Home » Uncommon Descent Contest » Uncommon Descent Contest 19: Spot the mistakes in the following baffflegab explanation of intelligent design theory

Uncommon Descent Contest 19: Spot the mistakes in the following baffflegab explanation of intelligent design theory

In a review in First Things by David B. Hart, of Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth, we are informed – on the mag’s cover – that Dawkins “gets a gold star” for his book of that name (January 2010 Number 199).

Indeed, he does get the gold star from reviewer Hart. Hart is full of praise for Dawkins, though daintily demurs at his hardline atheism. But he is a total, unwavering convert to the greatest scam ever conceived in the history of biology, that Darwinism – a conservative aspect of wild nature that trims out life forms unsuited to an ecology – actually has vast creative powers.

I can’t yet seem to find the review on line, but that was not for lack of trying.

Now the contest: Here’s what Hart has to say about design in nature:

The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated. At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity. While it is true that very suggestive metaphysical arguments can be drawn from the reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness, the laws of physics, or (most importantly) ontological contingency, the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

Commenters, for a free copy of Expelled, can you spot the mistakes in the quoted passage above? I mean, actual mistakes, as opposed to “He isn’t making any sense.” There is enough of the former, but you will find plenty of the latter too, I am afraid.

Here are the contest rules. Most important: No more than 400 words.

Also: If you won a previous contest quite recently and your prize is late, it is most likely because our post office here has four days off at this time of year, and I can’t do a thing about that. If you won a long time ago and never got your prize, write me at [email protected]

Note: This contest has been judged. Go here for more.

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148 Responses to Uncommon Descent Contest 19: Spot the mistakes in the following baffflegab explanation of intelligent design theory

  1. The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated.

    It is not the case that ID rests upon a premise of irreducible complexity.

    Even if it were the case, it is not the case that irreducible complexity can never logically be demonstrated.

    At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity.

    It is not the case that ID is an argument from personal incredulity (whatever that is).

    …the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

    It is not the case that ID is an argument from “the mere biological complexity of this or that organism.”

    It is not the case that ID is an attempt at irrefutable proof.

  2. …the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

    Adding to my above post.

    It is not the case that the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can ever amount to an irrefutable proof of the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

  3. The best argument against ID theory…

    BAsed upon what I write in my first post, it follows that it is also not the case that this is “the best argument against ID theory.”

  4. The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity”

    It leaves out CSI.

    that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level

    Actually, IC is objective.

    but that can never logically be demonstrated.

    To elaborate, IC is a potentially falsifiable conclusion based on objective observations.

    At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity.

    Pointing out that a particular conclusion is based on blind-faith credulity is not a argument from personal incredulity and, anyway, IC doesn’t even do that.

    Nor does ID technially albeit the temptation to do so is usually too hard to resist during a lengthy debate with a Darwinist.

    the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof

    ID does not claim to be irrefutable proof.

  5. I prefer to call them tricks rather than mistakes. There are two palpable tricks used in the second sentence (I ignored the opening sentence as it was just silly). The first is to deliberately jumble together philosophical and scientific issues: in this case mixing the concrete laws of physics and the clearly observed biological complexity with concepts of ontology and metaphysics. This trick attempts to bamboozle the reader. The second trick is to simply pass the issue back to an antecedent – often all the way back to the origin of life and hope that the reader will not spot the problem. These same techniques have worked successfully in the past so we can look forward to them being repeated ad nauseum.

  6. “The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated.”

    Behe has argued successfully that certain components of a system must all be in place, working together, before anything happens. The loss of one or more components renders the system unusable. If the premise seems compelling, that’s because it is.

    “At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity. “

    It is an argument from common sense realism and scientific rigor.

    Someone somewhere had to put the components of my Dell XPS computer system together. That is logical. Someone (or something) somewhere had to put the components of the universe together and fine tune all the physical forces for life to happen. That is also logical.

    “While it is true that very suggestive metaphysical arguments can be drawn from the reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness, the laws of physics, or (most importantly) ontological contingency, the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.”

    In other words, while everything appears to have been designed, it clearly wasn’t.

    Using really big, triple-word-score words doesn’t prove your argument to be true. The final sentence is quite amusing, since the argument is that biological organisms have antecedents that are “incalculable” in their complexity. A brief visit to the dictionary reveals that the word incalculable means “too great to be calculated or reckoned; impossible to foresee”. If the complexity of an organism’s components is truly incalculable, then science is at a standstill because no one will ever calculate how great and complex the organism really is!

    And here I thought science was supposed to be progressive.

  7. What is the difference between personal incredulity and scientific skepticism? When it goes against the mainstream it is personal incredulity and when it supports the mainstream it is scientific skepticism?

  8. 8
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    The best argument against ID is Darwinism.

    If Darwinism was true, then ID would have to be false.

    But if Darwinism was true, then there would be published and validated scientific evidence that random mutation and natural selection could produce fundamental advancements in the structure of life. Specifically, the Darwinian mechanism would have been shown to be able to produce new cell types, new tissue types, new organ types, and new body types.

    The Darwinian mechanism has never been shown to be able to produce any one of these, let alone all four, which one would expect if the theory was extensively validated. From a scientific standpoint, the Darwinian mechanism is impotent to create the types of substantial novel changes that we all assume that “Evolution” can produce, but has never been shown to.

    Since there is no scientific evidence that these four types of changes can be produced by the Darwinian mechanism, there is precious little evidence that Darwinism is true in any substantial way.

    Consequently, the “best” argument against ID is no argument at all.

    ht: d scott

  9. “If Darwinism was true, then ID would have to be false.”

    This is not true though if Darwinism were true it would strongly undermine the credence of ID but not eliminate it. Many who are Christians and many members of other major religions believe in Intelligent Design and Darwinian evolution. Namely, that God designed the universe but also believed that He designed the world such that life would play out by naturalistic means and the most likely way is Darwinian processes. So this is a form of ID. It is what I believed till I examined the issues.

    This belief system held by many very religious people and who assume life evolved by Darwinian processes is a form of ID. The only problem with it, is that it is not supported by the data. The data seems to point to an occasional intervention in life and this could definitely happen as the result of an intelligent intervention and does not seem to be within the range of natural processes. There is a major flaw in Hart’s thinking and it is in his last sentence

    “While it is true that very suggestive metaphysical arguments can be drawn from the reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness, the laws of physics, or (most importantly) ontological contingency, the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.”

    Hart admits that there is an incalculable complexity but he assumes that somewhere along the way that new generations increased the complexity and there is no evidence for it. In fact the evidence is against it. If he, like some TE’s, assumes that the necessary changes were helped along by God, then it is hard to distinguish that belief from ID. ID does not say how it happened, only that it happened.

    So ID only had to happen once and it would still be ID and that once could have been the design of the universe but the science shows that it probably happened more than once since the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago.

  10. What is “bafflegab”? I’ve never heard this word before. Did you coin it, Denyse? If so, what do you intend the exact definition to be? If not, what’s the etymology?

  11. #10

    Retroman

    It may help if you note that there are three f’s in baffflegab (look above).

  12. The biggest error is the assumption that ID is a theory:

    I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable.

    ~ Philip Johnson, Berkley Science Review (Spring 2006)

  13. The bigger error is the assumption the that “theory” of evolution is a theory.

    We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.

    And in the end ID stays around due to the utter failure of evolutionists to support their claims.

    However as I said earlier they cannot even provide a testable hypothesis.

  14. #13

    they cannot even provide a testable hypothesis.

    I keep on having to repeat this – but it is still true.

    Two hypotheses arising from the Origin of Species:

    (1) The age of earth is well in excess of a 100 million years (to allow for sufficient generations)

    (2) The mechanism for inheritance is particulate not blended

    Both of course turned out to be true, but were not known to be true at the time and could have been false.

  15. “However as I said earlier they cannot even provide a testable hypothesis.”

    Joseph, I can provide a testable hypothesis that I believe can be verified.

    “If two organisms reproduce by sexual reproduction, then their offspring’s DNA will be different than either one of the parents.”

    Since evolution is change over time evolution has occurred. QED. If they want to use the percentage of alleles changing then one can show slight but real changes in any population from one generation to the next through sexual reproduction, so using that definition should hold up that simple sexual reproduction is true evolution.

    Of course this is meaningless but it is a testable hypothesis and one of the few they can validate. Isn’t evolutionary science great?

  16. “The biggest error is the assumption that ID is a theory:”

    We have discussed this many times and some aspects of ID can be a theory while some cannot. Intelligent intervention is a suspension of natural laws, not the prediction of what would happen as natural laws play out. So one aspect of ID looks for places where phenomena occurred but could not have been due to natural laws but rather a suspension of them. Exactly, what one would expect if an intelligence intervened.

    There is another aspect of ID where phenomena are analyzed that have been created by intelligences and if certain subsets of these phenomena are unique in the sense that only intelligence could have created them. This is more amenable to a theoretical approach as the characteristics of these subsets are analyzed.

    People get hung up on a narrow view of science, the analysis of natural laws playing out over time and just what they will predict. Intelligence does not follow natural laws and thus this narrow view does not apply as the sole way to analyze intelligence.

  17. We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.

    Geez Mark Frank didn’t even address what I posted.

    Jerry neither did you.

    You guys are not getting away with out-of-context quote mining.

    Ya see when I finished the post with:

    “However as I said earlier they cannot even provide a testable hypothesis.”

    The CONTEXT was

    “We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.”

    So how about addressing the real issue?

    Or is the refusal to do so enough evidence that thet cannot?

  18. 18

    Jerry at 16,

    Intelligence does not follow natural laws

    Could you please explain what you mean by this? In my experience, I’ve never been able to violate natural laws, regardless of the amount of intelligence I applied to the task. I suspect our definitions of “natural law” may be at the root of my confusion.

  19. #17

    Jerry

    Darwin’s hypothesis was that the variety of species is caused by natural selection and random mutations. Two consequences of this hypothesis were the age of the earth of a particulate selection mechanism.

  20. Mark Frank:

    Darwin’s hypothesis was that the variety of species is caused by natural selection and random mutations.

    1- It appears to be more of an idea, because

    2- it doesn’t appear to be testable

    Two consequences of this hypothesis were the age of the earth of a particulate selection mechanism.

    Darwin’s mechanisms require an old Earth, yet no one knows how old it has to be because no one knows if any amount of mutational accumulation can accounto for the transformations required.

    Sexual reproduction appears to put the big squash on Common Descent- sexual selection appears to keep the same types around- a wobbling stability if you will-

    Chapter IV of prominent geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti’s book Why is a Fly Not a Horse? is titled “Wobbling Stability”. In that chapter he discusses what I have been talking about in other threads- that populations oscillate. The following is what he has to say which is based on thorough scientific investigation:

    Sexuality has brought joy to the world, to the world of the wild beasts, and to the world of flowers, but it has brought an end to evolution. In the lineages of living beings, whenever absent-minded Venus has taken the upper hand, forms have forgotten to make progress. It is only the husbandman that has improved strains, and he has done so by bullying, enslaving, and segregating. All these methods, of course, have made for sad, alienated animals, but they have not resulted in new species. Left to themselves, domesticated breeds would either die out or revert to the wild state—scarcely a commendable model for nature’s progress.

    (snip a few paragraphs on peppered moths)

    Natural Selection, which indeed occurs in nature (as Bishop Wilberforce, too, was perfectly aware), mainly has the effect of maintaining equilibrium and stability. It eliminates all those that dare depart from the type—the eccentrics and the adventurers and the marginal sort. It is ever adjusting populations, but it does so in each case by bringing them back to the norm. We read in the textbooks that, when environmental conditions change, the selection process may produce a shift in a population’s mean values, by a process known as adaptation. If the climate turns very cold, the cold-adapted beings are favored relative to others.; if it becomes windy, the wind blows away those that are most exposed; if an illness breaks out, those in questionable health will be lost. But all these artful guiles serve their purpose only until the clouds blow away. The species, in fact, is an organic entity, a typical form, which may deviate only to return to the furrow of its destiny; it may wander from the band only to find its proper place by returning to the gang.

    Everything that disassembles, upsets proportions or becomes distorted in any way is sooner or later brought back to the type. There has been a tendency to confuse fleeting adjustments with grand destinies, minor shrewdness with signs of the times.

    It is true that species may lose something on the way—the mole its eyes, say, and the succulent plant its leaves, never to recover them again. But here we are dealing with unhappy, mutilated species, at the margins of their area of distribution—the extreme and the specialized. These are species with no future; they are not pioneers, but prisoners in nature’s penitentiary.

    The point being, that IF it were left to direct scientific observations, evolutionism fails miserably and all that is left is wishful thinking supported by speculation.

  21. Mustela Nivalis (aka weasel man)-

    My 2 cents- Intelligence is that with can create counterflow- that is it can do what the laws of nature alone cannot.

    See “Nature, Design and Science” by Del Ratzsch.

  22. The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated.

    Ironically irreducible complexity is one of the few falsifications of Darwinism in general, therefore Darwinism is not scientific to the same extent that it can never be “demonstrated.”

    What can generally be observed empirically is typically a form of irreducible complexity where if a part is taken away then a lack of function results. For sociological, psychological, political, theological or some other reason many scientists do not treat what can be generally observed as evidence. Instead they tend to prefer imaginary forms of evidence based on whatever they believe naturalism to entail. They generally neglect empirical evidence and instead focus on proposing feasible evolutionary routes (i.e. naturalistic creation myths). This is in line with Darwinian reasoning of this sort: “If an organism could be found which I could not imagine coming about in a gradual sequence of events then my theory would absolutely break down. It seems that I can always imagine things, therefore my theory is sound.” That summary is hardly even a satire. That is the type of reasoning which leads to a mental illusion which allows one to treat their own imagination as the epistemic equivalent of a scientific theory. For some reason those who are the first to blindly assert: “There is no scientific evidence of intelligent design.” also seem to be those most willing to cite their own imaginations as the equivalent of actual science. (Although it must be admitted that a mind of the synaptic “gaps” seeking to reduce itself to ignorance by imagining itself to be the product of blind and ignorant processes seems to be fitting for the congenitally ignorant, naturally.)

    Irreducible complexity isn’t an argument based on ignorance similar to Darwinian reasoning, it’s generally just an empirical observation that can be observed in the form and function of organisms at present. Irreducible complexity is generally an observation which personal credulity and a capacity to imagine things about the past doesn’t actually change.

    Imagining ignorance to be the equivalent of knowledge has little to do with a scientific explanation of the history of all biological specification, form and species based on empirical observation.

  23. “Could you please explain what you mean by this? In my experience, I’ve never been able to violate natural laws, regardless of the amount of intelligence I applied to the task. I suspect our definitions of “natural law” may be at the root of my confusion.”

    The laws of physics or the four basic forces. Are there any other? All the laws of chemistry, geology, aerodynamics, fluids etc. are essentially due to the four basic forces. I violate them all the time. Every time I pick something up, I am violating a law of physics, namely gravity.

  24. 24

    jerry at 23,

    Every time I pick something up, I am violating a law of physics, namely gravity.

    That’s not the case at all. When you pick something up, you apply a force that is greater than that exerted by gravity. That force comes from your muscles, supported by your skeleton and fueled by the food you’ve eaten. All elements of the action obey the laws of physics.

