The vacuity of ID: Falsification

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Jonathan Witt reports at evolution news on a letter in Newsweek.

George Will says the theory of intelligent design isn’t falsifiable–isn’t “a testable hypothesis.” Actually, particular design arguments are falsifiable. Design theorist Michael Behe, for instance, argues that we can detect design in the bacterial flagellum because the tiny motor needs all of its parts to function at all. That’s a problem for Darwinian evolution, which builds novel form one tiny functional mutation at a time. How to falsify Behe’s argument? Provide a detailed evolutionary pathway from simple ancestor to present motor. The flagellum might still be designed, but Behe’s argument that such design is detectable would have been falsified.

Desperately trying to shed its veil of scientific vacuity, intelligent design and its supporters are trying to give ID some scientific credibility but at what cost? We see the argue move from the realization that Intelligent Design is not falsifiable to ‘particular design arguments [about the flagellum] are falsifiable’ although the flagellum may still be intelligently designed… Wow. Is Witt serious here?.…

In this case Jonathan Witt argues that ID is falsifiable and that when science provides a sufficiently specific pathway for the evolution of the flagellum that, although the flagellum may still be designed, a particular claim has been falsified. Note that first of all Intelligent Design is not falsified but a particular claim that because science cannot yet explain the evolution of the flagellum, it is thus designed and this design can be ‘detected’ through our ignorance.

As others before me have pointed out, much of ID’s claims are scientifically vacuous. This response by Jonathan Witt is in my opinion not much different.

Ryan Nichols Wrote:

In my argument against Intelligent Design Theory I will not contend that it is not falsifiable or that it implies contradictions. I’ll argue that Intelligent Design Theory doesn’t imply anything at all, i.e. it has no content. By ‘content’ I refer to a body of determinate principles and propositions entailed by those principles. By ‘principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue. By ‘determinate principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue in which the extensions of its terms are clearly defined. I’ll evaluate the work of William Dembski because he specifies his methodology in detail, thinks Intelligent Design Theory is contentful and thinks Intelligent Design Theory (hereafter ‘IDT’) grounds an empirical research program.1 Later in the paper I assess a recent trend in which IDT is allegedly found a better home as a metascientific hypothesis, which serves as a paradigm that catalyzes research. I’ll conclude that, whether IDT is construed as a scientific or metascientific hypothesis, IDT lacks content.

Source: Ryan Nichols, Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity of Intelligent Design theory The American Catholic philosophical quarterly, 2003 ,vol. 77 ,no 4 ,pp. 591 - 611

Similarly

Patrick Fran in On the Assumption of Design concludes that

Abstract The assumption of design of the universe is examined from a scientific perspective. The claims of William Dembski and of Michael Behe are unscientific because they are a-theoretic. The argument from order or from utility are shown to be indeterminate, circular, to rest on psychological as opposed to factual certainty, or to be insupportable as regards humans but possibly not bacteria, respectively. The argument from the special intelligibility of the universe specifically to human science does not survive comparison with the capacities of other organisms. Finally, the argument from the unlikelihood of physical constants is vitiated by modern cosmogonic theory and recrudesces the God-of-the-gaps.

and

That is, neither claim is grounded in a scientifically valid theoretical matrix. Only a rigorously deductive theory permits a closed prediction, thus risking falsification, and scientific data derive their meaning only in the context of such theory. Absent a deductive, unambiguous, and falsifiable theory of design, there simply cannot be a scientifically valid context for data to be evidence of a design. Data cannot signify design without a scientific theory of design to grant them that significance. This point is implicit in at least one critique. Given this lack of theory, a judgment for design can follow itemization and elimination of all possible sources of spontaneous physical order and complexity. In this light, claiming to have a “design filter” is identical to claiming an ability to exclude every relevant cause and instance of spontaneous order in the universe. This means being able to deploy infinite theoretical and factual knowledge, respectively, about sources of such order. The claim of irreducible complexity is more modest. It alleges an infinitely complete list of all possible channels of organizmal evolution by stating unambiguously that some given biological system could not have arisen through evolutionary process. The claim is not only that there is no evolutionary explanation for the origin of irreducibly complex biological mechanisms, but further that there never will be an evolutionary explanation, in principle. This is an impossible claim, purporting knowledge about the content of future knowledge. In general, then, without a scientifically deductive theory of design, design order can be asserted only when all possible instances of spontaneous physical (or biological) order are factually eliminated. In the absence of either deductive theory or of infinite factual surety one is left with no means to make a judgment. Consequently, an assertion stemming from the a-theoretic position of either Dr Dembski or Professor Behe devolves to one made from ignorance because knowledge infinities are not now available to us, nor are they ever likely to be. Indeed, this refutation of asserted design is already of long-standing.

