Monday, April 21, 2008

Expelled the Movie: Insight Into Plausibility Structures

One of the most delightful aspects of the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is the window it gives us into the minds of certain scientists and philosophers of science. Ben Stein asks excellent questions and we get to see how these scientists answer the questions and, more importantly, how they reason their way to the answers. The most memorable and talked about is this one:
BEN STEIN: What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?

RICHARD DAWKINS: Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.

He has explained elsewhere that he was bending over backwards to come up with a hypothetical possibility of design and that he does not really believe this. However, that explanation is undermined by his statement that it is "an intriguing possiblity."

Regardless, Dawkins does not seem to understand that what is most significant in this statement is that he views seeding by an extraterrestrial designer to be a possibility, while seeding by a supernatural designer is impossible and unthinkable.

The film is full of great exchanges. Ben Stein is a smart guy with a lot of smart questions. Observing the logical reasoning of some of the people he interviewed is priceless. It is worth ten times the price of admission.

Go see it today.


At April 22, 2008 12:49 PM, Blogger oldpoet said...

Isn't Dawkins remark sound quite familar to his remarks on page 550 of The Ancestor" Tale in reference to Crick

At April 23, 2008 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post from Jerry Pournelle:

At April 23, 2008 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that Dawkins would not argue that supernatural designer is impossible or unthinkable (we are discussing it after all), only that is *not science*.

(i.e. anything supernatural is beyond the limits of science which by definition, is the study of *natural* phenomena)

On the other hand, an extraterrestrial designer who came to exist through some natural process *is* within the realms of science and thus is plausible, if highly unlikely.


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