  25. When you pick something up, you apply a force that is greater than that exerted by gravity. That force comes from your muscles, supported by your skeleton and fueled by the food you’ve eaten. All elements of the action obey the laws of physics.

    So that force in the muscles just “poofs” out of nowhere? What physical law generates that force, keeping in mind that f=ma?

  26. “That’s not the case at all. When you pick something up, you apply a force that is greater than that exerted by gravity. That force comes from your muscles, supported by your skeleton and fueled by the food you’ve eaten. All elements of the action obey the laws of physics.”

    Let’s not get inane here. You have just over rode a natural process by imposing an intelligent action. So you are violating what the laws of nature would ordinarily do by having an intelligence impose the force. If you want an intelligent conversation then admit when the ordinary laws of nature do not play out then one looks for another law of nature or force operating and if one cannot find such a thing one looks for an intelligence temporarily intervening. I am not saying they aren’t doing it with physical processes but they are definitely over riding the natural processes.

  27. Jerry… uh, he’s right. Picking up an object is not “overriding a natural law via an intelligent action.” Picking up the object is wholly within the natural law and doesn’t violate it in the least. It’s sort of… incomprehensible to say otherwise.

  28. jerry: All the laws of chemistry, geology, aerodynamics, fluids etc. are essentially due to the four basic forces. I violate them all the time. Every time I pick something up, I am violating a law of physics, namely gravity.

    Sorry, but no laws of physics were broken. Energy is conserved all the way from the fusion of the sun providing energy for plants, to the cows eating the plants, to the trucks that transport the beef, to the stove that cooks your burgers, to your body inhaling oxygen, to the energy used by your brain and brawn. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how strong you are, or how much will-power you muster.

  29. 29

    jerry at 25,

    “That’s not the case at all. When you pick something up, you apply a force that is greater than that exerted by gravity. That force comes from your muscles, supported by your skeleton and fueled by the food you’ve eaten. All elements of the action obey the laws of physics.”

    Let’s not get inane here. You have just over rode a natural process by imposing an intelligent action.

    If we’re going to make any progress, you’re going to have to define what you mean by “natural process.” From what I can gather, and please correct me if I misunderstand you, you are saying that your choice to lift a rock is not natural (for some definition of “natural”). Is that correct?

    If so, there are two immediate problems with your position. The first is that your claim to “violate natural law” is inaccurate. As I noted above, no laws of physics were harmed in the lifting of the rock.

    The second problem is that you are assuming your conclusion, namely that intelligence is somehow not “natural.” All intelligence of which we are aware is the product of complex physical brains, all of which operate according to known physics and chemistry. There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.

    Now, you may be able to somehow distinguish the actions of intelligent agents from non-intelligent causes, which would be interesting. I’ve yet to see a reliable mechanism for doing so, but I’m open to the possibility. That would not change the fact that intelligent agents are a proper subset of natural agents, however.

  30. ‘The second problem is that you are assuming your conclusion, namely that intelligence is somehow not “natural.” ‘

    Now we are getting into the surreal. Intelligent Design is now naturalistic evolution. You are moving us into such Alice in Wonderland discussions that it disqualifies you as a serious commenter. What could be the origin for such a comment that focuses on such irrelevancies. I will appeal to what another anti ID commenter brought up just a few days ago for the source of his comments, namely, Hanlon’s razor or Heinlein’s Razor. I think nearly every anti ID comment falls under this rubric and this discussion is no different.

  31. 31

    jerry at 29,

    I’m afraid I see no content to which to respond. If you’d care to define your terms and refrain from simply assuming dualism, I’m sure we can have a more productive discussion.

  32. ” I’m sure we can have a more productive discussion.”

    I cannot imagine such an event. If you want productive discussion, maybe retire to a closet and talk with yourself. Possibly then you will come upon something in the course that merits discussion. Till then have a nice time.

  33. Jerry, no offense, but this is what the above exchange looks like to a neutral party:

    You declare something that several people disagree with.

    They call you in it, give decent explanations as to why they feel you are wrong, and ask you to clarify or concede.

    You: “You guys are jerk Darwinists. This isn’t worth discussing with Darwinists like you.”

    The impression is that you couldn’t back up what you said you you engaged in ad hom to avoid the discussion.

  34. Ignoring this isn’t going to make it go away. It just further exposes your ignorance:

    My 2 cents- Intelligence is that with can create counterflow- that is it can do what the laws of nature alone cannot.

    See “Nature, Design and Science” by Del Ratzsch.

    But anyways if one disagrees with jerry- “Intelligence does not follow natural laws…” then please present some contradictory data or admit you are just on some sort of egg hunt.

  35. “”The impression is that you couldn’t back up what you said, you engaged in ad hom to avoid the discussion.”

    When you do not want to discuss something with jerks, one does not have to continue. The comments were being obstructive so it became obvious it was a waste of time. I have been discussing this topic for over 4 years here and reading this site for awhile before that. I have seen all the stupid arguments and tricks used so why do I have to continue a useless conversation. People reveal themselves very quickly here and I doubt you are a neutral party. Your initial comment and follow up comment gave you away. If you were neutral you would have proceeded much differently. You then assume I had no response and could possibly embarrass me if I refused to comment. But sort of begs the question and doesn’t deal with why did I bring what I did up if I had not seen it played out many times before and knew the logical answers to the objections. But when people make asinine comments it is time to stop. At that point I have won the argument.

    Here is an answer to someone who made a ridiculous statement about natural and unnatural a couple weeks ago and it applies here as well.
    ——-

    “There is no contradiction in what I have said unless you and the rest of us here want to use the term unnatural to include events in our world that include the operation of intelligence. Most would not want to do this. It so happens that natural and unnatural may not be exhaustive as the use of our grammar would normally indicate. Are the operations of an intelligence unnatural but we often use the term natural to indicate what happens using the laws of nature only. So there is a gap here between the normal usage of the terms “natural” and “unnatural.”

    Generally most of us use the term “naturalistic” to mean processes flowing under the forces of physics which would include all of chemistry which is probably a subset of physics. Then there is other uses of the term where it would include processes operating under the forces of physics once some initial and boundary conditions have been set up by an intelligence. A good example is building a river bed to divert a river in a different direction but then leaving it alone.

    Maybe another example would be to build a system with extremely complicated built in constraints and parts and then let it operate according to the laws of physics and chemistry which I have said is a subset of physics. Such a system could be biological matter. It could be something else designed by an intelligence such as a garden or a farm that proceeds according to the built in initial conditions and boundary conditions. Sometimes gardens need intelligent intervention but other times not so. For the later case look at various places people have planted wild flowers to enhance a landscape and then just left them alone or seeded a lake with trout which is not a garden but a similar concept.

    So are there any processes that are neither natural and not unnatural. I would say to make things easier to communicate that processes that involve the intervention of an intelligence would be such a case. So assume that is how I use the terms. If you want to quibble, be my guest but you have to accommodate the distinctions which I think you already understand. Your feigned non understanding is always suspect as you always quibble with the non relevant. You are too consistent to be honestly seeking understanding.

    Maybe this should start a discussion on how we should use the terms natural, unnatural and intelligent processes. Certainly we do not want to call intelligent process unnatural but while they are perfectly natural are they what biologist mean when they say that evolution proceeds under naturalistic causes only. I am sure you understand this and I do not think I have made any contradictions. But maybe there should be more precise use of the terms in the future but again as I said I doubt anyone misunderstood what was meant including yourself.”
    ——

    So the intervention of an intelligence prevents nature or natural laws from playing out how they would if the intervention did not happen. And this intervention only has to happen once for it to possibly make major changes in the direction of a process. It is not an on going procedure or operation that can be examined by experiments or testing. But it can be analyzed and assessed using the tools of science.

  36. —-Mustela Nivalis to Jerry: “If we’re going to make any progress, you’re going to have to define what you mean by “natural process.” From what I can gather, and please correct me if I misunderstand you, you are saying that your choice to lift a rock is not natural (for some definition of “natural”). Is that correct?”

    From an ID perspective, the term natural has no scientific meaning unless it precedes the word, “cause.” Thus, a natural cause refers either to a repetitive law or chance or a combination of the two. In that context, an intelligent cause, by definition, is a non-natural cause. That should be obvious.

    —-“The second problem is that you are assuming your conclusion, namely that intelligence is somehow not “natural.”

    You are confusing an argument with a definition. A definition is an equal sign and is effective only if it is circular; an argument goes somewhere and is effective only if it is not circular.

    —-“All intelligence of which we are aware is the product of complex physical brains, all of which operate according to known physics and chemistry.”

    Defend that statement with reasoned evidence. Just to give you a leg up, that was an argument, not a definition. The word “product” made it an argument.

    —–“There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.”

    Do you realize how nonsensical that statement is? For Darwinists, everything short of the “supernatural,” is “natural,” whether it refers to a mountain slide or an act by an intelligent agent, and that is the definition that they impose on the world, ignoring ID’s precise and well-thought-out definition of “natural causes.” How, then, could there be evidence that humans are anything but natural if everything is natural?

  37. Jerry said: “People reveal themselves very quickly here and I doubt you are a neutral party. Your initial comment and follow up comment gave you away. If you were neutral you would have proceeded much differently.”

    Not true. What I strive to be is a strong critical thinker, as opposed to a weak critical thinker. Weak critical thinkers used the skills of critical thinking to criticize and attack ideas they disagree with, while giving their side a pass. Strong critical thinkers use the skills of critical thinking on all ideas, even ones they might feel sympathy towards.

    So in saying “I gave myself away” because I didn’t state something that you automatically agreed with, or I didn’t leap to your defense, or something such, all you reveal is that you don’t strive to be a strong critical thinker. You don’t subject your own ideas to critical examination. That’s all I was asking for– that ALL ideas (Darwinian and ID) be subjected to equal scrutiny and be equally defended by good argument.

    So you see, I am eminently neutral, probably more neutral than most here. The only side I am on is the side of logic and good argumentation.

    Anyway, I came to this site to learn more about ID. When ID advocates call people jerks, it just leads me to believe that they are weak critical thinkers.

  38. “Anyway, I came to this site to learn more about ID. When ID advocates call people jerks, it just leads me to believe that they are weak critical thinkers.”

    When a person makes such a comment it is as I said, revealing. If they were interested in learning or a critical thinker they would have seen the obviousness in the proposition that intelligence can contravene natural processes. A critical thinker would have nodded in agreement but maybe said it needed further elaboration. They would have been critical of the shallowness of the responses which speciously argued that to contravene the natural processes an intelligence has to create new natural processes for this intervention. Instead you criticized me and not the others.

    Even after this obvious point was explained further Instead of inquiring, you were again fault finding. As I said, you revealed yourself. And critical thinking is not part of what you revealed. A critical thinker would have torn apart the shallowness of the objections to my point.

    If you were interested in learning, as I said you would have taken a completely different tack. In 4 1/2 years I have seen this faux approach used several times. So don’t think you are the first to try it. I cannot even say good try, because someone with critical thinking skills would have faked it better.

  39. 39
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    Retroman,

    What does your perception of someone being a weak critical thinker have to do with whether or not ID is true.

    If you were really a neutral as you claim to be, you would be trying to bring clarity to the discussion, rather than re-enforcing person weaknesses.

    Perhaps you should as others whether your perception is a fair representation of what ID is.

    So let’s begin again. Why don’t you give us your “neutral” summary of what you think ID is, and I will give you my “neutral” correction of your perception.

  40. Returning to the scene of the crime.

    jerry: All the laws of chemistry, geology, aerodynamics, fluids etc. are essentially due to the four basic forces. I violate them all the time. Every time I pick something up, I am violating a law of physics, namely gravity.

    No matter how smart you are, no matter how complicated the mechanism, no matter how much willpower you summon, no physical laws are violated when you pick up your pencil. Including gravity. Including the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Indeed, the Second Law is the result of attempts to engineer around inherent limitations associated with Energy and Work.

  41. Retroman:

    Anyway, I came to this site to learn more about ID.

    That is a bassackwards way of doing that.

    If you want to learn about ID I suggest reading the pro-ID literature such as “Signature in the Cell”, “The Privileged Planet”, “The Design Matrix”, “Nature, Design and Science”, “Darwin’s Black Box”, “Not By Chance”, “The Design Revolution”- well that would be a good start.

    But coming to a blog to learn about something- that is just plain wrong.

    You should come to a blog ready to discuss that which you have learned from the literature.

  42. In the meantime:

    “We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.”

    Anyone?

  43. Joseph: We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.

    The Lederberg Experiment established random mutation as an important mechanism of evolution.

  44. Jerry said:

    “When a person makes such a comment it is as I said, revealing. If they were interested in learning or a critical thinker they would have seen the obviousness in the proposition that intelligence can contravene natural processes. A critical thinker would have nodded in agreement but maybe said it needed further elaboration.”

    So your definition of a critical thinker “is someone who agrees with you but wants you to elaborate further.” That, my friend, is the textbook example of a weak critical thinker. You do understand that devil’s advocate/Socratic questioning is a method employed in CT, correct? Further, you also understand that two critical thinkers can disagree, correct? Finally, you also understand that one can be blind to one’s own biases and cognitive hindrances, so that the first possibility that a strong critical thinker should be open to is that he himself is wrong, don’t you?

    “They would have been critical of the shallowness of the responses which speciously argued that to contravene the natural processes an intelligence has to create new natural processes for this intervention. Instead you criticized me and not the others.”

    So again, I am not a critical thinker because I didn’t side with you immediately.

    I don’t think you know much about what critical thinking actually is, alas.

    Joseph said:

    “If you want to learn about ID I suggest reading the pro-ID literature such as “Signature in the Cell”, “The Privileged Planet”, “The Design Matrix”, “Nature, Design and Science”, “Darwin’s Black Box”, “Not By Chance”, “The Design Revolution”- well that would be a good start.”

    Thanks for the suggestions.

    “But coming to a blog to learn about something- that is just plain wrong.”

    What? Why? Blogs can teach people lots of things.

    Endoplasmic m said: “So let’s begin again. Why don’t you give us your “neutral” summary of what you think ID is, and I will give you my “neutral” correction of your perception.”

    I told you I came here to learn what it is. I am in the process of doing that. How then, can you ask me to tell you something I don’t yet know?

  45. #41

    Joseph – I stopped offering hypotheses because of the vitriol I get from you in response. But at a risk of further insults:

    * I still maintain that the age of the earth > 100 million years was a reasonable hypothesis but I am not going to argue the toss.

    * You never responded to my second offer – that the mechanism for inheritance would be particulate, not blended.

    In addition you could add –

    * For a large number of significantly different taxons (e.g. mammals and birds) – but not necessarily all – fossils will be be found that are similar to a common ancestor (they are of course most unlikely to be the common ancestor)

    * For those types of species that fossilise easily there will be cases where a fossil record shows a gradual change from plausible historical ancestors to the current species (whales, horses etc are examples)

    * That microevolution takes place e.g. if a population is subject to natural selection pressure then the gene pool will eventually respond to increase the fitness of the population (there cannot be macroevolution without microevolution)

    * If you wait for random mutations and apply artificial selection that you can make significant changes to the phenotype

    And so on …

    I dare say a biologist could offer many far more sophisticated hypotheses to be tested.

  46. Mark Frank,

    You still didn’t answer the challenge.