Jonathan Witt also seems to reject Dembski’s claim that a design inference cannot suffer from false positives. This is very relevant since the possibility of false positives makes a design inference ‘useless’.

By arguing, although incorrectly, that Intelligent Design is falsifiable, Jonathan Witt has undermined the relevancy of the explanatory filter to Intelligent Design.

177 Comments

Patrick Fran (above): “This point is implicit in at least one critique.”

Patrick Fran (above): “Indeed, this refutation of asserted design is already of long-standing.”

Duane Smith: “Anyone reading this letter and not knowing much biology, and that is most readers, would think that there has been no attempt to falsify Behe’s flagellum argument.”

I’m sensing some frustration here on the part of the ID critics. Are the ID “Fellows” ignoring these critiques? Do they ever address this stuff?

How to falsify Behe’s argument? Provide a detailed evolutionary pathway from simple ancestor to present motor. The flagellum might still be designed, but Behe’s argument that such design is detectable would have been falsified.

No, you would falsify Behe’s argument if any IC thing could be shown to have evolved, not just the flagellum. And this has been done. Now, even Behe admits that IC things could have evolved indirectly. Dembski’s CSI was a second attempt at a theory because IC was in ruins.

Now, (I’ve posted this part before, btw, and no IDer responded)

Question for the IDers here:

1 you say that CSI is essential to the determination of design

2 you say that a watch laying in some grass is detectably designed

Q: How much CSI is in the watch, how much in the grass, and what’s your rule which allows the conclusion about the watch?

The funny thing is, Witt claims that a sufficiently detailed story would be a falsification of a given instance of ID, but everyone here knows that were such a story created (and in many cases, these have been created), Witt et all would deride it as a “just-so story” and claim that nothing has been proven. Seriously, who does he think he’s kidding?

“Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.”

-IDer Paul Nelson

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The whole notion is broken ten ways to Sunday.

By the way, there are forms of ID which are falsifiable. Behe’s original claim that IC systems cannot in principle evolve, is false as hell. When it becomes unfalsifiable is that everytime you thwart their argument, they special plead. You can’t falsify a system of interminable special pleading.

Dembski does that too. “Algorithms can’t produce CSI.” “Look, this one does.” “Uh, that’s apparent CSI, not uh…actual…CSI.”

ID is just like astrology in the endless special pleading.

“Ah, you fell off that horse because of Venus.” “That wasn’t me, that was my brother.” “Oh, silly me, I forgot to account for the meteor shower. That explains why your wife left.” “No, she’s still here.” “Umm…ooo, that comet, I forgot.…”

steve Wrote:

How much CSI is in the watch, how much in the grass, and what’s your rule which allows the conclusion about the watch?

If I were going to try to do something vaguely useful with that idea, unlike the IDers, it might be this:

The more complex something is and the smaller its active components, the less likely it is to be designed.

A watch is designed because it’s built of relatively large metal and glass pieces which don’t themselves have active structure within them. The grass isn’t designed because it is far more complicated in its internal interactions and the active components are on the molecular and even atomic level.

A pyramid is designed because it’s built of relatively few shaped blocks and those blocks don’t have order within them. A mountain isn’t designed because it has a much more complex folded structure which goes down to the level of the grains participating in different ways.

One might be able to do something with fractal maths. The more fractal something is, the less designed it is.

The interesting thing is that this view shows that normal society isn’t in general designed but just happens, because the interactions of components are at various levels and of many different types. Whereas I think communism would show up as designed (if it had ever really been successfully implemented).

