Our “innate” tendency to infer purpose in nature”

| 654 Comments | 1 TrackBack

On his Evolution List blog, Allen MacNeill discusses a paper written by one of his students of the Cornell ‘Evolution and Design’ seminar. The paper, written by Elena Broaddus, discusses the topic of our ““innate” tendency to infer purpose in nature”.

The posting starts with some interesting pictures of ‘faces’ found in nature. We are all very familiar with detecting ‘design’ in clouds and there are countless instances where people see faces or other attributes in natural objects. Elena addresses this ‘innate tendency’ that leads us to infer purpose in nature. Faces.jpg

Allen MacNeill Wrote:

I would like to draw some more attention to E. Broaddus paper on the “innate” tendency to infer purpose in nature. I have long suspected that humans (and perhaps many vertebrates, especially mammals) have this tendency. As an evolutionary psychologist, I at least partially subscribe to the idea that the human mind is composed primarily of “modules” whose functions are to process particular kinds of sensory information in such a way as to yield adaptive responses to complex environmental information. This is precisely what Broaddus argues for in her paper: that the human mind (and, by extension, the vertebrate “mind” in general) has a module that is adapted specifically for the precise and rapid inference of intentionality in nature. That such an “agency detector” (to use the commonly accepted term for such a module) would have immense adaptive value is obvious. In an environment in which other entities do indeed have “intentions” (i.e. predators, competitors, potential mates, etc.), the ability to detect and infer the possible consequences of acting upon such intentions would confer immense adaptive value on any organism with such an ability.

Other student papers can be found at the Evolution and Design website, which is the blogsite for the Cornell seminar.

The predicted existence of such an innate system to infer design may help explain why the Explanatory Filter has yet to be applied in any rigorous manner to detect design.

Read more at Evolution List

1 TrackBack

On Panda’s Thumb Pim Van Meurs preaches confidently to the choir that we are all biased in that we see faces in natural objects created by chance.  Evidently the take-home point Pim wishes to make is that this is equivalent to seeing machinery ... Read More

654 Comments

I can actually hear the DI, Dembski, Behe and IDiots et al verbalizing “Curses! Foiled again”!

And this is how, by “focusing exclusively on the mechanisms”, we can conclude that an intelligence is involved without being able to describe a single mechanism! Hey, just look. It’s obvious. An insight here into how Belief can continue to be reinforced even after rationality kicks in.

In other words, it’s the old animism issue. People are almost born animists, and have to learn how to think in terms of causality, etc.

Here’s one paper on it:

http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/home[…]0DiYanni.pdf

A point I would make is that we actually begin to think “cause” in terms of our own actions. That is to say, we learn that a “cause” is us thinking that we might do something, then deciding to do it. We thus tend to suppose that other humans and animals do much the same thing–but also that wind has decided to do harm to us, that waves target us as victims, that storms decided to destroy our crops.

Do dogs growl at ghosts? Well, nearly so, because they, too, tend to take threats as directed at themselves by some evil purpose. A threat is to be understood as purposefully evil until proven otherwise (habituation), since you can’t take the chance that perhaps it is all just accidental.

We think of purpose as being revealed by rationality and some known non-rational effects of humans. But a lot of people think of purpose as being nearly synonymous with function, as the IDists do.

“I can’t look at the design of the human body without thinking that there is some kind of purpose behind it.” That is the sentiment expressed by creos/IDists in various ways. And it is the truth, most of them can’t look at function without thinking of purpose, since they have never gotten beyond the stage of thinking along the lines of “this is for that” (“the arm is for reaching”), which is how we first learn about body relations. It is sad that so many think on such a low level, but it is true that they do.

In a sense, then, it seems not to be Xianity that underlies the opposition of many religionists, rather it is a sort of animism that pre-dates Xianity. Christianity in its most idealized and philosophical version tends to see God behind everything, but not having touched anything that we see, He being so much beyond our thoughts and actions that He would not deign to “design” in a manner redolent of human design.

However, someone like Dembski wants it both ways, that we can recognize intelligent design in organisms just like we do with machines, yet the fact that organisms are quite unlike our designs is due to the fact that the designer is “unknown” (essentially a religious statement, btw, since even aliens could not be posited to be behind anything if they were not considered to be known in some manner (for instance, as rational designers), and only God is regularly posited to be an unknown Cause).

