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Brought to You From the Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club, “Is Intelligent Design Science?”

For those of you who live in the Seattle area (which now includes me), the “Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club” are hosting an event on the 28th of November from 7pm till 9pm in Lake Hills Library (15590 Lake Hills Blvd, Bellevue, WA). Here’s the event description from the website:

Is there a demarcation between science and pseudoscience? This is the “demarcation problem” made famous by Karl Popper. Popper’s thesis was that falsifiability differentiated science from pseudoscience. However, although Popper’s views are still popular among some scientists, they are widely rejected by philosophers. In fact, most philosophers believe that it is very difficult to find a strict demarcation between science and pseudoscience. This essay explains, in layman’s terms, why this is the case.

There is a famous paper called “The Demise of the Demarcation Problem” (unfortunately not available online), by Larry Laudan. Here’s a summary some of Laudan’s arguments (the link is a response to a recent criticism of Laudan by Robert Pennock).

Laudan argued that since philosophers have been unable to find necessary AND sufficient conditions to demarcate science from pseudoscience, the demarcation problem should be abandoned and we should no longer speak of areas as “unscientific” or “pseudoscience.” Rather, we should just talk about, for example, well-founded and well-confirmed knowledge. To Laudan, creationism is not pseudoscience, it is just bad science.

But there is a practical problem here. It is not unconstitutional to teach bad science (this doesn’t violate the Establishment clause). The legal cases against creationism and intelligent design (ID) do depend on demarcation (this is why Laudan, who is definitely no friend of creationism and ID, is often quoted approvingly by defenders of creationism and ID). How did the judges in the McLean vs Arkansas creationism trial and Kitzmiller vs Dover intelligent design trial decide what science was? They largely relied on the testimony of philosophers (Michael Ruse in the Arkansas trial, Robert Pennock in the Dover trial). But some philosophers contend that the philosophical testimony given in these trials was based on questionable and outdated philosophy of science (in other words, the court was given the incorrect impression that philosophers can readily demarcate science from pseudoscience), and the resulting judicial opinions are based on bad philosophy. Larry Laudan writes:

But let us be clear about what is at stake. In setting out in the McLean Opinion to characterize the “essential” nature of science, Judge Overton was explicitly venturing into philosophical terrain. His obiter dicta are about as remote from well-founded opinion in the philosophy of science as Creationism is from respectable geology. It simply will not do for the defenders of science to invoke philosophy of science when it suits them (e.g., their much-loved principle of falsifiability comes directly from the philosopher Karl Popper) and to dismiss it as “arcane” and “remote” when it does not. However noble the motivation, bad philosophy makes for bad law.

Larry Laudan, “Science at the Bar—Causes for Concern.”

Bradley Monton, “Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision.”

Now some philosophers would say that what demarcates science is METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM (MN). Per Robert Pennock:

Ontological Naturalism should be distinguished from the more common contemporary view, which is known as methodological naturalism. The methodological naturalist does not make a commitment directly to a picture of what exists in the world, but rather to a set of methods as a reliable way to find out about the world – typically the methods of the natural sciences, and perhaps extensions that are continuous with them – and indirectly to what those methods discover. The principle of MN demands that scientists appeal exclusively to natural causes and mechanisms. MN is conceived of as an intrinsic and self-imposed limitation of science, as something that is part and parcel of the scientific enterprise by definition.

Now while it may be fine to adopt MN as an operating principle because it has worked so well in past (as philosophers say, a posteriori), a posteriori MN does not commit one to always using MN. On the other hand, if one adopts MN as part of the definition of science (as philosophers say, a priori), this presents a few problems:

Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman, “How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism.”

The famous philosopher Thomas Nagel addresses the issue of methodological naturalism (among other issues) in his recent controversial article suggesting that Intelligent Design might be taught in public schools.

If you don’t think ID is science, how would you respond to Nagel?

Nagel notes that if one says that ID cannot be part of science by definition, this notion is not itself scientifically grounded, and it is hard to say how different this is than holding a religious belief. And if prior religious beliefs could undermine science by leading to conclusions like ID, why does MN not undermine conclusions based upon its assumption?

Unfortunately it also seems to undermine the scientific status of the rejection of ID. Those who would not take any amount of evidence against evolutionary theory as evidence for ID, like those who would not take evidence against naturalistic explanations of spooky manifestations as evidence for the presence of a ghost, seem to be assuming that ID is not a possibility. What is the status of that assumption? Is it scientifically grounded? It may not be a matter of faith or ecclesiastical authority, but it does seem to be a basic, ungrounded assumption about how the world works, essentially a kind of naturalism. If it operates as an empirically ungrounded boundary on the range of possibilities that can be considered in seeking explanations of what we can observe, why does that not undermine the scientific status of the theories that depend on it, just as much as a somewhat different assumption about the antecedent possibilities?

It is often said that this particular set of boundaries is just part of the definition of science. I suspect that this simply reflects the confusion pointed out earlier: the assumption that there cannot be a scientific argument for the presence of a cause that is not itself governed by scientific laws.

