Home » Atheism, Design inference, ID Foundations, Philosophy, science education, Science, worldview issues and society » They said it: Dr Nick Matzke (late of NCSE) vs UD commenter Joe on science as it studies “the usual course of the world” applied to signs of design

They said it: Dr Nick Matzke (late of NCSE) vs UD commenter Joe on science as it studies “the usual course of the world” applied to signs of design

In the course of the exchanges on Dr Matzke’s clip on what “science” says can and cannot be so regarding miracles, he has made an interesting comment, here at 15:

. . . I still haven’t seen anyone present a good argument as to why we can’t just say that science is the study of the usual course of events . . .

Of course, he — sadly, misleadingly — failed to inform us that this highlighted phrase was taken from my own remarks in the original post (and which were followed up in the thread):

It goes without needing emphasis that those who experienced the sequence A –> B –> C . . .  here [--> A, the last supper, C: the supper the following Sunday night, B: the kangaroo court ordered execution of the friend the core disciples had supper with at A and C], were at first doubtful or even dismissive, exactly because they knew the usual course of events per the patterns of nature. However, quite reasonably on the grounds of recognising that the Creator of the world has powers beyond those of the usual course of nature, they were open to the possibility of exceptions, they did not close their mind by a priori decision that laws of nature by their logic cannot have exceptions. Indeed, it is worth citing Paul on trial before the king and governor of the jurisdiction where the events in question were reported to have happened: “Why do you people think it is unbelievable that God raises the dead? . . .  . the king knows about these things, and I am speaking freely to him, because I cannot believe that any of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner.” [Ac 26:8 & 26, NET.] Of course, Paul’s underlying point is that once the reality of God is even a possible explanation of our cosmos, we must be open to the possibility that he can act in ways that transcend the usual order of things, for good purposes of his own; on pain of blatant closed-mindedness and self-refuting selective hyperskepticism.

This of course is focussed on the issue of the miraculous and whether or not science can properly rule that on “massive observational evidence” and “the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules” that miracles “can’t happen.” This position was plainly endorsed by Dr Matzke, but falls afoul of the warning that the headless ghost of Lord Russell’s inductive turkey who inferred on abundant evidence that there were no exceptions to the rule that he would be fed outside the farmhouse kitchen come 9:00 am every morning, and so showed up for the usual good feed on Christmas eve, would give. As the ghost of Newton, pointing to key passages in Principia and Opticks, would add: inductive generalisation is subject to limitation and correction in light of experience and we ought not to subject inductive inference to the control of metaphysical a prioris, even disguised as methodological rules of science.

Be that as it may, Joe has aptly highlighted something else and has rightly requested that it should have a full post.

Indeed, and here it is:

Joe, May 1, no. 23:

[NM:] So, I still haven’t seen anyone present a good argument as to why we can’t just say that science is the study of the usual course of events,…

[J:] I agree with that so I won’t be presenting any argument against it.

In the usual course of events agencies, and only agencies, are responsible for complex specified information and irreducibly complex configurations.

Joe, May 2, no. 33:

Perhaps you [KF] could start a new thread that declares Matzke says ID is scientific as he says “science is the study of the usual course of events” and in the usual course of events agencies, and only agencies, are responsible for complex specified information and irreducibly complex configurations.

That would put a bee in someone’s bonnet…

In my own comments in the thread, this is what I last said, at 36 and 37, on this:

KF, May 2, 36:

on the [main] subject of this blog, design, there are well established signs of design, which are based on abundantly repeated patterns of what happens when intelligent agents act. So, we have signs that reliably point to ART. This gives us the epistemic right to infer from such signs to ART as cause, as opposed to chance and necessity. This is of course subject to empirical test and falsification, but is known on billions of test instances to be reliable.

So, contrary to the scapegoating, ad hominem laced strawman contrast your side is ever so apt to make: natural vs supernatural, the proper contrast, ever since Plato in The Laws Bk X, is nature vs art. Just as the UD weak argument correctives have pointed out for years.