In closing, I would disagree somewhat with Pim’s suggestion that the tendency to see purpose in nature is behind the fact that ID isn’t applied rigorously anywhere. They’re not coming up with ID through rigorous thought, certainly, but if they could apply it rigorously they would love to do so. It’s just that every attempt to use (legitimate hypotheses of) ID rigorously fails.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

If you venture onto the Evolution and Design blog, be forewarned: MacNeill put Hannah Maxson, president of the Cornell IDEA Club, in charge of the blog, and they have “ground rules” rather more restrictive than here at PT. For example, I had one post censored in which I mentioned the “Gish gallop”.

Ah, that would explain why my posts were disallowed there. An IDiot is in charge.

This may also explain other pathologies, such as seeing conspiracies everywhere. It is interesting that this can occur in very intelligent and creative people to the point of nearly paralyzing their normal functionality. Threatening patterns run amok, with no means to sort out which are specious and which are real, can be very scary.

Perhaps, with this perspective as a guide, methods could be developed which would help such patients sort out what is real what can be ignored by developing new networks of patterns in their brains. Certainly the very methods of science are themselves directed at just this kind of pattern sorting and validation.

A psych prof friend once tried to explain to me that one of the symptoms of schizophrenia is sensing patterns where there aren’t any. I suspect it’s our natural ability – or tendency, or possibly even need – to recognize patterns that gives some of us the susceptibility to snake-oil like ID.

Re Comment #121324:

Actually, very early in the summer when things started heating up at the Evolution and Design website, Hannah and I stumbled upon a very equitable system of moderation. She (a self-avowed IDer) was in charge of moderating people clearly identifiable as ID supporters, whereas I (a vehement pro-evolutionist) was in charge of moderating people clearly identifiable as EB (“evolutionary biology”) supporters. After a few difficult cases, it seemed to work out pretty well. Both of us were suitably abashed by the intemperate remarks put forth by people we viewed as being on “our side,” and both of us took care to let nearly all comments through, unless they clearly (indeed, egregiously) violated the clearly stated “rules of engagement.” Within a day or two it became apparent to me that almost everyone had stopped hurling epithets and started providing reasoned support for their arguments (or not, in which case it was blindingly obvious to everyone reading the comments who was playing fast and loose with the truth).

As I pointed out in the latest post at our website, I don’t think anyone changed their mind as a result of the seminar, but I do believe that most of us came away with a much clearer and more comprehensive grasp of the issues and how each side viewed them, and what kinds of evidence each side used to defend their views (or not, as the case may be). Furthermore, there was strong concensus at the end of the course that almost all of what most people think of as evolutionary biology (and quite literally all of what Darwin presented in the Origin of Species) is virtually untouched by ID, which focusses almost exclusively on issues surrounding the origin of life and the genetic code, plus a few selected biochemical pathways (and, of course, the bacterial flagellum). We spent a week deconstructing Michael Behe and William Dembski’s arguments (and their books) and found that the much-vaunted Darwin’s Black Box says virtually nothing about nearly all of evolutionary theory (and that even Behe himself concedes that there is “strong evidence” for common descent), and that Dembski’s “explanatory filter” and “complex specified information,” while mildly interesting from the standpoint of probability theory, has almost no demonstrable application to real-world biological systems.

Therefore, far from undermining evolutionary biology, the works of these two authors (taken at face value) have almost no relevence to the great bulk of evolutionary biology. Furthermore, all of the participants (including the ID supporters) rejected Phillip Johnson’s The Wedge of Truth as pure political polemic, not worthy of our time and attention; indeed, one of the most ardent ID supporters stated “That isn’t ID.” If not, then at least for the participants on the notorious Cornell evolution and design seminar, ID is an entirely theoretical hypothesis restricted to the origin of life, the origin of the genetic code, and the origin of a few selected biochemical pathways (and the bacterial flagellum), currently lacking empirical verification and without clearly defined methodologies for verification or falsification.

Perhaps, with this perspective as a guide, methods could be developed which would help such patients sort out what is real what can be ignored by developing new networks of patterns in their brains.

Sounds to me like devising a foolproof methodology for leading a horse to water.

