernatural” explanation as a real scientific consideration, remembering that the term “supernatural” does not mean or equate to “unnatural” but merely “that of nature which which holds a level of prowess that it is barely conceivable.”

  103. Pav

    Fourth, we don’t say: “Oh, I can’t explain it scientifically, so it must be supernatural,”, but the other way around: “It’s a miracle—unless some kind of explanation other than the supernatural can be given.”

    This is the key point. And I cannot see any relevant difference between these two statements. One amounts to:

    “I can’t find a scientific explanation so it must be a miracle”

    the other amounts to:

    “It is miracle unless I can find another explanation”

    The only small logical difference between the two is the difference between “scientific explanation” and “another explanation”. But as a scientific explanation is a subset of other explanations this still amounts to saying that science cannot explore miracles. And so miracles are an example that supports Elizabeth’s point.

  104. 104
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Again, markf put it very nicely :)

    What I was going to try to say (before he expressed it better) was something like:

    My “honest take on the St Januarius blood” is that I don’t know what causes the liquefaction.

    As a scientist, that is all I can do, without further investigation, and if, given further investigation I am still “baffled” as they say in detective stories, then I can only say I continue to Not Know.

    I guess I could regard “miracle” as my null, but we never prove the null, we merely “retain” it, so as a scientist I cannot conclude that a “miracle” as the explanation.

    However, let me put a fictional scenario to you:

    Let us imagine that scientists were able to do a real, controlled experiment with the blood.

    How I would design this experiment might be:

    The state (solid/liquid) of the vial is measured by some objective means

  105. 105
    Elizabeth Liddle

    whoopsies hit submit by accident:

    OK, to continue…

    I just checked wiki and apparently there are two vials which is convenient.

    So we take the two vials, and place them in two churches, and monitor their state of liquefaction by some objective means (not difficult to do).

    And we do a controlled, counterbalanced experiment.

    We gather the faithful in one church and get them to pray for liquefaction, and we gather a group of atheists in the other as a control group. Then we swap the vials and repeat.

    And if we find that the vials liquefy when prayed for, but not when they do we have good scientific evidence that prayer is a causal factor in the liquefaction.

    That would be very cool.

    But would we have “proved the supernatural”?

    I find that phrase somewhat meaningless. As a scientist, I would conclude that a human behaviour (prayer) has an effect at-a-distance on the substance in the vial. The effect is predictable, statistically, and therefore demonstrates that there is a “regularity” in the world that has hitherto been unknown to science (if known to the faithful!)

    So what do I do next? Well, I try to find out what this effect is. I find out what else it can do. Can it improve people’s chances of recovery from heart surgery? (apparently not). Can it cause amputated limbs to regrow? (Apparently not). Can it cause people with certain forms of paralysis to regain mobility? (possibly). Does it work in a blinded trial?

    What would happen if we put the vials in separate boxes, labeled A and B, and ensured that no-one connected with the operation of the experiment knew which was which. And we asked the faithful to pray only for the vial in box A, but not for the vial in box B.

    What would happen?

    And what would happen if we asked the faithful to pray that the liquid vial became solid again? In other words, how specific is the effect? Does it generalise to effects other than liquefaction? Does it generalise to objects other than the blood of St Januarius?

    And let’s say, at the end of it, we declare a Law (not as good as a theory, but a start), perhaps the Assymetrical Law of Liquefication by prayer: “Prayer can liquefy solid blood but cannot solidify liquid blood”.

    But that would tell us no more about “the supernatural” than is the law of gravity. It is simply a description of an observable regularity in the universe.

    And we could go further – if we could demonstrate that liquid blood occupies a higher energy state than solid blood, then we could, using the 2nd law of thermodynamics, conclude that prayer involves the transfer of energy.

    Energy! Can we harness that? Can we get it to drive turbines? Can we solve global warming with it?

    Or even – have we found an exception to the 2LoT? Do we need to revise the whole of Newtonian physics?

    And if so, do we conclude that there is an “outside energy source” that is external to the entire universe that sustains it in being and occasionally manifests itself in apparent violations of the 2LoT?

    That would be pretty cool, and perhaps would come close to positing something God-like as a detectable force in our world.

    But would it be God-as-we-know-God?

    Well, not God-as-I-know-God! It’s some force that does weird things to the clotting of blood from long-dead human beings but has no statistically detectable effect on the clotting of blood from living human beings who could often benefit from it. Merely an impersonal, maverick force, not much more interesting than a poltergeist. A hitherto unknown denizen of a larger universe than we had hitherto envisioned. A Cthulhu from a superworld.

    Certainly not a God of Love. Or at least, not one deducible from the evidence to hand.

    That’s why my problem with scientific-evidence-for-god is twofold: We can’t do meaningful science with “the supernatural” (as usually defined) as the study hypothesis because methodologically it can only be cast as the null, UNLESS we cease to regard it as “supernatural” and simply a hitherto-unknown-force-within-the-world. And if we do that, we must not make the mistake of assuming that this force is what we normally call God, because that leads us to very bad theology.

    To put it simply: if I had good scientific evidence that a god-like force was the force that liquefied the blood of St Januarius in response to prayer, and yet seemed non-harnessable to any more useful target, like healing the sick, or running emission-free turbines, I might accept it as a force, but I wouldn’t go to church and worship it.

    Frankly, I’d regard it as a bit of a nuisance, like mosquitoes, or, perhaps better, confounds in my otherwise well-behaved data.

    And I’d still have my real God :)

  106. markf:

    But as a scientific explanation is a subset of other explanations this still amounts to saying that science cannot explore miracles.

    But science can explore miracles. Look at the Shroud. Look at the Blood of St. Januarius. They’ve performed scientific tests.

    I guess what you mean to say is that “science can’t ‘prove’ miracles”. No, as Elizabeth says, it is, if you will, the ‘null hypothesis’. But this simply shows the limitations of science, and nothing more.

    What we wrestle with in our modern world is the notion that ‘truth’ is “successful experimentation”, to follow John Stewart Mills. Well, is that true? IOW, how do you prove Mills’ contention? What experiment do you perform exactly to verify his contention? But, this is silliness. We all know that ‘truth’ is more than “successful experimentation”.

    It’s true that John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln. Why do we need science to tell us anything about it?

    As you stated: ” . . . a scientific explanation is a subset of other explanations . . . ” It’s a subset. A delimitation of all possible explanations.
    To limit ourselves to ONLY scientific explanations, is a severe, and inhuman, constraining of the mind and of reality.

    Now, to take a different angle on this:

    I said:

    Fourth, we don’t say: “Oh, I can’t explain it scientifically, so it must be supernatural,”, but the other way around: “It’s a miracle—unless some kind of explanation other than the supernatural can be given.”

    To which you reply:

    This is the key point. And I cannot see any relevant difference between these two statements.

    Let’s take another example. You’re in your living room. Your watching the Winter Olympics. On the edge of the coffee table is a book you’ve been reading. All of a sudden the book moves and falls to the floor.

    Is your reaction: “It was a miracle!”

    I wouldn’t think so. Rather, you would say, “What happened there? I’ve never seen anything like that before. How could the book just move like that all by itself.” And then you would begin looking for some kind of motive force.

    But when dried blood, in very simple fashion, becomes liquid, then something more than a simple motive force is at work, and you would be more likely to think that it was some kind of miracle.

    Miracles happen all the time. St. Pio, who bore the wounds of Christ in his lifetime, cured a man who was blind. What makes it remarkable, was that he basically didn’t have any eyes; and yet, somehow, he was able to see.

    Lourdes is the home of miracles. Etc., etc.