    Do you understand English?

    “We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.”

  47. Mark Frank:

    * For those types of species that fossilise easily there will be cases where a fossil record shows a gradual change from plausible historical ancestors to the current species (whales, horses etc are examples)

    1- That has nothing to do with eithr natural selection nor random mutations

    2- The vast majority of the fossil record consists of marine invertebrates. Yet there isn’t any of that gradual change you are talking about.

  48. —Retroman: “Not true. What I strive to be is a strong critical thinker, as opposed to a weak critical thinker.
    If you are striving to be a strong critical thinker rather than a weak critical thinker, why did you begin your foray into the subject matter by disrupting the theme of the thread with a demand for a precise definition, history, and etymology of the word, “bafflegab?”

  49. Mark Frank:

    I still maintain that the age of the earth > 100 million years was a reasonable hypothesis but I am not going to argue the toss.

    It is a requirement, not a prediction.

    IOW Darwinian-type processes require vast eons of time in order to get the diversity observed from some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms.

    Also the earth being older than 100 million years does not support the premise that the diversity observed arose via an accumulation of genetic accidents.

    * You never responded to my second offer – that the mechanism for inheritance would be particulate, not blended.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with the challenge.

    You do understand the challenge, don’t you? (it appears you do not, judging from your responses)

    * For a large number of significantly different taxons (e.g. mammals and birds) – but not necessarily all – fossils will be be found that are similar to a common ancestor (they are of course most unlikely to be the common ancestor)

    Evidence for common ancestry is NOT evidence for a mechanism.

    IOW once again your “hypothesis” does not address the challenge.

    * For those types of species that fossilise easily there will be cases where a fossil record shows a gradual change from plausible historical ancestors to the current species (whales, horses etc are examples)

    Does not address the challenge and is refuted by the evidence.

    * That microevolution takes place e.g. if a population is subject to natural selection pressure then the gene pool will eventually respond to increase the fitness of the population (there cannot be macroevolution without microevolution)

    Does not address the challenge- it the MECHANISMs that need to be tested.

    * If you wait for random mutations and apply artificial selection that you can make significant changes to the phenotype

    1- How do you know they are random?

    2- It also depends on how you define “significant changes”.

    Once again:

    “We are still waiting for a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations- ie an accumulation of genetic accidents.”

    Anyone?

  50. —Retroman: “I told you I came here to learn what it is. I am in the process of doing that.”

    How would asking for a formal definition of “bafflegab,” illumniate your mind of the subject of intelligent design?

  51. Slightly off topic.

    I love this article:

    http://www.weloennig.de/Giraffe.pdf

  52. Here is Retroman’s comment to my explanation about the difference between ID and science based on the examination of natural laws:

    “Jerry… uh, he’s right. Picking up an object is not “overriding a natural law via an intelligent action.” Picking up the object is wholly within the natural law and doesn’t violate it in the least. It’s sort of… incomprehensible to say otherwise”

    This comes across as a reflexive criticism with the derogatory “uh” to emphasize how stupid the comment was. Then to add the “sort of.. incomprehensible to say otherwise” to say up his inability to understand what was going on.

    This is an example of critical thinking? For the anti ID person, a couple put downs I admit is their example of critical thinking. No thought that the explanation had merit and that the shallow irrelevant comments used against it were inappropriate.

    I am sorry but the real joke here is that someone with these empty responses claims he has the ability of critical thinking.

  53. “I told you I came here to learn what it is. I am in the process of doing that. How then, can you ask me to tell you something I don’t yet know?”

    If someone is interested in what I think about ID, here are four links to long comments made about ID and look forward to any feedback either pro or con.

    1 .

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-326046

    There are three consecutive comments in the post.

    2. What ID is interested in.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-299358

    3. Why ID science is no different that regular science.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-304029

    4. What every ID debater should declare when he debates ID.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-296129

    I am not sure if everyone here agrees with these points of view but I believe that anyone who publishes favorably on ID agrees with most of it. At least I have not seen anything in writing they have written that disagree with these positions.

  54. Collin,

    This was discussed here a couple years ago. Go to the search link above and put in Loennig.

  55. 55

    jerry at 35,

    “”The impression is that you couldn’t back up what you said, you engaged in ad hom to avoid the discussion.”

    When you do not want to discuss something with jerks, one does not have to continue.

    I have endeavored to be extremely polite while posting here. Please describe exactly how asking for a clear definition of your terms and an honest recognition of your assumptions (some form of dualism, evidently) constitutes being a “jerk.”

  56. Jerry said

    ” The laws of physics or the four basic forces. Are there any other? All the laws of chemistry, geology, aerodynamics, fluids etc. are essentially due to the four basic forces. I violate them all the time. Every time I pick something up, I am violating a law of physics, namely gravity.”

    Wait, what? How does picking up a rock “violate” gravity? There is still a force applied by gravity on the rock whether it is just sitting there or you pick it up. I have no idea what you think gravity is, but it doesn’t seem you understand it.

  57. 57

    StephenB at 36,

    Thank you for your polite and direct response.

    —-Mustela Nivalis to Jerry: “If we’re going to make any progress, you’re going to have to define what you mean by “natural process.” From what I can gather, and please correct me if I misunderstand you, you are saying that your choice to lift a rock is not natural (for some definition of “natural”). Is that correct?”

    From an ID perspective, the term natural has no scientific meaning unless it precedes the word, “cause.” Thus, a natural cause refers either to a repetitive law or chance or a combination of the two. In that context, an intelligent cause, by definition, is a non-natural cause. That should be obvious.

    Actually, it’s far from obvious. I’ve read a fair bit of the available ID literature and no one has stated it this clearly (although it does appear to be presumed by some authors in some cases).

    It’s fine and understandable for terms to be used in specialized ways for communication within a particular discipline, but it’s important to identify when a term is being used in that way rather than in the vulgate.

    —-“The second problem is that you are assuming your conclusion, namely that intelligence is somehow not “natural.”

    You are confusing an argument with a definition. A definition is an equal sign and is effective only if it is circular; an argument goes somewhere and is effective only if it is not circular.

    I do, however, see a problem with setting “intelligent” against “natural”, even as a term of art. The connotations of the antonyms of “natural” (e.g. “non-natural”, “unnatural”, “supernatural”, etc.) represent a lot of rhetorical baggage. “Non-intelligent causes” is far less confusing than “natural causes” and doesn’t give the impression of assuming the conclusion.

    —-“All intelligence of which we are aware is the product of complex physical brains, all of which operate according to known physics and chemistry.”

    Defend that statement with reasoned evidence. Just to give you a leg up, that was an argument, not a definition. The word “product” made it an argument.

    I’m not sure what you mean by your last two sentences, but I don’t see anything particularly contentious in noting that all intelligences of which we are aware are associated with physical brains, nor with noting that those physical brains have been investigated and found to operate according to known physics and chemistry. Which of the two statements do you feel needs more support?

    —–“There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.”

    Do you realize how nonsensical that statement is?

    No. If I thought it were nonsensical, I wouldn’t have written it.

    For Darwinists, everything short of the “supernatural,” is “natural,” whether it refers to a mountain slide or an act by an intelligent agent, and that is the definition that they impose on the world, ignoring ID’s precise and well-thought-out definition of “natural causes.” How, then, could there be evidence that humans are anything but natural if everything is natural?

    Defining humans to be other than natural isn’t the answer. If you mean to suggest that intelligence can exist absent a physical substrate, you need to provide objective, empirical evidence for your claim. (If I am ascribing a position to you that you do not hold, please correct my misunderstanding.)

  58. If you are going to use the word “natural” then that is contrasted with “artificial”.

    Now humans may be natural in that we exist in nature and anything that exists in nature is considered to be natural.

    In that context Stonehenge is natural.

    However we know Stonehenge was not constructed by nature, operating freely- ie wind, erosion, glaciers, etc (blind and undirected processes). In that sense Stonehenge is artificial.

    So the bottom line is an intelligent cause is one borne of intent/ purpose, is directed and requires something beyond nature, operating freely. And it can and does exist in nature.

  59. #47

    Joseph you are right – I am confused as to what you want. I thought you were asking for a testable outcome arising from the RM+NS hypothesis. i.e. an outcome that if not true would be strong evidence against RM+NS. I believe all the outcomes I have provided fall into this category. They are of course compatible with other mechanisms and hypotheses – but then all outcomes are compatible with an infinite range of hypotheses.

    You say you want to test “the mechanism” – but, for example, if the mechanism for inheritance were blended in nature then the Darwinian mechanism would be shown to be false. I really don’t know what you are looking for.

  60. “I have endeavored to be extremely polite while posting here. Please describe exactly how asking for a clear definition of your terms and an honest recognition of your assumptions (some form of dualism, evidently) constitutes being a “jerk.” ”

    Explain to me how natural laws operating with out intelligent intervention, produced the clothes you have on, got them to your closet or drawers and then put them on your body. Is this an ongoing process that can be analyzed using the basic laws of physics, chemistry etc with no reference to intelligent activity? If it isn’t, then why make the bid deal over what I said?

    I stated the obvious. You immediately went to quibbling. That is in my understanding an example of a “jerk.”

  61. 61

    jerry at 58,

    “I have endeavored to be extremely polite while posting here. Please describe exactly how asking for a clear definition of your terms and an honest recognition of your assumptions (some form of dualism, evidently) constitutes being a “jerk.” ”

    Explain to me how natural laws operating with out intelligent intervention,

    You are immediately assuming your conclusion here again. Unless you have some objective, empirical evidence that intelligence is not subject to the constraints of physics and chemistry, the only rational view is that intelligent causes are a proper subset of “natural” causes.

    If you wish to distinguish between intelligent causes and non-intelligent causes, using the term “non-intelligent” rather than “natural” avoids confusion and reduces the opportunity for errors of equivocation later.

    I stated the obvious.

    You stated something I found confusing and I asked for clarification.

    You immediately went to quibbling.

    Requesting clarification is not quibbling.

    That is in my understanding an example of a “jerk.”

    Namecalling is not appropriate in what should be a rational discussion.

  62. History of a dialogue:

    —-Mustela Nivalis: “All intelligence of which we are aware is the product of complex physical brains, all of which operate according to known physics and chemistry.”

    Please defend that statement with reasoned evidence. Just to give you a leg up, that was an argument, not a definition. The word “product” made it an argument.

    —-“I’m not sure what you mean by your last two sentences, but I don’t see anything particularly contentious in noting that all intelligences of which we are aware are associated with physical brains, nor with noting that those physical brains have been investigated and found to operate according to known physics and chemistry. Which of the two statements do you feel needs more support?”

    You stated originally and dogmatically that minds are the “product” of brains, a point that most of us disagree with, and, when called on it, you reformulated your argument to say that minds are “associated with” brains, a point that everyone knows to be true. Did you quietly make that change by design, or did it happen by chance?

    —–“There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.”

    Do you realize how nonsensical that statement is.

    —–“No. If I thought it were nonsensical, I wouldn’t have written it.”

    You implicitly define everything except the supernatural as natural, which rules out the possibility that humans could be anything but natural. Then you say that there is no evidence that humans are anything but natural. If you can’t perceive how ridiculous that formulation is, I can’t help you.

    —–“No. If I thought it were nonsensical, I wouldn’t have written it.”

    I don’t doubt that you didn’t think it was nonsense. On the other hand, it was nonsense.

    —-“Defining humans to be other than natural isn’t the answer.”

    You are chasing your own tail, here. We are not discussing ID, we are discussing your statement. Did you shift the focus by design, or was it the result of chance?

    —-“If you mean to suggest that intelligence can exist absent a physical substrate, you
    need to provide objective, empirical evidence for your claim.”

    We are not talking about my claim, we are talking about your claim, which, again, is nonsense.

    —-“ (If I am ascribing a position to you that you do not hold, please correct my misunderstanding.)”

    Would it help if I put it in capital letters or in bold print? We are not talking about me, we are talking about you.

  63. Stephen B said: “If you are striving to be a strong critical thinker rather than a weak critical thinker, why did you begin your foray into the subject matter by disrupting the theme of the thread with a demand for a precise definition, history, and etymology of the word, “bafflegab?””

    Being intellectually curious is part of being a critical thinker. I had never heard nor seen that word before, was curious about it, and so I asked.

  64. I have no idea what you think gravity is, but it doesn’t seem you understand it.

    What does it mean to violate gravity?

    It seems to me it means one would have to do something or create some situation in which the inverse square law does not hold.

  65. “Namecalling is not appropriate in what should be a rational discussion.”

    Rational? Give me a break. I often include ideas that can tease out what someone is about. Where will their comments go. It is usually pretty easy to guess. I am rarely wrong on this because the anti ID people are so transparent.

    That intelligences interfere with normal natural processes is something my 5 year old niece understands well. The 10 year old has got it down pat. My 11 month old nephew has a grasp of the idea too as he cries for someone to get the spoon back for him after he intentionally drops it.

    But anti -ID people here. I sometimes wonder. Maybe they are automatons. You should not object to that appellation since from what I understand all your neural actions are the result of physical forces that cannot be contravened and your typing patters are solely the result of these physical forces.

    By the way your objection to my calling you a “jerk” implies that I have options. But I thought that I didn’t have that capability. Now I believe I do but understand that you might not but I definitely believe I have options. So in the future I will have more compassion for someone like yourself who is challenged and does not have the same opportunities as I. As John Davison used to say here, “They cannot help it, Darwinists were born that way.”

  66. —Retroman: “Being intellectually curious is part of being a critical thinker. I had never heard nor seen that word before, was curious about it, and so I asked.”

    Would you be interested in learning about the definition and history of the word, “designophobia?”

  67. 68

    StephenB at 60,

    You stated originally and dogmatically that minds are the “product” of brains, a point that most of us disagree with, and, when called on it, you reformulated your argument to say that minds are “associated with” brains, a point that everyone knows to be true. Did you quietly make that change by design, or did it happen by chance?

    I meant the same thing by both. As far as anyone has ever been able to tell, minds are a product of physical brains. I’ll quote myself (http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-342629) in defense of that proposition:

    …the “obvious” conclusion I draw from personal experience is that human consciousness definitely requires a physical brain. I observe that non-living brains do not demonstrate consciousness. I observe that blows to the head can interrupt consciousness. I have read peer-reviewed papers documenting personality changes as the result of brain injuries.

    This leads to your next comment:

    —–“There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.”

    . . .

    You implicitly define everything except the supernatural as natural, which rules out the possibility that humans could be anything but natural.

    I don’t rule that possibility out at all. What I claim is that there is no objective, empirical evidence that suggests that humans operate according to anything other than the same physics and chemistry that govern the rest of the world. If anyone believes otherwise, it is incumbent upon them to provide evidence for their claim.

    Then you say that there is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.

    Do you have evidence to the contrary?

    —-“Defining humans to be other than natural isn’t the answer.”

    You are chasing your own tail, here. We are not discussing ID, we are discussing your statement. Did you shift the focus by design, or was it the result of chance?

    Here we were discussing your statement that ID defines “natural causes” to be equivalent to “non-intelligent causes.” As I’ve pointed out, the natural/intelligent split you prefer introduces problems with connotations and the potential for equivocation that are lessened if you simply say intelligent/non-intelligent.