Perhaps, with this perspective as a guide, methods could be developed which would help such patients sort out what is real what can be ignored by developing new networks of patterns in their brains.

Sounds to me like devising a foolproof methodology for leading a horse to water.

And (OT) this site definitely needs to sit on a bigger server, or fatter data pipes, or something. There’s a means of making donations; if some of this could be earmarked for that purpose, I for one would pony up a few bucks.

I would only point out that there is a big difference between “purpose” and “pattern”. Pointing out that there may be inherent predispositions towards extracting patterns from observation has a lot of evidentiary support.

Claiming the same of “purpose” is entirely anthropomorphic, subjective, and has NO evidentiary support.

MacNeill I’m sure has studied the concept of search patterns.

this concept is not defacto extensible to the concpet of “purpose” in the teleological sense.

clarification:

by “search patterns” I’m specifically referring the ethological concept of “search images”.

Re Comment #121347:

Actually, the concept of “agency” (that is, of purposeful action) is currently a hot topic in evolutionary psychology, with quite a bit of empirical evidence (and more coming as we speak). For example, see:

Atran, S. & Norenzayan, A. (2006) Religion’s evolutionary landscape: Counterintuition, commitment, compassion, communion. Forthcoming in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Abstract available at http://artsci.wustl.edu/~pboyer/Rel[…]e/index.html

[From the abstract]: “A key feature of the supernatural agent concepts common to all religions is the triggering of an “Innate Releasing Mechanism,” or “agency detector,” whose proper (naturally selected) domain encompasses animate objects relevant to hominid survival — such as predators, protectors, and prey — but that actually extends to moving dots on computer screens, voices in wind, and faces on clouds.”

This is precisely the kind of “agency detector” that Broaddus referes to in her paper, and which is currently under investigation by several teams of researchers at several universities. The ability to detect “agents” (that is, entities that act with purposeful intent) is widespread in the kingdom animalia, and has very high adaptive value. It is my contention that this ability, which is almost certainly innate, leads to the kinds of “false positives” that characterize the arguments of most ID supporters.

Re: Comment #121320

The proposition that the knowledge of “self” comes before the knowledge of “other” is quite interesting. It’s almost opposite a proposal that I had read about a few years ago.

The proposal was that, to be a successful social animal, the species had to evolve the ability to detect and understand the intentions of others, so that one could predict and reason about the responses of others to one’s own actions. “If I steal his food, is he going to hit me, or is he going to sit and cry?” With this successful wiring in place, it’s not a large leap to then co-opt that wiring be able to predict *our* responses to others. That is, we could begin to reason about ourselves as well as others. Viola, “consciousness”. But if the knowledge of “self” comes first, that proposition may not be reasonable.

I hear ya Bill. It seems to me that with all the internets being sent here the tubes get clogged like there’s no tomorrow.

This tendency to identify patterns and “intent” in natural phenomena remind me of insects whose wings have false eyespots on them, which resemble the gaze of some predator or other. Apparently even the “lower” animals “know” enough about intent to avoid an unblinking pair of peepers, even if the peepers are only facade.

Excellent link Allen

Full text can be viewed at this link

Furthermore, all of the participants (including the ID supporters) rejected Phillip Johnson’s The Wedge of Truth as pure political polemic, not worthy of our time and attention; indeed, one of the most ardent ID supporters stated “That isn’t ID.”

Alas, it *is* ID. ID is, indeed, nothing but one big long political polemic. As the Wedge Document makes crushingly clear.

It appears to me that the IDer’s start with a conclusion and work backwards. Therefore, they don’t detect an agent, rather, they assume the agent is there and look for its tracks.

Quite different from the mechanism you propose, which, in fact, should be the way things work.

So, the question I would pose to Allen following his most excellent posting summarizing the results of his summer session is, well, several questions:

What is the current status of ID research?

With Behe and Dembski essentially marginalized, who are the scientists working on the theory of ID?

What is the role of the Discovery Institute and why are they so keen on influencing Boards of Education?