Jonathan Witt has a Ph.D. In English. But he’s not very good with it, as he demonstrates when he refers to specific instances of things claimed to be designed as “particular design arguments”. Nor does he do well with theory of science or with logic. It is empirical claims, or theories with empirical implications, not “arguments”, that are falsifiable. Behe’s claim is that recognition that the flagellum could not have evolved constitutes detection of design. Aside from the fact that this is blatant argumentum ad ignorantiam and sticks human psychology in the middle of biological theory, showing that the flagellum might have evolved would only show that design was not detected in this case, so it doesn’t “falsify” any theory. But it would refute Behe’s claim that the flagellum is IC, or that IC isn’t achievable by evolution. Except that this claim has been refuted numerous times, above and beyond the fact that Behe has never shown the good faith of accepting the burden of proof that attaches to those who make claims. Jonathan Witt also doesn’t do well with the theory of evolution; he knows, or should know, because it’s been explained numerous times already, that “needs all of its parts to function at all” is not “a problem for Darwinian evolution”, and that the claim that “Darwinian evolution … builds novel form one tiny functional mutation at a time” is nonsense; mutations are at least as likely to alter or destroy existing form as they are to create novel form. Behe and Witt construct absurdly constricted rules as to the effects of mutations, label this silly strawman “Darwinian evolution”, and then complain that it can’t do the job. This has nothing to do with science, which builds theories as it goes that describe how things actually are, according to the evidence, rather than setting up some a priori “theory” as a fixed set of rules and then tossing it out when it doesn’t fit the facts. That’s why the theory of evolution itself has “evolved”.

So, given that he lacks relevant qualifications, competence, knowledge, and ethics, why is Jonathan Witt given any credence at all?

Seriously, who does he think he’s kidding?

The readers of Newsweek.

Proof that ID doesn’t have anything to do with religion:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]sFellow=true Witt’s dissertation on critical theory and aesthetics received highest academic honors and has led to articles in such journals as Literature and Alienology and The Princeton Alienogical Review. … An article on this subject, “The Aliens Must Be Tidy,” appeared in the July/August 2004 issue of Touchstone. … Before joining Discovery Institute, Witt was a professor at Lubbock Alien University.

Hi, SEF:

A watch is designed because it’s built of relatively large metal and glass pieces which don’t themselves have active structure within them. The grass isn’t designed because it is far more complicated in its internal interactions and the active components are on the molecular and even atomic level. A pyramid is designed because it’s built of relatively few shaped blocks and those blocks don’t have order within them. A mountain isn’t designed because it has a much more complex folded structure which goes down to the level of the grains participating in different ways. One might be able to do something with fractal maths. The more fractal something is, the less designed it is.

I think it must be orthogonal, rather than negatively correlated as you suggest–else, the silicon out of which the watch glass is made is the most highly-designed component of all, per your argument, and I don’t think that’s what you meant to imply.

The glass isn’t highly designed though, because of its amorphous disorganised nature (equivalent to one measure of high entropy). It isn’t put together in some patterned manner of the sort which falls in between the total order of a perfect crystal and the total disorder of a volume of gas - both of which happen automatically. If it were patterned/structured in that fashion and the nature of that interacted with the other hierarchies of components in the whole watch then that would make it more likely to be evolved than singularly designed (by extending the depth of the structuredness - which I hope might be equivalent to the fractal level of it were there to be a formula).

So some of these ID guys have degrees in Molecular Biology? Have they ever stopped to think about how one tiny mutation can potentially change the shape of a protein’s active site enough to increase its catalytic activity a million fold or attenuate it a million fold?

One tiny mutation therefore potentially has the power to give an organism a survival advantage just as it potentially has the power to condemn that organism.

By the way, the watch *cannot* be compared to the grass. The watch is very obviously designed because it doesn’t grow, or reproduce. It just corrodes and stops working. The grass grows, seeds (reproduces with all of the possible mutations and crossover events), and dies. The comparison reminds me of CEWagner’s analogy of computers and brain cells. They have NOTHING in common so they cannot be used to support or refute ID.