  68. I often see the question of whether intelligence is material tied up closely with intelligent design.
    If the functions of the human mind were contained entirely in the physical brain, would that affect ID at all? I don’t see how it would.

  69. —Mustela Nivalis @64: “I don’t rule that possibility out at all.

    Please define “natural.”

  70. Mustela Nuvalis (#55):

    “Defining humans to be other than natural isn’t the answer. If you mean to suggest that intelligence can exist absent a physical substrate, you need to provide objective, empirical evidence for your claim. (If I am ascribing a position to you that you do not hold, please correct my misunderstanding.)”

    For me the biggest problem with materialist theories of mind is a mountain of empirical evidence for psi and other paranormal phenomena. Of course the legion of closed minded skeptics simply, complacently, deny the real existence of this evidence, which clearly shows direct human mind/matter interactions and the validity of an interactive dualist theory of mind. Given this there really is no meaningful communication possible.

  71. Mark Frank:

    I thought you were asking for a testable outcome arising from the RM+NS hypothesis. i.e. an outcome that if not true would be strong evidence against RM+NS. I believe all the outcomes I have provided fall into this category.

    I don’t know how I could have been any clearer and I have shown that your answers do not fit the bill.

    That said- an example-

    How can you test the premise that the bacterial flagellum arose via an accumulation of genetic accidents- ie random mutations and selection?

  72. #72

    How can you test the premise that the bacterial flagellum arose via an accumulation of genetic accidents- ie random mutations and selection?

    By gradually deducing the intermediate stages http://www.millerandlevine.com.....ticle.html

    Remember

    (1) Evolutionary theory continues to develop in the light of data. RM+NS has been rejected in specific instances and replaced by things such as genetic drift and endosymbiosis.

    (2) It is can be very hard to test specific instances within a very robust theory. I may find it hard to test the theory that a rock on the ground fell from a mountain (maybe someone carried it down, or a God transmuted it) – but that doesn’t shake my faith in gravity.

  73. You should not object to that appellation since from what I understand all your neural actions are the result of physical forces that cannot be contravened and your typing patters are solely the result of these physical forces.

    Do we – or you – have any evidence that there is anything else than chemical/physical forces at work in our – and your – brain/mind?

    May I point to a truism, that the whole is more than the sum of its parts?

    In short, I believe nobody knows for certain that what we are, is anything but the result of natural forces at work.

    Now, WRT violating laws of physics: I fail to understand how that is possible. The only ‘method’ I can think of is the one employed by God, magic: things happening without any cause, like an object lifting from the ground without any observable, detectable force.

    What about robots? When a robot lifts an object, is that violation of a law of physics too?

  74. 75

    StephenB at 70,

    Please define “natural.”

    There was an excellent discussion of that question on the the Neurologica blog over a year ago. (Warning: there are posts there that contain derogatory comments about ID. I reference it only for the discussion about the definition of “nature.”)

    My definition is similar, namely that “natural” refers to that which falls under the purview of methodological naturalism. More specifically, it is that which can be understood via the scientific method. Some good summaries of the essence of scientific understanding are here and here (again, I am focusing on the explanations, not the associated anti-ID comments on this site).

    By this definition, humans are most certainly “natural.”

  75. —-Mustela Nivalis: By this definition, humans are most certainly “natural.”

    I ask you to define “natural,” and you tell me that it refers to the study of that which is natural. Even if I accept that non-definition, it proves my earlier charge that everything you have said is total nonsense.

    If human’s are, by definition, “natural,” then your statement in which you claim that “there is no evidence that humans are anything but natural” is completely meaningless. How could anyone provide evidence that humans are not natural, if humans are, by definition, natural, and if all evidence that would disprove that they have non-natural qualities is disallowed under the rule of methodological naturalism. You are chasing your own tail without even knowing its location. That’s a neat trick.

    Anyway, I cannot have a rational discussion with someone who will not define his terms. I am still waiting for your definition of the word, “natural.” [Characterizing it as the study of that which is natural will not do}.

  76. The distinction between natural and supernatural is not well-defined. It can be a useful heuristic in that we don’t invoke a demon to explain why the solution turned blue. But ultimately, science hinges on the interplay between proposing hypotheses and testing their entailed empirical consequences.

  77. 78

    StephenB at 76,

    I ask you to define “natural,” and you tell me that it refers to the study of that which is natural.

    No, I clearly said that it refers to that which can be understood via the scientific method. If you followed the links I provided, you would see why this definition makes sense. In short, it is because our knowledge of nature grows as we continue to apply the scientific method to phenomena we previously have not understood.

    If human’s are, by definition, “natural”

    I did not say that, either. I said that, by the definition of “natural” that I provided, humans are most certainly natural. If you disagree, please provide evidence for any characteristic of humans that is not amenable to scientific study.

  78. Let me begin by saying that I’m not competing for the prize on this occasion, as I’ve already seen “Expelled” online.

    Some news for interested UD readers: David Bentley Hart’s review is now online at http://www.firstthings.com/art.....-evolution

    Other contributors have dissected Hart’s statements about ID, and for a rebuttal of Francis Collins’ claim that ID rests upon an argument from personal incredulity, I’d recommend Logan Paul Gage’s review of Collins’ The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief in
    American Spectator, October 1, 2006, at http://www.discovery.org/a/3749 .

    For my part, I’d just like to make two comments about the conclusion of Hart’s critique of intelligent design:

    …the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

    (1) As a matter of fact, complexity is calculable. Indeed, the literature on complexity lists many yardsticks for measuring it.

    (2) Explaining an organism’s complexity in terms of the complexity of its ancestors begs the obvious question: how do you explain the complexity of the first living organisms? Where did they come from?

    Mark Frank (#73)

    I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas. The article by Dr. Kenneth Miller which you linked to, The Flagellum Unspun – The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity’ has been refuted by Dr. William Dembski in an article entitled Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Ken Miller . Dembski has also addressed the proposals in Nicholas Matzke’s paper, Evolution in (Brownian) Space: A Model for the Origin of the Bacterial Flagellum in his article, Biology in the Subjunctive Mood: A Response to Nicholas Matzke . Finally, I would also recommend Dembski’s paper Irreducible Complexity Revisited as an counter to Miller’s paper, Answering the Biochemical Argument from Design , which is on his home page.

    As far as I know, Miller has not attempted to answer either of Dembski’s online essays.

    Mustela Nivalis (#75)

    You claim that humans are “most certainly ‘natural’” – where ‘natural’ means ‘that which can be understood via the scientific method.’ Here’s my question:

    Can critiques of, and debates about, the scientific method, be understood within the framework of the scientific method?

    I’m sure you can see my point: meta-science cannot be explained within the framework of science. To do meta-science, you need to step out of the box. Humans are pretty good at doing that, which is one reason why I’m pretty suspicious of any attempt to naturalize human reason.

    Cabal (#74)

    I agree with you that lifting a pen does not violate any of the laws of physics. But neither is it reducible to the laws of physics.

  79. Mustela Nivalis: “No, I clearly said that it refers to that which can be understood via the scientific method.”

    I don’t want to be unkind here, but you have not provided anything close to a definition of the word “natural.” The websites to which you sent me did not provide that information. In any case, why would you want to send me to a website when you can provide your own definition right here, right now. Definitions do not usually require much space. They do, however, require a great deal of thought.

    —-”I said that, by the definition of “natural” that I provided, humans are most certainly natural.”

    That is not true. Here is what you said, word for word: “There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.”

    That statement makes no sense without a definition of the word, “natural.” If you want to go through a little intellectual exercise, then ask yourself this question: What kind of evidence could show that humans are not natural?

    I cannot have a rational discussion with you until you define the word “natural.”

  80. 81

    vjtorley at 79,

    Mustela Nivalis (#75)

    You claim that humans are “most certainly ‘natural’” – where ‘natural’ means ‘that which can be understood via the scientific method.’ Here’s my question:

    Can critiques of, and debates about, the scientific method, be understood within the framework of the scientific method?

    Certainly. The essence of the scientific method is testability. To the extent that critiques of anything are testable, either against logic or objective, empirical evidence, they are subject to the scientific method.

    I’m sure you can see my point: meta-science cannot be explained within the framework of science. To do meta-science, you need to step out of the box.

    Could you provide an example of “meta-science”? Are you referring to epistemology in general?

    Humans are pretty good at doing that, which is one reason why I’m pretty suspicious of any attempt to naturalize human reason.

    Humans can certainly come up with all kinds of wild ideas that have nothing to do with reality. The process by which they come up with them, though, is (as far as anyone has been able to tell) constrained by chemistry and physics in a physical brain.

  81. 82

    vjtorley at 79,

    Cabal (#74)

    I agree with you that lifting a pen does not violate any of the laws of physics. But neither is it reducible to the laws of physics.

    Since you are definitely one of the more thoughtful posters here, I’m sure you have something particular in mind, so I’ll step up to be your sounding board. What do you mean by “reducible” here? It is certainly possible to measure the forces acting on the muscles and bones within a hand, and the chemical and electrical potential changes in the nerves, to explain the lifting of a pen according to physics.

  82. 83

    StephenB at 80,

    I don’t want to be unkind here, but you have not provided anything close to a definition of the word “natural.”

    What specifically do you find objectionable about my definition in 75:

    “Natural” refers to that which falls under the purview of methodological naturalism. More specifically, it is that which can be understood via the scientific method.

    As the websites I linked to elaborate, the essence of the scientific method is testability. If we can hypothesize and make testable predictions about a phenomena, it’s natural.

    —-”I said that, by the definition of “natural” that I provided, humans are most certainly natural.”

    That is not true.

    Yes, it is. See my post 75 again.

    I cannot have a rational discussion with you until you define the word “natural.”

    I’m delighted to continue the conversation. If you find my definition unacceptable for some reason, please be explicit in your objections and I’ll see if I can clarify it.

  83. I think a lot of posters here would do well to research the definitions and philosophical discussions extant concerning naturalism, the supernatural etc. It seems like a lot of argument here is mere shuffling around of ignorance.

    By the way, Mustela, if the only things that are natural are testable by the scientific method, then many, MANY things in our world are unnatural. For example, consciousness. See the following:http://consc.net/papers/puzzle.pdf

  84. 85

    Collin at 84,

    By the way, Mustela, if the only things that are natural are testable by the scientific method, then many, MANY things in our world are unnatural. For example, consciousness.

    On the contrary, different brain states can be measured through a variety of mechanisms. Neuroscientists have observed memory creation and several groups are working on brain-computer interfaces, for example.

  85. —–Mustela Nivalis: What specifically do you find objectionable about my definition in 75:
    —–“Natural” refers to that which falls under the purview of methodological naturalism. More specifically, it is that which can be understood via the scientific method.

    Because the purpose of the definition is to describe, identify, or otherwise characterize what it is that falls under that purview. That way one can know what does not fall under that purview. Even if I accepted the second sentence as a definition, [that which can be understood by the scientific method], it doesn’t have anything to do with what “humans,” are or are not, which was the object of your claim. In that context, humans could not possibly be either natural or non-natural, which makes nonsense of your claim that “there is no evidence that humans are anything but ‘natural.’”
    A proper definition of “natural” will describe WHAT is being studied [nature] not HOW it is being studied [your references to “testability.” It would be ridiculous, for example, to say that humans are natural because they are testable and non-natural if they are not testable. Surely, you can perceive the absurdity of that formulation.

    —–”I said that, by the definition of “natural” that I provided, humans are most certainly natural.”

    That is not true.

    —–“Yes, it is. See my post 75 again.

    No it is not. Why would I look at post 75 when you made the claim at post 29, at which you wrote the following:

    —–“All intelligence of which we are aware is the product of complex physical brains, all of which operate according to known physics and chemistry. There is no evidence that humans are anything but natural.”

    At no other location did you make that claim, and you will notice it was made absent any definition of the word, “natural.” Why would you say that you provided a definition of natural at that time when that was clearly not the case?

    —-“I’m delighted to continue the conversation. If you find my definition unacceptable for some reason, please be explicit in your objections and I’ll see if I can clarify it.”

    The problem is not a lack of clarity but a lack of texture that would qualify as a definition. Here is a hint: Try using your descriptive terms at 29, which come much closer to a definition than anything you have offered so far: Example: A thing is natural if it “operates that according to the known laws of physics and chemistry.” That would have much more substance. Then you could plug in your claim with your definition: “There is no evidence that humans are anything except ‘things which operate according to the known laws of physics and chemistry. That would make sense, and would lead the way to a rational discussion. As it is, you are in intellectual quicksand because you definition of natural makes no sense. Surely, you can see that by now.

  86. Mustela,

    None of that is consciousness. Read my link. Consciousness is the quality of experience. Not the correlates of experience. Tell me what red looks like or what pain feels like and then I’ll concede that it is scientifically understandable. Let me be clear though, I don’t say that consciousness is unnatural, only that it cannot be understood through science.

    Here’s a though: how do you know that I am conscious? In other words, how do you know I’m not a biological machine with no actual feeling?

  87. #79

    Vjtorley


    The article by Dr. Kenneth Miller which you linked to, The Flagellum Unspun – The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity’ has been refuted by Dr. William Dembski in an article entitled Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Ken Miller

    vjtorley

    I am aware that there has been extensive discussion about whether there are intermediate steps or not. I suspect Miller is right, but that is not the point of this particular comment. I was asked how you could test the hypothesis that the flagellum arose through RM+NS. The very fact that there is a substantial debate about whether there is a credible path from simpler beginnings, and both sides consider this to be relevant, shows how it can be tested. If a path is established then this is evidence for the hypothesis (although not conclusive), if there are repeated failures to establish such a path then this is evidence against it (although not conclusive).

    Actually as we are talking probabilities it is probably better to think in terms of relative likelihood of alternative hypotheses (following Sober). As I understand it (I am not a biologist) it is for this reason that, for example, endosymbiosis has rather superseded RM+NS as an explanation of mitochondria. (Interesting it has also been proposed as an explanation of the flagellum but dismissed)

  88. Mark FRank,

    If the non-peer reviewed article by Miller is the best you have then I can safely say that the premise is untestable except for in one’s imagination.

  89. Zachriel chimes in:

    The distinction between natural and supernatural is not well-defined.

    Only the ignorant think this debate is about the natural vs the supernatural.

    It can be a useful heuristic in that we don’t invoke a demon to explain why the solution turned blue.

    But we do invoke agency involvement when there is evidence for it.

    But ultimately, science hinges on the interplay between proposing hypotheses and testing their entailed empirical consequences.

    There isn’t any testable hypothesis for the accumulation of genetic accidents nor genetic drift.

    Endosymbiosis makes some vague predictions of similarity.

  90. 91

    Collin at 87,

    None of that is consciousness. Read my link. Consciousness is the quality of experience. Not the correlates of experience. Tell me what red looks like or what pain feels like and then I’ll concede that it is scientifically understandable. Let me be clear though, I don’t say that consciousness is unnatural, only that it cannot be understood through science.

    Why do you assert that the experience of consciousness is not related to a physical brain state?

  91. —vjtorley @79: “I agree with you [cabal] that lifting a pen does not violate any of the laws of physics. But neither is it reducible to the laws of physics.”

    Exactly right.

  92. Mustela,

    I did not mean to assert that consciousness is not related to physical brain states. I meant to define consciousness as the quality of experience. As David Chalmers puts it, the “what its like to…” experience.

