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Is the dismissal by asserting “fallacy of personal incredulity” itself a fallacy?

A "trinity" of philosophers

Yesterday, UD’s News announced a free chart of fallacies.

I thought, oh, yay, let’s download.

But, once I began to look at the chart, I noticed that it presented Plato, Socrates and Aristotle in a way that seemed to mock the orthodox Christian triune concept of God. (Did it ever strike the creator of the chart, that Plato is a foundational design thinker? Cf here on.)

Clue no 1.

Clue no 2 was that many fallacies seemed to have odd names. And, “thou shalt not commit logical fallacies” in that context suggests that, as with too many presentations on fallacies I have seen online, this is an agenda in disguise: you object to “our” views because you are dumb and/or dishonest.

Sadly, this also happens in print. Including in books from leading publishers.

In short, my spin-game meter was pegging.

Then, I saw the fallacy of personal incredulity — so-called — on the list, and the problem was suddenly quite clear.

Let me clip my comments on this in the “free chart” thread:

Saying that because one finds something difficult to understand that it’s therefore not true.

a –> EEP: nope, STRAWMAN: the issue is that claims must meet reasonable criteria of warrant, and that if a claim does not, then it has no right to command our assent

Complex subjects like biological evolution through natural selection require some amount of understanding of how they work before one is able to properly grasp them;

b –> Rubbish, the basic premise has long been that chance plus necessity working through variations and selection are sufficient to go from microbes to Mozart

c –> the issue is not that one does not UNDERSTAND — notice the snide insinuation of “your’e too dumb” i.e. a scapegoating caricature and atmosphere-poisoning ad hominem — but that this is not well warranted on empirical and observational grounds, and is in fact based in the end on philosophical a prioris that cut off facts pointing to design before they are allowed to speak.

d –> In particular, the issue is the origin of complex, functionally specific organisation and associated information. The ONLY empirically warranted source of such FSCO/I is intelligence, and we have abundant reason to see analytically that the atomic resources of the observed cosmos do not come anywhere near close enough to warrant the ideas that highly contingent and complex functionally specific entities can arrange themselves out of chance assemblies of components, by chance and blind mechanical necessity.

e –> Since this issue has been on the table for decades now, to duck it and set up a strawman is frankly dishonest. This fallacy so called is itself a fallacy.

this fallacy is usually used in place of that understanding.

f –> pride laced ideologically loaded ad hominem: if you doubt my “science” you must be too dumb to understand it

Kirk drew a picture of a fish and a human and with effusive disdain asked Richard

g –> Obviously Dawkins, i.e this is coming from the circle of the Dawkins sites. That is also reflected in the pattern of thought.

if he really thought we were stupid enough to believe that a fish somehow turned into a human through just, like, random things happening over time.

h –> Strawman, laced with ad hominems and set alight through snide insinuations

i –> Notice, it was led up to by way of a red herring distractor from the real issue, evidence of design based on empirically well supported signs of design.

j –> Do we see an explanation backed up by empirical observations on the origin of — for one instance — digital, algorithmic coded information and implementing machinery in the so-called simple cell? Of course not.

k –> In short, this is a trifecta fallacy exercise that reeks of self-puffery: we are bright, you are too dumb to understand if you dare object

So, sorry, this free chart is worth just what was paid for it.

Zilch.

Thanks, but no thanks, new atheists.

Phil Johnson suggests a wiser strategy:

“The late astronomer and popularizer of science Carl Sagan worried that an epidemic of irrationality is loose in the world . . . What we need to protect ourselves from such false beliefs, Sagan writes in his book The Demon – Haunted World, is a well-equipped ‘baloney detector kit.’  A baloney detector is simply a good grasp of logical reasoning and investigative procedure.  Carl Sagan and I would agree about how to describe the principles of baloney detecting in general.  We would disagree only about where the detectors are to be pointed, and especially about whether we should ever suspect the presence of baloney in claims made by the official scientific establishment.”  [“Tuning Up Your Baloney Detector” in Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), pp. 37-38.]

So does the recently late, great Christian spokesman, Chuck Colson:

“Carl Sagan was right: We do need baloney detectors.  But we don’t need to beam them on Christian beliefs, as Sagan urged; instead, let’s use them to get an honest take on the fossil record and to separate science from philosophy.  And we should encourage robust debate between creationists and evolutionists: It keeps both sides from ignoring evidence that does not appear to fit their theories.”  – Chuck Colson, “Is Natural All There Is?”, Breakpoint radio transcript #80209, 1998.

And of course, the HT due to the Creation Safaris site for the two quotes points to a much better survey, one by those much despised Creationists, here.

For a more advanced, systematic survey, I strongly recommend the IEP’s fallacies page, here. 207 fallacies, alphabetically listed, plus a good introduction.

For starters on straight thinking and de-spinning, I suggest my own 101′shere and here. The discussion of selective hyperskepticism here will be helpful, that of how to develop a worldview foundation here and that on origins science here will also help.

New atheists: back to the drawing-board, please. END

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36 Responses to Is the dismissal by asserting “fallacy of personal incredulity” itself a fallacy?

  1. Really, doesn’t it depend on what’s driving the incredulity?

    Once upon a time, a woman who lived in the Arctic saw a plane for the first time and declared, “I don’t believe it; the wings don’t flap.”

    Good observation but a lack of knowledge of aeronautics prevented her from realizing that flapping is not an essential prerequisite of flight.

    In the same way, British sailors refused at first to go to sea in iron hulled ships because they “knew” they would sink. What they didn’t know was the principle of buoyancy.

    On the other hand, if someone expects me to believe that a man who has been married and divorced eight times is a good husband, they are expecting an awful lot.

    The key element in “personal incredulity” is “personal.”

    What if it is not just me? What if anyone with a roughly similar amount of life experience would be thinking roughly the same thing?

    In this case, I am not incredulous based on what I don’t know – as was the case with the sailors – but on what I DO know. That no one is just unlucky that many times.

    And if they are expecting me to believe that Darwinism is a source of intricate machinery, they have pushed the limit to the snapping point. Most of the world doesn’t believe it and for good reason: it’s not likely and it’s never been demonstrated.

  2. News:

    Indeed, it very much depends on what is driving the incredulity.

    You will recall, that I have often spoken about selective hyperskepticism, which captures what is legitimate about where skepticism goes wrong (and, contrary to what is commonly promoted, skepticism is NOT to be properly regarded as an intellectual virtue).

