Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One More Reason Why ID Is Not Religion

It should be clear to anyone with a basic understanding of science and philosophy that intelligent design theory is not inherently religious in nature. The way most proponents define it, it should be considered science with philosophical implications. It could also be considered related to the teleological argument in philosophy with scientific data as its basis.

This article from the NY Times provides another possible explanation for the design of the universe that cannot be considered "religious" in nature:

Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

This simulation would be similar to the one in “The Matrix,” in which most humans don’t realize that their lives and their world are just illusions created in their brains while their bodies are suspended in vats of liquid. But in Dr. Bostrom’s notion of reality, you wouldn’t even have a body made of flesh. Your brain would exist only as a network of computer circuits.


28 Comments:

At August 16, 2007 10:13 PM, Blogger Sean said...

ID may not be inherently religious, but it's not scientific.

Discuss.

 
At August 17, 2007 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, sir, are more of a whack job than the most religous among us! Science mixed with philosophy? The two don't mix. Theories like this is what happens when they do. What a joke!

 
At August 17, 2007 10:23 AM, Anonymous John said...

In Sean's world:

Hypothesis that the universe and life were created by an intelligent entity described in millenia-old writings = unscientific.

Hypothesis that the universe and life were created by an unimaginably large unintelligent entity or a similarly large number of unintelligent entities = scientific.

Hypothesis that the universe and life were created as simulations by an intelligent entity (or entities) with the added possibility of the simulation being nested inside practically innumerable other simulations = scientific.

Occam's Razor is going to need some more swipes on the whetstone after chopping through all that.

 
At August 17, 2007 1:48 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

I did discuss it. See the first link in this post.

Why do you think it not scientific? Do you think it has nothing to do with science?

Discuss.

 
At August 17, 2007 1:54 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Anonymous,

Science mixed with philosophy? The two don't mix.

Have you ever heard of philosophy of science? Were you just trying to make a joke?

 
At August 18, 2007 10:24 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Lawrence: I did discuss it.

It was a throw away line. Like the sort of essay question you'd get at uni...oh, never mind...

The best thing about science is that it tends to give explanations for things. What does ID explain?

 
At August 23, 2007 6:30 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Are you avoiding my questions? "Why do you think it is not scientific? Do you think it has nothing to do with science?"

 
At August 25, 2007 1:04 AM, Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

At August 16, 2007 10:13 PM, Sean said...

>>>>>>ID may not be inherently religious, but it's not scientific. <<<<<<

There is no constitutional separation of bad science and state.

 
At August 27, 2007 8:09 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Lawrence!

Aside from Intelligent Design having zero predictive and explanatory power (yet to see any kind of narrative of the prehistory of earth with ID at its helm), let's look at my particular bugbear -- how you classify a particular thing as being intelligently designed.

There is no criteria, no test, nothing, outside of saying "gosh, it looks like it's designed."

Real science needs a little more rigor. Thanks for playing.

Sean

 
At August 27, 2007 1:37 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Gathering biological data, analyzing biological data, theorizing about biological data- is that science? If you observe molecular machinery, analyze it, and theorize as to possible evolutionary pathways, is that science?

I will be more specific- Does Darwin's Black Box contain any "science" in it? Any at all?

Showing why existing scientific explanations are inadequate is moving science along, is it not? If I find evidence that falsifies an existing scientific theory, is that "science"? If we find such evidence, should we ignore it because it does not predict anything?

Your philosophy of science seems to include a fairly narrow definition of science. You have a right to hold that philosophy, but please don't impose it on other scientists.

 
At August 27, 2007 1:44 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

There is no criteria, no test, nothing, outside of saying "gosh, it looks like it's designed."

This is just wrong. Much of the writings of Behe and Dembski are analyzing how to tell what is designed from what is not. You may disagree with their conclusions, but they are setting forth specific criteria.

So much misinformation is being promulgated, so that you are not the only one to be ignorant of the criteria they have set forth. You should read their books.

 
At August 28, 2007 7:58 AM, Blogger Sean said...

All fine sentiments, Lawrence, but don't lose site of the trees for the wood.

Remember we're not talking about how people do science, and we're not putting evolution under the microscope.

I was saying ID, as in Intelligent Design Theory, is not science.

That includes sciencey sounding writing like Behe and Dembski. Behe's irreducible complexity is a version of "it looks like it's designed." Take a piece of biology. Can't work out were it came from? Ergo: designed.

Dembski at least has tried with his Complex Specified Information, which is a version of information theory. Unfortunately, his sums are wrong. For instance, we cannot calculate the probability that, say, an eye comes about because we don’t have the information to make the calculation.