    In other words, the brain is related to consciousness, but consciousness does not = brain states. I don’t know what it is. But when I view an MRI scan, I do not feel the pain of the person experiencing pain, or see the red that they are seeing. I merely take it on faith that they are seeing it when they say, “I see red.” I think that scientists do the same, but they don’t call it faith. I don’t know why.

  93. Here’s a better way of putting it. If I were a to prove to you I was conscious and that I actually experience pleasure, pain, colors, joy, sorrow etc, how would I do it? By laughing? Crying? Reacting to a pin prick on my arm? A machine could be made to do the same. Indeed, I am such a machine. But how does any of that evidence show that I actually experience the pleasure, pain or color? How does an MRI show that I actually experience that? Because I claim that it does? A machine could do the same. A machine can react to pain, a machine can detect color (but “see” it?) a machine can emit laughter, but does it experience it? A machine has correlating mental states to all of this. But it may or may not actually experience it.

  94. —Joseph: “Only the ignorant think this debate is about the natural vs the supernatural.”

    That is correct. The debate is really about the unwarranted intrusion of methodological naturalism vs. the reasoned-based methods of science, as you are obviously aware.

  95. Mustela Nivalis (#82)

    Thank you for your post. Citing my assertion that the act of lifting a pen, while not in violation of the laws of physics, is not reducible to those laws either, you ask:

    What do you mean by “reducible” here? It is certainly possible to measure the forces acting on the muscles and bones within a hand, and the chemical and electrical potential changes in the nerves, to explain the lifting of a pen according to physics.

    Very briefly: the laws of physics constrain but do not determine my bodily movements. They prevent me from moving the pen in certain ways, but they do not determine the way in which I actually move it. Hence they do not explain the lifting of a pen as such.

    I’ll respond to your earlier post (#81) in a few hours.

    By the way, happy New Year.

  96. Joseph: “Only the ignorant think this debate is about the natural vs the supernatural.”

    StephenB: That is correct. The debate is really about the unwarranted intrusion of methodological naturalism vs. the reasoned-based methods of science, as you are obviously aware.

    Methodological Naturalism presumes the non-existence of supernatural causes, and so concerns questions of how to define the supernatural. Joseph’s statement is therefore incorrect.

    The distinction between natural and supernatural is not well-defined. It can be a useful heuristic. But ultimately, science hinges on the interplay between proposing hypotheses and testing their entailed empirical consequences. Most demons, in our experience, leave no fingerprints or other empirical vestiges, so they cannot form the basis of a valid scientific hypothesis.

    -
    Sign on Door leading to Science Lab: Absolutely *NO* Demons Beyond This Point.

  97. 98

    Collin at 93,

    I did not mean to assert that consciousness is not related to physical brain states. I meant to define consciousness as the quality of experience. As David Chalmers puts it, the “what its like to…” experience.

    However, so far as we can demonstrate empirically, the only mechanism for consciousness is a physical brain in a particular (set of) states. The only thing experiencing anything is the physical brain.

    In other words, the brain is related to consciousness, but consciousness does not = brain states.

    What evidence do you have that this is the case?

    I don’t know what it is. But when I view an MRI scan, I do not feel the pain of the person experiencing pain, or see the red that they are seeing. I merely take it on faith that they are seeing it when they say, “I see red.” I think that scientists do the same, but they don’t call it faith. I don’t know why.

    There is no faith involved. The subject reports seeing red and the researchers note the associated brain states.

    I actually delurked here to discuss CSI, but this is a fascinating tangent. Thank you and happy new year.

  98. 99

    Collin at 94,

    Here’s a better way of putting it. If I were a to prove to you I was conscious and that I actually experience pleasure, pain, colors, joy, sorrow etc, how would I do it? By laughing? Crying? Reacting to a pin prick on my arm? A machine could be made to do the same. Indeed, I am such a machine. But how does any of that evidence show that I actually experience the pleasure, pain or color? How does an MRI show that I actually experience that? Because I claim that it does? A machine could do the same. A machine can react to pain, a machine can detect color (but “see” it?) a machine can emit laughter, but does it experience it? A machine has correlating mental states to all of this. But it may or may not actually experience it.

    What does “experience” mean if not “transition through the associated brain states”?

  99. 100

    vjtorley at 96,

    Very briefly: the laws of physics constrain but do not determine my bodily movements. They prevent me from moving the pen in certain ways, but they do not determine the way in which I actually move it. Hence they do not explain the lifting of a pen as such.

    Why not? What characteristics of your bodily movements act outside the realm of physical laws?

    By the way, happy New Year.

    And to you!

  100. Mark Frank (#88)

    You write:

    If a path is established then this is evidence for the hypothesis (although not conclusive), if there are repeated failures to establish such a path then this is evidence against it (although not conclusive).

    I now see that you were simply making a point about testability in your earlier post (#73). Fair enough.

    Happy New Year.

  101. “Only the ignorant think this debate is about the natural vs the supernatural.”

    Zachriel:

    Methodological Naturalism presumes the non-existence of supernatural causes, and so concerns questions of how to define the supernatural. Joseph’s statement is therefore incorrect.

    Yet Intelligent Design does not require the supernatural.

    Therefor my statement is quite correct.

    Sorry Zachriel but your ignorance has been exposed- again.

  102. —-Zackriel: “Methodological Naturalism presumes the non-existence of supernatural causes, and so concerns questions of how to define the supernatural. Joseph’s statement is therefore incorrect.”

    Methodological naturalism does more than presume the non-existence of supernatural causes, which, of course, are undefined and therefore, irrelevant, it also falsely characterizes the design inference as an invocation to that very same supernatural element that they left undefined. That is irrational.

    —-”But ultimately, science hinges on the interplay between proposing hypotheses and testing their entailed empirical consequences. Most demons, in our experience, leave no fingerprints or other empirical vestiges, so they cannot form the basis of a valid scientific hypothesis.”

    If demons and other supernatural elements are irrelevant to the scientific process, why do Darwinists keep injecting the subject into the dicsussion. ID methodology does not address the issue one way or another.

    -
    —-”Sign on Door leading to Science Lab: Absolutely *NO* Demons Beyond This Point.”

    Why should science rule out demons, or Gods, or anything else. Science uses data, analysis, and intrepretaion to pursue of the truth about reality, however reality may present itself. Anti-science Darwinists, on the other hand, don’t care about reality at all, which is why they interpret evidence only in ways that harmonize with what they already believe.

  103. 104

    vjt: “Very briefly: the laws of physics constrain but do not determine my bodily movements. They prevent me from moving the pen in certain ways, but they do not determine the way in which I actually move it. Hence they do not explain the lifting of a pen as such.”

    mv: “Why not? What characteristics of your bodily movements act outside the realm of physical laws?”

    - – - – -

    May I ask a question? A red plastic ball does not exist outside the physical laws that govern the carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur that make up its constituent matter. But neither does that matter explain its existence. Not only is the material itself a synthesized compound (requiring many indpendent steps to create it) but there is nothing in its physical atomic properties that would cause it to form a sphere and dye itself red.

    Clearly, something “else” has been instantiated into the matter of its existence, which itself follows the physical laws that govern it. Something determined it beyond the laws that describe the materials it is made of.

    What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?

  104. @103 should read: Methodological naturalism does more than presume the non-existence of supernatural causes, which, of course, are undefined and therefore, irrelevant, it also falsely characterizes the design inference as an invocation to that very same supernatural element that they it left undefined. That is irrational.

  105. 106

    Zachriel: “Methodological Naturalism presumes the non-existence of supernatural causes”

    This is odd. Just yesterday on another thread (you were invovled in) we were told by your side that science “denies nothing”. Of course, you are not responsible for other’s comments, but given the stickler you are for statements of truth in these matters, I might have expected a correction coming from you. Perhaps you are scientific and selectively vigilant at the same time.

    But not to worry, we all knew it was BS.

  106. Mustela Nivalis (#81)

    Thank you for your post, and sorry for my delay in responding to you. I shall now endeavor to address your key points. In response to my earlier question as to whether critiques of, and debates about, the scientific method, could be understood within the framework of the scientific method, you wrote:

    The essence of the scientific method is testability. To the extent that critiques of anything are testable, either against logic or objective, empirical evidence, they are subject to the scientific method.

    Three points in reply:

    1. Testability alone does not and cannot define the scientific method. It’s too vague. At any given point in history, the scientific method is defined in terms of a particular set of recognized procedures that are considered appropriate for testing hypotheses. Over the course of time, scientists (and philosophers of science) may need to subject these procedures to further criticism and refinement. When they do so, they are stepping outside the scientific method as it is defined at that point in time.

    2. Insofar as one can speak of appropriate procedures for critiquing a method for testing hypotheses, it should be clear that what counts as an appropriate procedure for critiquing a method for testing hypotheses is not the same as what counts as an appropriate procedure for testing a hypothesis. The former is one level “up” from the latter. That’s what I meant when I wrote that meta-science could not be explained within the framework of science.

    3. If I read you aright, you seem to be suggesting that the notion of a test is an “uber-concept” that serves as a yardstick for judging the validity of all other concepts. However, I do not think that this approach to science could possibly work. For in order to answer the question of what constitutes a good test, you would first need to know something about the world in which you were performing your tests – i.e. the framework of reality, or structure of the world. In other words, questions about what makes a good test presuppose at least a rudimentary grasp of metaphysics. That has to come first. Scientists need to explore the world and try to understand it before they can think of a good way of testing hypotheses about events occurring in it.

    You also wrote:

    Humans can certainly come up with all kinds of wild ideas that have nothing to do with reality. The process by which they come up with them, though, is (as far as anyone has been able to tell) constrained by chemistry and physics in a physical brain.

    I agree with you that the process whereby we come up with ideas (or concepts) is constrained by our brains. “Constrain” is not the same thing as “determine,” however. A necessary condition is not a sufficient one.

    I accept that the brain’s role in formulating concepts is not merely a negative one, which is why I think the “radio tuner” analogy for the brain, which is popular with interactionist dualists, does not do the brain justice. The brain does play a real part in the creation of our concepts. However, I also think that the materialist view that the brain originates concepts is mistaken. What I am suggesting is that the brain serves as a storehouse for schemata – physical constructs which help us to think about various kinds of things, using very simple spatial, kinetic and temporal imagery. The Scholastics referred to these schemata as phantasms. Schemata or phantasms are kept in the brain in some fashion, but the critical process of creating and reviewing these schemata (e.g. when I update my concepts in the light of new scientific knowledge) is not a physical one.

    Why not? Well, concepts are not just generalizations from our observations; they are normative. They serve as rules for thinking about various kinds of objects in the world. If we wish to think aright, we will endeavor to conform our concepts to the reality which is out there. The act of endeavoring to be faithful to reality is a formal one, which reflects an underlying attitude that reality is somehow normative and that our mental concepts must fit it. No material object or process can be identical with a normative rule. That would be a category mistake.

    Finally, you asked (#100)

    What characteristics of your bodily movements act outside the realm of physical laws?

    None. My point was that laws operate something like the rules of a chess game: they limit but do not determine the moves. I see no reason – scientific or otherwise – to believe that determinism is true, so I stand by my assertion that my decision to lift a pen is not explained by the laws of physics. Perhaps one might be tempted to think so in a Newtonian clockwork universe, but we know that this is not the universe in which we actually live.

  107. StephenB: Methodological naturalism does more than presume the non-existence of supernatural causes, which, of course, are undefined and therefore, irrelevant, it also falsely characterizes the design inference as an invocation to that very same supernatural element that they left undefined.

    Methodological Naturalism is just that, a methodology. It means not proposing vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities to explain events, such as what have often been considered supernatural forces (gods, spirits, ghosts, demons, magic).

    StephenB: If demons and other supernatural elements are irrelevant to the scientific process, why do Darwinists keep injecting the subject into the dicsussion. ID methodology does not address the issue one way or another.

    Science has historically been defined in terms of casting off vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities. Demons were once thought to cause disease, for instance, and are commonly used as an example of a vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entity.

    StephenB: Why should science rule out demons, or Gods, or anything else.

    Science rules out vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities.

  108. Upright Biped: What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?

    A lot of red balls are made by a peculiar species of terrestrial ape creatures for their juveniles. They do so by harnessing physical laws, including work and energy. If the balls had characteristics outside the realm of physical laws, then the ape creatures wouldn’t be able to make them.

  109. Zachriel: “Methodological Naturalism presumes the non-existence of supernatural causes”

    Upright BiPed: This is odd. Just yesterday on another thread (you were invovled in) we were told by your side that science “denies nothing”. Of course, you are not responsible for other’s comments, but given the stickler you are for statements of truth in these matters, I might have expected a correction coming from you. Perhaps you are scientific and selectively vigilant at the same time.

    Zachriel’s “side?” Do you mean those whose comments are unnecessarily delayed with cryptic messages about being moderated?

    Please read the comments preceding this for clarification about the distinction between natural and supernatural.

  110. To come back to the point of this post, we were asked to critique the comment,

    The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated. At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity. While it is true that very suggestive metaphysical arguments can be drawn from the reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness, the laws of physics, or (most importantly) ontological contingency, the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

    My reply:

    There are several problems with this paragraph. For example, there is the idea that ID rests on the premise of irreducible complexity. In fact, the origin of life is a far stronger foundation for ID (see Signature in the Cell), and the Privileged Planet hypothesis does not need irreducible complexity.

    Another problem is the difficulty with the last sentence. If the “biological complexity” of an organism is “an irrefutable proof” of the “incalculable complexity” of its progeniters, and their progenitors had it, and so forth, did the incalculable complexity come from an originally “Incalculably complex” organism which arose spontaneously, or was the “irrefutable proof” somehow violated somewhere, or multiple times? Or does the concession constitute a proof of ID, in spite of the author’s protestations?

    But the part of the argument that stands out as the worst is the assertion that irreducible complexity “may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated.” At this point I feel like I’m watching a movie, where the villain has been tracked down by the detectives who have put the clues together, and suddenly switches from pretending innocence to saying, “You can’t prove a thing!” He has now lost the audience (including any remaining doubt in the detectives). All that remains is the power play and the legal maneuvering. We now know the truth of his villainy to a moral certainty.

    Science has never been about proof, and those who expect to attack ID because it can’t be proved have committed a category error. The fact that they have to resort to this kind of argument suggests a fundamental weakness in their position.

    Nor is the appeal to the supposed fallacy of “personal incredulity” helpful. What is the opposite? “Personal credulity?” If the contest is between faith and skepticism, it would seem that the proper scientific attitude would be skepticism.

    There are other mistakes, but this belief that ID must be wrong until it can “logically be demonstrated” is obtained is the worst. If that’s the “best argument against ID theory”, then ID has it made.

  111. Whoops: The last paragraph should have the words “is obtained” omitted.

  112. Zachriel:

    Methodological Naturalism is just that, a methodology. It means not proposing vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities to explain events, such as what have often been considered supernatural forces (gods, spirits, ghosts, demons, magic).

    1- ID does not require the supernatural

    2- There is evidence for design. That you refuse to see it does not mean anything to us.

    3- If you could support your claims then ID would go away.

    Science rules out vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities.

    It is quite clear that the ONLY evidence you will accept is a meeting with the designer(s).

    IOW Zachriel is NOT interested in science.