“A key feature of the supernatural agent concepts common to all religions is the triggering of an “Innate Releasing Mechanism,” or “agency detector,” whose proper (naturally selected) domain encompasses animate objects relevant to hominid survival — such as predators, protectors, and prey — but that actually extends to moving dots on computer screens, voices in wind, and faces on clouds.”

and i still claim you are imposing teleology where it doesn’t belong.

take the example of clouds that PvM posted.

this is NOT an example of recognizing “purpose” in the clouds. It is, however, an example of recognizing patterns in clouds.

It is correct to attempt to elucidate the evolutionary significance of pattern recognition; face recognition being an obvious one, and one with a good history in the literature.

It is INCORRECT to infer recognizing “purpose” in the same set of circumstances.

It overlays a set of teleological assumptions that I have yet to see warranted, even including the reference you cited.

Hey, call me an old-school ethologist, but I still don’t see you have made a case for this yet.

I can be convinced though.

show me how the idea of applying “purpose” explains the observed phenomena better than applying more straightforward interpretations of pattern recognition and search images.

a simpler question would be:

Where do you fall on the explanation for why puppy dogs seem “cute” to most people?

…even simpler:

explain to me why the authors in the paper cited put quotation marks around

“Innate Releasing Mechanism”

As others have commented, the notion of an innate “intentionality detector” with evolutionary origins is a hot topic in evolutionary psychology, and has considerable empirical support. It is a special case of innate pattern detection, triggered by certain visual patterns (e.g. eye-like phenomena), directional behaviors, and so on.

Striking elements of it are common to most primates - for example, chimps and many other primates display innate “gaze following” (following another’s gaze to determine where the other is looking). There have also been some very interesting empirical demonstrations that chimps understand what their cohorts see and have seen, and therefore know, and use that information in competing for foodstuffs.

Gaze following unfolds in human beings at a very early developmental age (by 12 to 18 months) and is the foundation of the uniquely human capacity to engage in episodes of triangulated “joint attention” that are so crucial to human learning and human culture. A related topic is the very interesting phenomena of mirror neurons and related neurological machinery adapted to enabling us to understand one another in terms of goal directed actions. These are clearly (IMHO) the expression of evolutionary adaptations.

Sometimes, however, agency detection is is deployed inappropriately, as when “intention,” and hence agency, is inappropriately projected onto events in nature.

Allen MacNeill Wrote:

…ID is an entirely theoretical hypothesis restricted to the origin of life, the origin of the genetic code, and the origin of a few selected biochemical pathways (and the bacterial flagellum), currently lacking empirical verification and without clearly defined methodologies for verification or falsification.

That’s a verbose way to say “God of the Gaps”.

“If not, then at least for the participants on the notorious Cornell evolution and design seminar, ID is an entirely theoretical hypothesis restricted to the origin of life, the origin of the genetic code, and the origin of a few selected biochemical pathways (and the bacterial flagellum), currently lacking empirical verification and without clearly defined methodologies for verification or falsification.”

Anyone still wanting to push this into the high school curriculum needs to read this.

Re comment #121365:

Three questions were posed. The following are my answers to these questions, as they did not explicitly come up in this format this summer:

(1) What is the current status of ID research?

As far as I know, there is no empirical research that either validates or falsifies any of the principle claims of the primary authors of ID texts (i.e. Michael Behe and William Dembski, but also including David Berlinski, Guillermo Gonzalez, Stephen Meyer, and Jonathan Wells). Only Behe and Dembski have presented even quasi-empirical applications of ID theory. The remainder fall into the same category that Phillip Johnson did this summer - that is, they write what amount to polemics based on opinion and speculation, nearly all of it negative (that is, they do not present positive hypotheses, they merely attack various aspects of evolutionary theory). As noted earlier, Behe and Dembski’s works were the primary focus of our seminar this summer, and the conclusions most of us arrived at have already been noted.

I believe that the primary reason that there is essentially no empirical research being done to either validate or falsify ID theory is that ID theory in general does not consist of positive hypotheses that can be empirically tested. As many have pointed out, Behe’s concept of “irreducible complexity” is based almost entirely on ignorance and lack of information, rather than on “first principles” (i.e. on theoretical formulations that lead to the conclusion that the evolution of “irreducibly complex” objects or processes are impossible).