Now, important point here. I'm disagreeing with Dembski's conclusions because of his poor process. This is different from disagreeing with his conclusions if he had a good and correct process.

It's much like a person telling you that 1 + 1 = 3. It would be ludicrous to say, "I disagree with your conclusions, but I respect them." You're more likely to say, "I disagree with your conclusions because your process is wrong."

That's what the scientific community is doing with Behe and Dembski's findings. Until they have specific criteria that stand to the rigors of the scientific process, then they will be ignored.

Until then, they are just promulgating misinformation.

(Incidentally, where's that prehistory narrative with ID at the helm?)

 
At August 30, 2007 1:32 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Well, I disagree with much of what you say, but you have a right to your opinion.

It comes down to your definition of "science." Do you agree that comes from your philosophy of science? Where did you get yours from? Has your philosophy of science been empirically proven?

We all have differenct views on what makes good science, and we all have different views on what the important questions are. The key is that one group is systematically oppressing another, and using their subjective philosophy of science to do it.

 
At September 04, 2007 6:23 AM, Blogger Sean said...

It comes down to your definition of "science." Do you agree that comes from your philosophy of science? Where did you get yours from? Has your philosophy of science been empirically proven?

Uh, come again?

Not sure you know what you're talking about here, Lawrence. History and Philosophy of Science was one of my majors: I see what your driving at while at the same time missing the mark. I recommend What is this thing called science? by Alan Chalmers. It's a brilliant introduction to philosophy of science, and will help to get your thoughts in order.

Back to our key thing, which is not about groups systematically oppressing other groups, etc. Again, I can see what you're driving at there. For instance, there's the time the entire earth sciences community rolled their eyes at Wegener who suggested the theory of plate tectonics. Today, plate tectonics underlies most of earth sciences.

I can see how tempting it is to illustrate a conflict in those terms, but ID needs to work on its science. The key thing that ID needs is some beautiful scientific results. Some hard examples of CSI for instance.

Until then, it's about as pseudo as astrology.

 
At September 04, 2007 11:08 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Why don't you lose the condescension and answer my questions? Why avoid my questions if that is your field?

I will ask them again:

It comes down to your definition of "science." Do you agree that comes from your philosophy of science? Where did you get yours from? Has your philosophy of science been empirically proven?

Are you going to avoid them again and recommend another book for me to read?

Your criticisms of ID are philosophical, not scientific.

Here is another question for you to avoid:

When you say "ID is not science," are you doing "science" or "philosophy"?

 
At September 12, 2007 2:56 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Haven't heard from you. I took a look at the book you recommended. Chalmers seems to agree with me. Defining "science" is part of the philosophy of science. Asserting that ID is not science is a philosophical assertion, not scientific.

Do you disagree? Did you really read Chalmers?

 
At September 24, 2007 7:55 AM, Blogger Sean said...

This isn't very fair of me: to reply to a comment several weeks later. Life got in the way.

Right, where were we?

It comes down to your definition of "science." Do you agree that comes from your philosophy of science? Where did you get yours from? Has your philosophy of science been empirically proven?

Not sure how you want me to answer this one, Lawrence.

Is my philosophy of science the one advocated by Popper? Or do I subscribe to the Kuhn school of thought?

All much of a muchness, because my beef with CSI is that it is an incorrect use of Shannon's entropy. It's like telling someone that 1 plus 1 does not equal 3. Nothing to do with philosophy, Lawry.

Other scientists would be elated of your defense. They could call it the Lawrence Defense: "The disagreement boils down to different philosophy." Imagine all of those aerospace scientists whose rockets refuse to launch. The rockets have the wrong philosophy, of course.

The discipline of Philosophy of Science helps scientists understand the discipline of Science. It's not where you choose your flavour of Science, like at Starbucks: "I'll have a double ontological analysis with extra intelligent designer, hold the peer review."

But then, you'd know that if you'd read Chalmers cover-to-cover.

 
At September 29, 2007 10:33 AM, Anonymous lawrence said...

Sean,

All this time and you still avoid the question? Your post is clever prattle, but again, avoids the question.

You cite Chalmers, I read Chalmers, and I point out that he agrees with me: Defining science is an exercise in the philosophy of science. When anyone says "ID is not science," they are doing philosophy, and not science. Popper and Kuhn would agree too.

And Sean avoids the simple question. I can understand why.

 
At October 01, 2007 8:43 AM, Blogger Sean said...

It comes down to your definition of "science." Do you agree that comes from your philosophy of science?

No, it doesn't. I will expand in a moment, but there's a related comment of yours I need to address:

I took a look at the book you recommended. Chalmers seems to agree with me. Defining "science" is part of the philosophy of science.