    And by Zach’s “logic” the theopry of evolution should have been ruled out long ago.

    ToE is vaguely defined.

    There isn’t any evidence that the transformations required are even possible.

    It relies on Father Time, Mother Nature and magical mystery mutations.

  113. Zachriel:

    A lot of red balls are made by a peculiar species of terrestrial ape creatures for their juveniles.

    No ape has ever been observed to make red balls.

    Only humans do that and only people who want to be related to apes say that we are related.

    Ya see there still isn’t any scientific data which demonstrates that the transformations required are even possible.

    But I understand that you have to put the cart before the horse.

    And BTW natural laws alone did not create those red balls.

    But thank you for once again proving that you cannot follow along.

  114. Mustela,

    The following link explains what I’m talking about. It is David Chalmer’s “hard problem of consciousness.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.....sciousness

    Here are some quotes that get at the problem.

    Gottfried Leibniz wrote:

    Moreover, it must be confessed that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable on mechanical grounds, that is to say, by means of figures and motions. And supposing there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived as increased in size, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill. That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception.[3]

    Isaac Newton wrote in a letter to Henry Oldenburg:

    to determine by what modes or actions light produceth in our minds the phantasm of colour is not so easie.[4]

    T.H. Huxley remarked:

    how it is that any thing so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djin when Aladdin rubbed his lamp”

  115. 116

    Zach: “A lot of red balls are made by a peculiar species of terrestrial ape creatures for their juveniles.”

    Perhaps you could have missed the point by a wider margin, but I am not sure how. So I’ll ask again:

    What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?

  116. 117

    Paul Giem,

    Your post at #111 is excellent.

    Your analogy to the change in plea by the villian is perfectly placed.

  117. Zachriel: If the balls had characteristics outside the realm of physical laws, then the ape creatures wouldn’t be able to make them.

    Upright Biped Perhaps you could have missed the point by a wider margin, but I am not sure how. So I’ll ask again:

    What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?

    If the balls had characteristics outside the realm of physical laws, then the ape creatures (Hominoidea) wouldn’t be able to make them.

    The answer was clearly none.

  118. —-Zackriel: “Methodological Naturalism is just that, a methodology.”

    Incorrect. Methodological naturalism is an arbitrary rule established by Darwinists to rule out intelligent design apriori. Everyone studies natural causes, but not everyone defines science exclusively on those terms. Only Darwinists do that. Please read the FAQ.

    —-”Science has historically been defined in terms of casting off vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities.”

    Science can study any subject it pleases any way that it pleases as long as its methods are reasonable and rigorous. Only materialist atheists feel otherwise. No one, prior to the 1980′s, has ever dared to tell the scientist which methods he may use or what subjects he may investigate. The reason for that should be obvious: Only the scientist knows which questions he is trying to answer and is, therefore, the only one who knows which methods are the best means for obtaining the answers to those questions.

    —-”Science rules out vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities.”

    Science rules out nothing. It sits at the feet of nature and waits to be instructed. Any other approach is ideology. What an irony. Darwinists fight me tooth and nail to avoid the obvious truth that the law of causality is absolutely necessary for scientific rigor. At the same time, they lecture me on the need to rule out demons in the name of scientific integrity. What a laugh.

  119. —Upright Biped:

    “What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?”

    —Zackriel:

    “A lot of red balls are made by a peculiar species of terrestrial ape creatures for their juveniles. They do so by harnessing physical laws, including work and energy. If the balls had characteristics outside the realm of physical laws, then the ape creatures wouldn’t be able to make them.”

    I don’t think that is what UB had in mind. He appears to be referring to what Aristotle called, “substance,” which is characterized as something real and distinct from a thing’s collection of parts—expressed as the thing’s “being” or its
    nature,”—a permanent property of an object without which it cannot be what it is as opposed to something else.

  120. “Zackriel: “Methodological Naturalism is just that, a methodology”

    If its just a methodology why the qualifier? Why does the scientific method need a qualifier?

    MN is not about method rather it is a metaphysical presupposition that requires that when doing science one must assume that naturalism is true.

    Vivid

  121. StephenB: Methodological naturalism is an arbitrary rule established by Darwinists to rule out intelligent design apriori.

    Methodological Naturalism dates to the Middle Ages (Buridan, Galileo, LaPlace, to mention a few natural philosophers who predate Darwin). Only the term is new.

    StephenB: Science can study any subject it pleases any way that it pleases as long as its methods are reasonable and rigorous.

    As long as they are grounded in repeatable empirical observations. As mentioned above, the term supernatural is not well-defined. It’s more of a folk term used as a heuristic.

    StephenB: No one, prior to the 1980’s, has ever dared to tell the scientist which methods he may use or what subjects he may investigate.

    Natural philosophy, including
    methods and limits of scientific investigation, also date to the Middle Ages.

    Zachriel: Science rules out vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entities.”

    StephenB: Science rules out nothing.

    Science certainly can and does rule things out when they are contrary to the evidence. Science also ignores extraneous entities.

    StephenB: Darwinists fight me tooth and nail to avoid the obvious truth that the law of causality is absolutely necessary for scientific rigor.

    As we’ve seen, your idea of causality is contrary to normal scientific usage (though whether you defined your usage or not isn’t clear).

  122. Zachriel: Methodological Naturalism is just that, a methodology

    vividbleau: Why does the scientific method need a qualifier?

    It doesn’t. That’s why we deem it a heuristic, a useful rule of thumb. It uses a folk definition of supernatural, which can be construed for our purpose as a vaguely defined, unevidenced and extraneous entity, to eliminate most common, historical errors.

    If a student says a demon turned the solution blue; perhaps it’s true, but unless he can link a demon to the result of the experiment, then the student had best read the sign on the door before turning in the assignment.

    Absolutely No Demons Allowed in Lab.

  123. StephenB @ 119

    Methodological naturalism is an arbitrary rule established by Darwinists to rule out intelligent design apriori. Everyone studies natural causes, but not everyone defines science exclusively on those terms. Only Darwinists do that.

    vividbleau @ 121</b

    MN is not about method rather it is a metaphysical presupposition that requires that when doing science one must assume that naturalism is true.

    The term “methodological naturalism” was coined, apparently, to distinguish the investigative methodology of science, which is held to be neutral on the question of supernatural causation, from ontological or philosophical naturalism, which asserts the metaphysical claim that nature is all there is.

    It is argued that the concept of methodological naturalism predates both the invention of the term and Darwin’s theory of evolution by centuries, as evidenced by this excerpt from this post at The Panda’s Thumb”:

    Ronald Numbers, one of the leading experts on the history of creationism, writes,

    The phrase “methodological naturalism” seems to have been coined by the philosopher Paul de Vries, then at Wheaton College, who introduced it at a conference in 1983 in a paper subsequently published as “Naturalism in the Natural Sciences,” Christian Scholar’s Review, 15(1986), 388-396. De Vries distinguished between what he called “methodological naturalism,” a disciplinary method that says nothing about God’s existence, and “metaphysical naturalism,” which “denies the existence of a transcendent God.”

    (p. 320 of: Ronald L. Numbers, 2003. “Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs.” In: When Science and Christianity Meet, edited by David C. Lindberg, Ronald L. Numbers. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, pp. 265-285.)

    A few additional points worth noting here:

    1. In case you didn’t know, Wheaton is a conservative evangelical school where the faculty and staff must agree with a detailed statement of faith.

    2. The idea of methodological naturalism is of course much older than the term, stretching back centuries to the distinction between primary and secondary causes. (Glenn Branch dug around and found some evidence that the term may be older, but perhaps like the term “intelligent design” the words are associated occasionally over the decades, but without really being codified as an Official Term.)

    3. But perhaps it was Darwin and those other dogmatic Darwinists that came up with methodological naturalism in the 1800’s in order to ram evolution down everyone’s throats. Not according to Numbers:

    By the late Middle Ages the search for natural causes had come to typify the work of Christian natural philosophers. Although characteristically leaving the door open for the possibility of direct divine intervention, they frequently expressed contempt for soft-minded contemporaries who invoked miracles rather than searching for natural explanations. The University of Paris cleric Jean Buridan (a. 1295-ca. 1358), described as “perhaps the most brilliant arts master of the Middle Ages,” contrasted the philosopher’s search for “appropriate natural causes” with the common folk’s erroneous habit of attributing unusual astronomical phenomena to the supernatural. In the fourteenth century the natural philosopher Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320-82), who went on to become a Roman Catholic bishop, admonished that, in discussing various marvels of nature, “there is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we belive are well known to us.”

    Enthusiasm for the naturalistic study of nature picked up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as more and more Christians turned their attention to discovering the so-called secondary causes that God employed in operating the world. The Italian Catholic Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), one of the foremost promoters of the new philosophy, insisted that nature “never violates the terms of the laws imposed upon her.” (Numbers 2003, p. 267)

  124. #122

    From Wiki:

    “It is an epistemological view that is specifically concerned with practical methods for acquiring knowledge, irrespective of one’s metaphysical or religious views.It requires that hypotheses be explained and tested only by reference to natural causes and events”

    In other words when doing science one must assume the truth of philosophical naturalism since naturalism asserts that nature is all there is. If nature is all there is then all causes must be natural causes. If it is not assumed when doing science that naturalism is true why the requirement that explanations can only be explanations that invoke natural causes?

    Seversky: “The term “methodological naturalism” was coined, apparently, to distinguish the investigative methodology of science, which is held to be neutral on the question of supernatural causation,”

    This from Wiki

    “It is an epistemological view that is specifically concerned with practical methods for acquiring knowledge, irrespective of one’s metaphysical or religious views.”

    One can hold to any metaphysical or religious view they desire but WHEN doing scince they have to assume that PN is true. To assume that PN is true when doing science they are also assuming that any metaphysical view that contradicts naturalism is untrue. So when you say

    “which is held to be neutral on the question of supernatural causation,”

    This is flat out contradictory. If when doing science one is only permitted to put forth “natural” explanations how can science be neutral on the question of supernatural causation? In fact to point to the supernatural as a scientific explanation is verbotten. It is by definition non science!

    I stand by what I said in #121

    “MN is not about method rather it is a metaphysical presupposition that requires that WHEN doing science one must assume that naturalism is true.”

    Vivid

  125. #123

    “It doesn’t.”

    So a scientist need not limit him or herself to hypothesese that can only be explained or by referenced to natural causes and events?

    Vivid

  126. —-seversky: “It is argued that the concept of methodological naturalism predates both the invention of the term and Darwin’s theory of evolution by centuries, as evidenced by this excerpt from this post at The Panda’s Thumb”:

    I have already refuted Panda’s Thumb and Ronald Numbers many times on this site. That science has often been “primarily” about natural causes is not being questioned. On the other hand, there is no record at all that science has been “exclusively” about natural causes. Panda’s Thumb didn’t do their homework and neither did Ronald Numbers. I have provided dozens of examples of scientists from Newton to Boyle who allowed design thinking to influence and inform their research. There was no rule to forbid it. That is simply a fact.

  127. —seversky: “The Italian Catholic Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), one of the foremost promoters of the new philosophy, insisted that nature “never violates the terms of the laws imposed upon her.” (Numbers 2003, p. 267)”

    Galileo was not an advocate of what we call “methodological naturalism,” and that quote Numbers offers is both meaningless and misleading. Indeed, Galileo thought of his system as an alternate interpretation of the biblical texts. That is what got him in trouble, for crying out loud. If he hadn’t allowed religion to leak into his methods, he would have remained free of controversy.

    However, we can forget about Galileo, if you like. I could fill several pages with examples of scientists who transcended anything similar to what we now know as “methodological naturalism.”

    Kepler’s works on astronomy contain writings about how space and the heavenly bodies represent the Trinity.

    Both Descartes and Bacon had systems in which God was important.

    Newton, in the Principia stated, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion on an intelligent and powerful Being.” He also believed that numbers were necessary for understanding God’s plan for history in the Bible.

    Boyle, in the Christian Virtuoso, wrote that the study of nature was a central religious duty.

    Some scientists even titled their scientific works as evidence for God’s existence. I could easily provide fifty more examples.

    With their meager two misplaced examples, Panda’s Thumb and Ronald Numbers have already played out their hand to the max. I have tracked down their methods and they have nothing.

  128. —-Zackriel: “If a student says a demon turned the solution blue; perhaps it’s true, but unless he can link a demon to the result of the experiment, then the student had best read the sign on the door before turning in the assignment.”

    You have made another logical error. Methodological naturalism forbids the scientist to make the aforementioned link. Indeed, if Moses came back to earth and parted the waters in real time, methodological naturalists would forbid scientists to investigate the matter even while it was happening. In keeping with that same point, methodological naturalism even forbids the admission of evidence for a cosmological big bang since some attribute it to the work of a Divine Creator. Of course, most methodological naturalists are not stupid enough to press the point.

  129. Interestingly, although the term “methodological naturalism” is young, components of the debate have been pursued within the Catholic Church since the 12th century, and continue to the present day. See the article by Philip J. Jacobs: “An Argument Over ‘Methodological Naturalism’ at the Vatican Observatory” in The Heythrop Journal, XLIX (2008), pp 542-581.

    The abstract:

    This paper is framed as a continuation of a 12th century debate over whether a ‘profane’ account of nature without reference to arbitrary divine acts in its workings (secundum phisicam) threatens the unity of scriptura et natura that was assumed in the natural philosophy which developed out of the Platonic/Augustinian tradition. Currently this issue takes the form of either a commitment to or circumvention of the protocol of ‘methodological naturalism’ in the explanation of natural history, most clearly with regard to evolutionary theory. The focus of the paper is on the latent disagreement over this issue between two poles of the steering committee which oversaw a series of conferences co-sponsored by the Vatican Observatory. One side was willing to make a sustained commitment to ‘methodological naturalism’, arguing that while nature was not self-explanatory, its inherent characteristics were sufficient for explaining the course of natural history. The other side was initially willing to concede the protocol, but ultimately saw the unity of scriptura et natura threatened. After the introduction, Section II analyzes specific disagreements between the two groups over theological epistemology, theological language, and God as a necessary factor in the explanans of natural history. That analysis becomes the basis in Section III for the assertion that the strategy of the second group involves returning to an older form of natural philosophy with a doxa-episteme progression that allows it to augment the ‘profane’ epistemology of ‘methodological naturalism’ with an esoteric insight in order to recognize what is ‘objectively’ the case. Natural philosophies of this sort permit a ‘semantic variability’ such that the designation of a claim as ‘theological’ can mean that it both is and is not a semantic alternative to claims that follow the protocol of ‘methodological naturalism’. The strength given the claim will depend on the discourse context. The paper concludes with a chart of the multiple and significant differences between the two groups.

    Jacobs notes that this discussion has a history extending back to the 12th century.