Now of course, one could just argue that ID is bad science, but as previously noted, it is not unconstitutional to teach bad science. Nagel writes:

The denier that ID is science faces the following dilemma. Either he admits that the intervention of such a designer is possible, or he does not. If he does not, he must explain why that belief is more scientific than the belief that a designer is possible. If on the other hand he believes that a designer is possible, then he can argue that the evidence is overwhelmingly against the actions of such a designer, but he cannot say that someone who offers evidence on the other side is doing something of a fundamentally different kind. All he can say about that person is that he is scientifically mistaken.

There is a recent attack on Laudan’s views from Robert Pennock (the primary philosophy witness for the plaintiff in the Dover case). This paper has generated controversy, including a complaint from Laudan, for its alleged unprofessional tone. Unfortunately, this paper is not available online, but here is the abstract.

Pennock writes:

If Laudan’s view were indeed the norm in philosophy of science, then it is little wonder that some say philosophy is irrelevant to any matters of practical consequence. Is philosophy going to be so removed from the realities of the world that it has nothing of value to say even on topics that ostensibly are its core concerns? It would be a sad commentary on our profession if philosophers could not recognize the difference between real science and a sectarian religious view masquerading as science. When squinting philosophers like Laudan, Quinn and their imitators such as Monton and George purport that there is no way to distinguish between science and pseudoscience or religion they bring to mind Hume’s observation that “Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.” Unfortunately, in giving succor, inadvertently or not, to creation-science and now to ID, such philosophers compound the error, making the ridiculous dangerous.

If there is time, we will also discuss the status of the “soft” sciences like psychology and sociology, as well as areas that may be on the borderline of science, such as string theory, evolutionary psychology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

This  slideshow is worthwhile to review as it presents a different view of demarcation. Here is a lecture by the slideshow author (who has 2 PhDs in both evolutionary biology and philosophy).

I’ve provided quite a few links for those of you with a substantial interest in the issue. If you wanted to just read up quickly on the topic, I would recommend the first “Is Astrology Science” link and the slideshow. I would also recommend the Nagel article which is fairly long (but not technical) but presents a significant challenge if you think that intelligent design has no place in public education on the basis of ID not being science.

This promises to be an interesting event. Casey Luskin and myself (Jonathan McLatchie) intend to be there, and it would be good to meet other ID proponents in the area.

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32 Responses to Brought to You From the Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club, “Is Intelligent Design Science?”

  1. It is all about the truth.
    Who decides when truth is well founded by the evidence?
    Who decides when the evidence is based on legitimate investagation?

    These ‘judges” or anyone deciding these things is stupid.

    If conclusions are being taught in schools on origin subjects and there is censorship of other conclusions then the state is making a opinion on truth.!
    How is this not so?
    If they say Genesis is wrong then they are saying a religious idea is wrong?!
    If the state can say its wrong then it can say its right for the same principal!
    The state is not being neutral on religion.

    What is the truth and is there a right to seek and discover and teach the truth in public institutions?
    YEC and ID use the same methodology for conclusions , including its criticisms, as anyone else.
    YEC and ID are smart people observing and figuring out natures story.
    To judge us as not doing so is a attack on our intelligence, integrity, and general relationship of free men in a mutual nation(s).
    These are days of moral and intellectual oppression from a unrepresentative establishment.
    Creationism(s) are just another front.

  2. I’ll try to mark that date.

  3. 3
    Kantian Naturalist

    It’s certainly true that the state (and its representatives) should not take sides in religious disputes, but whether or not Darwinism is compatible with religion is itself a religious dispute: it’s a dispute between theistic evolution (at one extreme) and creationism (at the other). It is because the state must be neutral with regards to religious disputes that the state (and its representatives) must not take sides as to whether Darwinism is compatible with religion.

    So it would be inappropriate for public educators (here meaning both public school teachers and professors at public universities) to claim that Darwinism does or does not conflict with religion. But, on my understanding of the law, it would not be unconstitutional for a public educator to present both sides of that particular debate. Then the question is about the appropriate contexts in which to do so. In a university course about religion and science — and many universities offer such courses — it would be perfectly appropriate.

    Notice, too, that it’s not unconstitutional for a public educator to argue publicly that Darwinism is, or is not, compatible with religion — just that it’s unconstitutional for her to do so in the classroom, because of the fundamentally coercive nature of state authority.

    On the demarcation problem, one article I find helpful is Paul Thagard’s “Why Astrology is a Pseudo-science“. He argues in favor of a more nuanced demarcation criterion which relies on social and historical features, rather than logical ones alone, so he’s able to avoid some of the problems with Popper’s reliance on deductive logic.

  4. I believe that, at bottom, the problem is a world-view problem, as so much learned speculation is. And the very problem of such a demarcation has arisen from a distorted aggrandisement of science, initially on the part of atheists.

    There are born atheists, and there are those who have metamorphosed from the human norm, namely, emotionally-driven atheists. Nothing wrong with being emotionally driven, as long as it’s God doing the driving and matching your discursions with the reality.

