ID = Postmodern Creationism

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(Note: This is the first post in the new “Evolution of Creationism” category. Since the “intelligent design” movement actively obfuscates its creationist origins, tracing the true origins of “intelligent design” is crucial to understanding what ID is really about, and to understanding the dire peril ID faces in the upcoming court case [u]Kitzmiller v. Dover[/u].)

Earlier today, Steve Reuland discussed an excellent Washington Post essay (“But Is It Intelligent?”) making the connection between the Intelligent Design Creationism and postmodernism. As discussed in the comments to Steve’s post, it wasn’t surprising that the Washington Post picked up on the postmodernism connection, given that it was highlighted in the Post‘s profile of Phillip Johnson back in May 2005.

But if you are looking for slam-dunk proof that ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo, look no further than Nancy Pearcey‘s interview with Phillip Johnson in the June 1990 Bible-Science Newsletter.* Speaking of his upcoming book, Darwin on Trial, Johnson told Pearcey,

“We must not forget that the controversy over Darwinism has a sociological or political dimension. Philosophers of science have developed a very relativist approach to knowledge claims. It is now regarded as a commonplace in the field that there is a “sociology of knowledge” and that an intimate relationship exists between knowledge and power [sic**]. What is presented as objective knowledge is frequently an ideology that serves the interests of some powerful group. The curious thing is that the sociology-of-knowledge approach has not yet been applied to Darwinism. That is basically what I do in my manuscript.” Phillip Johnson, p. 10 in: Nancy Pearcey (1990). “Anti-Darwinism Comes to the University: An Interview with Phillip Johnson.” Bible-Science Newsletter. 28(6), pp. 7-11. June 1990.

Game, set, match.

References

Phillip Johnson (1991). Darwin on Trial. InterVarsity Press.

Nick Matzke (2005). “Design on Trial in Dover, Pennsylvania.” Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 24(5), 4-9.

Nancy Pearcey (1990). “Anti-Darwinism Comes to the University: An Interview with Phillip Johnson.” Bible-Science Newsletter. 28(6), pp. 7-11. June 1990.

Michael Powell (2005). “Doubting Rationalist: ‘Intelligent Design’ Proponent Phillip Johnson, and How He Came to Be.” Washington Post. Page D01. Sunday, May 15, 2005.

Editorial (2005). “But Is It Intelligent?Washington Post. Page A22. Thursday, August 4, 2005.

Notes

* NCSE just happens to have a 12-year collection of the Bible-Science Newsletter in its archives, stretching from 1982 to the Newsletter‘s apparent discontinuation in 1994. The Newsletter was a rabid young-earth creationist publication, full of reports on the hunt for Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, and alleged evidence of dinosaurs living with humans. Young-earth creationist Nancy Pearcey was a contributing editor to the Newsletter for many years, before coauthoring Of Pandas and People and joining the Discovery Institute ID program.

Believe it or not, this Phillip Johnson quote doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wealth of proto-ID material that was published in the Bible-Science Newsletter between 1982 and 1994. Stay tuned to PT for more revelations.

** In the original, it appears that a word was accidentally left in or out of this sentence. Probably it should read, “It is now regarded as commonplace…” or “It is now regarded as a commonplace observation…”

83 Comments

A couple of points, Nick:

1. Although Johnson mentions relativism in the quoted passage, he doesn’t imply that he agrees that facts are relative, only that he approves of the kind of analysis that relativists apply to factual claims. I’m not familiar with the methods of relativists, but there is nothing wrong in principle with conducting a sociological analysis of scientific claims. (Such an analysis of creationist claims can be very informative.)

I agree that creationists do adopt a relativist position when they insist on “teaching the controversy”, but I don’t think this passage is a good example, and it’s certainly not the slam-dunk that you say it is.

2. The word “commonplace” can be used as a noun, so your “sic” is inapplicable.

This is ruminated over at length here

The word “commonplace” can be used as a noun, so your “sic” is inapplicable.