    Snipping from the synopsis:

    The fallacy of selective hyperskepticism occurs when one exerts (perhaps inadvertently) a double-standard on the degree of warrant demanded for accepting testimony, claims or reports on matters of fact; matters which as Havard’s Simon Greenleaf (one of the fathers of the modern theory of evidence) observed, can only be shown to be so beyond reasonable doubt, i.e. to moral rather than demonstrative certainty. Also, given Kurt Godel’s work in the 1930′s even mathematical demonstrations fail of absolute certainty, as — for sufficiently rich axiomatic mathematical systems — complete sets of axioms will be inconsistent and there is no constructive procedure to create sets of axioms which are known to be consistent. The fallacy is rooted in the problem that if radical skepticism is universally applied, it ends in self-referential absurdity, through corroding confidence in ALL claims; thus, itself as well. That is, subtly, it contradicts and so refutes itself. However, sometimes, when a claim does not sit well with one’s worldview, one is tempted to dismiss it through selectively — thus inconsistently — requiring a degree of evidence that, by the very nature of the case, a matter of fact cannot attain; perhaps through the slogan, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” (This problem of a double-standard in assessing evidence, unfortunately, is particularly commonly met with in discussions on the authenticating evidential underpinnings of the Christian Faith, and on matters connected to origins sciences.) Instead of falling into such inconsistencies, it is wiser to first examine the comparative difficulties of the worldview level claims and commitments thus involved, on factual adequacy, coherence and simplicity/ad hocness, leading to a position that can be called “reasonable faith.” In so doing, reasonable principles of assessing fact-claims and associated basic beliefs can be applied, on a fair and balanced basis . . .

    So, the real issue is that we must be consistent in standards of warrant, recognising as well the limitations of our investigations and knowledge claims. Where evolutionary materialists often go off the rails, is that they impose materialism by the back-door as a Lewontinian a priori, and end up excluding things that would otherwise be easily seen to be well warranted.

    For instance FSCO/I has but one empirically well warranted source: design. It is abundantly well attested, on billions of test cases all around us, where we do know the source. In addition, it is easy to show just how fast the alternative explanation suggested, chance plus blind necessity, runs out of capacity very fast. 1,000 bits worth of explicit or implied info that is functionally specific is enough (as the linked discussion in the OP highlights).

    But because of an a priori determination not to see design as a credible explanation in origins contexts, and to impose materialism explicitly or implicitly, it is held that there MUST be a materialist mechanism.

    And so, when someone comes along and points out the problems, the pretence is that such a person is ignorant, and/or stupid and/or dishonest. or — and in context, it means pretty much the same thing — has a religious agenda. (hence the current hidden religious agenda witch-hunt.)

    So, a fake fallacy has been ginned up as a strawman-scapegoat game.

    Just as, right now, NCSE is busy trying to re-label the Tennessee law on blocking retaliation against teachers who allow discussion of limitations of science in controversial contexts dear to the hearts of NCSE and similar groups, as a “Monkey law.” That is, they are trying to use the distorted, slanderous misunderstanding of the Scopes Trial inculcated by Inherit the Wind etc, to distort the perception of what this law does. (It is all of two pages long, do please actually read it and have enough decency to answer to it, not to a convenient, ad hominem-soaked scapegoat and strawman. [My earlier comment is here.])

    Of course, the major media — to their discredit — will give them a free pass in this lie.

    And, sorry, but lie this is.

    For, NCSE, a responsible body, is here speaking in willful disregard of truth they know or should know, and are hoping to profit from the perception that their talking points or insinuations are true. That, sirs, is willful, calculated deception.

    It is patent to anyone who objectively examines the relevant law, that the issue is to make the limitations of scientific knowledge claims clear, and to restrict the discussion specifically to scientific matters that are in the curriculum, specifically excluding from the protective umbrella religious remarks. Since courts have ruled — in some cases on questionable grounds — that Creation science thought [which would include not just appeal to the Bible on origins but generic thought on what the nature of the world points to as its source] and Design thought are deemed “religious” the issue cannot be that discussion of such topics will be protected. And yes, school districts routinely lose on suits from ACLU etc, as the whole climate has been so jiggered that e.g. Judge Jones imagined that watching Inherit the Wind was an appropriate way to prepare himself to hear the case before him. (Cf here on on that.)

    Do you want me to say it plainly: WITCH-HUNT?

    We have something that has gone very wrong with science education, and every attempt to get the materialist indoctrination and politically correct propaganda out of science classrooms is being assaulted by radical ideologues using tactics that are — given the level of the people involved at the source — dishonest and irresponsible.

    That is the take-home lesson from all of this.

    And in the case of this chart, the pretence that to question the shibboleths of evolutionary materialist ideology imposed on science reflects ignorance and laziness so that one does not understand, is an outrageous slander.

    Worse, it is embedded in a piece of mockery of the Christian faith, and the Christian scriptures.

    It should be withdrawn by its author, apologised for and corrected.

    Not that I am holding my breath.

    GEM of TKI

  3. I’m glad you brought this up because I had the exact same feeling looking at this chart. But I couldn’t figure out exactly why I felt that way. I thought the “thou shalt not” part was a little weird, and some of the wording was weird, but you kind of clarified what my own spin-game meter was suggesting…

    Not that the chart is totally useless, in my mind … just that, I don’t see any need for this condescending vibe intruding on something that is supposed to be solely about logic.

  4. KF,

    I would like to pick up on one point in your post, which I have been mulling over for a while, and let me preface by saying that I am firmly in the ID camp, so you know where I stand on the issue.

    In the OP, you state,

    In particular, the issue is the origin of complex, functionally specific organisation and associated information. The ONLY empirically warranted source of such FSCO/I is intelligence…

    This point has been most thoroughly elucidated, I believe, by Stephen Meyer in Signature in the Cell where he states, “…we have independent evidence—’uniform experience’—that intelligent agents are capable of producing specified information,” and from this concludes, using the historical scientific method as practiced by Darwin and others, that the action of an intelligent agent is the best explanation for the existence of massive amounts of specified information in the cell.

    I had a long discussion here a few months ago with AIguy on this topic, and he finally convinced me that there is a flaw in this logic as presented by Meyer, and that is that our “uniform experience” is entirely with human intelligent agents. Since there were clearly no human beings around at the time the first cell came into existence, this cause of specified information cannot be invoked as the cause of the specified information present in that cell. In other words, if you are going to invoke a currently operating cause to explain a past event, it must be a cause that there is good reason to believe was in operation at the time the event occurred. Since the only intelligent agents with which we have experience as causes of FSCO/I (to use your acronym) are human beings, and since human beings were not present when the first cell came into existence, it is not legitimate to conclude that an intelligent agent was the cause of that FSCO/I.

    The only way to get around this problem, as I see it, is to posit that human intelligent agency is a subset of a larger set of intelligent agents, at least one of whom was (or at least could have been) present at that time. However, there is no scientific knowledge that such a larger set of intelligent agents exists. As I said above, I am convinced that living things (and indeed the physical universe as a whole) are designed, but that is because my spiritual and metaphysical beliefs include the existence of such entities.