Dembski’s mathematical speculations remain precisely that: speculations without the slightest shred of empirical support. After spending many hours working through Dembski’s mathematics, we concluded that it is currently impossible to use his “explanatory filter” (as expressed in mathematical terms) to determine if a given biological entity quallifies as “complex specified information” (CSI). Although Dembski’s mathematics are mildly interesting from a purely intellectual standpoint, they do not lend themselves to making actual calculations, again because there are so many unknown variables that must be quantified before his equation(s) for CSI can acually yield confirmatory or disconfirmitory judgements.

Therefore, unless someone undertakes a program of research tha proposes a series of testable positive hypotheses based on ID theory that can be empirically validated, it appears likely that ID theory will eventually come to the same fate as Bergson and Deleuze’s concept of élan vital; a footnote to the progress of empirical science, of interest only to those interested in failed pseudoscientific “theories.”

(2) With Behe and Dembski essentially marginalized, who are the scientists working on the theory of ID?

As far as I know, there are none. With the possible exception of Guillermo Gonzalez, all of the other authors listed above do not perform empirical research. Rather, they pursue an essentially negative program of attacking evolutionary biology and proposing philosophical speculations (based almost entirely on fundamentalist Christian theology) as a substitute.

(3) What is the role of the Discovery Institute and why are they so keen on influencing Boards of Education?

The Discovery Institute is a purely political entity, not currently engaged in any form of empirical research (nor supporting such research in either monetary or other ways), whose entire function appears to be to promote a political program intended to force a basically fundamentalist Christian viewpoint into the public schools and, eventually into local, state, and national governments and laws. These goals are explicitly stated by the directors of the Discovery Institute in the “wedge document” and have been its primary raison d’etre since its inception.

We did not directly discuss the Discovery Institute, the “wedge document,” the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial and decision, nor the writings of any of the polemicists listed above. This was a deliberate decision on the part of the participants in the seminar, as we all wanted to restrict our analysis and discussion to the scientific claims of the principle ID theorists. This is why we dismissed Phillip Johnson’s book, The Wedge of Truth and why we spent relatively little time discussing Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker, as both were essentially “position statements,” rather than scientific analyses. I my opinion, the same can essentially be said for Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, leaving only Dembski’s The Design Inference as the only non-polemical work in all of ID “theory.” And, as noted above, we concluded that Dembski’s mathematical work only suggests a possible way of distinguishing between “natural” and “designed” objects and processes, without presenting an empirically testable way of so distinguishing.

So, was the whole exercise “worth it?” It was indeed, as it helped all of us come to clarity on many of the foregoing points. As I have stated elsewhere, I don’t think anyone changed her/his mind over the course of the summer, but I believe (based on our discussions, especially during the last class) that we did come to some clarity on the issues, on the kinds of arguments made by both sides, and the kinds of evidence that would qualify as confirmative or disconfirmative on either side of the issue. Currently, there is abundant confirmative evidence for most of evolutionary theory (with the exception of the origin of life, the genetic code, and selected biochemical pathways) and virtually no empirical confirmative evidence for ID theory. Unless ID “theorists” take steps to become ID “scientists,” this situation is unlikely to change.

Currently, there is abundant confirmative evidence for most of evolutionary theory (with the exception of the origin of life, the genetic code, and selected biochemical pathways)

AFAIK, the origin of life (abiogenesis) and the genetic code (what about the genetic code?) are not part of evolutionary theory. So that leaves selected biochemical pathways which we would like to know more about (which pathwas, BTW?), and about which ID makes no positive claims. So ID is not scientifically vacuous because…

As I have stated elsewhere, I don’t think anyone changed her/his mind over the course of the summer, but I believe (based on our discussions, especially during the last class) that we did come to some clarity on the issues, on the kinds of arguments made by both sides, and the kinds of evidence that would qualify as confirmative or disconfirmative on either side of the issue. Currently, there is abundant confirmative evidence for most of evolutionary theory (with the exception of the origin of life, the genetic code, and selected biochemical pathways) and virtually no empirical confirmative evidence for ID theory.

Kind of exhausing trying to wade through the meticulously careful political correctness here, which has served only to muddy the semantics almost beyond recognition.