The glass isn’t highly designed though, because of its amorphous disorganised nature (equivalent to one measure of high entropy). It isn’t put together in some patterned manner of the sort which falls in between the total order of a perfect crystal and the total disorder of a volume of gas - both of which happen automatically. If it were patterned/structured in that fashion and the nature of that interacted with the other hierarchies of components in the whole watch then that would make it more likely to be evolved than singularly designed (by extending the depth of the structuredness - which I hope might be equivalent to the fractal level of it were there to be a formula).

It is an interesting possibility you suggest–but I think that there is a problem with the correlation. Glass is more highly-designed (if it had to be fired by a designer to exist) than silicon is, and more amorphous–that fits your correlation. But glass can also be formed from silicon absent a designer, in the presence of enough heat and pressure, such as in a volcano, so in that case the correlations would go the opposite way. Similarly, graphite (unorganized carbon) can be formed into a diamond lattice (more organized) either with or without a designer–man-made vs. natural diamonds. So since it can go either way, I think the distinctions are orthogonal to each other.

I’m not sure what George Will and Jonathan Witt mean by “intelligent design” and “falsifiable.” But some claims offered by some people who have referred to themselves as “proponents of intelligent design” are falsifiable, given what I think they mean. Because some of the claims are false. It’s clear that the event referred to didn’t occur. For instance, some people who I have seen refer to themselves as “proponents of intelligent design” have said that a deity turned dust – poof! – directly into two elephants (one male and one female). But that didn’t occur. The first organisms to live on earth that were anatomically very similar to modern elephants were born by their mothers in much the same way I was born by mine. In fact, self-replicating molecules evolved (through reproduction) into all the organisms to live on earth.

I’ve seen other people who have referred to themselves as “proponents of intelligent design” say that humans and chimps do not share common ancestors. So presumably they think a deity or extraterrestrial turned dust – poof! – directly into two humans and/or two chimps. But that didn’t occur. Self-replicating molecules evolved (through reproduction) into all the organisms to live on earth. So me and “the Bear” from “BJ and the Bear” share common ancestors.

Some people have suggested that a deity or extraterrestrial turned inert matter (or “nothingness”) – Zap! – directly into the first bacterial flagellum to be on earth. But that didn’t occur. The first thing that was anatomically very similar to a modern bacterial flagellum came into being through cell division. I personally don’t know the exact moment in time the first bacterial flagellum appeared on earth. Sexual reproduction may not have even evolved yet. But cells divide. And sometimes the daughter-cell has a genome that is different than the genome of its parent-cell. Various kinds of events can contribute to daughter-cell having a genome that is different than the genome of its parent-cell. But a deity probably did not specifically intervene and cause the daughter-cell to have the genome that it did. So the claim that “a deity or extraterrestrial turned inert matter (or “nothingness”) – Zap! – directly into the first bacterial flagellum to be on earth” is “falsifiable.” The event referred to didn’t occur. Or if you are uncomfortable with the expression of certainty, it is overwhelmingly probable that the event did not occur.

I think a better and stronger critique of ID is that it is not a coherent research tradition. It does not articulate a potentially fruitful and coherent problem solving strategy. It does not make any predictions. The one thing it does attempt to do is to offer to “account for” observations. Nor does it generate any substantive set of standards by which to evaluate its own propositions.

Compared to evolutionary theory it has no content gain and only content loss.

If we are going to use the term “falsifiable” we have to be very precise as to what sense we are using the term.

Entire research traditions are not directly “falsifiable”. They should be capable of deriving specific hypotheses that can be a) supported and b) tested. Specific theories and hypotheses should be capable of being discredited. But this dichotomy of “reject/accept”is a bad dichotomy.

The question is does ID have a coherent problem solving strategy? And the answer is a clear no.

Well put Wesley. ID proponents use a version of ‘falsification’ which does not place intelligent design as a theory at risk. Of course, one cannot blame them, since there is no real theory of intelligent design in the first place. All that is put at risk is our ignorance. Bruce Chapman, in a recent essay, avoids dealing with these issues and focuses on strawmen arguments to ‘attack’ critics of intelligent design. Until ID explains what it’s theory of ID really is, it remains scientifically vacuous.

