The capriciousness of intelligent agency makes it challenging to call ID science
|February 26, 2014||Posted by scordova under Creationism, Intelligent Design, Philosophy, Religion|
It would be an interesting debate as to whether legal decisions by juries are considered science. Does anybody really care whether a jury verdict is called science or non-science? Was the verdict against Jodi Arias for killing Travis Alexander science? Or how about the conviction of Bernie Madoff, is that science? Isn’t it more important that the verdicts delivered are correct and faithful to the facts? Whether the inferences and verdicts can be labeled science or not seems to be extremely irrelevant in the scheme of things.
In similar fashion, that has been my view about the debate whether ID is science. A case can be made either way, and if we let something as flimsy as Darwinism and multiverses pass as science, why not question of ID and God pass as science. Even a leading atheist said:
You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.
But let me contrast ID with some classic theories of science. I do this not because I’m against ID, but to inform our readers about the challenges in declaring ID science. The fundamental problem in claiming ID is science is the non-predictability of how an intelligent agent will behave.
One of the most basic disciplines in physics is geometric optics. If you build a lens or mirror a certain way, light will be channeled a certain way. That is to say, under given conditions, we can expect a given outcome. There is no ambiguity as to predicted behavior. Much of physics and chemistry is framed in this way. Even things that have a random component can be said to have predictable outcomes in terms of expectation values like 500 fair coins having an expectation of 50% heads when subjected to a random process.
By way of contrast, intelligent agencies, particularly those intelligent agencies which we presume have free will, cannot be counted upon to behave in predictable manners in certain domains. Even presuming some intelligent agencies (say machine “intelligence”) are deterministic, they can be an unpredictable black box to outside observers. This makes it difficult to make direct experimental confirmation of certain ID inferences.
Now if I claim, “God made life from lifeless dust”, even though I believe this claim, I wouldn’t expect God to cooperate with an experiment where I try to show that God can make life out of sand in a sandbox of my choice. The inference that “God made life from lifeless dust” might be a correct inference, but we won’t be able to make a direct experimental demonstration to prove it. Like a jury verdict, the inference is circumstantial.
This may seem obvious to some, but I still cringe when I see ID proponents trying to argue that ID is science. Well, lets say ID is science, it certainly isn’t the sort of science amenable to direct lab confirmation like geometric optics or most of the major scientific theories that make modern technology work. If you insist ID is science, you can expect critics to offer a far less polite treatment of that claim than I have done in this essay. I prefer to say, the question of whether ID is science pales in comparison to the question whether ID is true.
The root of the challenge for claim ID is science is not that ID is faulty in its claims, the root of the challenge is in the unpredictable behavior of an intelligent agency, especially if the agency has free will.
1. As an aside, this raises the philosophical question, “If God is the designer, why has he chosen to not be as obvious to humans as humans are to each other. Surely it seems incongruous that so great a God is hidden from our eyes.”
I respond by saying, “that is an objection I can sympathize with, but aren’t some of the greatest truths the least accessible?” And there is Proverb 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of Kings is to search out a matter.”
And 1 Cor 1:26
not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being[ might boast in the presence of God.
Maybe the Designer is priming the stage for a gigantic prank against atheists like Richard Dawkins who are among the wise of this world. Maybe he’ll take pleasure in humiliating his critics on judgment day, and his invisibility in the present day is part of Him setting up the humiliation of his critics on judgment day. [Just a speculation, on my part.]
I have found it incongruous that so Great a God as described in the Bible seems so invisible, but neither can I deny the ubiquitous circumstantial evidence that a Mind far beyond human comprehension has designed life and put us on a Privileged Planet in a privileged location at a privileged time, as if to say, “The Fingers of God are Pointing at You.”
I think the answer to this incongruity is that Jesus himself said his communications are in parables so as to allow the willfully blind to remain blind. So it is with the invisibility of God to our immediate experience, the hidden nature of truth is by design, but the hidden truth is not forever hidden to those willing to investigate and follow the evidence where it leads.