    Based on this, I believe that there are three intellectually defensible positions one can adopt, given the evidence of massive amounts of FSCO/I present in the first cell and the infusion of massive amounts of additional FSCO/I in subsequent more complex organisms:
    1. My metaphysical beliefs include the existence of a non-human intelligent agent or agents at the time the first cell came into being and subsequently, and thus they constitute the best explanation for the existence of FSCO/I in living things.
    2. The existence of FSCO/I in living things is a mystery. (This, by the way, if I understand their views correctly, is the position of both David Berlinski and Cornelius Hunter.)
    3. The existence of FSCO/I in living things is evidence that at least one intelligent agent was in existence at the time the first cell came into being, so I will alter my views to include that belief. (This was the stance taken by Antony Flew.)

    Only the second one, however, adheres strictly to the historical scientific method. It says, basically, that there is currently no purely scientific explanation for the existence of living things.

  5. BD:

    Nope, we see complex, functionally specific organisation caused by for instance beavers. (Cf the earlier discussion on this, here. They may have rather limited intelligence, but intelligence it is.)

    In addition, where we see digital symbolic codes and algorithms being formed, we have no good reason to hold that HUMAN is a relevant constraint rather than INTELLIGENT. For instance, not all humans can create an application program, or design or build a bridge or a dam, etc.

    The clear issue is intelligence, not humanity.

    The best explanation for the FSCO/I we see per empirical evidence is intelligence. In addition, we know on the analysis of search spaces, that 6the other source of high contingency, chance, is not credibly going to find the sort of isolated zones indicated by functional specificity; especially when the threshold is running past 500 or 1,000 bits.

    GEM of TKI

  6. KF,

    Well, there were no Beavers in existence at the time the first cell came into being either.

    You want to regard intelligence as something that exists independently of the physical beings which display it. There is no scientific evidence (yet) that this is justified. In our “uniform experience”, intelligence is always a property of an organism that has a physical brain, and since there could not have been any such organisms around at the time the first cell came into existence, it is not legitimate to use the rule of uniformitarianism to assign intelligence as a cause that could have been operating at that time. We have no “uniform experience” of intelligence acting absent a physical organism with a physical brain that displays that attribute.

    Now I happen to believe, as you do, that there are entities which do not possess physical brains but which nonetheless display intelligence. God is one such entity, of course. But this is a metaphysical presupposition, and not at this point in history scientifically validated.

    Thus, the design inference with respect to the first cell is grounded in metaphysics and requires metaphysical assumptions for its validity.

  7. Hi Bruce,

    I would say it just requires extrapolation, not metaphysics.

  8. BD:

    The issue,pardon, is that we see that FSCO is a mark of intelligence, not humanity.

    Similarly, FSCI is a mark of intelligence not humanity.

    That the living cell exhibits both is a pointer to its being produced by intelligence, not a demand that such be of any given type.

    Embodiment, we have no grounds for insisting as a criterion of intelligence or as exhausting actual or possible intelligence. What we have is that we observe phenomena and signs that trace to it. So, we can say that whatever so animates our bodies and gives us intelligence, is similar to the relevant causes.

    And, we need to realise that the physical, chemical and electrical cause-effect chains in our bodies no more determine the intelligence that rides on them than the chemistry, physics and optics of ink and paper determine the messages on a book page. Even, a computer is a dumb calculating machine that will blindly execute nonsense as much as sense, up to a crash stopping execution. Or, we can observe how a wise man and a fool have much the same brain.

    Intelligence is mysterious but that does not make it unreal or not subject to inference to moral certainty as an explaining phenomenon. (And science in general is riddled with similar pivotal unobservables. The past of origins, just to name one, never mind museum displays, Nat Geog computer animations etc. The actual deep past is an unobservable. Strictly, so are atoms and electrons and particles in cloud or bubble chambers — we infer the reality from observable effects.)

    For that matter if we go as far back as the multi-faceted fine tuning and organisation that sets up a cosmos suitable for C-Chemistry, aqueous medium life, we have signs that point to intelligence as best explanation of the physics of the cosmos — causally antecedent to atomic matter.

    More to the point, you seem to be cordoning off “scientific.”

    Sorry, the issue is empirical data and what it warrants on best explanation. There is no definable specific scientific method that only and all scientists use. So the real issues are those of logic and epistemology, and we cannot separate science from them. Science is a field of praxis that deeply embeds its philosophical foundation and no good is done by blinding ourselves to that. Indeed, that is where the limitations on warrant of scientific knowledge claims come from.

    It is our generation’s intellectual parochialism that is letting us down badly.

    GEM of TKI

  9. KF,

    I am looking at a very specific question, namely, is Meyer correct in his inference based on the scientific principle of Uniformitarianism, as developed by Lyell, that the best explanation for the existence of complex, specified, information in the cell is the action of an intelligent agent? My answer is that his use of that principle of inference to the best explanation is flawed.

    Intelligence is not a causal entity. It is an attribute of a causal entity, namely an intelligent agent. Intelligence doesn’t act; intelligent agents act. Intelligence is an abstraction, a concept, an intellectual construct. As far as we know, it has no existence independent of an intelligent agent. It is inaccurate to state that the existence of CSI is a hallmark of intelligence. The accurate statement is that the existence of CSI is a hallmark of the action of an intelligent agent.

    When we observe in the present day the production of CSI of the sophistication found in cells, our “uniform experience” is that it was invariably produced by a human intelligent agent or agents. This is our “uniform experience” of the cause of the presence of CSI in the present day. The principles of Uniformitarianism then dictate that we assign the cause we know to be efficacious in the present as an explanation for the phenomenon that occurred in the past (the CSI present in the first cell). But that cause is a human intelligent agent or agents, and there were no such entities in existence at the time that the first cells appeared. If we do as Meyer did, and drop the adjective “human”, then we are not assigning a cause known to be operative in the present. We have no “uniform experience” of non-human intelligent agents causing CSI in present time.

    To conclude that life was and is designed, as I do, requires an additional assumption, namely that there was in fact at least one intelligent agent capable of acting at the time that the first cell came into being. This assumption lies outside of the Uniformitarian argument. Absent such an assumption, one is left with only mystery. We don’t know how it happened.

  10. I saw this the other day, but did you notice that the “appeal to nature” description actually commits the “appeal to authority” that is listed DIRECTLY ABOVE IT?!! Hilarious!

  11. John D,

    As in “most of us agree?” Hilarious, indeed. Didn’t notice at first, and I guess that illustrates KF’s point in all of this.

  12. Leslie:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feeling of uneasiness. You have good reason to be concerned on tone, content, quality and agenda.

    JohnD & CY:

    Actually, it gets very interesting if we look at appeal to authority and appeal to nature [naturalness] together.

    We begin to see further fallacies popping up:

    AUTHORITY:

    Using the opinion or position of an authority ?gure, or
    institution of authority, in place of an actual argument.

