Teaching Science

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 24, 2009 in Ethics,Guest Post,Intelligent Design,Science

evolution vs id

The ethical theory I currently defend is desirism. But I mostly write about moral theory, so I rarely discuss the implications of desirism for everyday moral questions about global warming, free speech, politics, and so on. Today’s guest post applies desirism to one such everyday moral question. It is written by desirism’s first defender, Alonzo Fyfe of Atheist Ethicist. (Keep in mind that questions of applied ethics are complicated and I do not necessarily agree with Fyfe’s moral calculations.)

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I think that creationism (a.k.a. intelligent design) should be taught in the public schools, and that it should be taught in science classes.

The fact is that a great many people seem to think that intelligent design is science. The fact that they believe this means that there is a serious problem with our education system that should be corrected. One question that a student should be able to answer by the time she leaves high school is “What is science?”

Which also means answering the question, “What is not science?”

When I think back on my childhood education, I cannot recall any teacher ever taking the time to explain what is or is not science. Of course, there were probably some definitions in a book. However, memorizing a definition is not the same as understanding a concept. I can go through the definitions that I learned in high school and still not see why it is the case that intelligent design is not science. To see that, I need to know what intelligent design is, with a focus on those parts that disqualify it from being a science.

This distinction between science and non-science is extremely important to our well-being, even our survival.

Science works by making predictions. Over time, science makes better and better predictions. As a result, we do a better and better job of avoiding those things we have many and strong reason to avoid, and bring about those things we have many and strong reasons to bring about.

We now do a better job of spotting hurricanes as they form, plotting where they are likely to go, and providing those populations with a way to get to safety than we have ever had in the past. Scientists do this because they have learned how such things as ocean temperatures, land masses, the flow of air, and even the spin of the earth affect a hurricane’s behavior. They feed all of these variables into a computer and they come up with a prediction.

Those predictions save lives and prevent injuries.

We have many and strong reasons to promote this system. Anything that we do that interferes with the understanding of science interferes with our ability to save life and limb.

In determining what variables go into predicting the course and strength of a hurricane, scientists have yet to find any reason to include variables such as, “the prevalence of prayer in school,” “number of abortion clinics per square mile for a given coastal region,” or “a state’s tolerance of homosexuals.” These variables do not affect hurricanes. Some hate-mongers still like to preach that these variables make a difference and if we alter these numbers we can alter the strength and movement of hurricanes. Yet, these are fictions that they adopt for the purpose of selling hate. They are not scientific fact.

If we are truly interested in saving life and limb, we have to look at what works. What counts as science is what works. What counts as science is what gives us better and better explanations of what happened in the past, and allows us to make better and better predictions of what happens in the future.

In light of this fact, we have many and strong reasons to teach children in school what science is and a proper appreciation of what science can allow us to do.

Which means that, one of the things that we have reason to have children learn in a science class is what is science, and what is not science.

So, now, I want to look at two possible answers to the question, “Why don’t we study creationism in a science class?”

Answer: “Because it is unconstitutional!”

Or at least it has been said to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It violates the First Amendment.

This is an extremely unsatisfying answer. It makes the fact that creationism is not being taught in science classes look like an arbitrary and unjustified expression of political power. This answer invites people to answer the question of whether creationism belongs in a science class by looking at historic text, reading the Federalist Papers, looking at the letters of James Madison, studying law, and looking through over 200 years of Supreme Court decisions, all in an attempt to determine whether creationism shall be excluded from science classes.

Answer: “Because it is not science.”

This answer says to look at the qualities that define a science, look at creationism, and discover that creationism lacks certain elements of testability that disqualify it from being a science. It does not matter what the Constitution says or what the Supreme Court has decided through years of case law, none of that is relevant to the question of whether creationism is a science.

You do not find the answers to questions like this by looking in a law library. You find the answers to questions like this by understanding science. Then, with a proper understanding of science, one can get the law books down and see how the law decides to answer questions of science.

If a science teacher were to stand in front of a science class and tell the students, “Today, we are going to look at creationism and explain why it is not a science,” then that seems to me like it would be a perfectly legitimate use of that teacher’s time.

In fact, the teacher would be doing a public service – exactly the type of public service that teachers should be performing. After all, the purpose of public education is to create adults who have the basic knowledge and understanding required to make educated real-world decisions as adults. One of the real-world decisions that these children will have to make as adults is to decide what is taught in science classes. If they had an accurate understanding of what is and is not science, then they could make informed decisions on these issues.

The student, in this case, will become the adult who says, “I understand what science is. I understand what creationism is. And I understand why creationism is not science.”

After clearing away this particular piece of the underbrush, the science teacher can go on to teach chemistry, biology, geology, physics, astronomy, climatology, or whatever other science the teacher is there to teach.

This is sure a lot better option than having the teacher stand in front of the class and say, “I can’t talk about creationism here because the Supreme Court says that I can’t.”

- Alonzo Fyfe

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

John D November 24, 2009 at 6:37 am

I agree that it is important for students to learn what science is and what distinguishes scientific methodology from alternative methodologies. I also agree that a great way to teach this is by teaching about the origin and entrenchment of certain scientific theories: why did we go from believing in intelligent design to believing in evolution by natural selection? This was certainly how I was taught about evolution in my (Irish) university.

(BTW – Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talk at Beyond Belief 1 is great at showing why intelligent design is not science)

However, I suspect that many people would be concerned about the manner in which intelligent design would be taught in class. It is such a contentious issue and so central to religious belief, that it is difficult to see how (a) it would be presented in an non-prejudicial manner and (b) how its presentation would not amount to a violation of the 1st amendment.

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Reginald Selkirk November 24, 2009 at 6:49 am

John D: However, I suspect that many people would be concerned about the manner in which intelligent design would be taught in class. It is such a contentious issue and so central to religious belief, that it is difficult to see how (a) it would be presented in an non-prejudicial manner and (b) how its presentation would not amount to a violation of the 1st amendment.

If ID is taught in science class, it should be taught as a failed idea. That is the only honest way. I do not share your concerns about “a non-prejudicial manner.” Dictionary.com says:

prej-u-dice – an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

This is not how science has rejected ID. It has been given consideration and it has failed, just as the flat earth and phlogiston have failed. Or, for a more timely comparison with a position still held by certain extant religions: should we not teach the germ theory of disease jsut because it violates the dogma of the Church of Christ, Scientist? That is not prejudice. Presenting ID with scientific accuracy, i.e. pointing out that it is entirely bogus, would not violate the 1st amendment.

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 6:50 am

How about this proposal: in addition to the science curriculum, several philosophy courses (which are explicitly separate from the science courses) are required (beginning in 7th grade or so), including metaphysics, during which the strengths and weaknesses of the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, intelligent design, theistic vs. nontheistic evolution, etc. are discussed. Another topic could be “philosophy of science” in which the various philosophical issues as to what does and does not qualify as science are discussed.

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Reginald Selkirk November 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

If a science teacher were to stand in front of a science class and tell the students, “Today, we are going to look at creationism and explain why it is not a science,” then that seems to me like it would be a perfectly legitimate use of that teacher’s time.