Indeed. We recently had someone here accuse the author of a quite competent Amazon review of some creationist’s book of being “dumb” because the reviewer used the phrase “God gifted man”; that was supposedly “dumb” because – get this – “gift” is not a transitive verb. I know that funding for evolutionary biology isn’t what it could be, but we don’t even need to pay for dictionaries anymore – they’re online. Let’s consider using them and avoiding such silliness.

I don’t think this passage is a good example, and it’s certainly not the slam-dunk that you say it is.

I agree. I really can’t make much sense out of Rick’s tennis; I don’t see that the quoted passage has any relevance at all to whether ID is creationism, or anything else about creationism. We know ID is creationism, but not because of anything Johnson says here. Let’s leave the really bad arguments to the IDists/creationists, and try to stick to good ones.

I’d say it was more likely that the “a” was accidentally inserted before “commonplace” (or not deleted on editing a previous version of the sentence). It’s still an awkward sentence whatever you allow though.

I’d say it was more likely that the “a” was accidentally inserted before “commonplace” (or not deleted on editing a previous version of the sentence). It’s still an awkward sentence whatever you allow though.

Continuing to beat this triviality to death, I will note that one can say “it’s commonplace to …” or “it’s commonplace for …” but “it’s commonplace that …” is not good usage – it is, indeed, “awkward”, and almost certainly isn’t what Johnson intended. OTOH, “it’s a commonplace that … “ is perfectly acceptable, not awkward at all unless “a commonplace’ is unfamiliar usage, and almost certainly is what Johnson intended. Google of “a commonplace that” gets 18,200 hits, “it’s a commonplace that” gets 640 hits, and “it’s commonplace that” gets a measly 87 hits.

OTOH, Rick’s placement of sic in brackets instead of parentheses and putting it at the end of the sentence rather than next to the phrase it applies to is, um, uncommon.

one can say “it’s commonplace to …” or “it’s commonplace for …”

Before someone else does, I should mention that “common” is probably a better word in all such instances. However, one cannot replace “a commonplace” with “a common”. “a commonplace” is an obvious remark or platitude, and that’s exactly the sense in which Johnson used it.

JK Wrote:

This is ruminated over at length here

A very fine article. I’d like to say that the case against “liberal” education is overblown, but I can’t honestly be sure that that’s due to anything other than my own prejudices.

ts: I don’t think Nick’s claiming that this shows ID is creationism, but that it shows it’s postmodern.

(And, since pedantry seems to be the order of the day in this thread: Nick, not Rick; basketball, not tennis.)

ts: I don’t think Nick’s claiming that this shows ID is creationism, but that it shows it’s postmodern

Well, then, big deal. But it doesn’t show that, anyway, as Richard Wein explains.

Nick, not Rick

Sorry, Nick.

basketball, not tennis

Tennis too: “Game, set, match.”

Well, then, big deal.

To expand on this, note:

the “intelligent design” movement actively obfuscates its creationist origins

and

if you are looking for slam-dunk proof that ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo

The relevant point isn’t what the new style of dress is, but that it is creationism that is being dressed up. But this article offers up nothing new in that regard.

Google of “a commonplace that” gets 18,200 hits

Reduced to 780 hits when restricting to UK pages only - and some of those don’t look as if they are genuinely UK ones, eg domain name of middle-east-online! So I’d say it was an Americanism. Like many other things which are awkward or even the opposite of their English meaning.

So I’d say it was an Americanism.

As is Philip Johnson. :-)

I can’t think of a single argument made by ID that wasn’t made first by the ICR-ites decades ago. Not a one. Everything from “evolution is atheistic” to “what good is half an eye” to “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” to “the Cambrian explosion”.

Can anyone think of any ID arguments that aren’t just plagiarized versions of old ICR standards?

I’d have to say that some of the intellectuals of the past century warned us of this. They warned that the trendy abandonment of reason by the left would lead to a resurgence of forms of idiocy long thought vanquished, like the return of some Cthonic horror in a Lovecraft story.

They were right.

Some ideas really are better than others. Got that? Now rewind liberal thought to the 1960s and start re-recording the tape there.

