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View Diary: Let's Teach the Controversy of Evolution vs Intelligent Design **Updated with Poll question** (365 comments)

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  •  my approach has always been: (3+ / 0-)
    DOES SCIENCE UNFAIRLY RULE OUT SUPERNATURAL HYPOTHESES?

    By Lenny Flank

    Posted April 30, 2006

    One of the most oft-heard complaints from ID/creationists is that science has embraced a "religion of naturalism" and that it unfairly rules out, a priori, any potential supernatural or non-materialistic hypotheses, solely to prop up science's atheistic philosophy. Phillip Johnson, for instance, says, "Science also has become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that the means of creation must not have included any role for God. . . . The reason the theory of evolution is so controversial is that it is the main scientific prop for scientific naturalism." (Johnson, "The Church of Darwin", Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1999). Dembski echoes, "From our vantage, materialism is not a neutral, value-free, minimalist position from which to pursue inquiry. Rather, it is itself an ideology with an agenda." (Dembski, "Dealing with the backlash against intelligent design", 2004)

    It can be readily seen, however, that science does not in fact rule out supernatural explanations a priori. Furthermore, even if we allowed the IDers to introduce all the supernatural hypotheses that they wanted to, they still would not be able to follow the scientific method.

    The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

    Observe some aspect of the universe
    Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed
    Make testible predictions from that hypothesis
    Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions
    Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions
    Nothing in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any "supernatural cause". Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won't (and doesn't) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such "supernatural causes" as the effects of prayer on healing. Other scientific studies have focused on such "non-materialistic" or "non-natural" phenomena as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and "remote viewing". So ID's claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

    However, what science does require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And here is where ID fails miserably.

    To demonstate this, let's pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God -- uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer -- created both but used common features in a common design. (For any IDers who object to this example, please feel free to substitute any other non-naturalistic ID hypothesis that you do like.)

    Let's take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

    Observe some aspect of the universe.
    OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).
    Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
    OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is "an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products."
    Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
    Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology's chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID's hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see... ?
    IDers, please fill in the blank.
    And, to better help us test ID's hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions -- things which, if found, would falsify the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then -- if we find ... (fill in the blank here), then the "common design" hypothesis would have to be rejected.
    Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
    Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.
    Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

    Take note here -- contrary to the IDers whining about the "unfair exclusion of supernatural causes", there are in fact no limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine -- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God -- er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer -- did like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

    Let's assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let's therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything's fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke all of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis "genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design", or indeed any other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

    And that is where ID "theory" falls flat on its face. It is not any presupposition of "philosophical naturalism" on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks -- it is the simple inability of ID "theory" to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design "theory" still can't follow the scientific method.

    Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is not that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID's proposed "supernaturalistic explanations" be tested according to the scientific method, just like every other hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its "explanations", but it wants to modify science so it doesn't HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic "hypothesis" to have a privileged position -- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science without being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their "science" is correct. And that is what their entire argument over "materialism" (or "naturalism" or "atheism" or "sciencism" or "darwinism" or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

    There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone else's hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their "hypothesis" through the same scientific method that everyone else has to, then they have no claim to be "science". Period.

    http://www.talkreason.org/...
    •  No, science intentionally limits the scope (0+ / 0-)

      of answers that it can provide to only the physical universe.  In simple terms, science is a cold, “faithless” perspective of the universe.

      It is the intentional misleading of the physical limitations of science that are at the heart of this issue.  There is much, much more to our existence than just the physical.

      •  Well, in this I agree: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cybersaur, JerryNA, malie
        science is a cold, “faithless” perspective of the universe.
        True dat.  Science explores what is, and how it got that way. A scientist will change his views immediately in the presence of new evidence- the religionist clings to his faith in spite of evidence.

        Religion, as you state, is based upon and requires faith.  Faith is belief in the unbelievable. (If it is believable, one doesn't need faith.)  

        Personally, I would rather live in a world which operates by the laws of physics, and not one where "miracles" can defy the laws of physics at any time at the hands of a capricious and malignant "god".  Imagine a world where the sun really could stand still in the sky- and the chaos that would create.

        Fortunately for us, God apparently stopped doing the really impressive miracles around 2,000 years ago- coincidentally coinciding with the development of science and the ability of people to give other than Bronze age explanations of the world around them.

        As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

        by BPARTR on Mon May 06, 2013 at 04:49:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Faith is no more an unknown, or a belief, (0+ / 0-)

          than hope or love.  Faith is the “substance” and “evidence” of things not seen. Over 90% of the world’s population acknowledges this fact.  It is the intentional denial of this fact within the science curriculum that is the problem.