    And it is the latter, the emotionally-driven atheists, who are responsible for muddying the water, so that ‘every man and his dog’ wants his discipline recognised as ‘science’, and have, indeed, with their purblind naturalism, ended up making nonsense of all claims to knowledge, and this, long before the multiverse emerged in the realms of the unicorn.

    Science is part, theoretical speculation and discovery, and part, pedantic focus on physical experimentation – the latter having informed and continuing to inform the exponents of the former, the theoreticians/metaphysicians and paradigm-changers.

    The latter tended to make their name by changing, or all but changing a prevailing paradigm, and in order to have done so, would have needed to have been more open to truth than most of their colleagues, the worker-bees who erect barriers in the path of reason, barriers sometimes of an incredibly facile ad captious nature. Many of the work-a-day scientists will be just keeping their heads down. Rather, it would be the corporate chiefs and the ever-meretricious journalists and corrupt academics, who keep up the fantasmagorical pretence.

    The real question everyone should be asking is: How is a scientific establishment able to ignore inferences drawn from sound hypotheses via unimpeachable logic, again, and again and again?

    It reminds one of the hilarious misunderstandings toddlers come up with, as a result of their very limited knowledge of the adult world world and of language, e.g. in a Nativity play (when they used to be allowed) in an infants’ school, not ‘francincense’, but ‘Frank sent this.’ Unfortunately, that is not intended to be satirical, but is, rather, a mere expression of the reality.

    Imagine routinely using the word, ‘evolution’, as though it encompassed an explanation of the origin of the universe; indeed, of ‘the other side of’ the Singularity; and failing to realise that the very expression, Intelligent Design, is effectively a tautology.

    Moreover, design implies intelligence, and not to see both, when the latter is required at a very erudite level, in order to understand the former, is sheer madness.

    So much focus on the claims of evolution, even, expressly, abiogenesis, and yet evidence is now routinely accruing that it is totally false, beyond intra-species adaptations; and yet precious little focus on the oddity of light’s not being proper to space-time’s reference-frame. What would be the implication of that? And what might be the implications of that implication for current scientific research? If they had their way, we should never know.

  5. It seems evident to me that no one can reasonably differentiate between science and pseudo science without first defining all the important and relevant terms. Yet when we challenge the advocates for methodological naturalism to define either science, its methods, or its standards, they cannot do it.

    We ask, what is science? They tell us, in so many words, that they ca’t define it but they know it when they see it. That’s just great. Then, with respect to methodological naturalism, we ask, what is “natural,” and they say, “anything that isn’t ‘supernatural.’” What, then, does supernatural mean? Well, that’s anything that isn’t “natural.” Gee, that’s a swell answer.

    In effect. they are saying, “I don’t know what I mean by my presumptuous and intrusive rule, but I do know that if you break it, you are not doing science.” Now isn’t that special.

  6. 6
    Kantian Naturalist

    Speaking for ‘the naturalist team,’ so to speak, I don’t like the term “methodological naturalism”. It strikes me as being, at best, a fancy term for good, old-fashioned empiricism, and at worst, a conflation of the quite different notions of empiricism and naturalism — different because empiricism is an epistemological position, and naturalism is a metaphysical position. One can be both an empiricist and a naturalist, but nothing is gained by the conflation.

    As for “naturalism,” I’m willing to sign off on Plantinga’s proposed definition: a naturalist is someone who denies that there exists God or anything relevantly similar to God.

    Of course that’s quite vague as well, but here’s a better way of putting it: notice that, traditionally conceived, God is essentially a person (He perceives, reasons, and acts) but not essentially an animal. He has no parts, no spatio-temporal location, no physical properties of any kind. So a naturalist, by my lights, is someone who holds that necessarily all persons are essentially animals, and there cannot be persons that are not animals.*

    That gets us out of the circularity problem that StephenB identified above, defines metaphysical naturalism in non-question-begging terms, and avoids the problems caused by trying to distinguish between metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism.

    * For the philosophers: this would seem to be immensely problematic because we can surely conceive of non-animal persons, such as God. The naturalist has three options: (1) to deny that conceivability entails logical possibility, so that our ability to conceive of God does not show that God is logically possible; (2) to deny that naturalism makes any claims about necessity at all; (3) to distinguish between logical necessity and a weaker kind of necessity.

    I chose option (3). In general I am not persuaded that conceivability entails possibility, but I have no argument that God is not logically possible. So I don’t like option (1). I don’t like option (2) because naturalism, if it is to have any bite at all as a metaphysical view, must be a priori. (Faithful Kantian that I am, I think that all metaphysical views are a priori — that’s just what distinguishes metaphysics from science.) So I’m left with option (3), to distinguish between logical possibility and a weaker kind of modality, metaphysical possibility. Hence, on my version of metaphysical naturalism, non-animal persons are logically possible but metaphysically impossible. I can go further into the distinction between logical possibility and metaphysical possibility if it would be helpful.

  7. . . . non-animal persons are logically possible but metaphysically impossible.