KF, 37, May 3:

if we respect inductive reasoning, we would take seriously the massive observational evidence — the Internet alone provides multiplied billions of test cases — that FSCO/I is an empirically well tested, and reliable sign of design. So, the usual course of the world grounds the conclusion that where we see such FSCO/I we are looking at traces of design. This implicates the living cell, major body plans including our own, and the underlying cosmos based on complex fine-tuned physics that undergirds the possibility of such life, as credibly being designed, art not chance and or blind necessity acting on matter in arbitrary initial conditions.

Signs of design on earth, of course need point no farther than a high tech molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond that of Venter et al. It is cosmological design that — even through a multiverse hypothesis [which is arguably phil not sci] that points to a massively intelligent powerful and purposeful necessary being as the best explanation for the world in which we live.

In which case the precise mechanisms and possible secondary causes that have led to us are immaterial, we credibly live in a designed, created universe.

So, now, if science studies the usual course of the world and that usual course points to functionally specific complex organisation and associated information (FSCO/I) being empirically credible characteristic signs of design, which do we listen to, (a) the logic of inductive generalisation or (b) the arbitrary rulings of methodological naturalism wrapped in the holy lab coat? (c) Why? END

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11 Responses to They said it: Dr Nick Matzke (late of NCSE) vs UD commenter Joe on science as it studies “the usual course of the world” applied to signs of design

  1. Thanks kairosfocus- perhaps Nick is OK with ID being scientific.

  2. Matzke says ID is scientific as he says “science is the study of the usual course of events” and in the usual course of events agencies, and only agencies, are responsible for complex specified information and irreducibly complex configurations.

    Surely we should say, in the usual course of events, only agencies with physical brains are responsible for complex specified information.

    The question then is, what is the origin of agencies with physical brains? The answer to that, I suppose, depends upon whether dualism is true, which is not settled within science or philosophy. Therefore, any scientific answer to the origin of agencies with brains cannot simply assume dualism.

    Cheers

  3. Surely we should say, in the usual course of events, only agencies with physical brains are responsible for complex specified information.

    True, and if it could not have been an agency with a physical brain we extrapolate.

  4. Claudius:

    We have been over this ground recently.

    First, let us anticipate some typical talking points: we know that something like a beaver shows enough intelligence that we cannot confine such to humans. Second, we know that for say a task like designing a complex application program, being human is not decisive, it is intelligence and knowledge. (BTW, this immediately holds for the very smart software in the living cell.)

    Next, absent swallowing something like evolutionary materialist scientism, we have no reason to insist that physical materiality is a criterion of mind. This gets a significant boost from one of the points in the original post: the physics of the cosmos is very finely balanced in many ways that enable the sort of life we have.

    This strongly supports the design of the physical cosmos by a powerful, knowledgeable, skilled necessary being. One, antecedent to and the causal ground of the matter that is the foundational stuff of brains etc. and, this is not at all baldly “assuming dualism.”

    In short, the shoe is actually on the other foot: we have no good reason to impose physical materiality as a presumed necessary condition of mind or intelligence, indeed as Liebnitz on the mill reminds us, mill wheels grinding against one another on necessity and chance are no ground for the functionality of the whole. So, it is entirely in order to infer to intelligence, rather than having a brain or the like as what is implicated by signs of intelligence.

    In short, the problems of scientism and materialism keep cropping up in all sorts of places.

    And BTW, such materialism becomes self refuting as it undermines the freedom to decide and act on logic not mere physical signal chains that is a key mark of mind. Just remember, a PC has no common sense and its circuits will happily execute rubbish.

    We do have common sense, and that tells us a lot.

    KF

  5. Next, absent swallowing something like evolutionary materialist scientism, we have no reason to insist that physical materiality is a criterion of mind. This gets a significant boost from one of the points in the original post: the physics of the cosmos is very finely balanced in many ways that enable the sort of life we have.

    This strongly supports the design of the physical cosmos by a powerful, knowledgeable, skilled necessary being. One, antecedent to and the causal ground of the matter that is the foundational stuff of brains etc. and, this is not at all baldly “assuming dualism.”

    Whether dualism is true is not a settled question in either science or philosophy. Do you disagree?

    Cheers

  6. Hi Joe @ 3

    C: Surely we should say, in the usual course of events, only agencies with physical brains are responsible for complex specified information.