    It is not a new argument since an early version of it was debated in the 12th century. In that period, the cosmology offered in the Timaios provided the framework for a natural philosophy in a Platonic mode which permitted a seamless melding of religious, aesthetic, philosophical, and ‘scientific’ elements. Since this model did not distinguish between ‘natural’ and ‘religious’ knowledge, the ‘prejudice’ of faith was granted an essential position in its comprehensive epistemology. Eventually, however, an interest developed in a methodological program to produce an account in which nature could be known in itself, secundum phisicam, a view represented in the writings of William of Conches (d. 1154). He took the step of stipulating that the cosmos was from the very beginning guided by laws of nature such that its processes proceeded according to an immanent physical lawfulness that could be studied by rational research. In such an account, no reference need be made to arbitrary acts of God. William of Saint-Thierry (d. 1148/49) opposed this, criticizing the inherently ‘naturalistic’ tendency of such a position. His basically Augustinian criticism was taken up as well by Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173) for whom the program of secundum phisicam represented a step toward a ‘profane’ understanding of nature, which in his view was simply not possible. The debate showed how, in the view of some, the idea of ‘profane nature’ functioning independently of specific divine directions threatened to undermine the unity of scriptura et natura. It was suggestive of a disquieting alternative to the kind of integration of theology and ‘science’ that had allowed for theological explanations of natural processes. To demarcate ‘nature’ in this way implied accepting a limitation on the biblical meaning of the divine arbitrium (dominion and authority). The reaction of those opposing William of Conches, therefore, was to reaffirm the integrative natural philosophy of the Platonic/Augustinian tradition.

    He further notes that two opposing schools of thought have continued to contest this issue within the Vatican Observatory to the present day:

    My strategy for parsing out the differences between them involves creating two ‘constructs’ which will represent the consolidated views of the members in each group. The first position, generally aligned with Richard of St. Victor, includes Robert Russell, Nancey Murphy, and Thomas Tracy [RMT] and the members of the second are William Stoeger S.J., George Coyne S.J., and Ernan McMullin [SCM] who can be seen as sympathetic to William of Conches’ interests.

    He describes their contemporary positions:

    For [SCM], a central intention of the conferences was to nurture what it sees as a developing rapport between science and theology. It presupposes a version of a ‘consonance criterion’: there should be mutual respect between the two disciplines, with each remaining within the area of its competence and neither making competing claims that infringe on the type of reflection practiced by the other. This criterion, then, presumes a ‘methodological naturalism’, a procedural decision not to permit the admixture of theological claims into scientific inquiry, and specifically into the explanans of natural history. [RMT], in order to fulfill the ‘consonance criterion’, will passively concede at the outset that science must proceed according to ‘methodological naturalism’. Yet [RMT] shares the medieval concern that such a ‘profane’ explanation of nature threatens the unity of scriptura et natura since it would make it unclear how God superintends creation as the biblical accounts propose. Consequently, after its initial concession, it finds a way to have a ‘fluid’ semantic so that the designation of a claim as ‘theological’ allows it to mean that it both is and is not a semantic alternative to claims that follow the protocol of ‘methodological naturalism’. [RMT] can do this by returning to a Platonic mode of natural philosophy that allows it to meld its ‘theological epistemology’ with ‘profane epistemology’ in order to produce a model in which, while different explanations can be offered for the same natural event, there is ultimately just one integrated, comprehensive explanation. The theological claims can, when the context permits, supersede (by augmenting) those of natural science and require mention of the divine agent in order to establish what actually happened/happens. As a result, the original concession of ‘methodological naturalism’, granted possibly for diplomatic reasons, ends up being surpassed by a claim that theology can make ‘objective’ claims about the course of natural history.

    With respect to the “semantic variability” suggested by the second [RMT] group Jacobs remarks:

    What remains, then, of the commitment [of the LCD faction] to the protocol of ‘methodological naturalism’? I would argue that it can appear and disappear ‘pragmatically’ as a function of the current discourse context. But this pragmatic benefit has its weaknesses since it would seem that it only succeeds when the discourse contexts are kept isolated from one another, otherwise the inherent variability presents debilitating problems. For example, there is the following petard on which [RMT] hoists itself: if God in the details of evolution is to be used intramurally in a parochial discussion of apologetics, then it can be strengthened at will and be presented as a claim in natural history. But what strength should it be given if it were part of an open, intermural polemic against the opponents/atheists? In that context, were [RMT] to weaken the claim to avoid sounding like Intelligent Design, then it would find itself drifting back into a parallel language approach and given the agenda of the new Neo-Orthodoxy it cannot do that. So it would be forced to the Intelligent Design position (and the abandonment of ‘methodological naturalism’), all the while trying (unsuccessfully) to argue that it is not a version of Intelligent Design. The only way [RMT] can avoid this loss of coherence is by intentionally segregating the discourse contexts, even though it is using the same ‘constructive theology’ in both. At this point questions about coherence as well as candor arise once again.

    It an interesting article that traces the implications of this debate through quantum physics, the question of randomness, and evolution. Unfortunately, it appears to be available only behind institutional/pay walls.

  130. StephenB: You have made another logical error. Methodological naturalism forbids the scientist to make the aforementioned link.

    You really need to learn to read more carefully.

    Zachriel: Methodological Naturalism is just that, a methodology.

    vividbleau: Why does the scientific method need a qualifier?

    Zachriel: It doesn’t.

    We consider Methodological Naturalism as a mere heuristic (albeit a very useful one), and reject its application as a hard-and-fast rule because of the empirical ambiguity between natural and supernatural. A clearer methodological demarcation can be constructed without reference to naturalism.

    The Scientific Method

  131. Zachriel:

    If the balls had characteristics outside the realm of physical laws, then the ape creatures (Hominoidea) wouldn’t be able to make them.

    What ape creatures make balls?

    Please be specific.

    And if you think that humans = ape creatures then you need to provide the scientific data which demonstrates the tyransformations required are even possible.

    Otherwise you are just talking out of your arse, as usual.

    Also there is evidence for entity intervention.

    That you refuse to understand it doesn’t mean anything to those who do.

    Also if you could just step up and support your position then ID would go away.

    So what are you waiting for?

  132. Seversky (#124)

    If you’re going to quote from Buridan and Oresme, then I suggest you cite them in the appropriate context. You got your quotes from the Wikipedia article, “Science in Medieval Western Europe” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....ern_Europe . For the most part, it’s a very good article. Sometimes, however, it pays to consult the sources.

    For instance, you assert that the cleric Jean Buridan (ca. 1295-ca. 1358), “contrasted the philosopher’s search for ‘appropriate natural causes’ with the common folk’s erroneous habit of attributing unusual astronomical phenomena to the supernatural.” Here’s what Buridan actually said in his Questions on Aristotle’s Meteorology:

    There are several ways of understanding the word natural. The first [is] when we oppose it to supernatural (and the supernatural effect is what we call a miracle). And it is clear that the meteorological effects are natural effects, insofar as they are produced naturally, and not miraculously… The philosophers, consequently, explain them by the appropriate natural causes; but common folk, not knowing of causes, believe that these phenomena are produced by a miracle of God, which is usually not true… [Emphasis mine - VJT.] Source: Nicole Oresme and the Marvels of Nature: A Study of his “De causis mirabilium” with Critical Edition, Translation and Commentary by Bert Hansen (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1985), p. 59.

    Note the qualification: “which is usually not true.” And note also that Buridan is talking about meteorology, not biology.

    You also write:

    In the fourteenth century the natural philosopher Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320-82), who went on to become a Roman Catholic bishop, admonished that, in discussing various marvels of nature, “there is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we believe are well known to us.”

    Here’s what Oresme actually said in the Prologue to his treatise, On the Causes of Marvels (De causis mirabilium), also known as the Quodlibeta, composed around 1370:

    In order to set people’s minds at rest to some extent I propose here, although it goes beyond what was intended, to show the causes of some effects which seem to be marvels and to show that these effects occur naturally, as do the others at which we commonly do not marvel. There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we believe are well known to us. (Emphases mine – VJT.) (Source: Oresme, ibid., p. 137.)

    Note the heavily qualified language used in the above passage. Oresme is simply invoking what we now know as Occam’s razor.

    Now, it is certainly true that while Buridan, as a devout Christian, allowed that God could intervene in the natural order of events, he also insisted that “in natural philosophy, we ought to accept actions and dependencies as if they always proceed in a natural way” (Questions on De caelo, book2, question 9, p. 164 (Moody edition). In saying this, he was typical of many late medieval natural philosophers, according to Edward Grant, author of God and reason in the Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2001), some of which can be viewed online at http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false . What relevance does this have for intelligent design? Very little, in my opinion. Does it make Buridan a methodological naturalist? Not as the term is understood today. Here’s why.

    As I see it, the aim of ID is to make a persuasive scientific case that certain patterns in Nature can be reliably identified as manifestations of intelligence. Accepting that claim does not commit one to a belief in the supernatural.

    Even for ID proponents who believe that God is the author of the intelligently designed patterns we observe in the biological realm, it does not follow that the creation of these designs was a supernatural act. As far as ID is concerned, scientists are welcome to search for pathways leading from simple forms to specified complexity. An ID proponent could, for instance, believe (if he/she wished) that the initial conditions of the primordial Earth were very finely tuned by God, in such a way as to make the emergence of life by natural processes inevitable. Ditto for irreducibly complex systems. So much for the notion that ID is supernaturalistic.

    Nevertheless, you might still ask: what would Buridan and Oresme have made of ID? That’s a fair question. Four points need to be borne in mind here.

    1. At the time when they lived, Aristotle was the dominant intellectual influence. Aristotle held that the world was eternal, and that each species had always existed. Within his intellectual framework, the problem of how specified complexity arose – let alone how life originally arose – simply did not exist. Nothing arose, except individuals.

    2. During the Middle Ages, abiogenesis (more accurately spontaneous generation) was widely believed to be a commonplace and everyday occurrence, as this Wikipedia article illustrates. Indeed, it was even believed that whole animals (e.g. crocodiles) could be generated from inanimate matter such as mud.

    3. Describing actions as if they “always proceed in a natural way” does not imply that they always proceed in an unintelligent way. “Natural” does not equate to “blind.”

    4. As Grant points out (op. cit., p. 198), Buridan, as a natural philosopher, was concerned with what he called the “common course of nature” – i.e. regular events and not singular events. Scientists now consider the origin of life on Earth to have been a singular event, yet they continue to investigate this occurrence, as they should. In so doing, they have already moved beyond Buridan’s characterization of science as dealing only with regular occurrences.

    I would argue that it is intellectually stultifying to limit science to the search for unintelligent explanations of natural phenomena. The world is a more interesting place than it was thought to be in the fourteenth century – or the nineteenth, for that matter. In the twenty-first century, scientists should not be shackled by invocations of dead philosophers. Rather, they should be free to boldly search for the best explanation of natural phenomena, and follow that search wherever it takes them – even if the best explanation turns out to be some kind of intelligent agency.

  133. There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we believe are well known to us.

    That’s a reasonable statement of Methodological Naturalism. This shows that the basic principle was established long before Darwin.

  134. 135

    Zachriel,

    Concerning the red plastic balls, I asked:

    “Clearly, something “else” has been instantiated into the matter of its existence, which itself follows the physical laws that govern it. Something determined it beyond the laws that describe the materials it is made of.

    What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?”

    You answered: “clearly none”

    So by all means, please explain the existence of red plastic balls solely by virtue of the physical laws that govern the hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur that constitutes their material make-up.

  135. Upright BiPed: So by all means, please explain the existence of red plastic balls solely by virtue of the physical laws that govern the hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur that constitutes their material make-up.

    Assuming you are really interested in making a plastic ball, you can start with naturally occurring rubber (from trees), vulcanize it by heating it with sulpher, then mould or mill the final product. Quite servicable. You can dye it your favorite colour too!

    If you prefer, you can use synthetic rubber, which can be made by heating sodium polysulfide and stirring in sulpher. Then agitate that with ethelene disulphide and a dispersing agent such as magnesium hydroxide. Add a bit of hydrochloric acid to aid coagulation. Finally, you can vulcanize it with zinc oxide. Don’t forget to shake the magic rattle or it won’t work.

    A peculiar species of Hominoidea make them in a variety of colors.

  136. I have broken up Hart’s review into three separate parts and after each have placed my comments. My analysis certainly can be improved and any constructive criticism would be welcome. They were mostly written while at a one year old’s birthday party. Each part will be in a separate comment.

    Hart 1 – “The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated.”

    This response is quite long. But first. Is irreducible complexity as defined and modified by Behe at the heart of the ID argument or is irreducible complexity just a proxy for all the arguments at the heart of ID. For now I will assume that irreducible complexity just means functional complexity in a cell or organism, that is complex entities within the cell or organism that have function. The issue is the origin of this functional complexity.

    ID in general has examined some specific phenomena in the history of matter and has concluded that there is no known naturalistic processes that can explain these phenomena. The phenomena can loosely be grouped into origin phenomena. What are the causes of certain origins that appear to be singular in nature. For example, the origin of the universe, the origin of an extremely rare planet we call Earth, the origin of life, the origin of species with novel complex capabilities and the origin of consciousness. These are five seemingly singular events with one origin having numerous singular origins, namely the origin of novel complex capabilities of life forms. Once organisms have these complex capabilities it not hard to understand how they are passed on to subsequent generations but their initial appearance go so far seems beyond the capabilities of naturalistic processes just as the comments on this and similar forums are beyond the capabilities of naturalistic processes.

    When Hart says that irreducible complexity can never logically be demonstrated he is guilty of making a very misleading statement. His statement implies that most things in science are logically demonstrated. And they are not. Very few things in science are logically proved as would be with a theorem in Mathematics. Thus, this criticism is illogical in the sense that nearly all science is based on induction and not deduction which is the traditional use of the statement “logically demonstrated.” The author uses the term logically as if ID should follow from a deductive sequence. Actually some science follows a deductive sequence but if this the process of establishment that Hart expects ID to follow, he is being extremely disingenuous. (It should be noted that some philosophers consider inductive reasoning a form of logical demonstration. The fly in the ointment for such a stance is always the black swan.) Now after saying all this, the establishment of ID is going to be logical or deductive. And to do this it is necessary to develop a critical dichotomy.

    In order to understand the logic behind ID it is necessary to consider causes for any phenomena. If A and B are exhaustive of all the possible causes of a phenomena and mutually exclusive and if A is not true then B must be true. This is the critical dichotomy. Thus, under such a situation, to establish B all one has to do is falsify A and vice versa. For ID, the two domains under analysis are A – the causes of a phenomena are due to natural laws only and B – the causes of some phenomena are somehow due to the intervention of an intelligence with the processes of the natural laws so that phenomena under examination that could not occur normally, has occurred. This does not mean that Domain B excludes natural causes but only that the normal result of these natural causes are altered by intelligent interventions.

    Natural causes due to the initial conditions of the Big Bang have produced a multitude of phenomena that is the result of just the interactions of the material and energy available at the Big Bang and the four laws of physics. These are in Domain A. However, there are certain phenomena that these initial conditions could not have produced except for the intervention of an intelligence. These are in Domain B.

    For the phenomena in Domain B the natural forces that were contravened might be quite insignificant but some parts of a phenomena are due to the intervention of an intelligence with what normally would have happened. Domain B would include any phenomena that was even modified minutely by an intelligence. It is obviously possible that some phenomena in Domain B might appear that they could have happened in Domain A. So certain phenomena in Domain B are hard to identify as belonging there while other phenomena are obviously in Domain B. For example, the building of an automobile could never have resulted from just the natural laws operating on the material and energy of the universe no matter how long it was allowed. But when someone plants wild flowers on a hillside it may be hard to know if it was due to intelligent intervention. Except if the wild flowers appear to be in a pattern.