    –> Notice, IEP’s much more balanced and informed discussion, which recognises the value and secondary warrant provided by legitimate appeal to authorities (starting with the dictionary):

    You appeal to authority [--> Notice, not "improperly"] if you back up your reasoning by saying that it is supported by what some authority says on the subject. Most reasoning of this kind is not fallacious, and much of our knowledge properly comes from listening to authorities. However, appealing to authority as a reason to believe something is fallacious whenever the authority appealed to is not really an authority in this particular subject, when the authority cannot be trusted to tell the truth, when authorities disagree on this subject (except for the occasional lone wolf), when the reasoner misquotes the authority, and so forth. Although spotting a fallacious appeal to authority often requires some background knowledge about the subject or the authority, in brief it can be said that it is fallacious to accept the words of a supposed authority when we should be suspicious of the authority’s words.

    –> The anonymous poster fails to justify its own authority and fails to distinguish proper use of authorities from improper appeals

    –> No prizes for guessing how this leads to trouble

    –> A better balance recognises that “99%” of arguments appeal to authorities, starting with the teachers we learned from, then points out that no authority is better than his/her facts, logic and underlying assumptions.

    Much of the time experts have better information and understanding than others, but holding a position of authority doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is right. After all, the highest medical authorities used to think that bleeding people was a good general cure for sickness.
    Not able to defend his position that evolution ‘isn’t true’

    –> Notice the loaded example

    Bob says that he knows a scientist who also questions evolution

    –> Notice the subtle appeal to consensus of a dominant school of thought

    –> Could such an objecting scientist have grounds for questioning the more speculative and philosophically loaded aspects that depend on big assumptions about the unobserved deep past and bigger extrapolations from rather modest empirical cases on the powers of chance variation and environmental culling leading to descent with variation and population shifts?

    (and presumably isn’t a primate).

    –> Notice, the assumption that the only possible explanation for similarity of body plan is common descent. This is a case where the recent Tennessee law would help correct in effect indoctrination. (Berra’s blunder on the descent of Corvettes is a good example as is a critical look at the taxonomy of paper fasteners.)

    NATURE:

    Making the argument that because something is ‘natural’
    it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, or ideal.
    Just because something is natural doesn‘t mean it’s good. For instance murder is natural, but most of us agree

    –> Indeed, an appeal to consensus, here to ground what consensus cannot ground: morality.

    –> For a long time, vast majorities supported or accepted various institutions like slavery

    that we don’t think it’s a very good thing to be doing, nor does its ‘naturalness’ constitute any kind of justification for it. The medicine man rolled into town on his bandwagon offering various natural remedies,

    –> Notice, the loaded example, i.e. there is a subtle underlying pattern of putting CURRENT “science” on a pedestal

    –> Are objectors to the prevailing view of the dominant factions of the guild always wrong?

    –> Are there limitations to the methods, findings and degree of warrant for scientific investigations?

    –> What about claims and issues, not on snake oil salesmen, but on promoters of certain climate trend views? Claims about the “facts” and forces that drove the unobservable events of the deep past of origins?

    such as very special plain water. He said that it was only natural that people should be wary of ‘artificial’ medicines such as antibiotics.

    –> This is of course a strawman

    Let us also notice the underlying notion that current science is to be put on a pedestal.

    GEM of TKI

  13. BD:

    Pardon, but intelligence in purposeful action i.e. intelligent design IS a causal factor, and it is the causal factor that we access all other things through once we need to think or communicate verbally. So if we deny its reality, we reduce to patent absurdity.

    I have already given examples to show that intelligence is not tied to humanness, which was the point you started from. It is not being human but having relevant knowledgeable intelligence that explains things like digital code, algorithms and organised effecting machines.

    We have empirical and analytical warrant for inferring that it is intelligent action which is uniformly seen to cause FSCO/I; and, that the other source of highly contingent outcomes, chance, cannot credibly find zones of specific organised function in large configuration spaces. The third causal factor, mechanical necessity produces similar results under similar initial conditions, i.e. it does not explain high contingency.

    (If you had a large number of dice and dropped them, necessity would explain that all would fall, it is chance acting on subtle and uncontrolled variations in circumstances through the butterfly effect that explains the distribution of values that with extremely high probability would result. If you tossed 501 coins and saw H and T in near 50-50 distribution in no particular order, chance would be the best explanation. But if you came back and saw the coins showing the ASCII code for the first 73 characters of this post you would rightly suspect intelligent action.)

    What we have here is good warrant for inferring that intelligent action often leaves traces that are highly characteristic. So, once intelligence is POSSIBLE, if we see such a sign, it is the best explanation. In which case, we further see that the point is, that implicit assumptions about the nature and possibility of intelligence to act in cases are controlling how inferences are being accepted or rejected.

    Now, we have excellent reason per beavers etc to know that we do not exhaust possibilities for embodied intelligence. We have good reason on the fine tuning of the cosmos that grounds the possibility of cell based life, to see that atomic matter does not exhaust the possibilities for intelligence. (Indeed, just the mind-brain problem and possibilities per the Smith model should tell us so.)

    In that context, Meyer has observed FSCO/I in the living cell and in the underlying system architecture that allows such a molecular nanotech, metabolic, self replicating, algorithm and digital code using entity to work as an automaton. He sees abundant signs of intelligence in action. So, without being forced into speculating on the precise nature of whatever entity could account for such, so long as intelligent candidates are possible [no a priori materialism a la Lewontin, et al, please], the evidence points to design as relevant causal factor per inference to best explanation.

    In turn that shifts the epistemic weight of suggested explanations of the origin of life — his context of discussion — strongly against “warm little pond” type suggestions. And, in favour of design.

    Note, OOL on earth is not decisive on intelligence within or beyond the observed cosmos. As I kept pointing out in past months, on trends with Venter et al intelligent design of life is already empirically warranted, and we will be in a position to do so “from scratch” across this century.

    So, OOL on earth would not require more than an advanced molecular nanotech lab.

    What does raise serious questions on extra cosmic intelligence is the fine tuned cosmos we inhabit. Cf here and onward linked for first steps.

    (The heat in debates over biological origins is a result of the arguments from 1858 on that sought to use such to put God out of a job. From its first technical work by Thaxton et al, ID has taken no major metaphysical stance on explaining the origin of life on earth, qua science. Of course, if one integrates the cosmological side one has a good worldview case that the intelligence that credibly built our observed cosmos is the most reasonable explanation for why it not only is fitted for cell based intelligent life but actually has such life. But that goes beyond the province of scientific investigations, important as such may be.)

    GEM of TKI

    PS: You may want to read Meyer’s response to objections here. Esp pp 41 on, 70 on, 83 on. Also, cf the discussion of Venema’s attempted rebuttal, here — with particular focus on OO life and associated information.