They warned that the trendy abandonment of reason by the left

You mean like that of the Scoop Jackson Dems and Trotskiites who became the neo-cons?

They warned that the trendy abandonment of reason by the left would lead to a resurgence of forms of idiocy long thought vanquished

Anyone who thought that creationism was long vanquished wasn’t paying attention.

Now rewind liberal thought to the 1960s and start re-recording the tape there.

It isn’t accurate to equate “liberal thought” with certain touchy-feely concepts of “liberal” education.

Having been a professor of logic for many years I must say that Philip Johnson’s quote does not serve as a premise leading to the conclusion that “ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo.” Johnson’s quote addresses his concern (and Plantinga’s, et. al.) that Neo-Darwinism is inextricably rooted in methodological naturalism.

After further thought, I’d like to retract my criticism above, and agree with Nick that the quoted passage shows Johnson to be a relativist, or at least to be behaving like one. I just think Nick needs to spell out the reasoning behind this conclusion. Here’s my reasoning.

Relativists seem to have difficulty making up their minds whether they believe that all knowledge is merely a social construction, or only some. The former position is easily seen to be absurd, since no-one truly believes that gravity is merely a social construcion, or they would be happy to jump off tall buildings (and I’ve yet to hear of a relativist doing so). On the other hand, to say that some knowledge is merely a social construction is quite uninteresting. We can probably all agree that children’s knowledge of Santa Claus is a social construction. And I for one would be happy to agree that creationism is a social construction. In short, anything that other people believe but which we are convinced is untrue must be a social construction. So relativism ends up just being a device for giving a false appearance of philosophical erudition to criticisms of whatever beliefs one doesn’t like.

Johnson’s sociological critique of “Darwinism” gains nothing of substance from his linking it to relativism. It stands or falls on whether he really can demonstrate that Darwinism is merely a social construction. (Of course, he can’t do so, but that’s a separate issue.) He includes the appeal to relativism merely to gain some false authority by association with a position he claims is “a commonplace” among philosophers of science. In this he behaves just like a relativist, regardless of whether he actually considers himelf to be one. (If he does not, then he is guilty of hypocrisy as well as rhetorical trickery.)

Relativists seem to have difficulty making up their minds whether they believe that all knowledge is merely a social construction, or only some. The former position is easily seen to be absurd, since no-one truly believes that gravity is merely a social construcion, or they would be happy to jump off tall buildings (and I’ve yet to hear of a relativist doing so).

Hmmm … I happen to have a note from Dr. Victor Stenger (prominent physicist, atheist, and skeptic) in my emailbox that says

I have a book to be published called The Comprehensible Cosmos in which I claim to show that the laws of physics are human inventions. It is now fully on the web and still under revision. It takes a lot of explaining, and is usually misunderstood. It is not postmodernism! But, check it out and join my list avoid-L where it continues to be under intense discussion.

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/[…]nothing.html

Paul Krugman in today’s NYTimes:

… Some of America’s most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn’t been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. …

But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations? … The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn’t have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

I remain unconvinced that ID has very much to do with postmodernism. Guys like Johnson will latch on to anything that might help them–everything’s a weapon if you’re in a fight. Anyhow, I don’t get the impression from the quoted interview segment that Johnson had much understanding of what postmodernism is about. For example, the sociology of knowledge is hardly a postmodern invention–it goes back to the 20s and 30s–but Johnson speaks about it as if it were a French novelty. Maybe somebody could make the connection between ID and significant strains in recent social thought–I for one would be very interested in reading such an effort–but I’m a little concerned that tarring the ID folks as postmodernists in drag will just be a rhetorical tack.

By the way, though it was published two years after the interview, there is a serious treatment of Darwin and politics, Desmond and Moore’s biography of Darwin (1992). The kind of questions they raise seem eminently reasonable to me. Trying to understand how a scientific theory develops in its social context hardly commits you to radical skepticism. It may be a stretch to connect the content of high-energy physics or axiomatic mathematics with ideological debates, but geology and biology were obviously controversial topics in Darwin’s time and Darwin himself, an extremely well connected man, was always keenly aware of the political angles. Darwin not only availed himself of various economic ideas–Malthus!–but as the grandson of a great industrialist (Wedgewood) and the son of a extremely wealthy private financier of canals and railroads, he was related to the industrial revolution and Manchester liberalism by blood.