Sounds fine to me. However, this is not the manner in which Creationism has been taught in almost every case which has received legal attention. One in eight U.S. high school teachers presents creationism as a valid alternative to evolution, says a poll published in the Public Library of Science Biology.

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Reginald Selkirk November 24, 2009 at 7:08 am

ayer: How about this proposal:in addition to the science curriculum, several philosophy courses (which are explicitly separate from the science courses) are required (beginning in 7th grade or so), including metaphysics, during which the strengths and weaknesses of the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, intelligent design, theistic vs. nontheistic evolution, etc. are discussed.Another topic could be “philosophy of science” in which the various philosophical issues as to what does and does not qualify as science are discussed.  

I don’t think I can agree with this. If it is a philosophy course, they could teach the design argument and that would seem appropriate. I presume they would teach that the biological design argument was questioned even before Darwin, and is considered by most to have been completely destroyed by his theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

But Intelligent Design, as it is currently marketed by the Discovery Institute, claims to be actual science. They maintain a list of what they claim are “Peer-Reviewed, Peer-Edited, and other Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design.” They maintain a list of scientists who “dissent from Darwinism.” I.e. Intelligent Design, as marketed by the Discovery Institute, is dishonest, and is a political ploy to circumvent existing legal precedents on the teaching of Creation Science. It should be clearly distinguished from the design argument of philosophy.

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lukeprog November 24, 2009 at 7:32 am

Reginald,

Yeah, that’s the practical problem I see with this. I’m not sure what would work best. Answering that question probably requires more data than we have.

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 7:33 am

Reginald Selkirk: Intelligent Design, as marketed by the Discovery Institute, is dishonest, and is a political ploy to circumvent existing legal precedents on the teaching of Creation Science. It should be clearly distinguished from the design argument of philosophy.

Ok, I have no problem with that amendment. No “design science,” only design arguments using philosophical reason would be allowed.

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Reginald Selkirk November 24, 2009 at 7:43 am

Wow! Finally, something we agree on.

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 7:44 am

Reginald Selkirk: Wow! Finally, something we agree on.  

See, miracles do happen :)

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Lorkas November 24, 2009 at 8:30 am

I actually do teach the difference between science and non-science in my high school science class. It’s not in the curriculum, but I do a lesson on it anyway.

I usually start off using non-controversial ideas like astrology as examples of non-scientific ideas, and then move to more controversial ones like ID creationism.

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 8:31 am

Not to break up the era of good feelings, but I have to admit when I read this account of emails uncovered in the climate change scientific community, it shakes my confidence in the good faith of the peer-review process in science journals when dealing with dissenting views (and appears eerily similar to what ID proponents have been claiming in regard to their treatment by journals):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/21/AR2009112102186.html?nav=hcmodule

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John D November 24, 2009 at 9:08 am

Maybe ‘prejudice’ was a poor choice of words. However, my concern was not that it would be presented as it should be (i.e. as a failed science). My concern is that it will be taught in manner that is favourable to the creationist side. It seems likely that this is exactly what ardent creationists would do, if they got the opportunity. The present situation results in crummy science education, but prohibits religious propaganda taking the place of science.

Maybe my fears are misplaced. Maybe the present situation is a lot worse than I imagine. My comments are made from a transatlantic sideline so should be treated with all due scepticism.

Philosophy lessons would be good. But the US constitution would seem to place an insuperable bar on such lessons in a public school.

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John D November 24, 2009 at 9:10 am

Reginald:

I just spotted that you echoed my concerns in a subsequent comment. That is exactly what I was worried about/

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John D November 24, 2009 at 9:12 am

Also, I don’t mean philosophy lessons in general, just philosophy lessons dealing with religious topics (such as arguments for God).

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 9:21 am

John D: Also, I don’t mean philosophy lessons in general, just philosophy lessons dealing with religious topics (such as arguments for God).  

I don’t believe there would be a constitutional problem as long as the arguments against God were also presented (e.g., the argument from evil, etc.), as well as the arguments as to why the pro-God arguments fail (from the atheist perspective)–in other words, the same kind of material that is presented on this blog.

If a given teacher was teaching the material in a way that was biased toward either side, I suppose action could be taken against that particular teacher (as opposed to the curriculum itself).

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Tony Hoffman November 24, 2009 at 9:48 am

Ayer,

The scientific community has a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of their field because of precedents like Lysenkoism, cigarrette “research,” and the influence of populists who seek to expand or at least retain their influence by promoting ignorance or sowing confusion (resistance to smallpox vaccinations, etc.)

The fact is that ID proponents and some global warming researchers have demonstrated a history of deception, and employ a tactic of pointing to minor scientific disagreement as an indication of real controversy where none exists.

I believe that the fields of biology and global warming would be less wary of the research they receive if they did not have to worry about how it might be abused by those whose goals are clearly religious and/or political. In other words, ID proponents whining about peer review is kind of like the visitor to a town who is shocked about how all the windows have bars and the doors double locks, etc. Maybe all the blame for the extra security doesn’t lie on the side of those who are trying to protect what they value, but the major share lies on those who have proved that they are eager to break the rules.

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Tony Hoffman November 24, 2009 at 9:49 am

By the way, hat tip to Alonzo; this is a great post.

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

Tony Hoffman: I believe that the fields of biology and global warming would be less wary of the research they receive if they did not have to worry about how it might be abused by those whose goals are clearly religious and/or political.

It is not the journal publisher’s job to worry about how one group or another may politically spin the research. His job is to further the pursuit of truth regardless of the consequences.

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lukeprog November 24, 2009 at 11:22 am

Hurrah for Lorkas!

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lukeprog November 24, 2009 at 11:24 am

ayer,

Re: climate change emails! I know! I saw that and I can’t say I was surprised. I hope these leaks happen more often so that science can REMAIN the most honest and successful truth-seeking enterprise on the planet.

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Tony Hoffman November 24, 2009 at 11:25 am

It is not the journal publisher’s job to worry about how one group or another may politically spin the research. His job is to further the pursuit of truth regardless of the consequences.

I agree with that. So, do you have any evidence of that being the case? And do you think the incidents where that may be the case are more of a problem than research being submitted for the express purpose of furthering a religious, political, or corporate goal?

I think it’s worth asking yourself, what should a researcher do with a paper, scientifically conducted, that concludes that people who smoke are more emotionally fulfilled than those who do not? And what if the research is funded by Phillip Morris? Are you saying that editors of scientific publications should be blind to the origins and motives of all research?

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 11:29 am

lukeprog: ayer,Re: climate change emails! I know! I saw that and I can’t say I was surprised. I hope these leaks happen more often so that science can REMAIN the most honest and successful truth-seeking enterprise on the planet.  

I basically agree; “sunlight is the best disinfectant” as they say (all this agreement between theists and atheists is freaking me out!)–(although I would have offer up the judicial system under anglo-american law as competitive in terms of truth-seeking enterprises).

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 11:32 am

Tony Hoffman: I agree with that. So, do you have any evidence of that being the case?