    This discussion has been occasioned by Elizabeth’s contention that we don’t see the “Prime Mover” in the “Moved”. These are all examples of just how we do.

    One can be a skeptic, of course. That’s easy. All you have to say is: “I don’t believe it.” That’s not hard to do. But, with the blood of St. Januarius and other miracles, we have the phenomena, and science can’t explain it—which, of course, is the only explanation for a ‘miracle’ in the first place.

  107. Elizabeth Liddle:

    . . . then I can only say I continue to Not Know.

    I see you capitalized “Not Know”. For you have stated the agnostic position.

    So, in the face of reality, you choose to impute an “unknown” cause to a phenomena that science cannot explain, rather than to assume that it is a “supernatural” cause that brought it about.

    This is simply a choice. And it is a choice that leaves you without an explanation. So, then, why is that a superior choice than that of simply choosing to believe that a supernatural cause is at work?

    I can’t see any way in which it is a superior position. Further, it is a choice that basically says: “I choose to never leave the world of nature. As far as anything beyond what’s given in nature, I deny its existence.” This isn’t a very adventuresome position. Quite conservative, wouldn’t you say? :)

    You mentioned Wikipedia. They say this:

    The reality of the phenomenon is attested by innumerable witnesses, and is widely accepted even by researchers who are skeptical about the relic’s origin and associated supernatural claims. A willful fraud is also considered unlikely, given the long history of the phenomenon and the intense scrutiny to which it has been submitted. . . .

    The thixotrophic gel obtained by Garlaschelli is able to maintain his thixotrophic properties for 2 years only, so it’s still unexplained how Saint Januarius blood could change from solid to liquid state after 700 years, which is historically documented.

    Now, based on your response, you seem to think that it is the prayers of the faithful that bring this miracle about. If that were the case, then I suppose I could bring the dried blood of my next-door neighbor to Naples, and that, too, would liquefy.

    Miracles are meant to honor the saints, and to indicate to us, who believe, the heroic sanctity of their lives.

    So, this is God’s doing, and it is done so that our faith might be strengthened in a God who is present to us in our world (and not off on vacation somewhere) and who gave Januarius the grace of martyrdom.

    So your scenario about scientific testing, etc., which you didn’t intend in any serious way anyways, would be a wrong way of approaching it.

    [[I've just reread your entire post, and I don't see any need to really address it. You're being a little bit supercilious, and, it seems that your position, finally, is that God is personal God, and there's nothing in the world that can demonstrate His presence---scientifically---and that this presence is of little utility.

    I suspect some great trauma has occurred in your life, and that you feel that God wasn't there for you. If that's so, then my condolences. I shall certainly pray.

    But, since we're dealing here with Darwinism versus ID, let me just stipulate that ID is not a "proof" of God's existence, any more than the liquefaction of Januarius' blood is proof. Faith is confident assurance in that which is unseen. God is 'seen' only with the 'eyes of faith'.

    Nevertheless, ID has, per Stephen Meyers, more "explanatory power" than Darwinism, and from a strictly "scientific" perspective, should be taken as more definitive an explanation for biological complexity than mere Darwinism.]]

    I’m gone all day.

  108. why is that a superior choice than that of simply choosing to believe that a supernatural cause is at work?

    Because “I don’t know” is better than assuming an explanation that could be the wrong explanation.

    Simply choosing to believe is to make an arbitrary choice without foundation. We could simply choose to believe any explanation (natural or supernatural) we liked, unwarranted by facts.

  109. 109
    Elizabeth Liddle

    I would echo Driver here.

    However, I would be speaking qua scientist.

    I think that is an important point. As a scientist, I cannot conclude anything from “retaining the null” other than that “I don’t know”. And normally this is followed by: “so what alternative hypothesis can we devise and test?” Because that is how science work.

    As I human being, I’m perfectly free of course to say: “Well, this is extraordinary! I wonder if I am confronting the Divine here?”

    But that “wondering” cannot be addressed by science.

    And that’s really all my point – that science doesn’t “censor” divine hypotheses, it simply does not have the methodology to conclude that an effect was divine, only to reject alternative conclusions.

    So yes, if you like, PaV, science is intrinsically “agnostic” – about everything. All scientific conclusions are provisional; all models are, in some degree, wrong (or, at best, leave things out, i.e. falsify in the sense of over-simplify). It’s a hugely powerful methodology, but the price we pay is certainty; we also pay the price of never being able to conclude that we have reached the end of the causal chain, only that we can’t see the next one.

    But thanks for your long personal post, PaV, I will respond shortly.

  110. 110
    Elizabeth Liddle

    @Patrick:

    I’ve just reread your entire post, and I don’t see any need to really address it.

    No problem.

    You’re being a little bit supercilious,

    Not at all, but I do understand that it’s hard to hear tone over the intertubes! Maybe imagine a British accent? Or does that make it worse?

    Maybe just imagine what I am, an aging 59 year old, heavier than I should be, still trying to work stuff out :)

    and, it seems that your position, finally, is that God is personal God, and there’s nothing in the world that can demonstrate His presence—scientifically—and that this presence is of little utility.

    Yes, I do think that first thing. I don’t think we can demonstrate God scientifically. But I don’t think that second thing at all! I may be essentially an atheist (by most theistic standards) but the presence of God (as I understand the term) is something I find of enormous “utility”.

    I suspect some great trauma has occurred in your life, and that you feel that God wasn’t there for you. If that’s so, then my condolences. I shall certainly pray.

    Well, I appreciate it PaV, truly, but no, no great trauma. Or rather, the only great trauma (apart from losing loved relatives, but that is just life) was 20 years of infertility, but that was crowned with a lovely boy with my last egg! I’ve never felt so blessed. I sang the Magnificat throughout my pregnancy :)

    But, since we’re dealing here with Darwinism versus ID, let me just stipulate that ID is not a “proof” of God’s existence, any more than the liquefaction of Januarius’ blood is proof. Faith is confident assurance in that which is unseen. God is ‘seen’ only with the ‘eyes of faith’.

    Right. There I agree with you. Except that the God I have now, requires neither proof nor faith :) Just reason and love.

    Nevertheless, ID has, per Stephen Meyers, more “explanatory power” than Darwinism, and from a strictly “scientific” perspective, should be taken as more definitive an explanation for biological complexity than mere Darwinism.

    ID may well prove to have more “explanatory power” than Darwinism (though I still think it has a deep logical flaw). But evidence of design is not evidence of the “supernatural”.

    I do think it is important not to conflate these two inferences. That’s why I liked kairosfocus’s substitution of “artificial” as the antonym for “natural”. Science is perfectly capable of investigating artifice.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  111. 111
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Sorry, PaV, typed “Patrick” by mistake.

    Freudian slip!

  112. I would echo Driver here.

    Why? There’s nothing of merit in his argument.

  113. What part of my comment do you disagree with, Mung?

  114. … it [Science] simply does not have the methodology to conclude that an effect was divine, only to reject alternative conclusions.

    Science has a methodology that allows it to reject alternative conclusions to what?

    And an example might be helpful.

  115. What part of my comment do you disagree with, Mung?

    All of it.

    Start with your first statement:

    Because “I don’t know” is better than assuming an explanation that could be the wrong explanation.

    You’ve given us absolutely no reason to believe that this is in fact the case. It’s an assertion that isn’t even supported by an argument.

    The funny thing is, Lizzie says she agrees with you while actually stating the exact opposite:

    All scientific conclusions are provisional; all models are, in some degree, wrong (or, at best, leave things out, i.e. falsify in the sense of over-simplify).

    So clearly, sometimes, wrong is better and more fruitful than “I don’t know.”