2. I view the capriciousness of intelligent agencies as also the reason paranormal and miraculous events seem to escape laboratory controlled conditions while at the same time there is seemingly credible in at least a few cases. If the root of paranormal or miraculous events are capricious intelligent agencies desiring to elude easy detection (but willing to be detected by the persistent), then this may explain the incongruity between the demands of skeptic organizations like James Randi foundation and other skeptics like John Mack of Harvard and other researchers who claim credible evidence of the paranormal in addition to the abundant accounts throughout history of miraculous events affecting peoples lives.
It may be by design that combatants in spiritual warfare are choosing to elude direct laboratory confirmation for now. It may be a chilling thought that rather than we humans putting intelligent spiritual beings to the test in the lab, that rather we are the ones being observed and subject to study. The Bible teaches that it is God putting us to the test, not us putting Him to the test. We are the ones under scrutiny, not the Intelligent Designer.
3. Because claims of the miraculous and paranormal can be criticized on grounds that they were fabricated to win converts, I unfortunately have to refer to some unpleasant accounts to make the case for non-material intelligent agencies that are beyond the reach of laboratory controlled conditions. Because these accounts are damaging to the reputations and livelihood of the witness, I consider them to have more credibility, even though the accounts escape lab controlled conditions. I’ve argued the phenomenon described by John Mack is evidence of a sinister spiritual intelligence. I let the reader make a verdict on the credibility of John Mack (a Professor at Harvard Medical School).
Interview with John Mack
Psychiatrist, Harvard University
NOVA: Let’s talk about your own personal evolution from perhaps skepticism to belief …
MACK: When I first encountered this phenomenon, or particularly even before I had actually seen the people themselves, I had very little place in my mind to take this seriously. I, like most of us, were raised to believe that if we were going to discover other intelligence, we’d do it through radio waves or through signals or something of that kind.
Quote: I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery
The idea that we could be reached by some other kind of being, creature, intelligence that could actually enter our world and have physical effects as well as emotional effects, was simply not part of the world view that I had been raised in. So that I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery. In other words, that I—I did everything I could to rule out other sources, or sexual abuse. Some of these people are abused. But they’re able to tell, distinguish clearly the abduction trauma from other forms of abuse. Some forms of psychosis or people making up stories—I could reject that on the basis that there was no gain in this for the vast majority of these people.
…. I’ve now worked with over a hundred experiencers intensively. Which involves an initial two-hour or so screening interview before I do anything else. And in case after case after case, I’ve been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of feelings connected with this, the self-doubt—all the appropriate responses that these people have to their experiences.
NOVA: So tell us, please, how literally you intend people to take this? Are you suggesting people are really being snatched from their beds by aliens and experiments on board a spaceship?
MACK: Just how literally to take this, is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of this. And I want to walk through that as clearly as I can. There are aspects of this which I believe we are justified in taking quite literally. That is, UFOs are in fact observed, filmed on camera at the same time that people are having their abduction experiences.
People, in fact, have been observed to be missing at the time that they are reporting their abduction experiences. They return from their experiences with cuts, ulcers on their bodies, triangular lesions, which follow the distribution of the experiences that they recover, of what was done to them in the craft by the surgical-like activity of these beings.
All of that has a literal physical aspect and is experienced and reported with appropriate feeling, by the abductees, with or without hypnosis or a relaxation exercise.
….There is a—I believe, a gradation of experiences and that go from the most literal physical kinds of hurts, wounds, person removed, spacecraft that can be photographed, to experiences which are more psychological, spiritual, involve the extension of consciousness. The difficulty for our society and for our mentality is, we have a kind of either/or mentality. It’s either, literally physical; or it’s in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for—or we have lost the place for—are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world.
So the simple answer would be: Yes, it’s both. It’s both literally, physically happening to a degree; and it’s also some kind of psychological, spiritual experience occurring and originating perhaps in another dimension. And so the phenomenon stretches us, or it asks us to stretch to open to realities that are not simply the literal physical world, but to extend to the possibility that there are other unseen realities from which our consciousness, our, if you will, learning processes over the past several hundred years have closed us off.
NOVA: I wonder, if in that vein, you can speak to what you think this experience is about?
MACK: ….There are several effects that these experiences have for those who undergo alien abduction encounters. First is the most familiar aspect or fit, which is a traumatic event in which a blue light or some kind of energy paralyzes the person, whether they’re in their home or they’re driving a car. They can’t move.