John Piippo wrote

Having been a professor of logic for many years I must say that Philip Johnson’s quote does not serve as a premise leading to the conclusion that “ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo.” Johnson’s quote addresses his concern (and Plantinga’s, et. al.) that Neo-Darwinism is inextricably rooted in methodological naturalism.

Can Piippo name a currently accepted scientific theory, in any discipline from physics to biology, that is not “rooted in methodological naturalism”? That is, does Piippo know of a currently accepted theory that invokes causal/explanatory variables not normally deemed to be ‘naturalistic’, or whose support does not in the end depend on systematic observations of the natural world? Though I’ve worked in science and technology for over 40 years, in both industry and academics, I have not to my knowledge encountered even one such.

RBH

A little Creation ditty for you from the Buzz Skyline singer’s

http://mp3.washingtonpost.com/upload/index.shtml

Here are the lyrics

God made the world in only seven days And did it all six thousand years ago Some of the things he made seem pretty strange But I know it’s true, ‘cause the bible tells me so

He made Dinosaur bones, and buried ‘em in the ground Then made them all seem really, really old Most just missed the boat when Noah built the ark St. George killed the rest, so I’m told

He made stars and put them a trillion miles away How their light got here is hard to say The speed of light means stars are billions of years old But I’ll take scripture over physics any day

Chorus: God made …

Science says mountains took years and years to form From the crashing of the Earth’s tectonic plates But I’ve never seen a mountain grow an inch I’m pretty sure God made them all that way

The oil in the ground is a gift we can’t deny From heaven’s pearly gates to my gas tank Fossil fuel? That’s nonsense, there’s no fossils in the pump It’s heavenly intervention we should thank

Chorus: God made …

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces. But PN is not itself a scientific truth. Rather, PN defines the parameters of scientific inquiry. As such, PN functions as a definition. But it itself is not a scientific truth. PN is something like a philosophical position. PN is often also referred to as Metaphysical Naturalism. That is, PN is a metaphysical claim. As a metaphysical claim the truth or non-truth of PN needs to be established philosophically, not scientifically. Plantinga explains this: The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science. How could science show that God has not intentionally designed and created human beings and other creatures? How could it show that they have arisen merely by chance? That’s not empirical science. That’s metaphysics, or maybe theology. It’s a theological add-on, not part of science itself. And, since it is a theological add-on, it shouldn’t, of course, be taught in public schools.” (http://newsinfo.nd.edu/content.cfm?topicid=12242) If, therefore, most current scientific theories are grounded in PN this does not imply that ID is to be dismissed as “science.” It only means that much contemporary science is grounded in a certain non-scientific metaphysical claim. Some, like Plantinga and Johnson, wish to question the validity of that claim.

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism

When the actual number of scientific theories grounded in PN is zero, the remainder of your post becomes moot. Science can say nothing (and indeed says nothing) about anything outside of nature, because the scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

You have made a typical category error: that what does not ratify your belief must necessarily deny it. Science is silent on your belief, therefore it does not (and cannot) ratify it, therefore you see denial. But what you see is not there. Silence is not denial. Science is carefully limited to what can be observed, and the claim that nothing exists outside of nature cannot be subjected to observation in any way.

Here is a perfect, textbook example of the informal logical fallacy called “begging the question”: “Science can say nothing (and indeed says nothing) about anything outside of nature, because the scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.”

This argument goes as follows:

Premise 1: The scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

Conclusion: Therefore science can say nothing about anything outside of nature.

But of course. This argument begs the question (obvious circularity). Therefore, as an argument, it is to be dismissed.

ts: Sorry, I’d failed to notice the “Game, set, match”. Apologies for the unjustified snark.