    Wrong at least has a chance of being wrong. And isn’t that a crucial part of science?

  116. The funny thing is, Lizzie says she agrees with you while actually stating the exact opposite

    Not at all. Scientific models aren’t assumptions that we simply choose to believe. A scientific model is grounded in facts. Models make unique and testable predictions, also.

    In science, you never assume your hypothesis to be true.

    I don’t know how you would begin to argue that it is laudable to assume the truth of something whose truth value is unknown.

  117. Driver:

    Let’s try this on for size, in light of further evidence that this is in fact an institutionally dominant approach, courtesy the US NAS and NSTA:

    ______________

    >> . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. [[Perhaps the second saddest thing is that some actually believe that these last three sentences that express hostility to God and then back it up with a loaded strawman caricature of theism and theists JUSTIFY what has gone on before. As a first correction, accurate history -- as opposed to the commonly promoted rationalist myth of the longstanding war of religion against science -- documents (cf. here, here and here) that the Judaeo-Christian worldview nurtured and gave crucial impetus to the rise of modern science through its view that God as creator made and sustains an orderly world. Similarly, for miracles -- e.g. the resurrection of Jesus -- to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, there must first be such an ordinary course, one plainly amenable to scientific study. The saddest thing is that many are now so blinded and hostile that, having been corrected, they will STILL think that this justifies the above. But, nothing can excuse the imposition of a priori materialist censorship on science, which distorts its ability to seek the empirically warranted truth about our world.]

    [[From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis added.

    ___________

    (NB: The key part of this quote comes after some fairly unfortunate remarks where Mr Lewontin gives the "typical" example -- yes, we can spot a subtext -- of an ill-informed woman who dismissed the Moon landings on the grounds that she could not pick up Dallas on her TV, much less the Moon. This is little more than a subtle appeal to the ill-tempered sneer at those who dissent from the evolutionary materialist "consensus," that they are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. For telling counter-instance, Wernher von Braun, the designer of the rocket that took NASA to the Moon, was an evangelical Christian and a Creationist. Similarly, when Lewontin cites "eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck" as declaring that "anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything," drawing as bottom-line, the inference that "[[t]o appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen,” this is a sadly sophomoric distortion. One that fails to understand that, on the Judaeo-Christian theistic view, for miracles to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary, there must first be an ordinary consistently orderly world, one created by the God of order who “sustains all things by his powerful word.” Also, for us to be morally accountable to God — a major theme in theism, the consequences of our actions must be reasonably predictable, i.e. we must live in a consistent, predictably orderly cosmos, one that would be amenable to science. And, historically, it was specifically that theistic confidence in an orderly cosmos governed by a wise and orderly Creator that gave modern science much of its starting impetus from about 1200 to 1700. For instance that is why Newton (a biblical theist), in the General Scholium to his famous work Principia, confidently said “[[t]his most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being . . . It is allowed by all that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [[i.e. he accepts the cosmological argument to God] . . . We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [[i.e from his designs] . . . Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [[i.e. necessity does not produce contingency]. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [[That is, he implicitly rejects chance, Plato's third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.]” In such a context of order stamped in at creation and sustained through God’s power, for good reason, God may then act into the world in ways that go beyond the ordinary, i.e. miracles are possible but will inevitably be rare and in a context that points to such a higher purpose. For instance, the chief miracle claim of Christian thought, the resurrection of Jesus with 500+ witnesses is presented in the NT as decisive evidence for the truth of the gospel and authentication of God’s plan of redemption. So, since these contextual remarks have been repeatedly cited by objectors as though they prove the above cite is an out of context distortion that improperly makes Lewontin seem irrational in his claims, they have to be mentioned, and addressed, as some seem to believe that such a disreputable “context” justifies the assertions and attitudes above!)] >>

    _______________

    Do you see why we object to such imposition of a priori materialism, force fitted onto the facts?

    GEM of TKI

    PSW: it may be profitable for you to read the original post and notice the a priori naturalism that is being addressed therein.

  118. Pav #106

    There are lots of things in your comment and the relationship between them is not obvious to me. I will pick out two:

    “But science can explore miracles. Look at the Shroud. Look at the Blood of St. Januarius. They’ve performed scientific tests.”

    Science can explore proposed miracles. If they are indeed miracles then it will fail to find an answer. The scientific method being what it is – it will treat this as a problem to be solved and quite possibly keep on trying and failing. I think you agree with this (don’t you?). And I think it is also Lizzie’s point.

    Do miracles actually happen? You are certain they do happen. I look, for example, at the extraordinary things that someone such as Darren Brown can pull off which I cannot explain and I am not convinced. But almost by definition this dispute cannot be resolved. I can prove you wrong in a specific instance by finding a scientific explanation. You can never prove me wrong (although you might be right) because a scientific explanation may turn up one day.

    From another British 59 year old (until Monday)

    Mark

  119. MF:

    I think you need to address the original post on its merits, speaking here as thread original post author.

    Notice in particular Dr Liddle’s a priorism, and observe the comment just above in response to Driver relative to that.

    More broadly, science can readily examine empirically plausible signs of chance, necessity and intelligence, and can infer on a best explanation basis to warrant.

    Going further, given that science routinely addresses remote and unobservable events of the past, on inference to best explanation relative to signs and causal patterns, you need to address the implications of FSCO/I as such a sign, in the case of origins of a fine-tuned cosmos; one with a credible origin at a finite distance in the past, as one fitted for C-Chemistry, cell based life. (As has been on the record in ID technical literature since 1985, origin of cell based life and major body plans may well implicate design but the required sufficient cause needs not be more than a molecular nanotech lab a few generations past that of Venter, who has provided proof of concept in recent years. Origin of the observed cosmos is a very different story, and the multiverse alternative does NOT evade the issue, once notice is taken of what is required for a locally fine tuned cosmos, as John Leslie pointed out some years ago.)

    In short, in the case of cosmology, is science actually studying something that is literally super-natural, as it is what gave rise to the natural order we observe?

    GEM of TKI

  120. KF, let’s grant that an a priori adherence to materialism is a bad thing. Then, science still proceeds on the grounds of methodological naturalism because no-one has an alternative. No-one here has even given an inkling as to what an alternative to methodological naturalism would be like.

    Pav suggests that given an event which a priori could be of natural or supernatural origin (we don’t know yet) we simply choose (arbitrarily) to believe in the supernatural if we don’t have a scientific explanation. Now, since the origin of the event could be either natural or supernatural, the belief that the event is supernatural is unwarranted, since it could just as well be completely false as true.

    We can continue to investigate the event scientifically in the hope that the origin is natural yet we cannot conclude that the origin of the event is supernatural, for then we are making an unwarranted leap not evidenced by the facts.

    Given any event for which we do not yet have a scientific explanation, the possibility remains that a scientific explanation could be forthcoming tomorrow. Thus, the grounds that we have not found a natural origin are never sufficient to justify the belief that the origin is supernatural.

    Now, let’s GRANT that we shall not adhere to a priori materialism. The question remains – How to use science to close the epistemological gap?

  121. Driver:

    Pav suggests that given an event which a priori could be of natural or supernatural origin (we don’t know yet) we simply choose (arbitrarily) to believe in the supernatural if we don’t have a scientific explanation.

    This isn’t just some kind of ‘event’. Can you think of any other kind of event like this?

    Either we take the position that (a) EVERY event has a natural explanation—which totally cuts off the supernatural, or (b) there are events, rare events, which can have a supernatural origin.

    Is there some in-between position that I can’t think of?

    Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and seven fishes. Please give me the “natural” explanation for this?