ID, once all its rhetoric is removed, deflates to nothing more that ignorance.

Raven Wrote:

Glass is more highly-designed (if it had to be fired by a designer to exist)

Ah but it isn’t other than in its gross form, eg the shaping of the watchglass. The glass maker does not design at the level of which atom connects to which other one. That level of structure is lost, being left to chance. Only the gross shape (fitting into other shapes) is designed - unlike the wholly undesigned shape of glass from meteorite impacts etc.

I was beginning to get the feeling I wasn’t explaining this very well, but you do surprise me by at least getting some of what I was trying to put across (just as on Pharyngula).

Longhon Wrote:

But some claims offered by some people who have referred to themselves as “proponents of intelligent design” are falsifiable, given what I think they mean.… But that didn’t occur.… But that didn’t occur.… But that didn’t occur.…

That isn’t falsification, it’s begging the question.

The glass maker does not design at the level of which atom connects to which other one.

Tell that to Intel. Silicon wafers are both designed and grown.

That’s not glass nor a watch though. Odd that you can’t tell the difference.

As it happens I had already thought ahead to the computer analogy - hence saying “singularly designed”. A lot of things about computers have almost evolved through having multiple designers, some of whom were decidedly unintelligent. The fractal level of that amount of design starts much smaller but isn’t much deeper. The larger scale of the internet is very much not a designed thing but an uncontrolled growing thing - like my example of human society. I deliberately avoided specifying the computer example in order to see when it would finally turn up and whether people would see the levels as being analogous to the other examples. It seems you didn’t.

TS wrote:

That isn’t falsification, it’s begging the question.

TS, could you elaborate on that? I don’t know what you mean. Your post is not clear to me.

Some events that some people claim have occurred have not occurred. For instance, a deity did not turn dust directly into two elephants.

That’s true. One of those elephants got turned into stone. I saw it with my own eyes at the Tulsa Zoo.

Longhorn

TS’s posts aren’t always clear to him, let alone others! :P

ID advocates don’t seem to understand that “falsifiability” has a definition and that they don’t get to re-define the term to their liking.

It is, of course, a long-standing tradition for creation “scientists” to give their own private definitions to scientific terms. Just witness how they took it upon themselves to arbitrarily re-define “macroevolution” and even “evolution”.

So once again, we can see that the IDers have not managed to come up with a single argument — not a single solitary one – that was not already in use by the ICR-ites three decades ago.

So much for that whole “ID isn’t creationism” thingie . … .

> That’s not glass nor a watch though. Odd that you can’t tell the difference.

Odd that you make unwarranted assumptions as to what I can tell from what. Looks like bad faith to me.

> Some events that some people claim have occurred have not occurred. For instance, a deity did not turn dust directly into two elephants.

I agree, but such assertions have nothing to do with what Popper had in mind as falsification.

If you are claiming that you can tell the difference, ts, then that removes the doubt over your incompetence and puts you firmly in the dishonest category. You should probably demonstrate that you really can though somehow, since you could still be an incompetent person not really knowing what you were saying or realising the consequences of it.

And he didn’t say sorry for upbraiding me for my correct usage of the word Schadenfreude.

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I promised I wouldn’t do this but…

So you’re a liar; so what else is new.

30 years, eh! In 30 years, to misquote “The Life of Brian”, what has ts done for us?

I have a few patents to my name, but not a lot more than that. Mostly I live for my own pleasure.

I feel I have to add the charge of self-aggrandisment to humourless pedantry.

You can add whatever you want, but it won’t make you any less of a silly twit.

1. Maybe the claim that a deity turned dust directly into the first two elephants to live on earth is not falsifiable. I don’t know. But at least for the time being, I’m willing to grant that.

It was your claim that ID is falsifiable that was disputed. Once one grants the point that was under dispute, one should have the decency to then shut up and go away.

However,

2. I’m overwhelmingly justified in believing that a deity did not turn dust directly into the first two elephants to live on earth.