Yes, the release of the climate change emails I linked to earlier. (I do admit that ID is in a different category because of the question of whether it is a field that falls under “science” or not-I tend to think it does not; but I don’t think anyone would dispute that the climate change skeptics are doing “science” as traditionally defined).

Tony Hoffman: Are you saying that editors of scientific publications should be blind to the origins and motives of all research?

Yes (in fact, I believe that is why many journals have a “double-blind” review process, where the authors are supposed to be unknown to the reviewers and the outside reviewers unknown to the authors–though of course it is not foolproof).

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Tony Hoffman November 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Ayer,

Regarding the behavior of the editors of the journals, I think the link you provided shows the pressure being applied to the journals by organizations like the IPCC. (I had asked if you had evidence of the journals worrying about political spin at the expense of science — I believe that your link is an example of the political pressures being exerted on the journals, not that the journals are caving to these pressures. On the contrary, it appears that that the journals are doing their job and facing the ire of organizations like the IPCC as a result.)

Of course, I agree with the double-blind approach, etc. entirely, and agree that the search for knowledge should be open and unbiased. I was just wondering if there is an imaginable situation where awareness of the high likelihood of public damage being done is considered a legitimate concern of the scientific journals, similar to free speech drawing a line at shouting “fire! in a theater.

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Josh November 24, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Ayer,

Almost nothing in those e-mails is that big of a deal, except for the FOI stuff (which, I have to admit, seems pretty sketchy). There’s absolutely nothing in the e-mails about faking data, or stretching the truth, or grand conspiracies… yes, there are the candid remarks, some of which are rather mean. But on the other hand, you’re telling me you don’t talk amongst your friends about how much of an asshole Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are? If there were a bunch of leaked e-mails from climate denialists where they said that climate scientists were dicks, I can’t say I would be surprised—nor would it have any effect on my views of the truth value of their claims…

For more, see
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/11/23/why-climategate-aint-nothing/
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/11/24/the-climategate-burden-of-proof/
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-context/
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/
http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2009/11/the_hacked_climate_science_ema.php

etc.

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cl November 24, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I agree with the gist of Fyfe’s post here, but I was disappointed that he didn’t leave us with his solid definition of science. It felt like missing the last few minutes of a good movie: he basically implied that “real” science makes predictions, but so do astrologers.

I agree that ID should be discussed in schools. While there’s not enough delineated here to really pursue the question of whether ID is science – or if and when it can be science – I think ID is most certainly a valid scientific inference.

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ayer November 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Josh: Almost nothing in those e-mails is that big of a deal

Here is the portion of the washington post article I found most disturbing:

Wash Post: ” “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” Jones writes. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”…In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree. “Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal,” Mann writes…”I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor,” Jones replies.”

Surely you don’t find this acceptable?

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Josh November 25, 2009 at 7:08 am

Ayer,

I’ve heard people bickering over those two quotes a lot, and here’s my opinion on them:

The first one seems to be a candid comment that two papers are horrible, and then a somewhat smarmy remark about the extent that they would go through to prevent those papers from having an impact. I’m highly tempted to think that “even if I have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” is an attempt at humor, especially given the exclamation point at the end. You have to keep in mind that these aren’t random faceless entities e-mailing each other, they’re friends. Now, assuming that there really were bad intentions (i.e. the papers in question were quality, and they did indent to “redefine what the peer-review literature is”, then this is obviously problematic.

The second quote, I believe, refers to a paper that got through by what is widely considered a failure of the peer review process. I believe that 6 or so editors resigned from the journal ON THEIR OWN (i.e. with no collusion with the CRU crew) over the publication of the paper in question. Now, these type of failures of peer review do happen every so often. In fact, in my own field there was a particularly heinous series of events recently in which a paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (pretty much the most prestigious journal next to Nature and Science) on the whim of an associate editor. This paper was, to be frank, openly mocked (I believe that Jerry Coyne called the paper the worst paper of the year). And yes, people were thoroughly pissed with the editor who saw the paper through. So yes, there can be failures of the peer review process, led by a “pesky editor”, so that gives some context to Mann’s displeasure with this journal. Now, I personally don’t think boycotting a journal on the basis of a single failure is a good idea, but it’s certainly within reason to contact the other editors about your concerns with someone on the editorial staff, especially if that person has a history of being a bit out of it…

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Tony Hoffman November 25, 2009 at 8:20 am

Ayer,

For the record you had claimed that the stolen e-mails were evidence of the publishers of scientific journals not pursuing the truth, but what in fact you have provided is evidence that it was discussed that pressure should be put on these journals. (I agree that this is not acceptable.) So that’s two parts removed from what you claimed — one, we don’t know if the pressure was even applied, and two we don’t know if the (alleged) pressure had any effect.

I hope that you were similarly outraged when stories of the Bush Administration was charged with suppressing climate change research, etc.

I do agree with you that negative pressure (threats, smears, etc.) from political, religious, and corporate interests should be ruthless exposed, and perhaps dealt with more harshly. (I don’t know if there is a solution, but I wonder if this shouldn’t be treated as some kind of violation of free speech and the offenders punished punitively?)

But fair is fair, and if this was a religious organization threatening to destroy the truth of scientific inquiry through political and other pressures (oh, wait, that’s already happened), then I would be similarly outraged.

As a final aside, I actually do have a low standard for accepting as believable these kind of claims (that political pressures was exerted AND had an effect). What I mean by that is although I’m not a conspiracist I don’t accept as believable the claims offered by politicians who receive a great deal of money but deny that it influences their decisions, etc. — in other words, the fact of the pressure being discussed is damning enough in this case for me, although it might not ultimately rise to the level of legal evidence.

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ayer November 25, 2009 at 8:38 am

Tony Hoffman,

You’re right, my complaint is really with those seeking to pressure the journals; there is no evidence from the article that the editors caved in to the pressure (I hope they did not)

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Tony Hoffman November 25, 2009 at 9:36 am

Ayer,

Wow. This really is like some kind of strange bizzaro world we’re all inhabiting on this post. (Smiley face icon)

But I know how to get back to normal:

cl: While there’s not enough delineated here to really pursue the question of whether ID is science – or if and when it can be science – I think ID is most certainly a valid scientific inference.

CL, do you want to offer a definition of science as part of an argument for the scientific validity of ID, or offer an explanation of what makes an inference scientific (and if this is all that is required to make something scientific)?

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toryninja November 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Haven’t read the responses but I just wanted to point out that Creationism and Intelligent Design are two different things. This doesn’t mean that either is science, I am just saying that they are different. Creationism says that a God created everything. ID says that because things look designed there must have been a designer – this designer need not actually be a god, it could be aliens, it could a super powerful being, etc. but it doesn’t have to be a god, just a designer. Thus, there IS a difference between the two.

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drj November 25, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Well, “in theory” they are different. However, not even ID proponents seem all that interested in ID “the theory”, and are more interested in ID, the trojan horse ideology – which is simply a more ambigious version of creationism.

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Tony Hoffman November 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm

toryninja: Creationism says that a God created everything. ID says that because things look designed there must have been a designer – this designer need not actually be a god, it could be aliens, it could a super powerful being, etc.