No, he doesn't.

You might remember when you read Chalmers that he said the following:

"...there is no general account of science and acientific method to be had that applies to all sciences at all historical stages in their development."

He goes on to say (and this is the important bit):

"Certainly philosophy does not have the resources to provide such an account."

He finishes with:

"There is a sense in which the question that forms the title of this book ['What Is This Thing Called Science'] is misguided."

That's page 247 in my copy. Let me know if you have trouble finding it in yours.

You see Lawrence, philosophy of science is awfully good at explaining things once they have happened, but pretty crap at telling you what science is right now.

(You threw me when you asked what my philosophy of science was; until then I thought you knew what you were talking about. So I told you about Chalmers to introduce you to philosophy of science. You really should read it.)

One more time:

You cite Chalmers, I read Chalmers, and I point out that he agrees with me: Defining science is an exercise in the philosophy of science.

No. Chalmers doesn't say that.

So if philosophy doesn't tell you ID is scientific or not, where does that leave you?

 
At October 01, 2007 11:49 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

So you assert that your definition of "science" does not come from your philosophy of science. Where does it come from? Where does Chalmers say it comes from? (I think you are misreading Chalmers, and your quotes do not prove your case.)

 
At October 02, 2007 7:04 AM, Blogger Sean said...

So you assert that your definition of "science" does not come from your philosophy of science. Where does it come from?

Excellent question, Lawrence! I'm very glad you asked me that.

But first, I need to take you on task about something:

(I think you are misreading Chalmers, and your quotes do not prove your case.)

The whole of the book comes to that conclusion. I haven't cherry-picked a quote from Chalmers; the entire book is structured to that conclusion: that philosophy cannot define generally what science is.

What exactly does Chalmers that makes you think otherwise? I mean, you did read the book like you said, right?

Where does Chalmers say that philosophy is needed to define science? In fact, name a modern philosopher of science who says that philosophy is needed to define science.

The majority of scientists in the world beetle on and do science without having touched a philosophy book. Where did they get their definition of science from?

Rhetorical question, that one. They know what their science is through doing it. A bit like a fish trying to understand swimming in order to do it. This is what Chalmers alludes to, you'll remember (having read his book, of course):

"...I have denied that there is a universal account of science available to philosophers and capable of providing standards for judging science, and...I have argued that an adequate account of various sciences is only to be had by way of a close look at the sciences themselves..."

and

"...it is true that scientists themselves are the practitioners best able to conduct science and are not in need of advice from philosophers..."

When a scientist says "ID is not science", they are actually saying "ID is a bad, lazy theory". Consider this:

On one hand there is evolution, on the other ID. The scientist asks themselves "Is the new theory a viable replacement to the one it challenges?" No, it isn't. Why ID doesn't replace evolution takes us back full circle to Behe and Dembski and actually classifying a thing as being intelligently designed.

(By the bye, you have still avoided giving me a prehistory of the world with ID at its helm.)

 
At October 04, 2007 9:48 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

You said

Excellent question, Lawrence! I'm very glad you asked me that.

But first, I need to take you on task about something:


But then, of course, you were so glad I asked that you never got back to answering my question.

Chalmers assumes that defining science and the scientific method is part of the philosophy of science, because it is such an obvious point.

A quick read of the Wikipedia pages on "Science," "Philosophy of Science" and "Problem of Demarcation" support this (but I am not relying on Wikipedia as a reliable authority). As does this:

What is science? This is a very reasonable question, but unfortunately it isn't easy to provide a simple, definitive answer because there is no entity with the authority to define science. Coming up with a proper definition of science is not unlike coming up with a proper definition of other human institutions, like religion or family: there is so much going on that long, complex books are written in an effort to explain it all - and still people disagree.

In a real sense, however, science is what scientists do. Although there are disagreements among scientists and philosophers of science on the finer points of what actually constitutes science, many of the broader issues are usually agreed upon.

Defining Science
What is science? What isn't science? An attempt to develop a reasonable and understandable definition of science, relying upon the methods of science and what distinguishes science from other pursuits.

Philosophy of Science
The Philosophy of Science is concerned with, obviously enough, science - specifically, how science operates, what the goals of science should be, what relationship science should have with the rest of society, the differences between science and other activities, etc. Everything that happens in science has some relationship with the Philosophy of Science and is predicated upon some philosophical position, even though that may be rarely evident.


I would love to have an answer to my question. To put it another way: What field is most concerned with the questions "What is Science?" and "Is Intelligent Design science?"

 
At October 05, 2007 8:23 PM, Blogger Sean said...