    PPS: Observe Meyer’s remark in reply to Venema, as clipped by ENV:

    Since I was not principally concerned with whether biological evolution could generate specified information, I decided to formulate a “conservative” conservation law — one that applied only to a nonbiological context (and thus not to any information-rich initial state). My statement of the law does not say anything about whether undirected natural processes could produce an increase in specified information starting with preexisting forms of life. But it does encapsulate what repeated experience had demonstrated about the flow of information starting from chemistry and physics alone.

    Here’s my version of the law of conservation of information: “In a nonbiological context, the amount of specified information initially present in a system, S, will generally equal or exceed the specified information content of the final system, Sf.

    (Meyer, Signature, p. 293, emphases added)

    Likewise, observe:

    [M]any scientists recognized that Oparin’s concept of prebiotic natural selection begged the question. Natural selection occurs only in organisms capable of reproducing or replicating themselves. Yet, in all extant cells, self-replication depends on functional and, therefore, sequence-specific DNA and protein molecules. As theoretical biologist Howard Pattee explains, “There is no evidence that hereditary evolution [natural selection] occurs except in cells which already have … the DNA, the replicating and translating enzymes, and all the control systems and structures necessary to reproduce themselves.” But this fact of molecular biology posed an obvious difficulty for Oparin’s theory of prebiotic natural selection. In order to explain the origin of specified information in DNA, Oparin invoked a process that depends on preexisting sequence-specific (i.e. information-rich) DNA molecules. Yet the origin of these molecules is precisely what his theory needed to explain. As Christian de Duve explains, theories of prebiotic natural selection necessarily fail because they “need information which implies they have to presuppose what is to be explained in the first place.” (Signature, pp. 274-275.)

    See the problem, and the relevance of seeing that FSCO/I is a reliable sign of intelligent cause? [Cf earlier discussions in the ID foundation series, e.g. here and here.]

  14. KF,

    Let me begin by saying that I agree with nearly everything you say in #13. I regard the position that ID is the only viable explanation for the specified functional complexity found in all life as practically a no-brainer, and have for years. Our disagreement is only about the specific question of whether this conclusion can be validly derived from Lyell’s Uniformitarianism, as Meyer contends in Signature in the Cell.

    I think we may have to agree to disagree on this, but let me try one more time to address a couple of your objections. You say,

    Pardon, but intelligence in purposeful action i.e. intelligent design IS a causal factor, and it is the causal factor that we access all other things through once we need to think or communicate verbally. So if we deny its reality, we reduce to patent absurdity.

    You use the phrase, “intelligence in purposeful action”. This is the key to me. Action requires an actor. Intelligence doesn’t act; actors (or agents) do. Our “uniform experience” is that the causes of the coming into existence of CFSI is always a human being. (The Beavers don’t count here. We’re talking about the CSFI found in cells—codes, cyberneic systems, data storage and retrieval, etc. Only humans produce this kind of CFSI.) The notion of intelligence is an abstraction from the observed experience of human action. This doesn’t deny its reality, any more than to call the laws of physics abstractions denies their reality. But as we all know, the laws of physics are descriptive, not causal.

    What we have here is good warrant for inferring that intelligent action often leaves traces that are highly characteristic. So, once intelligence is POSSIBLE, if we see such a sign, it is the best explanation.

    The point is that we don’t know that “intelligence is possible” on the early earth unless we make an a priori assumption that it is (or was). Our “uniform experience” in the present is that the cause of CSFI of the type found in cells is invariably a human intelligent agent, and it is not possible that this cause was operating on the early earth. To posit the possibility of an intelligent agent capable of acting at that time requires an additional (metaphysical) assumption.

    Now I believe, as you do, that such an assumption is warranted, but not within the context of the rules of Uniformitarianism. Unifromitarianism does not include an “out” that allows us to imagine a cause that is similar to a cause operating in the present, but qualitatively different, which an intelligent agent capable of operating on the early earth certainly would be.

    Thus, I conclude that the only stance that can be justified by staying strictly within the rules of Uniformitarianism is that we do not know how the first cell came into being, nor do we know how the increasing variety and complexity of life that has happened since came about. It is a mystery.

  15. BD:

    Initial note, it’s not Lyell as such, but Newton really.

    When on a good basis we have a characteristic feature, we have good reason to infer to like causing like. As, in how the centripetal acceleration of the moon about the earth is reasonably caused by the same factors as an apple falling in Lincolnshire.

    Do a reasonable diminution with spatial spread [square of distance] and we see something that answers “pretty nearly.”

    That puts us into universal gravitation.

    The uniformity principle is then that if we have known dynamics that cause a given effect, and reason to see the latter as a signature of the former, we have every right to infer to the same cause for the like effects even when we did not directly observe.

    In this case, functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information.

    What blocks the inference is a refusal to acknowledge the possibility of intelligent cause, so even though the mathematics of the required config space search say essentially zero chance by chance plus necessity, there is an insistence that only such be looked for as the explanation.

    KF

  16. KF,

    I basically concur with all of that (#15) with the minor caveat that Newton was extrapolating causes operating on earth to the universe as a whole, whereas Lyell was extrapolating causes operating in the present to the whole of the past.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  17. Bruce,

    “Thus, I conclude that the only stance that can be justified by staying strictly within the rules of Uniformitarianism is that we do not know how the first cell came into being, nor do we know how the increasing variety and complexity of life that has happened since came about. It is a mystery.”

    I don’t believe in any of Meyers’ writing that he is saying we DO know how the first cell came into being. In my understanding, having read SITC, what he’s saying is that we DO know from our experience with intelligent agents in the present, combined with the complete lack of evidence for non-intelligent agents demonstrating the production of FSCI in the present. Stating that we do have evidence of this (chance and necessity alone) is only confirming what one is attempting to prove from a position that takes for granted, or exaggerates chance and necessity’s ability. It’s question begging. Thus, given our present circumstances and experiences with intelligent agents, an intelligent agent as the originator of the first cell is more likely, and a more warranted extrapolation than chance and necessity. He’s not saying we know, but that we have more warrant for believing that it’s design than that it’s chance.

    So I think your disagreement with Meyer is more of a misunderstanding than a disagreement. I think he would agree that we do not know for certain and that it is indeed a mystery, but that we are more warranted in thinking that it’s design than chance/necessity. That really is the basis for doing work in ID; to work more towards confirmation of a position that is already warranted given the evidence currently at hand. My guess is that you perceive ID as believing it’s farther along than what it claims. Am I missing something?

  18. CannuckianYankee,

    My disagreement, as I see it, with Meyer, is not about the substance of what is warranted. I agree with his conclusions regarding the best explanation. The disagreement is strictly technical. Can you legitimately derive those conclusions using the methodology that he elucidates in Signature in the Cell and in debates and lectures elsewhere.