    Then it sounds like you need to rethink your metaphysics. :)

  8. Kantian Naturalist, how would your interesting definition of naturalism, as applied to methodological naturalism, influence the assessment of ID as a scientific enterprise? Would it qualify or disqualify ID? If the former, what would be the point? If the latter, what would be the justification?

    According to MN, an arbitrary rule calculated to disqualify ID apriori, the scientist must “study nature as if nature is all there is.” By that standard, ID is not science because it hints at a cause that could exist outside of nature. Unfortunately, Big Bang Cosmology is also disqualified as science for the same reason. Since MN advocates would prefer not to appear illogical, they are selective in its application since applying their rule to Cosmology would, indeed, make them appear ridiculous. Would your definition of a “natural cause” address that inconsistency? By your standard, what would qualify as a “natural cause?”

    Taking it one step further, suppose the methodological naturalist is trying to discern the apparent cause of someone’s (apparently) ransacked living room. Was it a burglar or a tornado? ID defines natural causes as law/chance and intelligent cause as agency. It can, therefore, easily identify (and, therefore, detect) [a] the burglar’s activity as the work of an intelligent agent [tornados do not typically open drawers and run off with the jewelry) and could, through the same process, [b] rule out the “natural” cause (tornado).

    By contrast, Methodological Naturalism recognizes only “natural causes,” so it must classify both [a] and [b] as natural causes, which means that it cannot identify the burglar’s intelligent activity as a different kind of cause without breaking its own rule. The burglar, after all, is defined by MN as one more part of nature or as something that is “in” nature.

    Would your definition of “natural” solve these problems?

  9. Is Intelligent Design Science?

    Well it is based on our knowledge gained by observations and experiences. The claims can be tested and either confrmed or falsified. So , YES, Intellignet Design is science as it fits the criteria.

  10. 10
    Kantian Naturalist

    Kantian Naturalist, how would your interesting definition of naturalism, as applied to methodological naturalism, influence the assessment of ID as a scientific enterprise? Would it qualify or disqualify ID? If the former, what would be the point? If the latter, what would be the justification?

    By my lights, my conception of naturalism has no bearing at all on the assessment of intelligent design. As a general principle, I think of science and metaphysics as playing distinct roles in our intellectual and practical lives. While we all aspire (or should aspire?) to a satisfying intellectual grasp of the whole, metaphysical speculation and scientific theorizing have different roles to play in that whole. If you don’t mind a slogan, science deals with what is, and metaphysics deals with what ‘what is’ is. This gives metaphysics an a priori bent that’s not part of science proper (though of course scientists themselves do have metaphysical commitments, and they are sometimes aware of them).

    So, with respect to the various debates here, if the only scientific options are evolution and design, and the only metaphysical options are naturalism and theism, that still leaves us with four positions: unguided evolution (naturalistic evolution), guided evolution (theistic evolution), naturalistic design, and supernatural design. Which of those four one selects will be based partly on empirical considerations (evolution vs. design) and partly on a priori considerations (naturalism vs. theism).

    By your standard, what would qualify as a “natural cause?”

    Given naturalism, all causes are natural, so there’s no need to specify natural causes as a sub-class of causes.

    With regards to the burglar/tornado analogy, metaphysical naturalism might seem to be very demanding (no non-animal persons) but it is actually very permissive. There’s nothing in it which rules out intelligent agency as a distinct sub-class of nature, with distinct criteria for its application. “Design detection” is not a problem for metaphysical naturalism.

    Let me put the point in terms of Plato and Epicurus, since I know some of you are strong on the history of philosophy. So, Plato gives us this famous tripartite division between chance, necessity, and design. Epicurus’ brilliant counter-move is to say that chance and necessity together count as nature, but that leaves design/intelligence/agency as the Odd Man Out. But I don’t want to be beholden to Epicurus’ conception of nature, despite my immense admiration for Epicureanism (and despite my Epicureanism in my personal ethics).

    More specifically, I don’t see why intelligent agency has to be either the Odd Man Out — outside of the natural realm — or somehow reduced to chance and necessity. I’m perfectly willing to insist, as loudly as any of the rest of you, on the indispensability of the category of “rational agency”, and I’m as hostile to reductionism as any of you (from what I can tell, anyway). Where we disagree is whether rational agency is beyond or outside the natural world. Well, if we concede the conception of nature to the Epicureans, then it is — but why should we do that?

    All I need to do in order to flesh out the concept of “naturalism” is keep the door closed against non-animal persons, and that’s perfectly consistent with saying that there are persons — rational agents, thinkers, designers, whatever you like — it’s just that, all the persons that there are, are also animals of some kind or other. And that’s going to hold true of the intelligent designers, if there are any, as well as us, the cetaceans, extra-terrestrials (if there are any), and so on.