But then, of course, you were so glad I asked that you never got back to answering my question.

Oh, but I did Lawrence. Here, I'll post it again:

(From my previous comment with bits of me taking Lawrence to task for saying he read Chalmers when he hasn't read Chalmers snipped out):
The majority of scientists in the world beetle on and do science without having touched a philosophy book. Where did they get their definition of science from?

Rhetorical question, that one. They know what their science is through doing it. A bit like a fish trying to understand swimming in order to do it. This is what Chalmers alludes to, you'll remember (having read his book, of course):

"...I have denied that there is a universal account of science available to philosophers and capable of providing standards for judging science, and...I have argued that an adequate account of various sciences is only to be had by way of a close look at the sciences themselves..."

and

"...it is true that scientists themselves are the practitioners best able to conduct science and are not in need of advice from philosophers..."

When a scientist says "ID is not science", they are actually saying "ID is a bad, lazy theory". Consider this:

On one hand there is evolution, on the other ID. The scientist asks themselves "Is the new theory a viable replacement to the one it challenges?" No, it isn't. Why ID doesn't replace evolution takes us back full circle to Behe and Dembski and actually classifying a thing as being intelligently designed.

(By the bye, you have still avoided giving me a prehistory of the world with ID at its helm.)

 
At October 06, 2007 11:37 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

I never said I read all of Chalmers. I read enough to know that he would not claim that you can dogmatically say "ID is not scince" on the basis of the scientific method.

If science is what scientists do, then ID is science because many scientists are doing it. Thanks for proving my case.

You say

When a scientist says "ID is not science", they are actually saying "ID is a bad, lazy theory".

What a laugh! That is not what they are saying. They are saying it is not science and so it should not be discussed in science class and Gonzalez should not get tenure. They say "it is not science" to ban the idea and persecute scientists.

Sean: "ID is a bad, lazy theory."

Behe: "ID is a good, interesting theory."

Who decides? Both should make their arguments on the merits.

I will close with a quote from your beloved Chalmers:

I am happy to join Feyerabend in regarding the idea of a universal and ahistoric method as highly implausible and even absurd. As Feyerabend (1975, p. 295) says, "The idea that science can, and should, be run according to fixed and universal rules is both unrealistic and pernicious," is "detrimental to science, for it neglects the complex physical and historical conditions which influence scientific change: and "makes science less adaptable and more dogmatic." If there is to be a scientific method capable of judging sciences of all kinds, past, present and future, one might well ask what resources philosophers have for arriving at such a potent tool, so potent that it can tell us in advance what are the appropriate standards for judging future science. If we have a conception of science as an open-ended quest to improve our knowledge, then why cannot there be room for us to improve our methods and adapt and refine our standards in the light of what we learn.

 
At October 06, 2007 11:46 AM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean

you said:

On one hand there is evolution, on the other ID. The scientist asks themselves "Is the new theory a viable replacement to the one it challenges?" No, it isn't. Why ID doesn't replace evolution takes us back full circle to Behe and Dembski and actually classifying a thing as being intelligently designed.

(By the bye, you have still avoided giving me a prehistory of the world with ID at its helm.)


These comments clearly show you know very little about ID. Most proponents of ID do not believe that ID "replaces" evolution. Most accept some aspects of evolutionary theory.

"prehistory of the world with ID at its helm"? What does this mean? Again you misunderstand ID.

 
At October 24, 2007 7:43 PM, Blogger Sean said...

If science is what scientists do, then ID is science because many scientists are doing it. Thanks for proving my case.

Uh huh. Got any juicy papers from them? Peer reviewed ones, not those self published.

Sean: "ID is a bad, lazy theory."

Behe: "ID is a good, interesting theory."

Who decides? Both should make their arguments on the merits.


Aye, we are in total agreement here.

Not sure why you chose that quote from Chalmers, but it's a goodie, isn't it?

 
At November 09, 2007 1:19 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Sean,

Welcome back!

I enjoyed your perfectly circular reasoning:

ID is not science. Why? It is not what scientists do. How do we know? No peer reviewed articles (which is actually not true, by the way). Why no peer reviewed articles? Because ID is not science.

So is science what scientists do? Or what makes it into peer reviewed articles?

 
At December 31, 2007 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean: "ID is a bad, lazy theory."

Behe: "ID is a good, interesting theory."

But you have avoided a definition of "scientific theory".

A scientific theory cares about reproducible "cause and effect" analysis. ID is not a theory because there is no way to use the cause "God did it" to produce a reproducible effect.

It's one (or a million) "miracles" to get from the starting point to the ending point. That's not a "bad" theory - that's not a scientific theory at all.

 

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