I don’t see any significant difference between a creator and a designer.

I don’t understand the sensitivity among ID proponents concerning being confused with creationists; aren’t all ID proponents creationists, as in the design must have been created?

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majinrevan666 November 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Tony Hoffman:
I don’t understand the sensitivity among ID proponents concerning being confused with creationists; aren’t all ID proponents creationists, as in the design must have been created?  

It’s simple.
Creationism connotes different definitions from those
ID proponents use.
It’s usually applied to those who believe in a literal account of genesis.

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Tony Hoffman November 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Creationism connotes different definitions from those ID proponents use.

You’ll have to explain that sentence a little more because I don’t really understand what it means.

I do understand that not all ID proponents are young earth creationists, old earth creationists, or Christians. But they are all creationists, in the same way all plants are living organisms.

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cl November 25, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Tony Hoffman,

do you want to offer a definition of science as part of an argument for the scientific validity of ID

Not that’s any different from the standard definitions of science normally adhered to, no.

or offer an explanation of what makes an inference scientific

Generally, an inference is scientific when reasoned from empirical evidence, but such does not make said inference a science. Also, the correctness of said inference is another matter entirely, and does not affect whether the inference is scientific or not. IOW, an inference can be both scientific in that it’s reasoned from empirical evidence, and wrong (cf. “cathode rays”). Plucker, Hertz, et al. were making legitimate scientific inferences from legitimate empirical evidence, it’s just that those inferences turned out to be wrong. That’s how science works, and as a result of our persistence we discovered the electron.

(and if this is all that is required to make something scientific)?

I don’t know what is required to make “something” scientific, but I’d say an inference is legitimately scientific when it meets the aforementioned criteria. Regarding when and if ID can be a legitimate science – and in the interest of disclosure I’m technically some sort of Christian who believes in design – what I’m mainly interested in is whether or not it’s possible to develop rigorous and clearly delineated criteria to establish conscious intent behind any given phenomenon.

For example, if a future race came here after a nuclear war decimated everything on Earth except for a single skyscraper, what would justify their assertion that there was conscious intent behind it, without any history books or floor plans to clue them in? We could then apply those criteria to extant data in various fields, and make comparisons. Do you think that might be a good place to start?

Regarding whether there’s a difference between ID and Creationism, most certainly. There is a legal definition as majinrevan666 pointed out. To draw an example from history which highlights the distinction in practice, Alfred Wallace – who pioneered the theory of evolution by natural selection along with Charles Darwin – was not a Creationist, nor technically even a theist if memory serves me right, but he did see reason to conclude that intelligence was behind the order of the universe. Same goes for Einstein, and I’m not saying that makes them Christian theists, or Creationists.

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majinrevan666 November 25, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Tony Hoffman:
You’ll have to explain that sentence a little more because I don’t really understand what it means.I do understand that not all ID proponents are young earth creationists, old earth creationists, or Christians. But they are all creationists, in the same way all plants are living organisms.  

The two terms are usually used in different senses.
When one uses the term creationist one usually means
a very specific thing.
Whereas ID proponents do not mean that specific thing
when describing their theories.
In other words, the definition of creationism is commonly
used in such a way as to make ID a necessary, but not
sufficient condition for being a creationist.
(Although I suppose it’s possible that ID isn’t even a
necessary condition. It depends on how you define ID.)

I’m sure that if you clarified to an ID proponent that
by creationism you mean the exact same definition he’s
using for ID, then he wouldn’t mind you using it except
for the possibility of you unintentionally misleading
others about what ID actually is by using a term
that’s normally used to describe something else.

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Tony Hoffman November 25, 2009 at 6:39 pm

For example, if a future race came here after a nuclear war decimated everything on Earth except for a single skyscraper, what would justify their assertion that there was conscious intent behind it, without any history books or floor plans to clue them in? We could then apply those criteria to extant data in various fields, and make comparisons. Do you think that might be a good place to start?

I don’t really know what would be a good place to start, but I appreciate your at least grappling with the issue. I am not sure, though, that how you have framed the question gets us any closer to the problem. In other words, I don’t believe that we are unlikely to infer design (there is good evidence that we are equipped to see patterns and design where there is none), but that the inference alone too fails to achieve something scientifically productive.

I see that you have demurred to define science according to your terms, so I’ll explain the problem according to mine: I believe that science makes (relatively) accurate predictions, provides explanations, and most importantly, offers hypotheses that can be tested.

And this is where I think ID continually fails. Even the one point where it claims to contribute scientifically (the explanation), offers nothing that lends to prediction or leads to a testable hypothesis.

So, to answer your question, no, the inference of design on the planet decimated of all things save for one skyscraper would not be justified. If, however, scientists used the data of the skyscraper to make inferences that lead them to make predictions and test their hypotheses, for instance to search for and uncover other elements of design entailed by that structure (subway systems that accommodated similar needs of the designers, underwater wrecks that would be a likely consequence of construction where materials were spread over a wide area, etc.), the inference would actually be worth something scientifically.

And that I think is the largest weakness of most ID proponents (not to lump you in, but the one I most often encounter); the tendency to believe that inferences and conclusions from (some of) the existing data is the only challenge holding ID back from full-fledged acceptance as a science, which has earned its very near universal high regard by being so productive according to its terms.

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Tony Hoffman November 25, 2009 at 6:43 pm

majinrevan666: The two terms are usually used in different senses. When one uses the term creationist one usually means a very specific thing.

Okay. But I mean a general thing, although maybe I’m just weird that way. But could you please say what you think that specific thing is?

majinrevan666: Whereas ID proponents do not mean that specific thing when describing their theories.

Again, please say what that specific thing is. And if the thing that ID proponents are describing is not meant to be specific, isn’t the non-specific designer the same thing as the non-specific creator? And if we don’t try and define who the designer/creator is in ID do you think that we can provide any explanations or predictions about the thing that appears designed by this creator/designer?

majinrevan666: In other words, the definition of creationism is commonly used in such a way as to make ID a necessary, but not sufficient condition for being a creationist.

Yeah, I think you have this exactly wrong. I think that (apparent) design without a creator is called evolution. Creation does not require ID, as the Big Bang appears to be an act of creation but most scientists don’t jump to the conclusion that things were perforce designed, and if they were, it’s hard to say for what.

majinrevan666: (Although I suppose it’s possible that ID isn’t even a necessary condition. It depends on how you define ID.)

Like I said above, I think you should define ID as well as creationism. I’m not really sure how you think they’re meaningfully different.

majinrevan666: I’m sure that if you clarified to an ID proponent that by creationism you mean the exact same definition he’s using for ID, then he wouldn’t mind you using it except for the possibility of you unintentionally misleading others about what ID actually is by using a term that’s normally used to describe something else.

Do you see why some of us are confused about the difference between ID and creationism? You’ve spent 2 or 3 comments here chastising us for not making the distinction, but you have so far failed to clarify either term for me whatsoever.