  11. As to the ‘demarcation problem’ in science, i.e. the problem of separating pseudo-science from quote/unquote ‘real science’, would not the fact that materialistic/methodological naturalism (MN) cannot even ground science in the first place count as a fairly severe point of demarcation against it and forever banish MN to the realm of pseudo-science?

    notes:

    Scientific Peer Review is in Trouble: From Medical Science to Darwinism – Mike Keas – October 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Survival is all that matters on evolutionary naturalism. Our evolving brains are more likely to give us useful fictions that promote survival rather than the truth about reality. Thus evolutionary naturalism undermines all rationality (including confidence in science itself). Renown philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued against naturalism in this way (summary of that argument is linked on the site:).
    Or, if your short on time and patience to grasp Plantinga’s nuanced argument, see if you can digest this thought from evolutionary cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, who baldly states:
    “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth; sometimes the truth is adaptive, sometimes it is not.”
    Steven Pinker, evolutionary cognitive psychologist, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 305.
    http://blogs.christianpost.com.....l-science-

    Evolutionists Are Now Saying Their Thinking is Flawed (But Evolution is Still a Fact) – Cornelius Hunter – May 2012
    Excerpt: But the point here is that these “researchers” are making an assertion (human reasoning evolved and is flawed) which undermines their very argument. If human reasoning evolved and is flawed, then how can we know that evolution is a fact, much less any particular details of said evolutionary process that they think they understand via their “research”?
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....their.html

    Alvin Plantinga – Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34AIo-xBh8

    Do the New Atheists Own the Market on Reason? – On the terms of the New Atheists, the very concept of rationality becomes nonsensical – By R. Scott Smith, May 03, 2012
    Excerpt: If atheistic evolution by NS were true, we’d be in a beginningless series of interpretations, without any knowledge. Yet, we do know many things. So, naturalism & atheistic evolution by NS are false — non-physical essences exist. But, what’s their best explanation? Being non-physical, it can’t be evolution by NS. Plus, we use our experiences, form concepts and beliefs, and even modify or reject them. Yet, if we’re just physical beings, how could we interact with and use these non-physical things? Perhaps we have non-physical souls too. In all, it seems likely the best explanation for these non-physical things is that there exists a Creator after all.
    http://www.patheos.com/Evangel.....#038;max=1

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 debate available on the site
    Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
    http://theresurgence.com/2012/.....-god-exist

    Verse and music:

    Proverbs 1:7
    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Stubborn fools despise wisdom and discipline.

    Steven Curtis Chapman – Lord of the Dance (Live)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDXbvMcMbU0

  12. the scientist must “study nature as if nature is all there is.” By that standard, ID is not science because it hints at a cause that could exist outside of nature.

    God, a being which cannot not exist, is the most natural being possible. We, being contingent/created beings, are most unnatural.

  13. Kantian Naturalist

    Given naturalism, all causes are natural, so there’s no need to specify natural causes as a sub-class of causes.Z

    How, then, do you differentiate between the burglar and the tornado as potential causes for the ransacked room? For that matter, how do you differentiate between the intelligent agents that created the artifacts of ancient Pompei and the volcano that buried them? Or, moving outside of time, how do you differentiate between the laws of the universe and the lawgiver that fashioned them?

  14. “Evolutionists Are Now Saying Their Thinking is Flawed (But Evolution is Still a Fact) – Cornelius Hunter – May 2012″

    Bornagain, rather than ‘Frank sent this’, though the correspondence is not exact, the above reminds me of another of the Daily Mail’s Out of the Mouths of Babes snippets:

    When her husband and little girl returned from watching a rugby match, she asked, ‘Who won then?’

    The little girl, sitting astride her father’s shoulders bellowed, ‘None of them! They kept falling over!’

    True, in its own parsimonious way, ‘still a fact’, but of absolutely no significance; in the context. Indeed, so irrelevant as to be completely unintelligible to anyone unfamiliar with the naive, literal and immensely circumscribed cognition of toddlers.

  15. But alas, evolution doesn’t rise even to the nugatory veracity of that toddler’s observation.

    ‘Daddy, isn’t evolution funny! Every week it surprises you with sumfink new, wot you never knew before.’

    Is the nature of these new discoveries ever going to persuade Daddy that his initial conceptualisation of evolution might need to be modified – in the sense of totally discarded? ‘I think we should told’, to echo the mock journalese of Private Eye.

  16. Axel:

    Yes, Darwinian evolution is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. —Forrest Gump revisited.

  17. I started reading The Plausibility of Life. It’s funny, they claim that evo theory was incomplete before the new theory they present in their book, because it had no theory of the origin of novelty.

  18. Kantian Naturalist.
    You say the “coercive nature of the state” means the state can’t allow creationism.
    If its coercive then its doing so in saying Genesis is false in its conclusions by teaching evolution etc and by banning creationism in a subject that is abiut teaching the TRUTH on origins.
    The state has a religious opinion by banning religious opinion in absolute truths being taught.
    How not so?
    If the state says creationism(s) are religious ideas about origins then banning them on subjects dealing with origins is a state opinion that the religious opinions are FALSE.
    Thats logic and law.