Pippo quotes Plantinga asking how natural science could show that human beings and other creatures have arisen by chance?

Here’s one way: human engineers sometimes rationally design systems such as electronic circuits but sometimes they arrive at them through various versions of a genetic algorithm. The results of these constrasting methods have different characteristics, for example, as Andreas Wanger points out in his new book Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems, “In rationally designed circuits, it is usually easy to decompose the circuit into parts that carry out specific functiions. In contrast, evolved circutis often do not show such a decomposition.” Now it seems that natural systems such as energy metabolism and development are indeed more like man-made systems created by the genetic algorithm than like man-made systems created by rational design. They are, in fact, Rube Goldbergesque. Therefore, it is likely that the natural systems were not designed at all.

While this argument is not necessarily decisive, it does appear to be cogent, however, and that’s enough to refute Plantinga’s assumption that one cannot find empirical evidence against design.

John Pilippo -

These tired arguments have been made before. There is so much wrong with them, it’s hard to start.

“The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.”

First of all, what is “nature”? Please define “nature”. Your claim is utterly meaningless, without such a definition.

Anyway, it’s routinely stated that science uses methodological materialism, NOT philosophical naturalism or materialism. -

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evo[…]uralism.html

Plenty of religious leaders have no problem with science as it is now -

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.sci[…]section.html

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/ar[…]_19_2002.asp

“It only means that much contemporary science is grounded in a certain non-scientific metaphysical claim. Some, like Plantinga and Johnson, wish to question the validity of that claim.”

This is semantic nonsense. Here’s the way it works. When I and other people who are interested in science, study science, or do scientific work, we all agree, more or less, to restrict ourselves to looking for potentially testable natural explanations of potentially universally observable phenomenae. That’s what “science” means. THE WORD “SCIENCE” IS ALREADY TAKEN. If somebody wants to do something else and call THAT “science”, that’s tough. It’s like discovering a new animal and wanting to call it a giraffe* (*assuming it’s not a new species of giraffe, of course). The word “giraffe” already has a meaning. The word “science” already has a meaning. You, Plantinga, and Johnson will have to live with that.

I confess to ignorance of the works of Plantinga, and therefore, it is possible that you are misrepresenting his views.

This argument begs the question (obvious circularity). Therefore, as an argument, it is to be dismissed.

Except that it wasn’t an argument, it was an observation! Science is limited to the observable. Philosophical Naturalism is not observable. Therefore, science is silent about it.

Your statement is simply false. Science takes no position about anything outside of nature. There could be hundreds of gods out there, and science could say nothing about any of them.

And so I must repeat: in being unable to either support or deny anything outside of nature, science is silent. You have interpreted that silence to be instead a positive claim that nothing exists outside of nature. And this is simply wrong. Science does not make this claim. You have made a false statement. You are wrong.

Johnson seems to be acting as a “good lawyer” does when he knows his client has a weak case. He attaches part of his argument to whatever will help. Part comes from more traditional critiques of evolution, but he adds his own adaptation of relativistic ideas to improve his case.

As to the sociological influences and consequences of evolution - I’m sure that Darwin realized this with his encounters with Capt. FitzRoy.

John Piippo Wrote:

When Flint states “the scientific method is capable of addressing ONLY observations of the physical world” people like myself (and Plantinga, Johnson, et.al) ask �#8220; what establishes that as true? Surely not “the scientific method.”

What establishes that you can’t open a conversation with a can opener? It seems obvious, but if you have some reason to think otherwise, you should put that forward. Perhaps by explaining what it means for an “observation” to be other than of the physical world, and how we would go about making such observations. This seems to indicate that the problem is deeper than naturalism per se, that it goes to fundamental concepts of epistemology and what counts as an observation and what validates a claim to have observed.

Comment #41558

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 07:25 PM (e) (s)

Let me go back to the beginning. I commented that the original argument by Nick Matzke is non-logical.

That reminds me of the great Ralph Wiggum.

“Me fail English? That’s unpossible.”