    To give an example of A: cosmologist believe the initial pattern of matter just after the Big Bang was minutely un-uniform so that over time, this incredibly small differences in the distribution of matter and energy was enough to give rise to all the disparity in the universe as the four laws of nature played out over time. That is stars, galaxies, planets, inter stellar dust, energy distributions, the formation of all the elements and the myriad distributions of dark matter and dark energy were the result of incredibly small differences in the initial distributions of matter and energy at the Big Bang. These were the initial and boundary conditions at the beginning of the universe that explain all the distribution of matter and energy in the universe today.

    Domain B would be any deviation from this expected pattern that was due to an intelligence intervening in the interaction of these four laws and the distribution of energy and matter at any time in the history of the cosmos. It can be a slight intervention with the operation of natural laws or a major one but the thing in common is that there have been interventions. For example, if an intelligence could have modified the non uniform distribution of matter and energy at the Big Bang by just a small amount an entirely different universe would have arisen in terms of the distribution of galaxies, stars etc. In later times on Earth, a small intervention might be for an intelligence to dam or divert a small tributary of a river to create a new flow of water to prevent flooding or increase water availability in a certain area. After the diverting or damming nothing further may be done and essentially the river flows as before but with a slight adjustment. Using the four basic forces of nature, this diverting would never have happened. In Domain B are also major interventions with the operation of natural laws to produce a phenomena that would be so obviously impossible within the scope of the four basic laws, maybe not even possible if there was even an infinite amount of time. For example, the phenomena of producing written comments on this site involves so many interventions that there does not seem numbers large enough to describe the possibilityx of it happening due to natural processes alone.

    This has so far been long winded in order to set up the dichotomy between A and B and how logic applies. So getting back to domains A and B and science, science frequently works such that it tries to prove either A or not A where in our case A is natural laws only and B is not natural law only. For the time being I am eliminating what has often been referred to as chance and including it under natural law as phenomena due to the four basic laws only but not understood well enough to describe. If one wants to consider chance as something different then it can be included in domain A. Either way chance is part of Domain A.

    Few conclusions in science since the days of Descartes are based solely on deduction. Rather, case after case of a phenomena are investigated and if the same phenomena is seen to operate in each case or nearly every case, then a law may develop. Over time the litany of individual cases may become a law but not till the number of cases is very large and there is a theoretical basis for the appearance of the cases. Seldom are the laws developed on a deductive basis. But seldom is a law developed that is based on the failure to show anything but in this case ID is supported more and more by the failure to establish something.

    If as Hart claims, irreducible complexity is at the heart of ID, then there is one way to show it to be invalid. Use induction to show that Domain B is improbable by establishing Domain A. That is show that organized complexity arises from natural causes. That is, point to numerous occasions where irreducible complexity arose naturally. Then using the inductive model, establish Domain A as likely and thus, Domain B as unlikely. To establish Domain B as the likely source for some organized complexity, then one would have to find the equivalent of the black swan for Domain B.

    As of this moment I am not aware of even one such example in Domain A for organized complexity arising through natural causes and as each new attempt fails, it adds credence to Domain B. So, Domain A has not one factual example let alone the numerous cases that would be required for inductive reasoning to logically apply. Then using logic, Domain B becomes not only possible but probable.

    Much of science has proceeded by first showing that a certain process is unlikely or impossible and then one looked for another process that would explain the phenomena. That is exactly how ID proceeds. ID posits as a basic premise that most things investigated by science should assume a naturalistic explanation. But some things are obviously not part of the laws of nature such as writings, tools of a certain sophistication, orderly forms of inanimate objects etc and are investigated almost immediately as having an intelligence origin. So to deny that certain phenomena can not have intelligent origin is obviously an absurd argument. So logically, to deny that so called “irreducible phenomena” can not have an intelligent origin is a non sequitur. To say it must have an intelligent origin is also a non sequitur but ID does not claim that. ID just says let’s apply a frequent scientific process and investigate organized complexity uing the methods of science. What ID claims is that the origin of many of these phenomena is possibly due to intelligent intervention. It then evaluates this possibility using the tools of science, mathematics and logic by looking at this. All the tools of science are brought to bear on establishing a natural origin for organized complexity and when none are found, logic points to its negation or ID.

    Thus, the logic of the science is that ID or irreducible complexity is logical and is just the opposite of what Hart claims.

  137. Hart 2 – “At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity.”

    Another illogical statement. This is not an argument against anything. There is nothing in the term “personal incredulity” or the term “God of the Gaps” that falsifies a proposition. It is a rhetorical argument using a particular philosophical point of view that has no basis in logic. More on that later. Basically, what the argument from personal incredulity says is that if someone says he cannot fathom how something was done by naturalistic processes, then that means it could not have been done in a naturalistic way. It goes back a couple hundred years to when LaPlace said “I have no need of that hypothesis” in answer to Napoleon question about the place of God in his treatise of the universe. LaPlace had explained how the variations in orbits of the planets were natural oscillations and that no intervention by God was necessary for the orbits to be stable as hypothesized by Newton. Thus, was born the God of Gaps or its alternative expression, the arugment from incredulity. It has petrified scientists ever since from pointing to an intelligent intervention but as I will point out immediately not always.

    This illogical argument is applied against ID but not in the way most understand it. To illustrate this, take Stonehenge or Easter Island. Both have large stone formations that appear to be the result of some intelligence. Does the scientist say their origin is due to natural forces playing out over time. No, they say they were intelligently designed. They are certainly less complex than the organized complexity found in life but why then are these stones intelligently designed. It is because they cannot fathom how these relatively un-complex entities could have formed through natural causes and thus they attribute them to intelligence. The difference is that at the time of the origin of the stones, specific intelligences were known to exist, humans, even if no specific human population can be identified with the stones. No scientist thinks that apes did it or that some form of bird did it. They only think that humans did it. The interesting phenomena is that these scientists are attributing some special quality to human intelligence?

    But what about life and specifically the organized complexity in life. It is certainly magnitudes greater in complexity than the stones at Stonehenge and Easter Island and these stones at these two places could have had millions of years to form. The difference is there is no known intelligence around at the time of the formation of organized complexity in cells and multi-cellular organisms. But wait a minute. Is Hart denying that God exists. In Hart’s world, wasn’t God available. So why couldn’t his God be the intelligence? For Hart, He obviously exists at the time of the formation of life and its associated complexity. Why cannot God be the source of complexity. After all we automatically assume and I bet Hart does too, that the stones of Easter Island were designed by humans. Why is God eliminated from the design of organized complexity in life?

    ID does not say the intelligence was God but it certainly does not deny that it could have been. Obviously, some want to make that leap and it is not illogical but because it is not illogical it does not mean that is what ID says. If an intelligence was known positively to exist at the time the Earth formed then no one would be questioning the origin of the life on Earth. They would be saying that because life is so complicated that it must have had an intelligent origin. Even Richard Dawkins admits that. So Hart is again seemingly very illogical.

  138. Hart 3 – “While it is true that very suggestive metaphysical arguments can be drawn from the reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness, the laws of physics, or (most importantly) ontological contingency, the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents”

    There are some non sequiturs in this long sentence. Essentially, it is ok that certain subjective things (reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness or (most importantly) ontological contingency) can be considered as evidence of something which is not stated here but which we assume is an intelligent creator but that somehow biological complexity is not. How is this logical?

    While these subjective arguments and the laws of physics (which are very objective ) are solid arguments, to classify the fact that biological organizational complexity is so absurdly unlikely by natural processes as not a good argument is how can I say illogical. A major argument that is based on science and data is suspect to Hart. Why? No reason is given by Hart other than his objection. The extremely high likelihood that natural processes could not produce this organized complexity but is routinely produced by intelligent intervention seems to be meaningless to Hart. The production of information and the use of this information to control highly complex functions is at the essence of ID. The fact that this information has never been produced by naturalistic processes and then Hart criticizes ID, astonishes (and I should be careful how I use the term) credulity.

    My guess is that Hart has an agenda and it is not seeking the truth or wishes to have a conversation about it.

    An aside. In his full review, Hart uses the term special evolution more than once and I was curious if Dawkins actually used the term since Denton uses it in his book, Evolution, a Theory in Crisis. So I downloaded Dawkins book onto my wife’s Kindle and searched for the term special. Dawkins does not use the term special evolution in his book.

  139. 140

    Zach,

    “Assuming you are really interested in making a plastic ball, you can start with naturally occurring rubber (from trees), vulcanize it by heating it with sulpher, then mould or mill the final product. Quite servicable. You can dye it your favorite colour too!”

    So you plainly failed to explain the existence of a red plastic ball in terms of its physical properties. It is not a physical property of tree rubber to mix with sulpher, heat itself, and then mould and mill itself into a sphere and dye itself red.

    Your smugness in that face of what is obvious is noted. It no doubt comes from an assumption on your part.

    One which suggests you know more than you can prove through science.

  140. —-Zackriel: “That’s a reasonable statement of Methodological Naturalism. This shows that the basic principle was established long before Darwin.” {I don’t cite the quote because it is irrelevant}

    Methodological naturalism is an arbitrary rule imposed by one group of scientists on another group of scientists. No such rule existed before Darwin, nor did one group of scientists ever presume to lecture another group of scientists on methods. What is it about the word “rule” that you do not understand.

  141. 142

    Jerry, your post caused me to take the time to read the Hart article.

    Its a complete head-shaker, starting with the term “special evolution”.

    I assume Mr Hart is a TE, one who will invent phrases in order to swallow.

  142. Wow, Zachriel blathers on and on about “the scientific method” (which really does not exist) when all the while his position cannot even muster a testable hypothesis based on the proposed mechanisms.

    There is no such thing as “THE Scientific Method.”:

    If you go to science fairs or read scientific journals, you may get the impression that science is nothing more than “question-hypothesis-procedure-data-conclusions.”

    But this is seldom the way scientists actually do their work. Most scientific thinking, whether done while jogging, in the shower, in a lab, or while excavating a fossil, involves continuous observations, questions, multiple hypotheses, and more observations. It seldom “concludes” and never “proves.”

    Putting all of science in the “Scientific Method” box, with its implication of a white-coated scientist and bubbling flasks, misrepresents much of what scientists spend their time doing. In particular, those who are involved in historical sciences work in a very different way—one in which questioning, investigating, and hypothesizing can occur in any order.

  143. 144

    vjtorley at 107,

    Thank you for your post, and sorry for my delay in responding to you.

    I’m afraid I’ve taken even longer to reply to you. My apologies and I hope you had a good holiday.

    “The essence of the scientific method is testability. To the extent that critiques of anything are testable, either against logic or objective, empirical evidence, they are subject to the scientific method.”

    Three points in reply:

    1. Testability alone does not and cannot define the scientific method. It’s too vague. At any given point in history, the scientific method is defined in terms of a particular set of recognized procedures that are considered appropriate for testing hypotheses. Over the course of time, scientists (and philosophers of science) may need to subject these procedures to further criticism and refinement. When they do so, they are stepping outside the scientific method as it is defined at that point in time.

    That’s an interesting point. I’m not sure I agree that testability is vague, though. Certain testing procedures may work better or worse than others, but the ultimate arbiter is how well a prediction corresponds to objective, empirical evidence. Similarly, the value of a testing procedure is measured against how well it allows such predictions to be measured.

    2. Insofar as one can speak of appropriate procedures for critiquing a method for testing hypotheses, it should be clear that what counts as an appropriate procedure for critiquing a method for testing hypotheses is not the same as what counts as an appropriate procedure for testing a hypothesis. The former is one level “up” from the latter. That’s what I meant when I wrote that meta-science could not be explained within the framework of science.

    I see your point, but both are subject to comparison against objective, empirical evidence of their efficacy. In that sense, both are testable.

    3. If I read you aright, you seem to be suggesting that the notion of a test is an “uber-concept” that serves as a yardstick for judging the validity of all other concepts. However, I do not think that this approach to science could possibly work. For in order to answer the question of what constitutes a good test, you would first need to know something about the world in which you were performing your tests – i.e. the framework of reality, or structure of the world. In other words, questions about what makes a good test presuppose at least a rudimentary grasp of metaphysics. That has to come first. Scientists need to explore the world and try to understand it before they can think of a good way of testing hypotheses about events occurring in it.

    Another excellent point. My view is that mechanisms that allow our predictions to iterate to more closely approximate what we see in reality are more useful. They are tested, in fact, against the real world.

    That being said, there is an assumption there that the real world is understandable. As long as it is recognized as an assumption that may lead to a contradiction if the real world is not actually understandable, I don’t think it interferes with using testability as a criteria.

    You also wrote:

    “Humans can certainly come up with all kinds of wild ideas that have nothing to do with reality. The process by which they come up with them, though, is (as far as anyone has been able to tell) constrained by chemistry and physics in a physical brain.”

    I agree with you that the process whereby we come up with ideas (or concepts) is constrained by our brains. “Constrain” is not the same thing as “determine,” however. A necessary condition is not a sufficient one.

    While I found the rest of your comment interesting, I’ll stop my response here because the remainder follows from this point of disagreement (or confusion on my part). Do you have any objective, empirical evidence to suggest that there is anything other than a physical brain, operating according to laws of chemistry and physics, responsible for our thought processes? Without such evidence, speculating on possible other mechanisms is premature.

  144. 145

    Collin at 115,

    My apologies for the delay in replying. I hope you had a good New Year celebration.

    The following link explains what I’m talking about. It is David Chalmer’s “hard problem of consciousness.”

    . . .

    Here are some quotes that get at the problem.

    . . .
    T.H. Huxley remarked:

    how it is that any thing so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djin when Aladdin rubbed his lamp”

    Huxley seems to be arguing solely from personal incredulity, not on the basis of any evidence.

    So far as we are aware, all of our experience, however rich, is the result of electrochemical patterns in our physical brains, all of which obey the laws of chemistry and physics (with, no doubt, some emergent phenomena due to the complexity of those brains).

    Unless and until there is evidence otherwise, Occam’s razor applies. We have no necessity to multiply entities.

  145. StephenB: Methodological naturalism is an arbitrary rule imposed by one group of scientists on another group of scientists.

    We agree then that Methodological Naturalism dates to the Middle Sages.

    StephenB: No such rule existed before Darwin, nor did one group of scientists ever presume to lecture another group of scientists on methods.

    Your concern, then, is that there is some sort of “rule” being imposed. Your claim is that the concept may be old, but the rule is new. Is that correct?

    StephenB: What is it about the word “rule” that you do not understand.

    Is this a law? In every nation or just some? What prevents you from practicing your preferred investigations? It surely can’t be because someone wrote a book. Can you be specific? Exactly what observations, or whatever it is you think is being denied you, can be done to confirm your hypothesis, or whatever it is you call it?

  146. Middle Ages, though Middle Sages does have a ring to it.

  147. Upright Biped: It is not a physical property of tree rubber to mix with sulpher, heat itself, and then mould and mill itself into a sphere and dye itself red.

    No, the Upright Biped, a natural being, does the mixing.

    Upright Biped: So you plainly failed to explain the existence of a red plastic ball in terms of its physical properties.

    The question was “What characteristics of a red plastic ball exist outside the realm of physical laws?” The answer is none, and you were provided the means to verify this for yourself. Your new question requires reference to the properties of other entities, such as a few common chemicals and an Upright Biped.

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