    Creationism just needs more good lawyers and cases to work with I say.
    Censorship in a free nation is absurd.
    In America its traitorous.
    They are using the state to attack Christianity by their own lines of reasoning.
    They are also obstructing the search for truth on mutual heritage of mankind.
    its that damn important to them.
    So be it!

  19. 19
    Kantian Naturalist

    How, then, do you differentiate between the burglar and the tornado as potential causes for the ransacked room? For that matter, how do you differentiate between the intelligent agents that created the artifacts of ancient Pompei and the volcano that buried them? Or, moving outside of time, how do you differentiate between the laws of the universe and the lawgiver that fashioned them?

    I guess I don’t quite understand the question. There seems to be an implication here that the very category of ‘intelligent agency’ is somehow off-limits to naturalism. But why should this be so? Certainly it doesn’t follow from my proposed conception of metaphysical naturalism. “Design detection”, as it’s called, in forensic science and archeology isn’t a problem. Presumably it could be cashed out in terms of entropy — a room ransacked by a burglar will have a much lower entropy than a corner of a house hit by a tornado.

    As for the third case — the laws of the universe and the lawgiver — that’s just not part of metaphysical naturalism. If the very concept of “laws of nature” presupposes a “lawgiver,” then “laws of nature” are laws in a metaphorical sense.

  20. 20
    Kantian Naturalist

    You say the “coercive nature of the state” means the state can’t allow creationism. If it’s coercive then its doing so in saying Genesis is false in its conclusions by teaching evolution etc and by banning creationism in a subject that is about teaching the TRUTH on origins. The state has a religious opinion by banning religious opinion in absolute truths being taught. How not so? If the state says creationism(s) are religious ideas about origins then banning them on subjects dealing with origins is a state opinion that the religious opinions are FALSE. That’s logic and law.

    I did not say that the coercive nature of the state means that the state cannot allow creationism. I said that the coercive nature of the state means that the state cannot take sides between creationism and theistic evolution.

    Consider the debate between, say, Ken Ham and Kenneth Miller. Ham thinks that evolution and Christianity are not compatible, and he has his arguments for that position. Miller thinks that evolution and Christianity are compatible, and he has his arguments for that position. Should the state teach Ham’s creationism, but not Miller’s theistic evolution? Or the other way around? Ham is an evangelical (Protestant?); Miller is a Catholic. Should the state side with Protestants and against Catholics? A little thing called the Thirty Year’s War suggests that that’s not a road we should willingly go down.

    In other words, the state is not teaching that creationism is false. The state is being neutral about a religious dispute: the dispute as to whether evolution conflicts with religion. Some religions hold that it does, and other religions hold that it doesn’t. The neutrality of the state just means that it doesn’t take sides amongst different religious positions.

    If you want creationism taught in public schools, then by all means, try to convince your fellow citizens that the separation of church and state is a bad idea. Maybe Edwards vs. Aguillard was a bad law and should be overturned. Maybe the Establishment Clause doesn’t extend to creationism in public schools (though I have no idea how one could argue that it doesn’t). Maybe the Establishment Clause should be overturned, though that would require a Constitutional amendment. Just don’t be surprised if you discover a lot of resistance on the part of your fellow citizens who, like me, are staunch defenders of the separation of church and state.

  21. Kantian Naturalist:

    I guess I don’t quite understand the question. There seems to be an implication here that the very category of ‘intelligent agency’ is somehow off-limits to naturalism. But why should this be so?

    Consider again the example of the burglar and the tornado. If, from an ID perspective, one cause is recognized to be of a different kind than the other, (Intelligent vs. natural), then clearly the scientist can observe the phenomenon and, using a vocabulary that marks the difference, say that the chaos was the result of an intelligent cause, and was not, therefore, the result of a natural cause. If, on the other hand, you describe each as the same kind of case, then you are reduced to saying that the phenomenon was the result of a natural cause and was not the result of a natural cause, which would be irrational. It is the same as saying that there is no categorical difference between the activity of a tornado and the activity of a burglar and therefore, there is no way to make the distinction for purposes of design detection.

    Certainly it doesn’t follow from my proposed conception of metaphysical naturalism. “Design detection”, as it’s called, in forensic science and archeology isn’t a problem.

    It would seem to be a big problem. The archeologist can distinguish between the design in an ancient hunter’s spear and the natural phenomenon of wind, air and erosion only because he recognizes that different kinds of causes are in play, which is the logical prerequisite for affirming the presence of one and negating the presence of the other.

    Presumably it could be cashed out in terms of entropy — a room ransacked by a burglar will have a much lower entropy than a corner of a house hit by a tornado.

    Perhaps, but that would be just another way identifying and classifying the differences in causes, which is the required vocabulary of methodological naturalism. In any case, doesn’t the archeologist, independent of any considerations about entropy, recognize immediately that the volcano that buried the artifacts in ancient Pompei is a different kind of cause than the humans that designed them?

    As for the third case — the laws of the universe and the lawgiver — that’s just not part of metaphysical naturalism. If the very concept of “laws of nature” presupposes a “lawgiver,” then “laws of nature” are laws in a metaphorical sense.