I for one don’t know what scientists will or will not be able to discover by the application of empirical methods. Unlike the religious, who can claim to possess an answer book, I don’t claim to know everything or even very much in advance. I don’t know whether science can or cannot say anything about the mysterious beyond if there is such a realm. In particular, I don’t know any arguments “to empirically support the belief that science can say nothing outside of nature.” The argument I did make was intended to show that there is empirical evidence that living things were not designed if “design” in this context refers to something like what engineers call rational design. That’s not a theological argument. It cuts against the completely natural theory that aliens from outer space invented living things, for example. And it has nothing but nothing to say about God. I don’t belong to the right tribe to give any credit to that concept. (I gather not even Plantinga thinks that his version of the ontological argument is cogent without faith, which I certainly lack.)

Plantinga’s religious jabberings are not well respected in philosophy, according to a philosopher blogger girl I talked to once. I’m not saying who that was, because it was a private conversation. His prestige comes from some other thing in analytic philosophy, but I can’t remember what it was. The guy’s a Calvinist, for pete’s sake.

Basically, the problem is Foundationalism, which says that there are a small number of things you can take as true without justification. “I exist” might be one such thing. Here’s a good page on it http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/j[…]oundational/ . Plantinga argues, over the course of I think three entire volumes, that “God exists” is such a truth. It’s a big pile of crap. I think most scientists would prefer the competing school of thought, Coherentism. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/j[…]p-coherence/ Plantinga reminds me of Michael Shermer’s comment that really smart people will still believe crazy, stupid things, it’s just that they’re a lot better at coming up with complicated justifications.

Lenny, could you please stop saying “Shit or get off the toilet.”? It’s very unpleasant.

Apologies. I am, understandably, very very frustrated at yet another IDiot who says he wants to “engage in dialogue” and then doesn’t answer a single question put to him.

I know you are. It’s very frustrating to deal with such people. Keep asking them the same basic questions. The fact that they can’t answer says everything about the intellectual poverty of their movement.

And that whole “I have answered your questions to the satisfaction of the secret email majority” had me laughing til I turned purple, btw. I think if the wackos could see themselves as others see them, they’d die of embarrassment.

His prestige comes from some other thing in analytic philosophy

Here’s a good rundown on Plantinga’s work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga

(Paul Flocken, you might be interested in this.)

Someone said: I can’t think of a single argument made by ID that wasn’t made first by the ICR-ites decades ago. Not a one. Everything from “evolution is atheistic” to “what good is half an eye” to “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” to “the Cambrian explosion”.

Can anyone think of any ID arguments that aren’t just plagiarized versions of old ICR standards?

I reply: I object to your listing of “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” as a bad argument. I think it is part of a line of reflexive and poor reasoning that stretches back to Dawkins, and which if used in any other field of science would be recognized as ridiculous, the argument from incredulity is not in fact a fallacy but perfectly legitmate.

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements ( it is impossible to disprove completely a scientific theory, auxiliary hypotheses may always be brought in to preserve it, or it could be claimed the sample or experiment is flawed.) This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument, it is of the same structure of all refutations.

As scientists you have two valid methods of response to such would be refutations you may reason; 1- Yes you have got us there, we cannot see how that could evolve, but there is so much evidence for evolution here, here and here that this truth may be accepted as an anomaly 2- That object could have evolved like so. My point is, after all those bombastic reasonings you cannot simply say “oh, that’s an argument from incredulity.” or “Oh, the people at the ICR say that all the time.” All arguments against theories are in a sense arguments from incredulity, in that they are based on a personal inability to fit a fact into a paradigm. If you block such arguments you make the falsification of evolution impossible, and you know what that means.

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements ( it is impossible to disprove completely a scientific theory, auxiliary hypotheses may always be brought in to preserve it, or it could be claimed the sample or experiment is flawed.) This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument, it is of the same structure of all refutations.

Except without a detailed and rigorous calculation of probabilities within the context of the theory it remains an argument from incredulity. Claiming low probabilities doesn’t refute a theory, demonstrating low probabilities is necessary.