    Oh, but you’re going to say: “Well, how do we know that this really happened?” Well, in the same way that you know that Napoleon really lived: you rely on the testimony of witnesses.

    I say to you: “Prove to me that Napoleon lived.” You answer, “There’s this evidence and that evidence, etc…” To which I say, “Well, for all you know, this was just made up.”

    Isn’t that what you’re going to say: “Oh, this stuff about Jesus feeding the multitude was made up.”

    The point here is: Denying reality is not an explanation.

    So, please, give me an explanation as to how Jesus fed the 5,000.

    I think this will force you to face up to the a priori commitment that you have, like many, made to ONLY natural explanations of phenomena (events).

  122. 122
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Either we take the position that (a) EVERY event has a natural explanation—which totally cuts off the supernatural, or (b) there are events, rare events, which can have a supernatural origin.

    Is there some in-between position that I can’t think of?

    Yes, I would say:

    c) That every event has an explanation within the rules of the world (“natural” rules), but the world itself, including its rules, can only be accounted for by positing primal “super-natural” entity we denote as “God”.

    That seems to me both better science and better theology :)

  123. markf:

    The scientific method being what it is – it will treat this as a problem to be solved and quite possibly keep on trying and failing. I think you agree with this (don’t you?). And I think it is also Lizzie’s point.

    Yes, science is, as I’ve stated, “delimited”. As long as you accept this limitation of science, there’s no problem. However, many want to say that science, and science alone, is the arbiter to truth.

    It would be like getting a mathematical geek to judge a beauty contest, and saying he didn’t find any. (If the subtlety evades one, the geek’s view is limited.)

    I can prove you wrong in a specific instance by finding a scientific explanation. You can never prove me wrong (although you might be right) because a scientific explanation may turn up one day.

    So, in two hundred years from now, they still have no explanation for this miracle of St. Januarius’ blood. But those living 200 years hence, say: “Well, I don’t believe this is a miracle because a ‘scientific explanation may turn up one day.’” And two hundred years later, there still is no explanation, and they say, “Well, I don’t believe this is a miracle because a ‘scientific explanation may turn up one day.’”

    When does the skepticism end? And what has been lost in the meantime?

    As to turning 60, it’s not life-threatening, I assure you. :)

  124. 124
    Elizabeth Liddle

    As to turning 60, it’s not life-threatening, I assure you.

    Well, that’s a relief! Actually I’m quite looking forward to it. 50s seem so in-between. And 60 is a really cool number.

  125. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Your answer surprised me. I’m happy there wasn’t a trauma of the sort I feared, but that is because your faith is stronger than I feared. Very good.

    And congratulations on being a mother!

    But I would say, take a look around the world we’re living in and see what’s going on. We’re running the risk of exalting scientism. Everyday we hear about the evolutionary reason for something as mundane and unimportant as yellow teeth, e.g. (actually they haven’t come up with one for that; but give them time). Something is very wrong when the evolutionary paradigm is used to explain every little detail of our life.

    Now, that’s not the reason for opposing the simplistic Darwinian notions that are bandied about, but it does give evidence that we’re verging upon a world where, instead of “God-did-it”, we have a “Evolution-did-it” understanding of every detail of our lives. IOW, Darwinism is being deified. It is the rise, not of paganism, but of atheism. Witness the militant atheism of a Dawkins or a Hitchens (why are they always Brits, BTW?)

    Something is seriously wrong when you have a “theory” that is basically unfalsifiable, and exactly because it explain anything and everything—which is what we witness day after day.

    But, why not return to the basic premise of this thread: Can the supernatural be investigated scientifically?

    The answer is, ‘Yes’. We can run tests on the blood of St. Januarius. In fact, you proposed some such tests.

    Likewise, we can run tests on biological systems—all kinds of tests. Now, it is true, that if life is the result of supernatural intervention, then we cannot “prove” this. But whether or not the Blood of Januarius is miraculous or not, is not going to affect our lives much. But whether or not biological systems are the result of divine intervention certainly should affect our lives, and, specifically, it should affect the way in which we approach biology as a science. The “design inference” not only is a viable explanation for the kinds of codes that we see, but it can give us a better way forward in what kinds of experimental approaches we take. So this isn’t just about invoking God/Designer. It’s about sensible science, or nonsensical science.

    But the point remains: science can, and has, explore the supernatural. To say that science cannot prove the supernatural does not detract in any way from the presence of the supernatural in our world. It simply demonstrates the limited competence that science enjoys. Let’s not make “high priests” out of scientists.

  126. Either we take the position that (a) EVERY event has a natural explanation—which totally cuts off the supernatural, or (b) there are events, rare events, which can have a supernatural origin.

    Is there some in-between position that I can’t think of?

    Yes. We could be agnostic about the question of whether every event has a natural explanation. In order to look for natural origins, it is not necessary to have the belief that every event has a natural explanation. That is the difference between philosophical naturalism and methodological naturalism.

    Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and seven fishes. Please give me the “natural” explanation for this?

    Krisna stopped the sun in its course. Hanuman lifted a mountain. Muhammed split the moon. Can you give me a natural explanation for these events?

    It’s a good question though – How do we decide that testimony is reliable?

    When does the skepticism end? And what has been lost in the meantime?

    Why should it end? If we don’t know the answer to a question, why should we guess?

    What is lost is the totally unnecessary position of having a firm belief about things which are unknown.

  127. Nihilism is a negative form of Idealism, or absolutism. Like Idealists, Nihilists have a Manichean worldview. Everything must be either/or.

    That’s because Nihilism is a pure valuation—pure nothingness. All pure valuations are totalitarian in nature. Nihilism cannot relent or admit any exceptions whatsoever to its absolute ideal of the negation of Being. Nothingness is either pure or it is not nothingness; therefore Nihilism cannot tolerate even the discussion of any middle ground between itself and being.

    We have two propositions before us. Hegel’s proposition was that it was possible to identify a middle ground between nothingness and being. The possibility of a middle term is created by the inclusion of the two antipodes. No middle ground is possible in Nihilism, however, because it has negated being and mixed valuations in favor of pure nothingness.

    Nihilists like Dawkins and Myers have their pure valuation, which is nothingness, and obviously they like its purity, since they cling to it with such gusto, probably for psychological reasons. But that does not mean that mixed valuations are impossible in science. Just because the Nihilists have negated being in favor of nothingness does not mean that others cannot look for a middle ground between these two terms in their scientific valuations.

    They are not bound by the Nihilists’ absolutism and love of purity. To insist that they are is totalitarianism.

  128. 128
    Elizabeth Liddle

    PaV:

    Elizabeth Liddle:
    Your answer surprised me. I’m happy there wasn’t a trauma of the sort I feared, but that is because your faith is stronger than I feared. Very good.
    And congratulations on being a mother!

    Thanks! I’ve enjoyed (almost) every day of his 17 years :) But I don’t want to mislead you. I don’t have anything you’d recognise as “faith”. I have, as I said, just love and reason. That is a change (but wasn’t brought about by trauma). So I’m uneasy about describing myself as a “theist” lest it gives people the impression I believe something that I do not believe. However, I have something that fills the exact same spot that what I used to “believe” in used to occupy, I now regard as a reasonable, normative assumption. As my son said a couple of years ago, when asked whether he believed in God: “as long as it’s spelled with two Os”.
    So perhaps you’d better pray for me after all :)

    But I would say, take a look around the world we’re living in and see what’s going on. We’re running the risk of exalting scientism. Everyday we hear about the evolutionary reason for something as mundane and unimportant as yellow teeth, e.g. (actually they haven’t come up with one for that; but give them time). Something is very wrong when the evolutionary paradigm is used to explain every little detail of our life.
    Now, that’s not the reason for opposing the simplistic Darwinian notions that are bandied about, but it does give evidence that we’re verging upon a world where, instead of “God-did-it”, we have a “Evolution-did-it” understanding of every detail of our lives. IOW, Darwinism is being deified. It is the rise, not of paganism, but of atheism. Witness the militant atheism of a Dawkins or a Hitchens (why are they always Brits, BTW?)