          The very acknowledgement of laws (that which governs) of physics is enough evidence of a Creator. Randomness would be the only alternative to a godless universe, and randomness does not produce order by its very definition.

          “Miracles", or the ability to defy the laws of the universe, are the proof that a person is who they claim to be.  I am very glad to know that that which governs the universe is good, merciful, and faithful, not "capricious" or "malignant". Just imagine a world without a good governor, just the randomness of individuals living according to their own desires, and the chaos that would create. We don't have to imagine that world; we live on it.

          Fortunately, the best is yet to come!

          •  um, no (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JerryNA

            Faith is blind acceptance of authority with no accompanying evidence. Hope and love are essentially just emotions.
            There is no aspect of the universe that requires that one posit the existence of any gods. None.
            Miracles are fictions ascribed to god(s). There is no such thing as a miracle.

            +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

            by cybersaur on Tue May 07, 2013 at 08:42:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Faith is complete trust, not blind acceptance. (0+ / 0-)

              Real faith, real hope, and real love, are not emotions, they are choices.

              "There is no aspect of the universe that requires that one posit the existence of any gods. None."

              Yes there is, I exist.

              As far as miracles are concerned, you are entitled to your choice on the subject. I will choose to disagree, and trust the accounts of eye witnesses to the events that did and still do happen.

              •  Keep making assertions (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JerryNA

                And this is why it isn't possible to argue with true believers.
                Your existence doesn't require a god. Just parents.
                That miracles don't exist is a fact. People see things all the time that they ascribe to the supernatural that are easily disproved like water stains on over passes and burn marks on grilled cheese.
                Can you share with the rest of us an example of a modern day miracle?

                +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

                by cybersaur on Tue May 07, 2013 at 11:21:57 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I suppose the same could be said (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Joieau

                  about the choices of non believers, in a general sense.

                  I am curious how the smallest of building blocks that make up my parents just suddenly, randomly came into existence.  Logically speaking, something can never come from nothing, but in order for a godless universe to exist there must be an event where nothing became something. In my opinion that requires much, much more faith, but that is your choice to make.

                  I would not classify your examples as miracles; I would classify it as a very small attempt to delegitimize my faith by using absurd examples.

                  Providing an example of a miracle to a person that has made their choice that they do not exist would be a fruitless endeavor.

                  •  And yet (0+ / 0-)

                    You believe that your god has always existed and conjured the the heavens, the Earth and all the flora and fauna out of nothing.
                    Your god has First Cause problems that you simply fail to recognize or admit.

                    +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

                    by cybersaur on Tue May 07, 2013 at 01:19:55 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  It's a choice per explanatory power, (0+ / 0-)

                    that's all. Any phenomenon for which there is no possible (or just current) physical explanation can be considered 'miraculous' by one person, or simply 'natural-by-unknown- process' to another.

                    Spontaneous remission of advanced cancer is a pretty good example. Back in the olden days there were NO treatments for cancer other than surgery to remove tumors. If you had a cancer that didn't involve tumors - like, say, leukemia - you were shit out of luck. Yet in those days when there was no radiotherapy or chemotherapy with which to try and defeat such cancers, the phenomenon of spontaneous remission did noticeably occur. Medicine had no explanations any more than they had treatments that might account for the fact that someone literally on their deathbed got up one morning and went on home, no sign of disease at all.

                    Miracle? For many who experienced it, that explanation was plenty good enough to suffice. Even doctors called it that. Others without belief in miracles might choose to believe in a natural (but rare) phenomenon of gene expression suiting that happened to kick in all of a sudden and managed to get rid of the cancer before it killed the patient. Unknown, but not "miraculous." And who knows? Perhaps someday we'll actually know enough about human physiology and cellular processes to produce Spontaneous Remission In A Bottle and it would be worth all the money in the world.

                    The "miracle" explanation fits Occam's razor - nothing further is required. The "Natural but Unknown" explanation begs further research in order to try and quantify. Not possible these days when we do have treatments (themselves extremely harmful to physiological processes, but sometimes effective against the immediate threat). So there will probably never be Spontaneous Remission In A Bottle, and that phenomenon will remain a "miracle" by Occam's measure.

      •  That might be a category mistake. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        The 'physical' is really what we can detect.  Much of the shattering of former paradigms has been at the behest of better ways to perceive.

        So the instrument evolves to find ever-more music.

      •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

        If God Almighty appears on a flaming white steed and claimed, "ID is right, I did this to fuck with you, creationism is trash.  I put dino bones in the ground to fuck with you!"  Science would have a lot of theories to rewrite, and the would do so. They wouldn't deny the supernatural once the proof appeared.

        Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

        by lostboyjim on Tue May 07, 2013 at 04:21:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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