    My contention is that if you adhere strictly to that methodology, Lyell’s Uniformitarianism, you cannot, for reasons I have spelled out in detail above. Using that methodology with no additional assumptions, one is forced, I submit, to adopt an intellectual stance of agnosticism: it’s a mystery.

    If I understand him correctly, this is exactly where David Berlinski stands, by the way.

  19. Bruce,

    Yes, I read your above reply to KF regarding the difference between Newtonian methodology and Lyellian. Not certain of the particulars, though. I will have to read up some more. The paragraph I quoted from you just didn’t seem to jive with how I understood Meyer.

  20. Kairosfocus

    Please, excuse my ignorance, but what in the world is GEM TKI? And for that matter OOL? I kept reading that and I have no idea what it is supposed to mean. Help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  21. BD,

    It seems that if one strictly imposes the rules of Uniformitarianism as you have portrayed them, then inference really wouldn’t work much at all. Because, whatever you are observing isn’t exactly the same as something you would be making an inference to in many cases. An inference about someones basic needs (food, water, etc) based off of uniform and reapeated experience with those around you wouldn’t then be transferable to a new individual you might meet. Because you haven’t had any experience with that specific person.

    That may be a really bad example, but the point I am trying to make is that if you are going to say uniformitarianism means exactly the same things then it becomes very difficult to draw any inferences whatsoever.

    But to give an example to show that most would think intelligence without the “human” caveat is valid look at SETI. What they are looking for specifically is intelligence. They don’t know the nature of that intelligence, but they look because we know that FSCI comes from an intelligent source. Not that people thinking SETI’s search method is legitimate makes it legitimate, but I think we could agree that SETI is using an inference based on uniform and repeated experience. If the inference they would make is legitimate then it seems to me that Meyer’s would be as well. That is an inference to intelligence, but not necesarily “human” intelligence.

    Also it seems to me that intelligence and personhood go hand in hand. You said, “intelligence doesn’t act actors do.” I’m not sure that those two things can be divided up in reality. It seems implicit in intelligence that there is agency. Using inference, I haven’t met anyone who is totally void of intelligence and still a person. :)

  22. BD:

    First, I take your caveat above as in effect acknowledging Newton’s priority on reasoning based on adequate causal mechanism or phenomenon. Lyell in effect argued that if a given cause in our observation is adequate and warranted as causal explanation, then if we see a similar cluster of signs in the present that traces to the remote past, then it is reasonable on best, empirically warranted explanation, to explain the present traces on the past existence of similar circumstances and forces.

    To use a simple example, we often see bird tracks in sand, loose dirt or mud. So, if we find a mud stone with similar tracks in it, we infer to a similar animal walking in the remote, unobserved past. This can be extended to analysing weight patterns, impressions made, effect of speed or gait etc. From such and a study of comparative anatomy, a surprising amount may be inferred on best explanation from fossilised tracks. [BTW, note the University involved.]

    Thus, the present is often a useful key to the past.

    Where things seem to get queered is when we are seeing what in the present would normally trace to the ARTificial (as opposed to the “supernatural, whatever that means), as contrasted with the “natural,” here understood as that which traces to undirected chance and/or mechanical necessity starting from plausible initial circumstances.

    In the present, we routinely build complex functional mechanisms based on integrated, well matching parts. Some of these use digital codes and storage media. Some use integrated, numerically controlled (code controlled) process units. The only observed way to create such systems is design. And obviously, such design is adequate as causal factor.

    Similarly, we are emerging into a nano tech era, where miniaturisation is heading for the level of molecules. Indeed with work of Venter et al, we see where we can properly enfold proteins, D/RNA etc in the world of molecular nanotech. Within this century, it is likely that a molecular nanotech lab will create a metabolising, self replicating automaton based on C-chemistry polymer, aqueous medium technologies. This is a matter of linear progress from where we are today.

    so, we have a credible, adequate causal mechanism for what we already observe, the living cell.

    And, without knowing the details of manufacturing methods, we see in it abundant signs that on empirical tests only trace to design. On analysis, such are not plausible on blind chance and mechanical necessity, given search space challenges and the isolation of functional configs.

    So, on best empirically grounded explanation. The cell seems to be an artifact.

    But this is not “certain.” It is subject to change on new evidence or reasoning.

    Yes, so what, that holds for any scientific conclusion of any complexity. In studying the ongoing operations of the world and in origins science alike.

    Meyer’s reasoning is reasonable.

    GEM of TKI

  23. KF,

    Meyer’s reasoning is reasonable.

    I absolutely agree. It is reasonable, and I agree with the conclusion, as I have said.

    What I disagree with is the contention that his reasoning is a valid use of the Uniformitarian method.

    What it turns on is the idea of a “cause” in the present. You use the words “intelligence” and “design” as causes. Meyer uses the term “intelligent agent”. I say these are all abstractions from the actual cause that we observe in action, which is in every case a human intelligent agent or a human designer. Since this cause did not exist during most of earth’s history, it cannot be invoked as a legitimate cause of CFSI that came into being during that time under the rubric of Uniformitarianism.

    As I said earlier, we may just have to agree to disagree on this one.

    P.S. This may seem like nitpicking, but it isn’t really, IMO. The reason is that it illuminates an important consideration in this whole debate, namely that one must be willing to assume the existence of a designer that could have operated on the early earth to accept ID as a viable explanation. I think that it is important recognize that contrary to Meyer’s claim, the scientific method as it is practiced in the historical sciences does not by itself lead to the conclusion of design. By itself, again IMO, it leads to mystery, a complete absence of viable explanation.

    And I think that this is the reason why obviously competent and very intelligent thinkers like David Berlinski, while they recognize the total inadequacy of the materialist explanation, do not become positive supporters of ID either.

  24. Hi BD:

    Pardon but beavers exist, so we know that human and observed, active intelligence are not co-extensive, as was pointed out. Similarly as pointed out not all humans can say design a digital controller for a drip irrigation system. That is, the issue is intelligence not humanness.

    And as was also already pointed out [in slightly different language], we cannot assign the intelligence to neuron ion gradients and firing o]potentials or even networks, i.e. the electrochemistry and synapses are equivalent to Leibniz’s mill wheels grinding. These physical interactions would work just as happily to produce nonsense as sense.

    In short, there is a factual adequacy problem in your repeated account.

    Maybe, we can compare other unobservables in science inferred from their effects and labelled.

    In short, we may not be able to put intelligence in a test tube, just as we cannot look at a test tube full of information. That does not mean that they are not real or that they have no causal capability. We can even measure, info a bit more precisely.

    We can note signs of intelligence, which per observation are only seen to come from intelligence in action, and which we have good reason to see cannot reasonably be accounted for on chance. All of this has been pointed out already.

    On this, we may then see that intelligence is implicated, though the specific type may not be known. Essentially similar to how we infer from fossilised tracks to the animal and circumstances of the matter.