Calculations of probability in evolutionary history need to include reliable estimates of population sizes, mutation rates, selection coefficients, ecological factors, and lots of other things which are no doubt obvious to trained biologists.

I agree whole heartedly with you Zarquon, unless creationists and IDists can demonstrate low probabilities, they haven’t a prayer ( if you’ll forgive the pun.) But sometimes it’s seems they make genuine attempts to do this and they are just palmed of with “that’s an argument from incredulity by people on this website. I am not saying that’s the only answer they get but I believe both sides of the arguement should be far more careful when they use terms like “gaps” and “arguement from ignorance”. I am not saying the mere recital of “how could this evolve?” is enough, but rather that such questions deserve answers, or at least sincere explanations of why answers are not avaliable at the moment, but probably will be in the future.

Someone said earlier that scientists would prefer coherentist models of justification, I disagree. The problems are simply to great and involve circularity. While we are on the topic of epistemology, If anyone’s intrested I have devolped my own theory, basically we are entitled to believe a statement if it is of a charcter nessceary to learn lanuage or it follows logically from such axioms, plus any emprical data which we can muster. I argue that epistemologies are axiomatic systems which are designed to preserve our intutions about knowledge and should not be based on some desprate attempt to “Prove” all our beliefs “Proved”. The only criteria we need in accepting a epistemological system is that it alows us to preserve the bulk of our intutions about knowledge ( i.e that A=A that things that are true by definition are true etc.) If we went for a criteria of “Truth” we would run into the following problem, any evidence for a system would have to be phrased in terms of that very system! Ergo, any truth arguements for epistemological systems are circular.

I object to your listing of “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” as a bad argument.

It’s not an argument, it’s an assertion.

if used in any other field of science would be recognized as ridiculous, the argument from incredulity is not in fact a fallacy but perfectly legitmate

An argument from incredulity is of the form “I find this incredible; therefore it’s false”. Such fallacies are recognized in every field of science as ridiculous.

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements

No, refutations are based on falsification.

This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument

It’s not an argument, it’s a claim. An argument requires valid justification for the claim, something IDists have failed to provide.

you cannot simply say “oh, that’s an argument from incredulity.”

You can always say that of an argument from incredulity, and it’s all that need to be said.

Paulo Cavalcanti Wrote:

[backpedaling furiously] But sometimes it’s seems they make genuine attempts to do this and they are just palmed of with “that’s an argument from incredulity by people on this website.

No, it never seems that way.

Someone said: I can’t think of a single argument made by ID that wasn’t made first by the ICR-ites decades ago. Not a one. Everything from “evolution is atheistic” to “what good is half an eye” to “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” to “the Cambrian explosion”.

Can anyone think of any ID arguments that aren’t just plagiarized versions of old ICR standards?

I reply: I object to your listing of “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” as a bad argument.

The objection was not that it was a bad argument (although it is). The objection was that it’s just a plagiarized version of the same old crap that ICR has been putting out for thirty-some years now.

On the one hand, ID keeps insisting that it isn’t creation ‘science’. On the other hand, ALL of its arguments are the very same ones that creation ‘scientists’ made decades ago.

Hmmmm . … .

coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s ass

I’m more a leg man, myself.

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements ( it is impossible to disprove completely a scientific theory, auxiliary hypotheses may always be brought in to preserve it, or it could be claimed the sample or experiment is flawed.) This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument, it is of the same structure of all refutations.

How does one calculate these odds. And how low is “too low”.

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of creationists and IDers give me “impossibly low” odds for everything from abiogenesis to the evolution of an eye. For some strange reason, though, NONE of these “odds” are ever the same. Which indicates to me that either (1) creationists/IDers can’t do sixth grade math, or (2) they are all pulling these numbers right out of their butts.

Which is it?

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of creationists and IDers give me “impossibly low” odds for everything from abiogenesis to the evolution of an eye. For some strange reason, though, NONE of these “odds” are ever the same. Which indicates to me that either (1) creationists/IDers can’t do sixth grade math, or (2) they are all pulling these numbers right out of their butts. Which is it?