That has never been disputed by anyone in this thread. But it would have been disputed if someone who doesn’t share our naturalistic premises had been involved. Someone, for instance, who claims that the Bible is an overriding source of justification. They too can, and do, claim that they are overwhelmingly justified in their belief.

Longhorn:

I didn’t say it was my faith. I never said that.

You have consistently treated your claim as a matter of faith. Repeated demands for a conflicting observation have been ignored. That’s how faith-based people also operate. When they can’t answer a question, honest people admit it. Dishonest people ignore the question. You’ve ignored it now half a dozen times. Care for one more?

The idea that self-replicating molecules evolved through reproduction into all the complex organisms to live on earth is very well-supported.

But so what? The issue here is not whether proposal X is supported by observation. The issue is whether any observation can contradict proposal Y. You are changing the subject. This also is not honest.

The claim that a deity turned dust directly into the first two elephants to live on earth is logically inconsistent with that claim.

No, it is not. I tried to illustrate this with different ways to get from A to D, but you apparently could not grasp what I meant. The elephants-from-dust claim is NOT logically inconsistent with your preferred mechanism. It is entirely possible that there are two entirely independent mechanisms operating here. Just because one is true doesn’t make the other false, anymore than 2+2=4 makes 1+3=4 false. But I tire of repeating this, when you simply ignore it.

Also, there is very good reason to believe that no deity has turned dust into an elephant on earth in the last 500 years. Elephants are pretty big, and humans have populated a fairly significant percentage of the planet. In fact, no event remotely similar to that is known to have occurred.

But saying “nobody has probably ever seen such a thing” is not falsification. Indeed, a great many things are seen for the first time every year. Did those things not exist previously? Most of them have existed for a very long time. It could be said that every time a new device is invented to observe an otherwise invisible phenomenon, things previously unobserved are now observed. Did they exist before the device was invented?

Let’s say I don’t know for certain how it got there. I’m justified in believing that a Mermaid didn’t put it there. Or an extraterrestrial.

The issue here is NOT what you consider yourself “justified in believing” (which by the way is almost the very definition of faith). The issue is, if someone thinks an alien left the money there, what observation would conflict with this claim?

Just to humor me, why don’t you just TELL me what observation would conflict with the claim the money was put there by an alien. You don’t even need to MAKE the observation. Again, I give you a videocamera to record the observation. What would be recorded?

And please, this time, THINK about it. Ignoring questions because addressing them would entail admitting error is a creationist tactic. Surely you can do better.

(And as a footnote, you would make a wonderful creationist, but I’m very glad you’re not doing science. Belief that one’s one convictions are justified, however sincere, are not evidence of anything but the ability to kid oneself. Can’t you see that you are the only one you are fooling?)

On a different note, it seems that there may have been some claim in your post that aren’t “falsifiable.” What about this? “There’s no possible observation of there being no Martians.”

the anti-claim is not falsifiable.

Is that claim falsifiable?

That question is irrelevant. SEF gave the reasoning behind his statement. If you have some reason to doubt it, then you should present it – if you’re acting in good faith, which, it is plain to me you are not, as you evade all substantive points that people have made and play the 5-year old game, substituting “Is that claim falsifiable?” for “Why?”

Longhorn:

Incidentally, just to give you a hint, all you need to record is someone NOT an alien putting the money there. That’s a direct observation refuting the claim about an alien. And once again, that’s what Popper was saying about specific and general claims (a point you have also ignored several times). A particular claim like this can be falsified by observation. The general claim (“Aliens sometimes put money on pillows) cannot be falsified, because doing so would require an infinite search, which is not possible.

Do you see the difference? The issue is always, whether a conflicting observation can be made.

What we see from Longhorn is unshakeable conviction.

I don’t think that’s the right diagnosis. Longhorn bases his beliefs on what he’s read from Mayr and others, which is just fine. No, what we see from Longhorn is inability to comprehend – he can’t follow straightforward logical arguments. As I noted before, he lacks the equipment to understand what people are saying, so instead he plays this little game of ignoring what they say, repeating himself, changing the subject, and so on.