    All of this has already been pointed out [and not cogently addressed], so going in circles is liable to be fruitless.

    All that is being asked for is consistency in inferring best explanations of the past.

    KF

  25. I keep telling my neighbor that my mother was born on Mars. I give him time lines, testimonies from my siblings, NASA photos of the site where she is from, and more. Still, the idiot doesn’t believe me. He just keeps giving me an argument from personal incredulity. What a moron.

  26. KF:

    Beavers don’t count. As I have already pointed out, what we are talking about is cybernetic systems, codes, data storage and retrieval, etc. No Beaver has ever been observed to produce such a thing, and in fact the only observed cause of such things in the present day is a human being. And the fact that not all human beings produce such things doesn’t alter the fact that the only cause which we ever observe to produce them is a human being. That is the actual cause. Intelligence is an abstraction from that actual cause, and absent a concrete actor or agent that embodies it, is powerless to produce anything at all.

    You’re right. We’re going around in circles. Let’s just agree to disagree, ok?

  27. BD:

    Sorry, we seem to be going in circles based on a failure to reckon with the implications of factual evidence and/or the best explanations for facts in evidence. So, I speak in summary in light of facts for record, building on the above.

    First, as overarching construct, we are dealing with functionally specific complex organisation, FSCO (which implies underlying info, as in how many yes/no decision nodes must be passed to set up a working config).

    By this principle, beavers give every relevant indication that they are intelligent, though the intelligence is rather limited. Think about what it takes to build site-specific straight vs arched dams keyed to flow issues, noting again the earlier discussion in 5 above — observe especially the sketches from actual dam sites. (They seem to be a secondary intelligence, set up as a keystone species for pristine wilderness: water flow management.)

    And in fact digital code strings are an instance of FSCO, where a linear sequence of elements is used, glyphs that carry symbolic meaning as function. Such as, t-h-i-s-_-t-e-x-t.

    Next, when it comes to such symbol strings, being human is not decisive.

    Not just any human can compose a functioning Java program. or, write meaningful Russian using Cyrillic characters. One has to have a knowledge base and skill set plus assorted resources etc.

    These factors set up the distinction between intelligent design and humanness. relevant intelligence is key, not being human — as beavers are not. Similarly, for observed symbol string using designers it is not being human that counts but again intelligence expressed in relevant knowledge and skill.

    Going further, are you prepared to argue that humans exhaust the set of actual or possible users of symbolic codes etc? (On what grounds?)

    The proposed grounds, predictably, will fail. BECAUSE THE VERY EXISTENCE OF A DIGITAL SYMBOLIC CODE IN D/RNA IS DIRECT EVIDENCE THAT SYMBOL USE EXISTED BEFORE BIOLOGICAL LIFE OF THE FAMILIAR EARTH VARIETY.

    We easily see that the other relevant source of highly contingent outcomes — chance (mechanical necessity produces highly similar outcomes on similar starting points, not variety) — cannot credibly produce FSCO/I on the gamut of the observed universe, and so the best explanation for the FSCI in life of earth variety is intelligent design.

    Just, we have in hand a case of digital code based design that is antecedent to cell based life on earth.

    Already above it was shown that it is credible that a molecular nanotech lab significantly advanced beyond Venter or the like would be enough, so this is — standing by itself — not enough to infer to a source of earth’s life beyond the cosmos; for those who are wondering down that road. All the evidence at this point points to is that we have a reasonable warrant for inferring to a symbol using designer capable of algorithms, codes and executing machinery using molecular nanotech that is antecedent to formation of cell based life on earth. (Typical conventional timeline projected dates 3.5 or 3.8 – 4.2 BYA.)

    When one couples this to the existence of a cosmos that is on multiple factors, fine tuned to facilitate C-chemistry aqueous medium life, that does two things. First, it points to intelligence that is beyond our material, atomic-molecular constitution. Second, it makes a viable candidate as an intelligence capable of designing and building the physics of a cosmos, then giving effect to it and using it’s built in capacities to effect C chemistry cell based life.

    So, such a cosmos-building architect is arguably the best underlying candidate to be the designer of life.

    Summary, for record.

    GEM of TKI

  28. Stu:

    You would need to bring forth evidence adequate to account for a human settlement on Mars. Your neighbour accepts you as human. So, your mom would also need to be human.

    Where is that Star-gate lurking?

    And, where is the Colony on Mars?

    How does it solve the water, food, sunlight, energy etc problems?

    On what evidence?

    On earth we see answers to the feasibility and warrant for presence questions. It is not unheard of for there to be tall tales about Martians. (And, such tales do not radically cut across trends of thought. Indeed, they fit them, if we go back over the past 100 or so years. And where are the eyewitnesses and records? If old, what is the chain of custody and why should we see them as fair on the face?)

    In short adequacy and consistency of warrant criteria for comparable cases is pivotal.

    KF

  29. KF,

    I basically agree with your reasoning. What you can’t seem to grasp is the point that I am making, which is that I claim that your reasoning cannot be validly made within the rules of the historical scientific method (Uniformitarianism). Meyer invokes this method to justify his claim that his inference to the most reasonable explanation follows the scientific method used in the historical sciences.

    In other words, I am not questioning the inference to most reasonable cause. I am questioning whether this inference can be made within the rubric of Uniformitarianism. And my answer is no, because the inference requires positing a cause in the past that we have no direct experience exists in the present, namely a non-human intelligent agent capable of designing cybernetic systems of that degree of sophistication.

    Therefore, although I agree that the evidence strongly supports the conclusion that living systems were indeed designed, I also assert that in order to reach that conclusion, you have to make a step which cannot be justified within the Uniformitarian method, namely to assume the existence of such an intelligent agent.

    I cannot make this any clearer. I would love to be able to have a conversation with Stephen Meyer on the subject.

  30. BD:

    I have but little interest in labels. We are dealing with inference to best explanation on signs. The signs in turn being established on current observations of phenomena. Then, Newton’s uniformity principle.

    KF

  31. 31

    kairosfocus:

    In other words, you are saying that my neighbor finds it incredulous that my mother could be from Mars. You are saying that there is nothing wrong, per se, with an argument from incredulity.

    (In truth I agree with this. There is nothing wrong with “arguments from incredulity”. I don’t find the Darwinian explanation for evolution to be credible. In my opinion, Darwinists have not made their case, so I dismiss it with incredulity.)

  32. KF,

    I don’t have much interest in labels pre se either. However, I think the point I am making is important for several reasons:

    1. I think it is always a service whenever the particular assumptions underlying any chain of reasoning can be illuminated.

    2. I think it is useful to be aware that Meyer’s claim that he is using the scientific method of the historical sciences involves a certain sleight of hand, particularly since people who object to his conclusions can make use of that fact. If we are aware of the problem, we can be prepared with a valid response.