There is no “ID theory.” There is only the irremediable religious position statement. Goddidit. With that as a given, of course nobody is going to change their mind. Blather about the “kinds of evidence” that might undermine ID is fatuous: ID is not based on any evidence, and exists in flat-out defiance of any and all relevant evidence. Furthermore, it cannot possibly be otherwise. Allow evidence’s foot in the door, and ID evaporates like it never existed. Contrast with the politically correct “virtually no emprical comfirmative evidence for ID theory.” When, as is obvious, there is no such thing as ID theory, and evidence is irrelevant to the Believers. Sheesh. Let us not break our intellectual backs bending over to give the benefit of nonexistent doubt.

And just what is THE “Theory of ID” again?

Note: 1)Life ‘not being an accident’(or any other subjective judgment) is not an objective theory, it’s a subjective belief.

2)Life (seemingly complex to some) having ‘not evolved’ is not an objective theory, its a subjective belief

3)Disparaging another theory with simple negatives while not providing positive evidence is not an objective theory, its a subjective belief.

The ‘Theory of ID’ is like the weather, never the same twice, just like the gods.

meh, i can wait to debate the particulars of search imagery vs. “intent imagery” some other day.

Let us not break our intellectual backs bending over to give the benefit of nonexistent doubt.

indeed, while both sides apparently “learned something”, according to Allen, both sides just as equally did not change “her/his mind over the course of the summer”.

What this shows, as most here already could have guessed, is that no matter how much we attempt to “break our intellectual backs”, people given to the ID worldview (the vast majority of that differing little from an essentially creationist mindset), will not be swayed by any argument of reason or evidence.

Heck, if Allen couldn’t do it by carefully walking through all the relevant literature, step by step, I tend to think it simply can’t be done.

In the same way, I can also guess that those who think Francis collins will have better luck with his “approach” will end up being disappointed as well.

I’m tempted to say:

“Can we just get on with the inevitable game of whack-a-mole now, and put aside all attempts at reconciliation?”

but, I suppose there might yet be some way of putting this idiocy to rest that involves some sort of intellectual argument. Anything is possible.

bottom line though, the evidence to me, and others here, seems to point to a potential underlying psychological malady that creates this kind of worldview. This is also suggested by the cites posted in this thread, previous research on heritability of ultra-religious behavior that was posted here last year, and just about every long-term discussion any of us have had with those who purport to be YEC’s or IDers (the denial and projection are obvious and rampant in just about every post they make).

Until we have the courage to deal with it like the current approach our society takes towards alcholism, I see little progress being made to reduce the impact the creationist worldview is having on american society at large.

You can’t talk a creationist out of being a creationist, or at least, one has about the same chance of success as talking an alcoholic out of being a alcoholic.

Point of clarification: the last picture in the series is the “Nun Bun” from the Bongo Java coffee house in Nashville, TN. It is a cinamon roll and is definitely man-made.

Sir Toe Jam Wrote:

Heck, if Allen couldn’t do it by carefully walking through all the relevant literature, step by step, I tend to think it simply can’t be done.

In the same way, I can also guess that those who think Francis collins will have better luck with his “approach” will end up being disappointed as well.

I think the two approaches are somewhat different. First of all, you have a stark contrast apparently set up between “ID” and “Evolution” when you compare them directly against each other, and in such cases ID offers the following assurances to its audience: 1) There is a God. 2) Your mama was not a monkey (the “hardline” IDists all seem to be common descent and old earth acceptors, but of course they try to stuff everybody into the big tent and their arguments implicitly make this sort of case without actually saying that humans did or didn’t evolve from other primates so long as the person listening to them wants to hear it) 3) Those scientists think they’re so smart, well they’re not! 4) The other side automatically disputes every previous point (by assumption) and so hold extremely ideas from yourself.

Collins and Miller, on the other hand, aren’t challenging 1 at all, in fact they are steadfast in their belief that it’s true. So it’s not the God side versus the Non-God side, and this is important when you consider the likely make-up of people sympathetic to ID. This will establish a point of commonality between them and prospective ID marks. This works in their favor to help shake off the anti-intellectual/anti-scientific 3, and blatantly contradicts any assumption of 4 on the part of the audience. Since so much of ID revolves around setting up “Darwinism” as a materialist, atheistic, Liberal, Nazi-Communist conspiracy, knocking out those significant points of propoganda will drive you a long way towards making IDiots seem like the empty-headed political demagogues they are. Sometimes you have to get somebody to peek before you can get them to open wide and take a solid look around, and I feel that having outspoken theists like Collins, Miller, the Vatican, Episcopalians, etc. publically and loudly insist that Evolution ISN’T the Big Scary Atheist Plot is definitely going to help more than hurt. It acts to visibly destroy the claims made by the ID movement. In fact this is also part of the reason why I don’t feel science and evolution advocates should layer attacks on religion in general with their attacks on pseudoscientific political activists, because such things will actively reinforce the babble-points of the ID propoganda machine.