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cl November 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm

In other words, I don’t believe that we are unlikely to infer design

That’s why I said “rigorous and clearly delineated criteria to establish” design. I’m talking about something more than “just inferring.” It seems we’re in agreement as to the insufficiency of unjustified inference.

the inference alone too fails to achieve something scientifically productive… Even the one point where it claims to contribute scientifically (the explanation), offers nothing that lends to prediction or leads to a testable hypothesis.

Yeah, that’s the main objection I usually hear, too. I’m not sure if I have anything to add to that at the moment. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how to portray ID as science. It’s just not that important to me. Still, if I thought of something, I’d let people know. That’s the purpose of the question of whether we can agree upon rigorous and clearly delineated criteria to establish conscious intent in any given phenomena. Such is either a scientifically-feasible pursuit or not, and if the latter, then the ID question can theoretically be answered in a genuinely scientific manner.

I see that you have demurred to define science according to your terms,

I didn’t “demur to define science;” I demurred defining science as part of an argument for the scientific validity of ID, which is what you asked.

So, to answer your question, no, the inference of design on the planet decimated of all things save for one skyscraper would not be justified.

I wasn’t asking if we would be justified to infer design from the skyscraper, I was asking what set of evidences or arguments could logically justify our inference from the skyscraper, which you touch on rather well here:

If, however, scientists used the data of the skyscraper to make inferences that lead them to make predictions and test their hypotheses, for instance to search for and uncover other elements of design entailed by that structure (subway systems that accommodated similar needs of the designers, underwater wrecks that would be a likely consequence of construction where materials were spread over a wide area, etc.), the inference would actually be worth something scientifically.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. That’s a micro-step in the right direction towards “rigorous and clearly delineated criteria to establish” design, if you ask me.

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majinrevan666 November 26, 2009 at 5:31 am

Tony Hoffman:
Okay. But I mean a general thing, although maybe I’m just weird that way. But could you please say what you think that specific thing is?

Being a creationist=advancing and/or believing the literal account of creation found in genesis.

Again, please say what that specific thing is. And if the thing that ID proponents are describing is not meant to be specific, isn’t the non-specific designer the same thing as the non-specific creator? And if we don’t try and define who the designer/creator is in ID do you think that we can provide any explanations or predictions about the thing that appears designed by this creator/designer?

No, the non specific designer is not necessarily the same
one creationist believe, although most people who
advance ID believe that the designer IS the same one.
The ID theory doesn’t propose any specific designer.
I don’t know about predictions etc.
I’m pretty sure that several ID proponents have
suggested how their theory predicts certain things
and how their theory is falsifiable, but I can’t be sure.

Yeah, I think you have this exactly wrong. I think that (apparent) design without a creator is called evolution. Creation does not require ID, as the Big Bang appears to be an act of creation but most scientists don’t jump to the conclusion that things were perforce designed, and if they were, it’s hard to say for what.

Yeah, I think you’re using the word creationism as the
literal interpretation of the word.
That’s not how I’m using it.

Do you see why some of us are confused about the difference between ID and creationism? You’ve spent 2 or 3 comments here chastising us for not making the distinction, but you have so far failed to clarify either term for me whatsoever.

I didn’t think I was required to.
You weren’t mentioning definitions, just words.
Besides, Stephen Meyer and others have clarified the
distinction for I don’t know how many times.
You really have no excuse for calling ID creationism (with
the definition of being a theory that proposes a 6 day creation account)
if you have had even a cursory glance of one of their
articles.

For the purpose of this conversation:

ID:The theory that we can detect design in living things.
(CSI etc)

Creationism;The theory that GOD created the universe in
6 LITERAL DAYS as described in GENESIS.

The capitalized words are the three main differences between the theories.

The problem is not that you call ID creationism per se, the problem is that you’re using a term that entails
a specific definition and using it with an entirely different definition in mind.

Imagine if you called someone who labeled himself an
agnostic an ignoramus, and when he took exception to
that you got all indignant and replied that by ignoramous what you really mean is someone who doesn’t know a certain thing.
It’s silly to use a word whose meaning is different for
you and for the one you’re talking to.

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majinrevan666 November 26, 2009 at 6:48 am

p.s: Luke even made a post about this very issue a month or
so ago, if you still aren’t convinced by what I’m saying
here’s what he wrote:

Remember, “intelligent design” and “creationism” are just words. They mean whatever we say they mean. But for clarity’s sake, I have a proposal:

Intelligent Design: the assertion that certain features of the natural universe are best explained by an intelligent cause.

Creationism: the theory that God created the universe, as dictated by some religious doctrine or scripture.

Under this proposal, it is quite possible (and common) for someone to accept Creationism but argue for intelligent design. Indeed, it may be unlikely that someone would defend intelligent design without first personally accepting Creationism. But one may argue for intelligent design without any reference to Creationism.

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Tony Hoffman November 26, 2009 at 7:17 am

cl, it sounds like you and I basically agree, although I think we might differ on whether or not there can ever be a set of evidences or arguments that could logically justify design (such as CSI, etc.) WITHOUT the inferences engendered bringing about scientific investigation. I don’t rule out ID, but I think it will forever be silly to point to a piece of evidence and declare, “Designed” without bringing to bear the rest of the scientific toolkit. It might be that rigorous and clearly delineated criteria to establish design are all that is missing, but I think that, no matter how rigorously and clearly delineated those criteria may be, if they don’t lead to prediction and explanation, etc. the critera will remain scientifically worthless.

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Tony Hoffman November 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

maninrevann666,

You seem to accept the declaration by ID proponents that they are distinct from Creationists. While I agree that the terms have their differences, and that the two groups need to be sometimes distinguished from one another, the problem lies at the origin of ID.

You should look up the term “cdesign proponentsists” and see where much of the confusion originated between Creationism and ID. You should also look up the term “Argument from Design” if you’d like to understand that ID has a much older philosophical precedent.

cl: I’m pretty sure that several ID proponents have
suggested how their theory predicts certain things
and how their theory is falsifiable, but I can’t be sure.

You should research this, because I think you will find that there’s no hypothesis of ID, and that lies at the heart of criticism of ID being taught as science. In fact, if you should find a (testable) hypothesis of ID, let alone one that’s falsifiable, please let me and everyone else know.

You really have no excuse for calling ID creationism (with
the definition of being a theory that proposes a 6 day creation account)
if you have had even a cursory glance of one of their
articles.

Please note that I have not here, nor anywhere else, called ID creationism. I think you need to understand, however, that no single person (not Stephen Meyer, whoever that is, nor Luke), is the sole definer of terms like ID and certainly not creationism. These words belong to the English language now, and that’s a group effort.

Imagine if you called someone who labeled himself an
agnostic an ignoramus, and when he took exception to
that you got all indignant and replied that by ignoramous what you really mean is someone who doesn’t know a certain thing.

If I did that I would be guilty of misusing the words. Ignorance can be cured with knowledge, but agnosticism takes the position that something cannot be known. To use the two words interchangeably would, in fact, be an ignorant thing to do.