    3. I think we should recognize that the assumption in question, namely that there was at least one intelligent agent in existence at the time of the early earth, while easy to make for you and me, who already believe in the existence of the Creator, will be a step that many atheists and agnostics will be unwilling or unable to take. And while I agree that naturalistic explanations for the existence and evolution of life are completely untenable, I think that it is important to acknowledge that there is nothing in logic or the scientific method that requires one to assent to the existence of such an agent. Thus, the stance of David Berlinski and others that the origin and development of living things is a mystery is a valid intellectual position, even though it is not one that you and I adhere to.

  33. I don’t know why my other comments were not moderated and allowed, so this one probably won’t be allowed either, but SETI is doing exactly what Meyer is doing…inferring intelligence withour knowing its source exactly. If SETI is valid under the rules of Uniformitarianism then so is Meyers inference to ID. If Bruce would say neither of them is valid I think that is too strict an application of the rules.

  34. TJ:

    Thanks for commenting. I dunno on moderation, as I am not a moderator.

    When it comes to “rules” for science, we all need to bear in mind Feyerabend’s point that somewhere we will find a piece of accepted science that violates any neat and clean specific definition of the methods of science.

    KF

  35. BD:

    Let us go back to Newton’s Rules for reasoning in [natural] philosophy, from Principia as kindly compiled for us by Halsall of Fordham’s Modern History Sourcebook:

    RULE I

    We are to admit no more causes of natural things, than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.

    To this purpose the philosophers say, that Nature does nothing in vain, and more is in vain, when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.

    RULE II

    Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.

    As to respiration in a man, and in a beast; the descent of stones in Europe and in America; the light of`our culinary fire and of the sun; the reflection of light in the earth, and in the planets

    RULE III

    The qualities of bodies, which admit neither intension nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to all bodies within reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever.

    For since the qualities of bodies are only known to us by experiments, we are to hold for universal, all such as universally agree with experiments; and such as are not liable to diminution, can never be quite taken away. We are certainly not to relinquish the evidence of experiments for the sake of dreams and vain fictions of our own devising; nor are we to recede from the analogy of Nature, which is wont to be simple, and always consonant to itself. We no other way know the extension of bodies, than by our senses, nor do these reach it in all bodies; but because we perceive extension in all that are sensible, therefore we ascribe it universally to all others, also. That abundance of bodies are hard we learn by experience. And because the hardness of the whole arises from the hardness of the parts, we therefore justly infer the hardness of the undivided particles not only of the bodies we feel but of all others. That all bodies are impenetrable we gather not from reason, but from sensation. The bodies which we handle we find impenetrables and thence conclude impenetrability to be a universal property of all bodies whatsoever. That all bodies are moveable, and endowed with certain powers (which we call the forces of inertia) or persevering in their motion or in their rest, we only infer from the like properties observed in the bodies which we have seen. The extension, hardness, impenetrability, mobility, and force of inertia of the whole result from the extension, hardness, impenetrability, mobility, and forces of inertia of the parts: and thence we conclude that the least particles of all bodies to be also all extended, and hard, and impenetrable, and moveable, and endowed with their proper forces of inertia. And this is the foundation of all philosophy. Moreover, that the divided but contiguous particles of bodies may be separated from one another, is a matter of observation; and, in the particles that remain undivided, our minds are able to distinguish yet lesser parts, as is mathematically demonstrated. But whether the parts so distinguished, and not yet divided, may, by the powers of nature, be actually divided and separated from one another, we cannot certainly determine. Yet had we the proof of but one experiment, that any undivided particle, in breaking a hard and solid body, suffered a division, we might by virtue of this rule, conclude, that the undivided as well as the divided particles, may be divided and actually separated into infinity.

    Lastly, if it universally appears, by experiments and astronomical observations, that all bodies about the earth, gravitate toward the earth; and that in proportion to the quantity of matter which they severally contain; that the moon likewise, according to the quantity of its matter, gravitates toward the earth; that on the other hand our sea gravitates toward the moon; and all the planets mutually one toward another; and the comets in like manner towards the sun; we must, in consequence of this rule, universally allow, that all bodies whatsoever are endowed with a principle of mutual gravitation. For the argument from the appearances concludes with more force for the universal gravitation of all bodies, than for their impenetrability, of which among those in the celestial regions, we have no experiments, nor any manner of observation. Not that I affirm gravity to be essential to all bodies. By their inherent force I mean nothing but their force of` inertia. This is immutable. Their gravity is diminished as they recede from the earth.

    RULE IV

    In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.

    This rule we must follow that the argument of induction may not be evaded by hypotheses.

    Isaac Newton, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans. A. Motte (London, 1729). [Capitalization and spelling have been modernized.]

    Now, notice particularly rules III and IV, and cases where we are inferring on observed sufficient and general causal patterns and consequences that leave tested reliable signs of the action of said causes. That we may not observe in deep time is not in principle different from that we may not observe in space due to the far remoteness of the objects in astronomy.

    So, if we see signs in the world, and we by observation and experiment in the here and now that we can reach have reason to see that a factor F is sufficient and is the only known sufficient cause for effect E, marked by signs S, then we have good reason to infer from sign to effect thence cause as its best currently known explanation.

    In the case of FSCO/I, it so happens that the known sufficient causes are intelligent. The other source of highly contingent outcomes is not plausibly adequate to search the beyond astronomical configuration spaces that would otherwise have to be plumbed, and blind necessity will produce uniformity of effects under constant initial conditions. And of course minor noise gives rise to minor variability, save where that noise is amplified through a butterfly effect, whereupon the dominant outcome is by the impact of that chance variability, not the mechanical necessity. For instance this is what is responsible for the high contingency of a dropped fair die, thanks to eight corners and twelve edges.

    Meyer’s reasoning is cogent, and it is reasonable to draw a parallel to the extension of uniformity to remoteness in time championed by Lyell et al.

    The real problem is not the reasoning, as is emerging with the exchanges with Dr Matzke late publicist of NCSE in the MN thread (cf. here on in context in light of the clip from 66 in the thread). Instead, it is that there is an unstated, implicit assumption of naturalism that infers that here is only chance, necessity, matter and energy in space and time to appeal to, so regardless of the evident implausibility and the pattern of actual observations, chance and necessity MUST be the only admissible explanations.

    I see no good reason whatsoever to pander to question-begging and ideological impositions a la Lewontin,

    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 . . . ] . . . [Kindly, cf the link in context to see that this is NOT quote-mining, and observe as well the other four relevant clips, esp those of the US NAS and NSTA]

    . . . but instead every reason to expose them to the cold, clear light of day.

    GEM of TKI

  36. TJ:

    Looks like your posts have been released from mod, and itr is likely you may have free posting privileges.

    Welcome aboard.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: This is my personal initials and work persona, K being Kairos. OOL = Origin of Life.

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