Whether a deity turned dust directly into some organisms, for instance, humans matters to a lot of people. That is why we are having all this disagreement about what should be in public school curricula.

People at this site do not argue that we should teach children in public schools that deities didn’t turn dust into organisms, although creationists often falsely make that claim. Only, I guess it’s no longer false.

Flint, you yourself said that it is overwhelmingly probable that a deity did not turn dust directly into the first elephants to live on earth. You already said that earlier in the thread.

Also, the claims does seem falsifiable. Let’s say we traveled the universe and came across a highly advanced alien civilian, and they showed us that they used a high-tech machine to turn dust into the first elephants. Let’s say they have videotape.

But for the sake of argument let’s say it’s not. I’m justified in believing it. You even said it is overwhelmingly probable that a deity did not turn dust directly into the first elephants to live on earth.

FLint Wrote:

The issue here is NOT what you consider yourself “justified in believing” (which by the way is almost the very definition of faith).

You’ve made that bizarre claim before, and I disputed it. I am justified in believing that sqrt(2) is irrational, that there are no pre-Cambrian rabbit fossils, and that my mother loved me. None of these beliefs is based on faith, let alone being a matter of faith by definition. The standard philosophical description of knowledge (though it has its problems – see Gettier) is “true justified belief”. So please stop making this claim, which undermines your argument. Faith is unjustified belief, and that’s not longhorn’s problem – at least not in any simple sense. It is in large part Popper who gave us the grounds for justification of our empirical beliefs, contra Hume’s scepticism. And before Popper was Ockham, whose methodological prescription has now been turned into a theorem in information theory.

Flint, you yourself said that it is overwhelmingly probable that a deity did not turn dust directly into the first elephants to live on earth. You already said that earlier in the thread.

For the forty billionth time, that’s a strawman; it was never a matter of dispute.

Also, the claims does seem falsifiable. Let’s say we traveled the universe and came across a highly advanced alien civilian, and they showed us that they used a high-tech machine to turn dust into the first elephants. Let’s say they have videotape.

For the forty billionth time, that’s confirming evidence, not disconfirming (falsifying) evidence. No one can be that stupid. It’s got to be an act.

For the forty billionth time, that’s a strawman; it was never a matter of dispute.

No, Flint is disputing it. Maybe you aren’t. But he is. Ask him. Or maybe he is not.

Flint?

Also, the claims does seem falsifiable. Let’s say we traveled the universe and came across a highly advanced alien civilian, and they showed us that they used a high-tech machine to turn dust into the first elephants. Let’s say they have videotape.

Oh wait … you’re saying that this is proof that it was aliens, and not deities, who created the first elephants? How do you prove the videotape is authentic? How do you prove that the aliens aren’t dieties? How do you distinguish aliens from deities? What is a deity? (I asked that before.) The hallmark of unfalsifiable theories is that they are so vague and open-ended that they can be modified to fit any evidence. “God created elephants” is like that. “Intelligent design can be seen in nature” is like that.

For the forty billionth time, that’s confirming evidence, not disconfirming (falsifying) evidence. No one can be that stupid. It’s got to be an act.

TS, come on. Be civil. What do you mean by “confirming evidence” and “discomfirming evidence?”

Here is the claim: A deity did not turn dust directly into the first two elephant to live on earth.

If we found that extraterrestrials had videotape of them doing it, then we would be justfied in believing that the claim is false. Because it would be an extraterrestrial rather than a deity or evolution or some other means.

For the forty billionth time, that’s a strawman; it was never a matter of dispute.

No, Flint is disputing it.

You have got to be kidding, or a moron. Provide a quote in which Flint disputed that “it is overwhelmingly probable that a deity did not turn dust directly into the first elephants to live on earth”.

TS, come on. Be civil.

You don’t deserve it.

Provide a quote in which Flint disputed that “it is overwhelmingly probable that a deity did not turn dust directly into the first elephants to live on earth”.

Well, maybe he is not. He called the claim “faith.” That suggests unjustified belief.

But maybe he is not.

If we found that extraterrestrials had videotape of them doing it, then we would be justfied in believing that the claim is false. Because it would be an extraterrestrial rather than a deity or evolution or some other means.