    I don’t know, but I think it you should be careful of tarring all of standard biology with the (theologically inept) claim that evolution implies atheism. It doesn’t. (As for why they are always Brits, probably because we aren’t a very religious country! A lot less religious than America, despite, or more probably because, of the link between church and state).
    Something is seriously wrong when you have a “theory” that is basically unfalsifiable, and exactly because it explain anything and everything—which is what we witness day after day.
    It would be if it was and did, but it isn’t, and doesn’t :)

    But, why not return to the basic premise of this thread: Can the supernatural be investigated scientifically?
    The answer is, ‘Yes’. We can run tests on the blood of St. Januarius. In fact, you proposed some such tests.
    Likewise, we can run tests on biological systems—all kinds of tests. Now, it is true, that if life is the result of supernatural intervention, then we cannot “prove” this. But whether or not the Blood of Januarius is miraculous or not, is not going to affect our lives much. But whether or not biological systems are the result of divine intervention certainly should affect our lives, and, specifically, it should affect the way in which we approach biology as a science. The “design inference” not only is a viable explanation for the kinds of codes that we see, but it can give us a better way forward in what kinds of experimental approaches we take. So this isn’t just about invoking God/Designer. It’s about sensible science, or nonsensical science.

    But the point remains: science can, and has, explore the supernatural. To say that science cannot prove the supernatural does not detract in any way from the presence of the supernatural in our world. It simply demonstrates the limited competence that science enjoys. Let’s not make “high priests” out of scientists.

    Yes, science can explore phenomena that are claimed to be supernatural in origin. But it cannot conclude that the origin was supernatural; it can only demonstrate that it is not. This is, indeed, a simple demonstration of the limited competence of science. This has been my point all along. That it isn’t that science “won’t” entertain the Divine as an explanatory cause but because it can’t, except as the null hypothesis, and you cannot prove a null, only “retain” it. So the charge that science “censors” Divine inferences, is wrong. It simply cannot make them.

    And of course you are right (which again is a point I have been trying to make) that just because scientists merely “retain the null” (and normally phrase it as “we don’t know” rather than “supernatural causation remains unrejected” but either are legit), that doesn’t “detract …from the supernatural in our world”. It simply doesn’t tell us anything useful about it. If, at a personal level, people choose to make a Divine inference (“the scientists are baffled! It must be a miracle!”) that’s fine. It’s not something I would ever do myself, not because I have an a priori prejudice, but because I find it both weak, and theologically unsatisfactory: weak because it’s a God-of-the-Gaps argument, and is thus vulnerable to a later scientific demonstration (e.g. has anyone actually tested the temperature in the church of St Januarius, and what that is likely to do to the dewpoint in the vial?), and theologically unsatisfactory because it suggests that God is only active in a tiny subset of world events, rather than the First cause of all.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    This is probably as good a place to try to make my theological position clear, so I’ll have a go:

    For fifty odd years, I posited something I called “God” as “the reason there is anything rather than nothing”. In other words, I assumed a mysterious Something, let’s be mathematical and call it Theta that was the Uncaused Cause of the world; the thing without which existence itself would be null. Now, in good Thomist manner, I accepted that we cannot know what Theta is, only what it cannot Be. And one thing it cannot be is something additional to the world, because that would be self-contradictory; it would imply that you could subtract Theta from the world and be left with the world. Another thing it cannot be is a subset of the world, because a thing cannot be a subset of the things it causes. So we can’t use normal math (or even normal language) to describe Theta. We can only use analogies, and metaphors, and we must always be aware of their limitations – we cannot say; because this analog, with these properties helps us understand the properties of Theta, therefore Theta must have these properties. But they can still help, as long as we are cautious. So we can describe Theta as the “First Cause” even though we know that time itself is a property of the created universe, and indeed, that time itself may be another word for causation, rendering the phrase tautological, but, more importantly, it is an inevitably inadequate phrase to describe our unknown Theta, because Theta without Theta (by definition) there can have been no Causes, and no Time for Theta have been the first in line in. If you see what I mean.

    So the next question is: we have this mysterious Something which I have denoted with the placeholder “Theta” for now; but does this Theta have any admirable qualities? If it is the cause of our very existence, should we be grateful in some sense to it? If so why? I guess most of us enjoy existing, but would probably prefer existence if it didn’t come with stuff like pain, and anguish and worse. So how whole hearted should we be in our evaluation – our “worth-ship” of Theta? Is there, indeed, something more worthy of our worship than Theta? Is Theta even something sensible of our attitude to it at all?

    So I asked myself: what is worthy of worship in our world? And I come up with: love. To quote Einstein (in what I consider an utterly beautiful passage):

    A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

    And the interesting thing about that passage, is that it connects what I have denoted as Theta with love itself, where love is the dissolution of the barriers that separate us from each other, render our view of the world partial, and self-ish, keeping us in a “kind of prison”. To love, truly, in other words, is to see ourselves as a part of that whole, the whole of which Theta is not an addition, nor a subset. In religious language, to be One with God. Indeed, to make sense of the claim that God is Love.

    So that is where I am. No faith is required – what I have written isn’t a statement of faith, or belief, but of a stance towards the world, based in reason, and, in principle, oriented by love.
    Dunno if it makes any sense to anyone else, but, as they say – it works for me :D

    Anyway, thanks for the conversation!

    Lizzie

  129. Driver, re 120:

    let’s grant that an a priori adherence to materialism is a bad thing. Then, science still proceeds on the grounds of methodological naturalism because no-one has an alternative. No-one here has even given an inkling as to what an alternative to methodological naturalism would be like.

    Pardon a direct reply: RUBBISH.

    And, rubbish that is ignorant of the history of the founding of modern science too.

    Science needs no a priori impositions of materialism by the backdoor to thrive, and indeed the sort of censorship and unjust career busting we are seeing, is not exactly contributing to genuine progress.

    Long term if science is turned into propaganda for atheism, it will destroy itself when — not, if — the public wises up, as is already happening with climate science in the aftermath of the Climategate revelations.

    GEM of TKI

  130. 130

    Dr Liddle,

    When I sign off later today, I will be gone for a few days.

    As of this morning, its been several days since you’ve participated in our earlier discussion, so I am hoping that when I return you will also return in earnest to hammering out what is left of the parameters and potential measures of the simulation.

    I am about as outspoken an ID proponent as you will find, and I am willing to work with you in order to falsify a major observation in the design argument. But to do so (and have it be viewed as anything approaching legitimate) we need to finalize definions and talk about how those characteristics can be observed.

    Fair enough?

  131. 131
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Absolutely. I have been taking my time with a response to your last post, and as I do so, consulting “The Signature in the Cell” which I am now half way through. As I was reading it, it struck me that there were some very helpfully defined concepts that might at least establish some common ground, and enable us to finalize some actual measures.

    I’m sorry for the delay – I’ve only had about 5 minute chunks of time to spend, and for the response to you I need more! It’s in draft, however.

    I appreciate your patience.

    I will have something for you by your return. Have a good time :)

    Lizzie

  132. 132

    Hat tip…

  133. KF,

    So what in your link to IOSE contradicts current scientific reasoning (i.e methodological naturalism) as it is already done?