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majinrevan666 November 26, 2009 at 7:41 am

Tony Hoffman: maninrevann666,You seem to accept the declaration by ID proponents that they are distinct from Creationists. While I agree that the terms have their differences, and that the two groups need to be sometimes distinguished from one another, the problem lies at the origin of ID.

I don’t really care about its origins.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that they all have a
not so scientific agenda.
However, to go from that to the idea that their ideas
are wrong would be to commit the genetic fallacy.

Tony Hoffman:
You should look up the term “cdesign proponentsists” and see where much of the confusion originated between Creationism and ID. You should also look up the term “Argument from Design” if you’d like to understand that ID has a much older philosophical precedent.You should research this, because I think you will find that there’s no hypothesis of ID, and that lies at the heart of criticism of ID being taught as science. In fact, if you should find a (testable) hypothesis of ID, let alone one that’s falsifiable, please let me and everyone else know.

Well, perhaps.
But even if that’s true, what real difference does it
make that it isn’t science as it’s currently defined?
Shouldn’t we worry about whether it makes sense/is true
rather than argue about what we should think of as scientific?

Tony Hoffman:
Please note that I have not here, nor anywhere else, called ID creationism. I think you need to understand, however, that no single person (not Stephen Meyer, whoever that is, nor Luke), is the sole definer of terms like ID and certainly not creationism. These words belong to the English language now, and that’s a group effort.
If I did that I would be guilty of misusing the words. Ignorance can be cured with knowledge, but agnosticism takes the position that something cannot be known. To use the two words interchangeably would, in fact, be an ignorant thing to do.

If nothing else you should define your terms before
you say that ID is creationism.
But you can’t use the fact that under your definition ID is creationism as a point against it because it’s basically
tautological to call ID creationism according to it.

Stephen Meyer is the one who wrote signature in the cell
by the way.

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cl November 26, 2009 at 10:53 am

Tony,

It seems to me we’re at least partially in agreement, too. However, the following from your last comment threw me off:

cl: I’m pretty sure that several ID proponents have suggested how their theory predicts certain things and how their theory is falsifiable, but I can’t be sure.

You should research this, because I think you will find that there’s no hypothesis of ID, and that lies at the heart of criticism of ID being taught as science.

The sentence attached to “cl:” was not mine; did you mean only to point my attention to it? Was your subsequent response intended for me? If “Yes” to both, why would you assume that I haven’t “researched this?”

..if you should find a (testable) hypothesis of ID, let alone one that’s falsifiable, please let me and everyone else know.

Proponents of TENS have used TENS to explain the complexity of the eye that Behe claimed could not be explained thusly. Would that not mean Behe’s hypothesis was falsified?

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Tony Hoffman November 26, 2009 at 11:05 am

cl,

I had placed a typo in my last response to majinrevan666 that misled you into thinking I was responding to you; my response to you was entirely in my comment above, and everything that began “You seem to accept the declaration by… ” and ended ” …ignorant thing to do.” was meant to be directed only toward majinrevan666.

I apologize for the confusion, and especially misattributing cl’s word to you.

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Tony Hoffman November 26, 2009 at 11:34 am

maginraven666: I don’t really care about its [ID’s] origins.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that they all have a
not so scientific agenda.
However, to go from that to the idea that their ideas
are wrong would be to commit the genetic fallacy.

Okay, I’m running out of patience on this one. You want to declare the “correct” definition of a word but now you say that you don’t care about a word’s origins. The OED, the first comprehensive dictionary, is considered authoritative at least partly because it has set out to find the earliest use and origin of every word as the building block of its defintion, so to say that you’re not interested in a word’s origin while dictating how it should be properly understood simply makes you look foolish.

maginraven666: I’m perfectly willing to accept that they all have a
not so scientific agenda.
However, to go from that to the idea that their ideas
are wrong would be to commit the genetic fallacy.

And if you want to show how I am making an argument that makes the genetic fallacy knock yourself out. I thought we were talking about definitions, and now you’re claiming that I am making an argument against the ideas of ID?

maginraven666: But even if that’s true, what real difference does it
make that it isn’t science as it’s currently defined?
Shouldn’t we worry about whether it makes sense/is true
rather than argue about what we should think of as scientific?

Because science has been so spectacularly successful at determining the truth of propositions, and religious dogma not so much. I understand that this “why should we be confined by scientific thinking when we should all be concerned about whether or not its true?” talking point is all the rage among ID proponents, but citing it only makes you seem as if you’re being handled.

maginraven666: If nothing else you should define your terms before
you say that ID is creationism.

Wtf? Earlier, I wrote: “While I agree that the terms [creationism and ID] have their differences, and that the two groups need to be sometimes distinguished from one another, the problem lies at the origin of ID”

So I specifically say that the terms have their differences and that they sometimes need to be distinguished. Misrepresenting what another says is in a discussion is troll-like behavior. Please be more careful in the future.

maginraven666: But you can’t use the fact that under your definition ID is creationism as a point against it because it’s basically
tautological to call ID creationism according to it.

And this sentence makes no sense.

maginraven666: Stephen Meyer is the one who wrote signature in the cell
by the way.

Okay. But I’ve never heard of “Signature in the Cell.” Are you under the impression that this is a well-known book or highly-regarded piece of scholarship? And even if it were, does it change the point I made earlier that individuals are almost never considered the authority for a word’s definition, especially one that, according to the OED, means “[creationism] a system or theory of creation“ and can be found in used dating back to 1847?

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majinrevan666 November 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Tony Hoffman:
Okay, I’m running out of patience on this one. You want to declare the “correct” definition of a word but now you say that you don’t care about a word’s origins. The OED, the first comprehensive dictionary, is considered authoritative at least partly because it has set out to find the earliest use and origin of every word as the building block of its defintion, so to say that you’re not interested in a word’s origin while dictating how it should be properly understood simply makes you look foolish.

Not the word’s origin’s, the movement’s.
Besides, even the word’s origins are unimportant as
far as this goes since ID proponents would mean
something else by the words ID than they would have done
so before.
So in that case it wouldn’t be about the correctness of
the word, but how the ones who use it choose to define it.

And if you want to show how I am making an argument that makes the genetic fallacy knock yourself out. I thought we were talking about definitions, and now you’re claiming that I am making an argument against the ideas of ID?

I thought so too.
I didn’t know what you were getting at with the origins thing.

Because science has been so spectacularly successful at determining the truth of propositions, and religious dogma not somuch. I understand that this “why should we be confined by scientific thinking when we should all be concerned about whether or not its true?” talking point is all the rage among ID proponents, but citing it only makes you seem as if you’re being handled.

Oh, give me a break.
Where did I mention anything about religion?

Wtf? Earlier, I wrote: “While I agree that the terms [creationism and ID] have their differences, and that the two groups need to be sometimes distinguished from one another, the problem lies at the origin of ID”
So I specifically say that the terms have their differences and that they sometimes need to be distinguished. Misrepresenting what another says is in a discussion is troll-like behavior. Please be more careful in the future.

I wasn’t “misrepresenting” anything.
I was pointing out that if someone does feel like
calling ID creationism then he should define his terms.

And this sentence makes no sense.

When people usually call ID creationism they use it
as a point against it.
If that’s not your intention then fine.