    J: True, and if it could not have been an agency with a physical brain we extrapolate.

    Sure, you can extrapolate thus on the assumption dualism is true. However, unless dualism is shown to be true, we don’t know whether the extrapolation is justified.

    Cheers

  7. Claudius:

    Precisely.

    Once something is POSSIBLE one cannot properly lock it out by imposing methodological naturalism as an arbitrary a priori rule, on the agenda-serving myth that this is the centuries old rule that has led to the success of science. We have to let the evidence speak for itself with the main players sitting at the table and speaking for themselves, accepting that reasonable people will come to their own conclusions. (For an age that worships “tolerance,” there is an astonishing — and highly suspicious — one-sidedness in what is actually tolerated!)

    And, though materialists and their fellow travellers do not like to acknowledge it, their system is self-referentially incoherent as it undermines the credibility of reasoning and knowing, in many ways. That is why I confidently rule it out. Never mind what the high priests in lab coats try to tell us, it patently reduces to absurdity.

    That’s even before we get to the issues raised by the evidence of cosmological fine tuning, which we can begin to understand by reflecting on how the cosmos is set up so the first four elements in the cosmos — H, He, O, C — are the main ingredients for us to have life chemistry, and if we add another top element, N, we are at proteins. And of course the medium for life, H2O, is in that list, and is a case of sophisticated elegant simplicity, chock full of unusual properties that set things up for life. Properties that trace directly to the foundational physics of the cosmos.

    In short, Hoyle’s remark on monkeying with the physics of the cosmos is not something that we should simply brush aside or ignore.

    That is, we have serious reason to take seriously the possibility that we live in a designed cosmos.

    Beyond this, I note that once you get down to root issues, science and philosophy show themselves to be inextricably intertwined. Let’s not forget that Newton’s title for his book was about Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Nor that Phusis, the root of physics, means, nature.

    So, our skeptical instincts inculcated in an intellectual climate besotted with materialism, are not reliable guides. A sounder approach is comparative difficulties, whereby one looks at alternatives on balance in light of factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power: neither an ad hoc patchwork nor simplistic.

    Once we do that, we will see that there is no good reason to lock mind and intelligence down to matter, and very good reason not to. Let me clip Haldane’s warning on this from the turn of the 1930′s:

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

    And, in that light it makes a LOT of sense to study intelligence in its own right as an invisible but very real phenomenon, just like energy, entropy, information and time are all invisible but very real phenomena. They are manifest in material objects and the chains of events that occur, but they themselves cannot pose for a snapshot or be put in a test tube.

    We can see and test and find highly reliable certain signs of intelligence, and have every epistemic right to infer from visible sign to the presence of the invisible source. Even, when we were in no position to observe the course of events that put that sign there. Which is exactly the dilemma faced by origins studies in science: we must try to reconstruct a model of a remote, unobserved and unobservable actual past — an invisible but real past that has led to the present — through traces and signs in the present and the things that regularly give rise to similar signs and traces.

    So, why — apart from the howls and threats of the ideological materialist high priests in the holy lab coats — should we fear to infer from signs of intelligence, that intelligence was an evident factor in the origin of life and major body plans on earth, and even of the physics of the cosmos we inhabit?

    KF

  8. 8
    William J Murray

    Sure, you can extrapolate thus on the assumption dualism is true. However, unless dualism is shown to be true, we don’t know whether the extrapolation is justified.

    One needn’t assume dualism true to reach such an extrapolation; one merely needs to not assume materialism true. As far as evidence of non-physical mind, one only needs to not dismiss, on an ideological, a priori basis, the evidence for non-embodied mind, beginning credibly with William Crookes in the late 1800′s and continuing today in ongoing scientific research, including near-death research published in the Lancet.

  9. clavdavis:

    Sure, you can extrapolate thus on the assumption dualism is true. However, unless dualism is shown to be true, we don’t know whether the extrapolation is justified.

    No, I can extrapolate knowing there is only ONE reality behind our existence and also knowing that natural processes exist only in nature and therefor cannot account for its origin, which science says it had.

  10. WJM: Prezactly. KF

  11. Joe: Correct, too. KF

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