    Pertinently, what specific scientific paper on the supernatural has been rejected on a priori grounds of materialism? I

    And, rubbish that is ignorant of the history of the founding of modern science too.

    The fact that science was born in a Christian era doesn’t have any bearing on the question of whether science can infer the supernatural.

  134. Driver:

    In science, you never assume your hypothesis to be true.

    And we should just take your word for it?

    What about the theory of common descent?

    What is wrong with assuming that a hypothesis is true?

    Simply assuming a hypothesis is true certainly doesn’t prevent it from being tested.

  135. Driver:

    I don’t know how you would begin to argue that it is laudable to assume the truth of something whose truth value is unknown.

    You’re not trying to shift the burden of proof are you?

    You’re the one that needs to make an argument, not me. I’m still waiting.

    “I don’t know” is better than assuming an explanation that could be the wrong explanation.

    You wanted to know what I found lacking in your post @108 and I told you. Bald unsupported assertion. Not even an argument.

    So turning around and arguing about whether one can assume a hypothesis is true helps your claim how?

    Why is “I don’t know” better than assuming an explanation that at least has the potential to be wrong?

    Isn’t being wrong an essential part of doing science? How does “I don’t know” advance our knowledge?

  136. Driver:

    Yes. We could be agnostic about the question of whether every event has a natural explanation. In order to look for natural origins, it is not necessary to have the belief that every event has a natural explanation.

    This sounds reasonable enough; but, when push comes to shove, and an inference to the supernatural is made, then the screaming begins. That is, we can theoretically make room for the non-natural, but then effectively not be open to it one iota. This is where intellectual honesty comes in, I’m afraid.

    Krisna stopped the sun in its course. Hanuman lifted a mountain. Muhammed split the moon. Can you give me a natural explanation for these events?

    Well, in Fatima, Portugal, on October 13th, 1917, reporters from Madrid papers were present, alerted that a miracle was going to take place. They were there to make fun of these ‘irrational’ believers.

    The Miracle of the Sun occured: that is, after having rained all morning long, the clouds then parted and the sun was clearly seen. The sun began to whirl and to give off colors. The sun appeared to be coming right towards earth, shifting around in its location in the sky. People thought that this was it.

    Then, all of a sudden, the sun went back to its normal place. However!!!, the ground was now completely dry, as were the clothes of all those who witnessed this miracle. The reporters reported this: “we can’t explain what happened; but this is what did take place.” And they reported, more or less, what I just recounted.

    So, we can put Jesus, and Hanuman and Muhammed to the one side. What I’m talking about occured less than a hundred years ago; and it was documented by non-believers.

    Would you like to give me an explanation as to what happened?

    What is lost is the totally unnecessary position of having a firm belief about things which are unknown.

    This sounds right, doesn’t it? However, if I “know” something, then how could I possibly “believe” it?

    Do you believe dogs exist, or do you know it?

    To move beyond mere materialism, belief is needed. It is not “unnecessary”, nor is it inconsequential.

    Also, faith is “confident assurance” in things not seen; it’s not knowledge.

  137. Driver:

    You have the case backways around.

    Some current ideologues are trying to shoehorn science into a materialist straightjacket that is not historically or epistemologically or logically valid, spell that begging big questions.

    That is what I pointed out, not least by laying out relevant history in the context of a sounder definition rooted in that history.

    As in, for instance take a serious look at what Newton says in Opticks, Query 31 as excerpted.

    Pay special attention to his point on “hypotheses” by which he means metaphysical a prioris, by the front door or the back door.

    That is, all of that in 1704.

    GEM of TKI

  138. What is wrong with assuming that a hypothesis is true?

    Since a hypothesis may be false, there is no justification for believing it to be true unless you have a supporting reason for it being true.

    In science, the support for a hypothesis is evidential, but of course, science strictly speaking doesn’t even deal in truth, which is for the best as no hypothesis can ever be said to be complete.

  139. Driver @108:

    Simply choosing to believe is to make an arbitrary choice without foundation.

    That’s just silly. Choosing to believe is not the same as making an arbitrary choice without foundation.

    We could simply choose to believe any explanation (natural or supernatural) we liked, unwarranted by facts.

    We could, but why would we?

    or is this a roundabout way of saying that people who believe in miracles do so without any factual basis?

    Or that people who believe in the supernatural do so without any basis in fact?

    Or that people who see something miraculous and attribute it to the supernatural do so without any reason for their belief?

    You see what I mean when I say your post had no merit? It’s either false, or trivial, or a statement that no one has to accept the truth of.

    It is not a reasoned argument leading to a conclusion that ought to be accepted by a rational person.

    I obviously fail to see what Lizzie saw in it.

  140. F/N: Let’s clip Opticks, Query 31:

    ______________

    >> As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations. >>

    _______________

    But that’s just an appeal to authority!

    Even if it were an appeal to authority, we should note 99+% of practical arguments do that, e.g. starting with the dictionary. So, we would do well to learn how to identify and follow credible authorities.

    But I am not appealing to authority so much as — here — citing an argument as presented in a classic form. Here, on inductive reasoning in science leading to scientific knowledge as empirical evidence controlled, inferences to best explanation of phenomena, with a heavy emphasis on identifying constituents and dynamics in light of forces and cause-effect chains. Notice, how scientific findings are explicitly identified as inherently provisional, but that is a limitation on human knowledge.

    And, the begging of questions by imposition of metaphysical a prioris is denounced, exactly because it is speculation controlled instead of empirical reality controlled.

    Which is exactly the objection being made to the sort of a priori materialism being pushed into science by not only Lewontin and Sagan and ilk, but bodies like the US NAS, and in education like the US NSTA.

    So, history in this case is a very apt corrective to what is going ever so desperately wrong in our day.

    GEM of TKI

  141. Driver @120:

    No-one here has even given an inkling as to what an alternative to methodological naturalism would be like.

    Well let’s rectify that then shall we.

    Why can’t there be a scientific methodology that is agnostic to the entire question of what constitute a natural cause and what does not constitute a natural cause?

    Considering that science has no methodology by which it can make a determination to resolve the issue, wouldn’t that be the prudent approach to take?

  142. So, we can put Jesus, and Hanuman and Muhammed to the one side.

    Why? They are purported miracles. How do you explain the miracles of Hanuman, Krisna and Muhammed?

    What I’m talking about occured less than a hundred years ago

    I personally think that this can sometimes be relevant to assessing an event, but I am surprised that you make the point.

    Would you like to give me an explanation as to what happened?

    If you want to stick to purported miracles that occurred in the last hundred years:

    Many people directly attributed personal miracles to receiving a blessing from Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri (who died in 2006). For example: recovery from severe illnesses and diseases, children born to couples with fertility problems.

    Islamic jurist Akhtar Raza prayed for rain during his August 2008 trip to Syria. He caused it to rain when it had not done so for five years.

    The Hindu milk miracle was a phenomenon, considered by many Hindus as a miracle, which occurred on September 21, 1995. Before dawn, a Hindu worshiper at a temple in south New Delhi made an offering of milk to a statue of Ganesha. When a spoonful of milk from the bowl was held up to the trunk of the statue, the liquid was seen to disappear, apparently taken in by the idol. Word of the event spread quickly, and by mid-morning it was found that statues of the entire Hindu pantheon in temples all over North India were taking in milk.

    How do you explain these events?

    To move beyond mere materialism, belief is needed.

    How would you incorporate belief into a science that went beyond “mere materialism”?

  143. Why can’t there be a scientific methodology that is agnostic to the entire question of what constitute a natural cause and what does not constitute a natural cause?

    Considering that science has no methodology by which it can make a determination to resolve the issue, wouldn’t that be the prudent approach to take?