Or both–those possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive, after all.

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of creationists and IDers give me “impossibly low” odds for everything from abiogenesis to the evolution of an eye. For some strange reason, though, NONE of these “odds” are ever the same. Which indicates to me that either (1) creationists/IDers can’t do sixth grade math, or (2) they are all pulling these numbers right out of their butts. Which is it?

Or both–those possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive, after all.

This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument

There are several books and websites which can explain to you why that is the crappiest argument since crap came to craptown. For instance, it is dealt with here

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

under the CB section. Probably every argument you believe against evolution, is dealt with on that site.

“What I observe is true because I observe it” is a logical fallacy in that it is only self-serving and, in truth, begs the question. Fundamentally, science progresses by tests repeating leading to a concensus on the nature of something. But so long as people interpret the same thing different, say the “bunny in the clouds” of observations, there will not be a “truth” that is at the least codifiable. Math, for example, works only so well as we accept the criteria in which it operates. Under quantum math, for example, 2 + 2 can equal 87, given the unquantified variables possible in the universe that we simply have no math or name for. This also works by accepting symbology and what each character in the field I am typing actually represents. Truth is inferred, not implicit, by agreeing that it exists. Empricism, by means of actualizing an observation, makes assumptions that we agree with, under which we operate, and through which we interpret further observations.

“What I observe is true because I observe it” is a logical fallacy in that it is only self-serving and, in truth, begs the question. Fundamentally, science progresses by tests repeating leading to a concensus on the nature of something. But so long as people interpret the same thing different, say the “bunny in the clouds” of observations, there will not be a “truth” that is at the least codifiable. Math, for example, works only so well as we accept the criteria in which it operates. Under quantum math, for example, 2 + 2 can equal 87, given the unquantified variables possible in the universe that we simply have no math or name for. This also works by accepting symbology and what each character in the field I am typing actually represents. Truth is inferred, not implicit, by agreeing that it exists. Empricism, by means of actualizing an observation, makes assumptions that we agree with, under which we operate, and through which we interpret further observations.

This is from an article in the WaPo a while back about Phillip Johnson. I had been thinking about the weird connection between ID arguments against … science, basically, and some of the crazier out there leftist poststructural type philosophers. And then I read this and I was like, well there it is!

He was nudged along by his interest in “critical legal studies,” a left-wing movement that holds that the law is prejudice masquerading as objective truth. Asked to contribute a conservative critique for the Stanford Law Review, Johnson embraced the movement – sort of.

“I disliked intensely their infantile politics,” he says. “But their critique of liberal rationalism and the sham neutrality of rationalism helped me become a Christian. I became the entire right wing of critical legal studies.”

The relativism thing is CENTRAL to the agenda of the religious right. They actually stand behind cultural relativism and anti rationality as a position from which to make arguments against the possibility and value of a secular multicultural commons. This would be in order to demolish any claims to universal demonstrable humanist truth. Then in its place they would raise up the one revealed truth, which they control, their own particular sectarian interpretation of Christianity. I kind of see this as the real utility of ID to the christian right agenda. Discrediting the idea of demonstrable truth would be the sought after effect of introducing ID into public education.

From here it should be clear how destructive and aggressive this agenda is. They want to destroy the cultural commons that makes possible peaceful coexistence of different religions and traditions. The separation between church and state is meant to protect the churches. But all the churches and this is not okay. They want DOMINION.

Hey John:

(1) what is the scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

(2) What complaint, specifically, do you have with the scientific method, and how would you alter the scientific method, specifically, to accomodate your complaint (whatever it is).

I’m still waiting . … . … .

What seems to be the problem with your answering my simple questions?

Hey John:

(1) what is the scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

(2) What complaint, specifically, do you have with the scientific method, and how would you alter the scientific method, specifically, to accomodate your complaint (whatever it is).

I’m still waiting .….….

What seems to be the problem with your answering my simple questions?

Well . … ?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Yep, that’s what I thought . … . .

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on August 4, 2005 11:26 PM.

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