Okay. But I’ve never heard of “Signature in the Cell.” Are you under the impression that this is a well-known book or highly-regarded piece of scholarship? And even if it were, does it change the point I made earlier that individuals are almost never considered the authority for a word’s definition, especially one that, according to the OED, means “[creationism] a system or theory of creation“ and can be found in used dating back to 1847?

Have you read anything by ID proponents themselves?
Meyer is one of the most well known ones.

Your latter point just means that we should define our
terms before we discuss them, which I’ve already agreed with.
If ID proponents use the words intelligent design wrongly,
then it should be pointed out, but that would just be semantics.
It would be like the games some theists play with the
word atheist.

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cl November 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Tony,

Just to be certain, when you said, “I apologize for the confusion, and especially misattributing cl’s word to you,” you really meant sorry for misattributing majinrevan666′s word to me, right?

If yes, I’m doubly confused. If no… happy Thanksgiving!

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Tony Hoffman November 26, 2009 at 7:50 pm

cl,

Yup. Typo of mine again. Should have been “I apologize for the confusion, and especially misattributing majinrevan666’s words to you.”

And a happy Thanksgiving to all as well.

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cl November 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

No worries. Another thing I forgot to ask you in the confusion: in the larger context of our discussion (whether / when an ID hypothesis becomes falsifiable), what did you think about my statement, “Proponents of TENS have used TENS to explain the complexity of the eye that Behe claimed could not be explained thusly. Would that not mean Behe’s hypothesis was falsified? ”

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Tony Hoffman November 27, 2009 at 7:54 am

cl: “Proponents of TENS have used TENS to explain the complexity of the eye that Behe claimed could not be explained thusly. Would that not mean Behe’s hypothesis was falsified?

I am only a casual student of science, but I do understand that many consider Popper’s falsifiability to be a signature or defining aspect of science. (I believe there is some dispute on how important falsifiability is – I favor a definition that includes induction, prediction, testability, explanation, without putting so much stress on falsifiability.*) That being said I would say that Behe’s hypothesis concerning the complexity of the eye was disproven, or failed. I think that I would reserve falsifiability to something larger, like a theory (which includes predictions and explanations).

* I do think that using falsifiability alone as a litmus test could lead to false positives, and maybe this is the source of contention with those who don’t agree with Popper’s definition. For instance, Behe could be correct about ID but have chosen the wrong biological structure. Darwin made numerous mistakes in the Origin of Species, but these mistakes should not be used to “falsify” the theory itself when modification from new understanding (correction in genetic trees, age of the earth, etc.) fixes things quite nicely. That being said, the “rabbit in the pre-Cambrian rock strata” would, I believe, falsify the TOE, and such a grand challenge does make the TOE that much stronger.

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Tony Hoffman November 27, 2009 at 8:53 am

cl: “Proponents of TENS have used TENS to explain the complexity of the eye that Behe claimed could not be explained thusly. Would that not mean Behe’s hypothesis was falsified?

I am only a casual student of science, but I do understand that many consider Popper’s falsifiability to be a signature or defining aspect of science. (I believe there is some dispute on how important falsifiability is – I favor a definition that includes induction, prediction, testability, explanation, without putting so much stress on falsifiability.*) That being said I would say that Behe’s hypothesis concerning the complexity of the eye was disproven, or failed. I think that I would reserve falsifiability to something larger, like a theory (which includes predictions and explanations).

* I do think that using falsifiability alone as a litmus test could lead to false positives, and maybe this is the source of contention with those who don’t agree with Popper’s definition. For instance, Behe could be correct about ID but have chosen the wrong biological structure. Darwin made numerous mistakes in the Origin of Species, but these mistakes should not be used to “falsify” the theory itself when modification from new understanding (correction in genetic trees, age of the earth, etc.) fixes things quite nicely. That being said, the “rabbit in the pre-Cambrian rock strata” would, I believe, falsify the TOE, and such a grand challenge does make the TOE that much stronger.

Not the word’s [ID’s] origin’s, the movement’s.
Besides, even the word’s origins are unimportant as
far as this goes since ID proponents would mean
something else by the words ID than they would have done
so before.
So in that case it wouldn’t be about the correctness of
the word, but how the ones who use it choose to define it.

You should grow up. Insulated groups do not get to define words just because they say so. The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was neither a nationalist or socialist organization, despite the fact that that was how they named themselves. Orwell had some things to say about this phenomena as well. But I do agree that those who use the word are the ones who choose to define it, so why would those of us who use the words Intelligent Design not contribute to its definition?

Oh, give me a break.
Where did I mention anything about religion?

Oh, give me a break. You seem as sold on denial as the Discovery Institute. Do you really think that when the Disccovery Insitute denies that religion has anything to do with its activities that this is honestly the case? Do you really think that if the Discovery Institute say that ID is not influenced by the religious convictions of its members that it must therefore be true?

Me: While I agree that the terms [creationism and ID] have their differences, and that the two groups need to be sometimes distinguished from one another, the problem lies at the origin of ID.
MajinRaven666: If nothing else you should define your terms before
you say that ID is creationism.
MajinRaven666: I wasn’t “misrepresenting” anything.
I was pointing out that if someone does feel like
calling ID creationism then he should define his terms.

I think it’s funny that someone who is arguing for clarity and definition of terms would expect me to understand that when he says “you” he meant an unnamed “somebody.” Maybe you should start with your own language before insisting that others clarify and define their terms.

MajinRaven666:When people usually call ID creationism they use it
as a point against it.
If that’s not your intention then fine.

But you just said above that I should define my terms before calling ID creationism? Now it sounds like you’re saying that I only have to define my terms if by conflating it with creationism I mean to disparage ID? This does not seem consistent, or practicable. Actually, it also seems a little authoritarian.

MajinRaven666: Have you read anything by ID proponents themselves?
Meyer is one of the most well known ones.

Whole books, no. But I’ve read long passages from Edge of Evolution, I’ve followed some of Dembski’s writings, some of Monton’s, I occasionally read some of David Heddle’s blog, etc, and I’m sure some others whose names I can’t remember right now.

MajinRaven666: Your latter point just means that we should define our
terms before we discuss them, which I’ve already agreed with.
If ID proponents use the words intelligent design wrongly,
then it should be pointed out, but that would just be semantics.
It would be like the games some theists play with the
word atheist.

I think the problems with some of this thinking above.

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majinrevan666 November 27, 2009 at 9:54 am

Such a long conversation about practically nothing.

Here’s what prompted this tedium: “Tony Hoffman:
I don’t understand the sensitivity among ID proponents concerning being confused with creationists; aren’t all ID proponents creationists, as in the design must have been created?”

My answer is simply this:

When ID proponents say ID they define it in a certain way.
To know their definition one has to actually listen to/read their material.
When people use the word “creationism”, their definition
is usually something religious.

Since not everyone is familiar with what ID proponents mean by the term ID, they object to the term creationism
because:

1.The person using it has a different definition in mind
then they do.

2.The people listening to the person who uses the definition might mistake his definition for a different one.