They feel themselves being removed from wherever they were. They floated through a wall or out a car, carried up on this beam of light into a craft and there subjected to a number of now familiar procedures which involve the beings staring at them; involves probing of their body, their body orifices; and a complex process whereby they sense in the case of men, sperm removed; in the women, eggs removed; some sort of hybrid offspring created which they’re brought back to see in later abductions. That’s the sort of literal experience.
Now, the effect of that is—or what seems to be going on there, in a number of abductees—not just people I see, but the ones Budd Hopkins and other people see—is to produce some kind of new species to bring us together to produce a hybrid species which—the abductees are sometimes told—will populate the earth or will be there to carry evolution forward, after the human race has completed what it is now doing, namely the destruction of the earth as a living system. So it’s a kind of later form. It’s an awkward coming together of a less embodied species than we are, and us, for this evolutionary purpose.
However, that might not be literally true. It might be that that this is a communication to us. That perhaps we need to change our ways. It may not be that these are literally our babies. It may be a kind of expression of images of babies; or it may be that these hybrids we’re told is what will have to be. It’s a kind of insurance policy if the earth continues to be subjected to the exploitation of its living environment to the point where it can’t sustain human and other life as it’s now occurring. But it may not be literally what is going to happen. So that’s one area.
Another area is the whole visual environmental and informational aspect of this in which people are shown on television screens a huge variety of scenes of environmental destruction of the earth polluted; of a kind of post-apocalyptic scene in which even the spirits have been routed from their environment because they live in the same physical and spiritual environment that we do; and canyons are shown with trees destroyed; pieces of the earth are seen as breaking away—portions of the East Coast or West Coast.
NOVA: …..Alien hybrid. What does that mean?
MACK: Sometimes along the way, as you go deeper and deeper into the person’s consciousness, into their experience, they will discover….what is called a dual identity. In other words, that they are both human—in one dimension; but they also are themselves, have an alien identity. That they are participatory in this reproductive hybrid program, as if they were altogether part of it. And that they may, in fact, even experience themselves as aliens.
One of the men in my book actually was an active participant in taking a woman from Texas up into the ship and being, and acting the reproductive function of the alien being, and felt he was himself alien. And often the abductees will feel that their job, developmentally, is to integrate these two dimensions or these two aspects of themselves: the human and the alien. And that the alien dimension is a part of ourselves, our souls, if you will even, from which we were or have been cut off over the centuries of human beings living on this earth in this densely embodied form.
NOVA: You and others have said that there is no other psychological explanation. But that there is some reality to it. What do you think of the work of people like Michael Persinger and Robert Baker who have these complicated theories about neurology or they charge that hypnogogic hallucinations being at the root of these perceived—these experiences?
MACK: These experiences often occur in literal consciousness. Not in a hypnogogic or dreamlike state. The person may be in their bedroom quite wide awake. The beings show up. And there they are and the experience begins. That they’re not occurring in any dreamlike state. Now sometimes they do occur when a person is dozing off or in a hypnogogic state. But very frequently not.
Also, any theory that is going to look upon this as a purely endogenous phenomenon, by which I mean generated purely from the psyche of the person themselves. Which is a kind of arrogance too, really. Because it means that we just can’t accept the notion there could be another intelligence at work here. Which is a much more economical explanation. But if we must find a theory within ourselves, then we should keep in mind that any theory that’s going to even begin to address this, has to take into account five factors:
Number one, the extreme consistency of the stories from person after person. Which you would not get simply by stimulating the temporal lobes. You would get very variable idiosyncratic responses that would differ a great deal from person to person.
Number two, you would have to deal with the fact that there is no ordinary experiential basis for this. In other words, there’s nothing in their life experience that could have given rise to this, other than what they say. In other words, there’s no mental condition that could explain it.
Third, you have to account for the physical aspects: the cuts and the other lesions on their bodies, which do not follow any psychodynamic distribution, like the stigmata associated with the identification with the agony of Christ.
Fourth, the tight association with UFOs, which are often observed in the community, by the media, independent of the person having the abduction experience, who may not have seen the UFO at all, but reads or sees on the television the next day that a UFO passed near where they were when they had an abduction experience.