    Methodological naturalism forbids any consideration of a lawgiver. It is true that the word “law” is a human construct (perhaps metaphor) to describe the law-like regularity in nature, but it is also true that the first cause required to create and sustain the conditions for that regularity cannot be the same kind of cause as the regularity itself. Put another way, the law and the law-giver cannot be the same kind of entity because a physical law can only do what it does (which rules out creative or intelligent activity) while the latter is free to create, not create, and choose among an infinite variety of possible creations.

  22. 22
    Kantian Naturalist

    StephenB, I’m sorry to say it but I’m having a lot of trouble discerning anything that I have been defending here under the term “metaphysical naturalism” as being at work in your question. For one thing, I’ve clearly stated already that “methodological naturalism” is not a term that I take on, so I’d appreciate it if you made explicit why I can’t avoid that term, or why I should take it on despite my misgivings about it.

    And I guess I just don’t see why I’m not entitled to regard intelligent activity as a proper sub-set of natural activity. (Again, my rejection of the Epicurean conception of nature is the very heart of my project.) Put slightly otherwise: I happily accept that there are different kinds of cause, but none of those kinds of cause are non-natural. In my view, what you want to call “different kinds of cause” is not about metaphysics — illuminating the basic structure of reality — but about different kinds of explanation, which means it’s an epistemological matter.

    No doubt, at the very end of the day, epistemology and metaphysics have to mutually support each other in a sufficiently comprehensive system, but that doesn’t mean that everything epistemic is directly translatable into ontology at every step. I take very seriously Aristotle’s dictum that we move from what is first in relation to us to what is primary in itself, and especially as that idea was taken up by Hegel and Sellars in the idea that priority in the order of understanding is not priority in the order of being. In the order of understanding, we have different vocabularies that classify causes into different kinds, and intelligent causation is one of that vocabularies. What that category amounts to at the end of the day, metaphysically speaking, is another matter entirely.

    As for the point about the lawgiver, I understand what you’re saying — I’ve studied some theology here and there in my time — but (1) I’m not a theist; (2) I don’t think that design theory lends any more epistemic support to theism than it does to naturalism.

  23. Kantian Naturalist:

    And I guess I just don’t see why I’m not entitled to regard intelligent activity as a proper sub-set of natural activity. (Again, my rejection of the Epicurean conception of nature is the very heart of my project.) Put slightly otherwise: I happily accept that there are different kinds of cause, but none of those kinds of cause are non-natural. In my view, what you want to call “different kinds of cause” is not about metaphysics — illuminating the basic structure of reality — but about different kinds of explanation, which means it’s an epistemological matter.

    I think the difficulty here is that we are not using common terms. I know that you put forward a definition of naturalism, and I appreciate the effort. However, I am still not clear on how your definition of a natural cause. It is only the latter definition that is relevant to the demarcation “rule” in science.

    So far, there are two definitions on the table:

    ID: A Natural cause is one that is the product of law, chance, or both (as opposed to an intelligent or agency cause, which is recognized as being of a different kind)

    Methodological Naturalism: A Natural Cause is one which is not a supernatural cause.

    What is your definition of a natural cause?

  24. Kantian naturalist said that he doesnt regard “natural causes” as a subset of anything else because for him the only type of causes that exist are natural. So the proper question to ask is what he considers to be “natural” and what he considers to be non natural. I suspect he equates natural with physical or material in which case he would be a physicalist or materialist.

  25. Kantian naturalist.
    I am Canadian.
    There you guys go again.
    You accuse creationists of breaking the great idea of separation of church and state.
    Yet I said in my post it is fact your side that is doing this.
    Equation.
    If the state bans conclusions/ideas about subjects in education that are taught with the understanding that the truth, or seeking truth, is the goal of the education THEN the state is officially saying these banned conclusions are not the truth.
    The state is insisting that these opinions are false.
    So the state is saying here biblical doctrines are false.
    How are they not?

    Censorship here by the state is not neutral as to the truth of what is being censored.

    Its like the state is saying it won’t allow interference from the church but it will interfere with the church.

    Banning creationism is saying its not true.
    The state bans creationism because they say its about religious conclusions on origins. No religion allowed.
    Therefore since conclusions in these subjects are contrary to religion and rebuttal is banned then the state has insisted the religious doctrinbesw are false.
    since clearly the subjects are taught as true.

  26. Basically, there are three ways of analyzing the Church/State problem, two of which represent an unwanted extreme:

    Extreme 1: The total [separation] of Church and State–Radical Secularism. The church may not challenge the state.

    Extreme 2: The total [union] Church and State–Radical Theocracy

    Optimal relationship as expressed in U.S. Declaration of Independence: The [intersection] of Church and State.

  27. 27
    Kantian Naturalist

    @ Kuartus (24):

    So the proper question to ask is what he considers to be “natural” and what he considers to be non natural. I suspect he equates natural with physical or material in which case he would be a physicalist or materialist.