That’s it.
Have I made myself clear enough for you, or do you need
to “grow up” more to understand a simple point?

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Tony Hoffman November 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm

MajinRaven666: Have I made myself clear enough for you, or do you need to “grow up” more to understand a simple point?

Well, if your point is that I should ignore the history of ID, cdesign proponentsists, the fact that the vast majority of ID proponents are YEC’s and OEC’s and believe in special creation, etc., the Wedge Document, the political maneuvering and deceit employed to dress up ID in a respectable, non-religiously motivated movement, and to tell my people to stop saying ID and creationism in the same sentence, I disagree. And I’ve been disagreeable because I think that it takes a certain level of presumption to deliver your request with a straight face.

I think the best way to gain respectability for those sincerely interested in the Argument from Design is to go back to calling it that, or to coin their own term, because ID will never be able to completely divorce itself from cdesign proponentsis, no matter how much money and effort the Discovery Institute puts into it.

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majinrevan666 November 27, 2009 at 1:13 pm

My only request is to define term properly so as to
not confuse each other.
If you want to go on a tangent about how ID originated
and what their ultimate motives are then be my guest, but
don’t expect them to not return the favor.

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Tony Hoffman November 28, 2009 at 8:56 am

MaginRaven666: My only request is to define term properly so as to not confuse each other.

Okay, so what was the point that you wanted to make that risked this confusion?

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majinrevan666 November 28, 2009 at 10:49 am

The confusion arises whenever the word “creationism” is used
as a replacement for the words intelligent design.
That makes people assume that the person using the word
“creationism” means something that has to do with religion,
and not merely creation.

What’s most frustrating is when people attack the motives
of ID proponents instead of assessing the theory itself.
That happens about every time a mainstream evolutionist and an ID proponent try to discuss the subject.
If one wants to keep a faulty theory from being taught, one should focus on the validity of the theory itself.

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Tony Hoffman November 28, 2009 at 11:16 am

majinraven666: What’s most frustrating is when people attack the motives
of ID proponents instead of assessing the theory itself.

Okay, I agree that questioning the motives of a proponent rather than discussing the faults of an argument is frustrating and bad form.

You should be aware, though, that there is no theory of ID, and not even a hypothesis. In other words, you appear to have been duped when you refer to ID as presenting a theory.

majinraven666: If one wants to keep a faulty theory from being taught, one should focus on the validity of the theory itself.

And that, of course, is exactly what Fyfe said in the original post here.

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majinrevan666 November 28, 2009 at 11:26 am

Tony Hoffman:
In other words, you appear to have been duped when you refer to ID as presenting a theory.

I know that you don’t consider it to be a scientific theory,
but how is it not merely a theory (IE hypothesis)?

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Tony Hoffman November 29, 2009 at 8:40 am

majinraven666P I know that you don’t consider it to be a scientific theory, but how is it not merely a theory (IE hypothesis)?

I’m sorry majinraven666, but you are displaying a level of ignorance that borders on the willful or uninterested. You arrived here to tell us that creationism and ID need to be properly defined before having a discussion, but then you declare that the origins and history of of these words is unimportant, and now you confess that you do not know the definition of a scientific theory.

If you are truly curious, start here:

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

I’d recommend doing your own research as well. In particular, I think it’s helpful to have an understanding of the difference between scientific facts, scientific laws, and scientific theories.

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majinrevan666 November 29, 2009 at 9:13 am

Well, that was slightly condescending of you.

I only want to know why you don’t consider ID a hypothesis.
I don’t know how you got from that to my “confession”, maybe I’m missing something.

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Tony Hoffman November 29, 2009 at 9:41 am

So you do understand the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, and that one should distinguish between the two when speaking in scientific terms?

A hypothesis explains phenomena and predicts what will happen based on the assumption that the explanation is true. It then runs a test to see if what is predicted will occur. If the prediction fails, the hypothesis is disproven, if not, conclusions are drawn and the hypothesis is refined to run more tests or new hypotheses are made based on the original, all seeking to disprove the explanation. Or something like that.

And that, at the most basic level, is what ID fails to even provide. It’s not a theory, because it hasn’t even generated a testable hypothesis yet, let alone one which hasn’t been disproven.

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majinrevan666 November 29, 2009 at 10:06 am

Ok, but how do you counter their claims to the contrary?

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1156

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Tony Hoffman November 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

Majinrevan666, I honestly can’t tell if you’re serious or not.

Majinrevan666: Ok, but how do you counter their claims to the contrary?

You understand the difference between claiming something, and demonstrating it, don’t you?

For instance, would you ask me how I counter the claim of my neighbor that he has an in-ground swimming pool in his frontyard? I would counter his claim by looking at, and investigating, his front yard. If, on inspection, there is no in-ground swimming pool there, I am justified in countering the claim.

You act as if my neighbor insisting that there is an in-ground swimming pool in his front yard, when I have proven to myself (and others) that there is no in-ground swimming pool, should lead us to an impasse. It should not.

I have looked for, and asked everywhere I can imagine, what the hypothesis of ID is. I have yet to see one provided. I am not alone in this assessment. In fact, I am in agreement with virtually the whole of the scientific community.

Are you truly this credulous?

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majinrevan666 November 29, 2009 at 10:40 am

Did you even bother to look at the link?
Here’s what it doesn’t say “Some people say that we don’t
have a working hypothesis, to those people we can only
say NAH AHH!”

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and ask you to look
at the link and tell me whether you dis/agree with the portion about their predictions and why, you blind worshiper
of Darwin.

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Tony Hoffman November 30, 2009 at 6:11 am

Did you even bother to look at the link?

Actually, your reply popped into my e-mail and I responded from there. I didn’t notice the link in my e-mail program, so I did miss the link the first time.

Here’s what I think of the predictions on the site you linked.

(1) High information content machine-like irreducibly complex structures will be found.

These are “weasel words” (you should look that up in Wikipedia if you don’t know the term), meaning that they seem like they convey information but do not. There is nothing to test here, as the goalposts have clearly been set onto the back of an idling pickup truck.

(2) Forms will be found in the fossil record that appear suddenly and without any precursors.

Without a definition of “forms” this is worthless. Also, it is a (surprise!) God of the Gaps argument. God of the Gaps arguments are fallacious, and certainly not scientific.

(3) Genes and functional parts will be re-used in different unrelated organisms.

Why would this be evidence for a designer and not for common descent? And this is already a recognized event – our hand is of similar design to a bat’s wing. That’s an observation, not a prediction.

(4) The genetic code will NOT contain much discarded genetic baggage code or functionless “junk DNA”.

Weasel weasel weasel. That’s like saying, “Things will appear that we did not focus on very often or at all beforehand.” Wtf.

I believe any competent high school science teacher would fail a student who submitted these fuzzy or non-predictions as part of a science experiment.

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J Nernoff III M.D. December 8, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I strongly disagree that “intelligent design” should be taught in school. This will open the door wholesale to all kinds of abuse; it’s a slippery slope to other theistic ideas which have no place in a science class. At most it may serve as a bad example, rarely, but that’s it.

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