And finally, the phenomenon occurs in children as young as two, two and a half, three years old. And any theory that simply attributes this to the activity of the brain, does not take into account at least three of those five fundamental dimensions…
NOVA: Aren’t you really at risk of losing quite a bit, personally and professionally, because of …criticism?
MACK: I think that, in some ways, I’ve gained more than I’ve lost in terms of inviting people into this mystery, having a dialogue with all kinds of very wonderful, open, intelligent, brilliant people from many different fields. It’s been quite exciting. I mean I’ve been attacked, but the attacks have not been really nearly as serious to me as the openness that I’ve found among many people throughout the culture and internationally, who are saying: Yeah, I always suspected something like this was going on, and I’m glad you were willing to come forward and report about it.
……It’s often said that I’m a believer and sort of have gone and lost my objectivity. I really object to that. Because this is not about believing anything. I didn’t believe anything when I started, I don’t really believe anything now. I’m come to where I’ve come to clinically. In other words, I worked with people over hundred and hundreds of hours and have done as careful a job as I could to listen, to sift out, to consider alternative explanations. And none have come forward. No one has found an alternative explanation in a single abduction case.
NOVA: Many say that this is just really a function of cultural images.
MACK: …I have been looking at this phenomenon as it manifests in indigenous people, in Native Americans—the Cherokee, the Hopi, who know these beings as the star people. We’ve looked at this in South Africa, particularly in interviewing in depth a leading South African sangoma, or medicine man, who calls these beings “mandingdas”.
We’ve investigated it in Brazil with a farmer in—outside Belo Horizante who had identical abduction experiences to what have been reported in this country. I’m getting recent—I received a letter about abduction experiences from a person in Malaysia today. In other words, this is—as far as we can tell—a worldwide phenomenon. This is not restricted, as some people have thought, to Western or particularly American culture.
….I found that the higher or the greater the stake that a person has in this society, in their position or their job, the more reluctant they are to admit that they’ve had abduction experiences……When abductees went on television with me during the spring of 1994, during my book tours, and wanted to communicate and educate about it, a number of them received threats to their jobs. Some of them lost them….we have one man in management consultation, lost an important contract. A woman that worked for the federal government, who was an abductee, was threatened with loss of her job. In other words, this is not something that is regarded as acceptable.
I’ve interviewed airline pilots who have had sighting—close up sightings of UFOs. They will not report it, because they will be removed from their work. Even if they’ve had abduction experience, they will not talk about it. And 25 to 30 percent of airline pilots, according to a survey that one of the people I’ve talked with did, have had close up sightings, but will not discuss it.
This simply is not something that is accepted as OK to talk about or—And that may be changing. I recently saw a Harvard Divinity School student, and I asked him these questions. I said: Do you talk about this among your fellow students? And he said: ‘Oh, yes.’ And it turned out several of them had also had abduction experiences. And even the ones that had not, were fascinated, interested, didn’t ridicule ’em. So maybe the climate is changing.
3. See: Boldly Going Where No Man has gone before to see the creationist viewpoint on sinister spiritual intelligence and how to be protected from such agencies.
4. It’s apparent to me now that many UD readers are closet sympathizers of the notion of spiritual forces since some of them have had personal encounters. Yes indeed, we don’t like to talk about these matters, but the issues are quite real to some.
5. The capriciousness of intelligent agency finally explains why ID by non-material intelligent agents seems so elusive to laboratory controlled conditions, but yet we have credible circumstantial evidence that such an intelligence agency exists. Unfortunately, some of the most believable evidence isn’t the most pleasant to read about.
I accept that there are beautiful accounts of good miracles in the present day, but it is hard to sort the real from the fabricated. My favorite story, which I find credible, is Astronaut Charles Duke who prayed for a blind girl and the girl had her sight restored within minutes.
There are probably many accounts like this, but because they escape lab conditions, some skeptics will refuse to believe. It may be that the capricious Intelligence that brings good miracles of healings is wanting to conceal His existence except to those who are willing to see but hide Himself from those who are willfully blind:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search out a matter.
Searching out the hidden matter of ID is a glorious enterprise indeed.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”