As I noted, in one of the many many points that you have ignored, when you asked, on one of the forty billion occasions, what “falsifiable” means,

A claim is falsifiable in the Popperian (scientific) sense if it could possibly (in a practical sense, not a logical sense) be contradicted by evidence.

A favorite ruse of IDists and other intellectual charlatans is to say that their theory is falsifiable because there’s some conceivable evidence that could contradict it, despite the absence of any practical program for obtaining such evidence. And what they don’t mention is that, even if such evidence were obtained, they would move the goalposts such that the evidence still wouldn’t be disconfirming (if you don’t know what the word means, look it up).

A favorite ruse of IDists and other intellectual charlatans is to say that their theory is falsifiable because there’s some conceivable evidence that could contradict it, despite the absence of any practical program for obtaining such evidence. And what they don’t mention is that, even if such evidence were obtained, they would move the goalposts such that the evidence still wouldn’t be disconfirming (if you don’t know what the word means, look it up).

Of course it would be practically possible. I wouldn’t move the goal posts. It would be interesting to see how the extraterrestrials did it.

Well, maybe he is not. He called the claim “faith.” That suggests unjustified belief.

No, it only suggests that he is confused. If you are honest in the slightest, you would note that he called justified belief “faith”. As I pointed out to Flint just above, his bizarre claim undermines hbis argument. But a poor argument against something isn’t a good argument for it, or v.v.

But maybe he is not.

There’s no maybe about it; no one in this thread has disputed evolution or the lack of involvement of deities – as anyone acting in good faith would acknowledge, instead of playing your asinine games.

Of course it would be practically possible.

It would be practically possible to locate aliens with a videotape showing that they created the first elephants on earth? Perhaps I’ve been to generous in my estimation of your intellect.

I wonder how widespread that (apparent) inability to comprehend falsifiability is. Perhaps demonstration of a comprehension of it could be among a set of minimum requirements to be tested and passed before someone is allowed to hold any science-based position (most importantly including teaching of course).

TS, come on. Be civil.

I’m curious — why do you even bother with his silly dick-waving?

I’m curious — why do you even bother with his silly dick-waving?

Perhaps it’s because I at least attempt to engage him intellectually, instead of practicing your sort of substance-free buffoonery.

Flint, I looked through your posts again. I wasn’t understanding what you were meaning by falsifiability. I understand better now. I appreciate the time you took to help me understand the term. I had never used it before. I had seen it used, but hadn’t really thought about it.

Thanks for the time. Sorry if I came across as pig-headed.

TS, I just couldn’t get my mind around the term “falsifiable.”

This sentence of yours helped me a lot:

“It would be practically possible to locate aliens with a videotape showing that they created the first elephants on earth?”

The word “practically” helped a lot. Thanks

Longhorn, it goes back to the idea of disproving that all crows are black. Disregard the fact that it’s a bad example because we already know of instances of non-black crows; suppose in fact there weren’t any. How then could anyone go about trying to disprove it? They would have to examine every single crow, but how could anyone be sure that was done? It’s an unreasonable demand; it’s not the sort of investigation we do in science. As has been noted, we try to disprove specific claims, not general ones. Your example of alien videotapes is the ultimate case of this sort of impractical falsifiability. It’s absurd for someone (not you, but someone who has this religious view) to claim that “God created the first elephants from dust” is falsifiable just because it’s conceivable that there might be aliens somewhere with such a videotape. There’s no experiment or measurement we can conduct to determine whether such an alien videotape exists; it would require an insanely impractical universal search – and even then we couldn’t be sure that the videotape really documents what it is claimed that it documents. And the claims of intelligent design are unfalsifiable not because they aren’t false, but because they are so vague and malleable that the intelligent design proponents can keep moving the goal posts. It’s not a matter of whether you would move the goal posts, but of whether they are movable. Falsifiability is about scientific methodology, of how we keep science honest in spite of ourselves.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on July 20, 2005 8:13 PM.

Report on the 2005 Creation Mega Conference, Part One was the previous entry in this blog.

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