    Above I proposed to define “naturalism” as the denial of any persons that are not animals. That seems sufficient to put some flesh on the bare bones of “denying the supernatural,” which is (as StephenB rightly noted) circular. Of equal importance, for ethical and political reasons, is that putting things that way rescues the category of personhood for naturalism.

    I don’t like what’s called “physicalism” or “materialism,” and I don’t think of my view in those terms. Here’s why.

    I take very seriously what I call “the Four Ms”: Mind, Meaning, Morality, and Modality [possibility and necessity]. I think that these four topics are deeply interconnected and indispensable for any reasonable view of human existence. That emphasis is the ‘Kantian’ side of my view. And “physicalism”/”materialism” have a deplorable history of downplaying or neglecting them. In general, I think it’s safe to say, materialist have treated these topics as things to be either eliminated or reduced to other concepts. And I do not hold with that. I think that the philosophical task is to account for the Four Ms, not to dispense with them. (This makes me more of an ally of theism and dualism than naturalists are, for whatever that’s worth.)

    For me, then, the question is how to reconcile this Kantian emphasis on the Four Ms with naturalism. I think that John Dewey did a pretty good job of doing that for mind and morality, and Wilfrid Sellars did a pretty good job of that for meaning and modality. (There’s room for improvement in both regards.)

    [Friedrich Nietzsche, who I know and admire more than I let on here, stands out for me as a spectacular failure of how to reconcile the Four Ms and naturalism -- he's fascinating to me as someone who clearly discerns the conflict between the Four Ms and naturalism, throws them under the bus, and alternates between anxiety and anticipation about doing so.]

    Robert @ 25: I apologize for having mistaken you for an American. :)

    That said: it is, by my lights, misleading to say that creationism is a biblical doctrine. It is a particular interpretation of Scripture, one that is held by many (including yourself) and rejected by many others (such as the Pope). Is it proper for the state to say that you are right and the Pope is wrong? How is that neutrality?

    In any event, the state does not prevent creationism from being taught. It prevents creationism from being taught in institutions that receive public funds. There are many private schools in which creationism can be (and is) taught.

  28. Kantian Naturalist

    Above I proposed to define “naturalism” as the denial of any persons that are not animals. That seems sufficient to put some flesh on the bare bones of “denying the supernatural,”….

    In the present context, a definition of “naturalism” is not sufficient or even helpful because it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a derivative definition of a “natural cause.” According to methodological naturalism, which is the proposed rule for legitimate science and the defining marker for separating science from psuedo science, only natural causes can be the legitimate subject matter for investigation.

    As I pointed out earlier, this claim is illogical for a number of reasons:

    [a] It cannot be defined and [b] it is self-contradictory, assuming that only one kind of cause exists (natural) yet claiming that other kinds of causes must be ignored.).

    It is illogical and nonsensical, therefore, to try to enforce a rule that cannot be defined or rationally articulated. “I don’t know what I mean when I use the term ‘natural cause,” but you are, nevertheless, practicing pseudo-science if you appeal to it whatever it is.

  29. 29
    Kantian Naturalist

    I’d like to point out, as I’d said above, that “methodological naturalism” is no part of my view, and for that matter, neither is the idea of a “demarcation criterion” between “science” and “pseudo-science.” Neither is the notion of a “natural cause.” Just sayin’.

  30. I wonder if any of you have seen this YouTube video clip of William Lane Craig, or if it’s been posted here. It’s most encouraging, it seems to me. It’s headed, New Atheists Are Not intellectually Bright

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14YM7MP6HzY

  31. I’m going to be running the meetup above and we hope to see anyone here who can make it. Thanks for all the comments. Naturalism, as many of you probably know, is not well-defined. But I do not think that any definitions necesitate empiricism. It might be best to think of naturalism in terms of what is is not – the “supernatural”. Something supernatural could be a phenomenon that cannot be explained in any law-driven manner. So for example, a phenomenon that violates the second law of thermodynamics, with no concievable other law-driven explanation.

    It is a misconception, I think, to say that science cannot study the supernatural, if we think of how a supernatural process could manifest, this could be studied using the typical methods of science.

    Methodological naturalism means that scientists would not say that there are no supernatural phenomena, just that they would not invoke supernatural explanations. But does this make much sense? As the Boudry paper states, methodological naturalism invoked in this a prior sense is not very coherent. Rather, the best use of methodological naturalism would be a posteriori – it is used because past experience tells us it works. In Bayesian terms, we have strong pretest priors for natural explanations. In this sense, if we did encounter supernatural phenomena, we should be very skeptical, but if the evidence is strong enough (and it would have to be very strong), we could accept supernatural causes and thus abandon methdological naturalism.

  32. Genet:

    Something supernatural could be a phenomenon that cannot be explained in any law-driven manner.

    Does that mean humans are supernatural?

    Genet:

    Something supernatural could be a phenomenon that cannot be explained in any law-driven manner.

    I have to think you’re speaking of something hypothetical. If there was some actual event that could not be explained in a law-driven manner it would mean that naturalism was false. Right?

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