    Sure. If anyone ever comes up with a supernatural explanation that is somehow also a scientific explanation, then
    the problem is solved.

  144. PaV:

    Either we take the position that (a) EVERY event has a natural explanation—which totally cuts off the supernatural, or (b) there are events, rare events, which can have a supernatural origin.

    Is there some in-between position that I can’t think of?

    You, like Lizzie, are now confusing causes with explanations.

    Either we take the position that (a) EVERY event has a natural cause — which totally cuts off the supernatural, or (b) there are events, rare events, which can have a supernatural cause, OR (c) we can take the position that EVERY event has a supernatural cause.

    Science, lacking any methodology to distinguish natural causes from supernatural causes, cannot help us.

  145. Lizzie:

    I don’t know, but I think it you should be careful of tarring all of standard biology with the (theologically inept) claim that evolution implies atheism.

    I think you’re missing my point here. I’m not saying that evolution leads to atheism (that it does with some persons is true, but that it does so necessarily is not true). I’m saying that Darwinism is in the process of being hijacked by those given to agnostic/atheistic worldviews. This, simply, is unhealthy. It’s badly affecting biology.

    This has been my point all along. That it isn’t that science “won’t” entertain the Divine as an explanatory cause but because it can’t, except as the null hypothesis, and you cannot prove a null, only “retain” it. So the charge that science “censors” Divine inferences, is wrong. It simply cannot make them.

    But we’re talking about Design, not Divinity. IOW, as Dembski makes clear, there is a way in which we, as humans, as scientists, know how do make the inference that some intelligent agent has influenced what we’re studying.

    If this “agent” turns out to be “aliens”, however, then Darwinists are OK with that—just talk to them about SETI, and you’ll see. They don’t spending/wasting gobs of money doing this.

    But, if the “agent” happens to be extra-worldly, then the “inference” becomes unacceptable. Why? I guess they want to say, “Well, with aliens they’ll probably have hands and legs, and think like us.” That is, they can act using mechanical means.

    Yet, this non-acceptance is no more than saying: “Since I don’t know how a Divine Being could pull this off, then I won’t accept that it could happen at all.” This is tantamount to: “Unless I can think as powerfully as God, I won’t believe in God,” which, of course, is an absurd position.

    The fact is that we either have evidence for “design”, or we don’t. If there is evidence for “design”, than, just because it invokes a supernatural being (remember, we don’t have any reason at all to believe that aliens exist; so to accept that aliens could do something, without having any evidence at all of aliens, and to refuse to believe that a supernatural being exists when we have evidence that He does [St. Januarius' Blood; Miracle of Fatima; documented conversions and miracles and visions] is simple bias) is no reason to simply dismiss the ‘design inference’ out of hand.

    And, as Stephen Meyers shows, it has more explanatory power.

    If, at a personal level, people choose to make a Divine inference (“the scientists are baffled! It must be a miracle!”) that’s fine.

    Scientists are baffled by Dark Matter. No one is saying: God-did-it, or God-is-doing-it. We presume a natural, though currently unknown, explanation. But when dried blood liquefies time and again, should our first instinct be: “There must be some natural explanation for this!” I don’t see why that should be at all; except for an unease with the supernatural.

    Oh, but we can’t “see” God. We don’t know that He exists. But we can’t “see” Dark Matter; that’s exactly why it is so called. But we see its effects.

    Aha. Effects. And we reason back to a cause. We see the effects of design in biology, and we reason back to a Designer. (Wait a second; you can’t do that!!)

    . . . and is thus vulnerable to a later scientific demonstration (e.g. has anyone actually tested the temperature in the church of St Januarius, and what that is likely to do to the dewpoint in the vial?)

    Well, it just so happens that I was in the Cathedral Church of Naples almost two years ago, and about two weeks before the feast day and the miracle of the blood. The Church had a somewhat cool, somewhat dry interior. Sorry to disappoint.

    All science has to do to refute this miracle is to duplicate it. Isn’t that what science is supposed to be about: producing results that can be reproduced time and again?

    Will you then object that science might have to wait for some new technology to be invented before it can reproduce the result? But, of course, if science has to wait for this new technology, then the question remains: how did this miracle take place while this “new technology” was unknown?

    It’s not something I would ever do myself . . . because it suggests that God is only active in a tiny subset of world events, rather than the First cause of all.

    When you rub your eye, does this suggest to the rest of your body that your finger is only interested in your eye? I’m not trying to be silly here. I’m being analogic.

    Now, in good Thomist manner, I accepted that we cannot know what Theta is, only what it cannot Be. . . . it is an inevitably inadequate phrase to describe our unknown Theta, because Theta without Theta (by definition) there can have been no Causes, and no Time for Theta have been the first in line in. If you see what I mean.

    I have difficulties with Thomistic doctrine. St. Thomas brought about a synthesis between Augustine’s neo-Platonism and newly re-discovered Aristotlean philosophy. Aristotle said that the world was eternal. But we know that it is not. He got that wrong. I think he was wrong about other things as well.

    Under Aristotle, the world of ideas becomes a complement of the natural order. Aristotle has his Demi-Urge and his Unmoved Mover, but understood in the same way as Deists consider the God of the Bible—invoked at first as a logical necessity, and then abandoned. I think what has led to all of the problems the Church faces these days is the over-reliance on Thomas. I prefer a more neo-Platonic view, where the natural order participates in the world of Ideas/Forms. This is a much more participatory view and understanding of who God is. And, I believe, a more correct one.

    My suggestion is that you read The Confessions of St. Augustine. A new worldview should open up to you.

    So I asked myself: what is worthy of worship in our world? And I come up with: love. . . In religious language, to be One with God. Indeed, to make sense of the claim that God is Love.

    You obviously love your son (Again, congratulations!) Now, would you rather have your “love” for your son, or your son?

    Victor Frankl kept himself alive while living in a concentration camp during wartime Germany simply by seizing hold of his wife and children. He loved them, not knowing if they were alive or dead. That love kept him going. He wrote, Man’s Search for Meaning. He, however, was immensely more happy to have been reunited with them after the war ended.

    You’re shortchanging yourself (and for what? so that somehow you can experience what you consider to be logical coherence?). But it’s your choice.

    You are a delightful lady! Cheers. :)

    I’m on vacation for a week, and will probably be around only sporadically (hopefully!).

  146. Elizabeth:

    I don’t have anything you’d recognise as “faith”. I have, as I said, just love and reason.

    Of those three, which is the greatest?

  147. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Yes, science can explore phenomena that are claimed to be supernatural in origin. But it cannot conclude that the origin was supernatural; it can only demonstrate that it is not.

    This is false. And you’re contradicting yourself, again.

    How can science conclude that a given phenomena is not supernatural in origin?

    What methodology does it employ to do so?

  148. Speaking of the ‘supernatural’; This ought to ruffle a few feathers;

    Video – It’s Supernatural – Sid Roth – Joel Richardson shares about a new documentary from Iran that proclaims: “The Messiah is about to appear!” But the Iranian Messiah revealed in this movie actually describes the Biblical Anti-Christ! The implications are enormous in light of Bible prophecy and the End Time events happening now.
    http://www.sidroth.org/site/Ne.....8;id=10110

  149. 149

    Mung,

    How can science conclude that a given phenomena is not supernatural in origin?

    I suppose the stock example would be ‘Person A claims an angel wrote a message on a wall. But surveillance footage shows person B snuck into the room last night and wrote the message on the wall.’

    Of course, the problem is that according to Liddle’s standards angels aren’t supernatural anyway (because, especially if they’re embodied, they can in principle be investigated by science.) In fact, God isn’t necessarily supernatural Himself if He exists, at least if one can make an inference about God based on empirical data (because if you can make scientific inferences about or to it, it’s natural, y’see.)

    Meanwhile, natural events are arguably supernatural under the same standard. Say, for example, a quantum tunneling event of the kind Carl Sagan spoke of (Your car ending up on the other side of a garage overnight due to quantum tunneling). If there’s no way to scientifically confirm such a thing was or wasn’t due to quantum tunneling, well, it would seem that would be a supernatural claim. But quantum tunneling in the broad sense has been inferred by science, so…

  150. 150
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Yes, science can explore phenomena that are claimed to be supernatural in origin. But it cannot conclude that the origin was supernatural; it can only demonstrate that it is not.

    This is false. And you’re contradicting yourself, again.

    How can science conclude that a given phenomena is not supernatural in origin?

    What methodology does it employ to do so?

    It can provide evidence for a natural cause. The methodology is hypothesis testing of predictions arising from the hypothesis against new data.

  151. nullusalus, what a supernatural post!

    Elizabeth:

    It [science] can provide evidence for a natural cause. The methodology is hypothesis testing of predictions arising from the hypothesis against new data.

    Let me quote you, again:

    I’m saying that science does NOT have the methodology to establish whether a cause is natural or not. I’ve said that several times.

    For that one brief moment, we were actually in agreement about something.

    Has it sunk in yet that you are contradicting yourself?

    Out of one side of your mouth you say that science can and that science does have a methodology, and out of the other side of your mouth you vehemently state with emphasis that science cannot and does not have any such methodology and that this is what you have been saying all along.

    You seem to believe that both statements are true. How are these the statements and actions of a rational person?

  152. 152
    CannuckianYankee

    Issues and questions:

    Let’s forget about “supernatural” and “natural” and ask some very basic questions:

    Is there a higher order of causes that are not what we commonly refer to as “natural” causes?

    We’ve introduced “artificial” causes. Human free-will causes are an example – some believe the only example.

    Are human free-will causes the only higher order causes possible?

    If we believe in Darwinian evolution, it would appear so. Free-will and artistry are the product of evolution at its finest.

    Is this conclusion warranted based on evidence?

    I think it depends on what evidence you’re including, and what evidence you’re excluding. The problem with this is that any evidence you include can be interpreted from your initial assumptions, and your initial assumptions can dictate what evidence you will include and/or exclude. This is true no matter what your initial assumptions may be – teleological or not.

    I agree with Dr. Liddle that “supernatural” should not be in the language of science; however, I believe that higher order causes should be (and are, in fact), but there is no reason why such causes can only be limited to human beings with the belief that they have evolved to a point to have that ability. Such would be begging the question.

    It seems to me that naturalism is the only assumption that neglects the intuition that there is an order higher than ourselves and nature; which affects nature. Why do most of us have such an intuition if it’s not to be used in a logical, and I dare say scientific fashion?

    Some might say because it may lead to wrong conclusions. I say any assumption can lead to wrong conclusions. If Darwinism is correct then what is is, and is not what ought to be. Therefore the idea of right or wrong conclusions does not make much sense in a Darwinian framework. It would seem to me that Darwinism is working within a framework of value, while the conclusions of Darwinism negate any framework of value. Where does the value that what is is, and ought not to be believed otherwise come from? It certainly doesn’t come from Darwinism.

    This is why theists believe that the intuition of a higher order of causes beyond human reasoning is useful and ought not to be neglected. I think most Darwinists would agree that higher order causes also give us our sense of morality; yet they restrict such to human beings, because they don’t believe that there’s any legitimacy to the intuition of a higher order of causes beyond humans.

    I think It’s all interrelated – “natural,” “supernatural” and moral value.

    Something to think about.

  153. —Elizabeth Liddle: “I’m saying that science does NOT have the methodology to establish whether a cause is natural or not. I’ve said that several times.”

    Science does not establish methodologies, scientists do. In like fashion, medicine doesn’t provide diagnoses, doctor’s do.

    Only the scientist can decide which method is appropriate for the question he is trying to answer. In some cases, the question will, indeeed, involve possible references to the supernatural.

    The Vatican, for example, enlists the aid of the Lourdes Medical Bureau, for example, to help clerics discern whether or not certain alleged miracle healings are authentic.

  154. The Vatican, for example, enlists the aid of the Lourdes Medical Bureau to help clerics discern whether or not certain alleged miracle healings are authentic.

  155. Is there a higher order of causes that are not what we commonly refer to as “natural” causes?

    My answer is no.

    The term “natural cause” is an artificial distinction with no basis in science.

    Whatever differences in causes there may be are philosophical, not scientific.

  156. Of related note:

    Medical Miracles Really Do Happen
    Excerpt: No one knows exactly how often such cases occur. Approximately 3,500 medically documented cases of seeming miracles — based on reports from doctors in America and around the world dating to 1967 — have appeared in 800 peer-reviewed medical journals and cover all major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.*
    http://www.bottomlinesecrets.c.....e_id=42254

  157. 157
    CannuckianYankee

    “Whatever differences in causes there may be are philosophical, not scientific.”

    To an extent, I agree.

    Here’s my thinking:

    What we call “natural” causes are causes that are predetermined somewhat through laws of nature. What we haven’t determined by them is whether the laws of nature are purposed or not. That determination is philosophical.

    However, that determination can also be scientific, since science depends on philosophy for interpretation. We simply haven’t arrived at enough evidence for that determination (i.e., is what we experience as chance actually purposed?)

    This is why I think science needs to be agnostic regarding ultimate causes; which would include being agnostic regarding the meaning of “natural” and “supernatural,” or there shouldn’t actually be any distinction.

    Clearly the naturalists have claimed knowledge with certain evidences, – i.e. nature and observations that are interpreted as chance, while ignoring other evidences, which suggest that there are higher order causes other than human free-will causes and which indicate purpose. It’s true that this is a philosophical issue, but it doesn’t remain there when you consider that the naturalist depends on philosophy to interpret the evidence that “natural” causes are all that exist.

    I think you have misread Dr. Liddle somewhat, while agree with you that she’s confused, and she does contradict herself. I think the blame goes with the ill defined terms “natural” and “supernatural.”

    I think the contradiction stems from an inability to get a handle on these terms. I think she’s headed in the right direction by recognizing that once we have evidence for what we’ve formerly called “supernatural,” it then becomes natural in the sense that it pertains to law.

    But she assumes that these would be “laws of physical nature.” So that’s where she’s wrong. It may be so, but she doesn’t have enough evidence to make such an assumption.

    Let’s take DNA for example. Let’s say that based on the evidence, the naturalists begin to concede that evolution cannot account for DNA. Evolution is the only “natural” or law-like physical explanation that could (though mistaken) previously account for it. Anything outside of evolution would not be “natural” as we currently define it; but there it is.

    The naturalists would then be forced to acknowledge that there are law-like properties outside what they have previously defined as “natural.” So naturalism isn’t done away with, it is expanded to include law-like properties that lie outside of what is currently understood as “natural.” They wouldn’t then accept that there is something “supernatural;” rather, “supernatural” would then be included in an expanded understanding of what is “natural.” And since in my earlier post, I emphasized higher order causes such as human free-will and artistry, other examples of free-will and artistry can then be included in science. How far that can go is anybody’s guess.

    I will say this, however; the reasons we can study human free-will causes are either: humans are willing to be the subjects of such investigation, or because we are able to study the effects of such causes. I’ll let you decide how far we could go with the investigation of other higher order free-will causes. I suspect it’s limits would be on the effects of such causes; which is where ID is currently at.

Leave a Reply