I’m tempted to say:”Can we just get on with the inevitable game of whack-a-mole now, and put aside all attempts at reconciliation?” but, I suppose there might yet be some way of putting this idiocy to rest that involves some sort of intellectual argument. Anything is possible.

I think it all depends on the level of resolution you’re going for. I definitely think the eradication of religion is out of the question and shouldn’t be pursued under the same banner as eradicating anti-evolution. Creating a more informed public that can see through ID bullshit for themselves is the first and probably the most difficult step, at least I assume this would be the case in the US because of our underfunded and much-abused public education system (I sometimes entertain ideas that the right is actively sabotaging it so they can say “See? We were right all along, and public education is a waste! Private schools for all!”). A more achievable short-term goal would probably be to defuse much of the tension between religious groups and secular science, because provocation isn’t going to make people suddenly more reasonable, rational, and agreeable. This doesn’t even have to be confined to the voicing of theistic evolutionists, it can also come from neutral treatments outside of purely religion/science, like Dr. Pennock’s books on Creationism which don’t ever give the impression of any personal religious beliefs at all but present the cases free of bias, informatively and academically, while still revealing the anti-evolutionist movers to be clownishly inept and hopelessly thickskulled besides being factually wrong. Honestly that’s the tactic I prefer to use myself, not calling upon religion but not dismissing religion as idiocy either.

bottom line though, the evidence to me, and others here, seems to point to a potential underlying psychological malady that creates this kind of worldview.

I was thinking just that earlier today, with all the talk about “why aren’t we attacking religion enough here?” I see it as a problem of personality and psychology rather than religion or areligious beliefs, it’s a fundamental problem with the way some people think (or don’t think) of things, especially in regards to the possibility of themselves being ignorant and wrong, rather than whether or not they choose to believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Consider the almost unfailing tendency of Creation proponents to recycle and reguritate decades-old bull despite being irrefutably and demonstrably wrong . Specific examples include the ever popular Duane Gish. In this view, it’s more a matter of how a person deals with their own self-image and error than in whether or not they’re part of a religion, a fundamental deviancy in their reasoning faculty that would affect them regardless of whether the specific issue at hand was evolution, global warming, or whether the internet is evil. I’m sure there are homologous examples beyond the Creationist sphere, in other areas of interest. Iffin’ it weren’t religion, it’d be somethin’ else.

You can’t talk a creationist out of being a creationist, or at least, one has about the same chance of success as talking an alcoholic out of being a alcoholic.

That’s why I don’t even argue for the sake of Creationists anymore. I gave that up long ago. But I always argue to the bitter end for the sake of the spectators, the fence-sitters, those who don’t know about this whole “evolution” thing but might be willing to give it a shot if only somebody would teach them about it.

Larsson Wrote:

“Nor does ID have a competitor when it comes to detecting design.… “By lawful definition creation is the act of an intelligent designer, creationism is the act of a supernatural intelligent designer.”

Again, are you serious? Forensics detects agency and design, albeit not ID design.

First of all that can only be determined a priori. Remember that ID argues that design cannot be captured by regularity and chance. Arguing that forensic science detects design has no relevancy unless one can show that this kind of design is not reducible to regularity and chance. Now, both you and I may believe that the kind of design in forensics is in fact reducible to chance and regularity and we know that ID’s approach is not how forensics detects design, yet neither one is sufficient to reject ID’s claims a priori.

Larsson Wrote:

If anything I think this has clearly shown why there is a conflict about giving seminars looking into ID as if it is science. It is essential to clearly state that is is pseudoscience done by nonscientists at all times, since this is a clear reflection of the facts. We can’t be confused over this.

No argument with that.

Larsson Wrote:

One can’t on one hand say that ID “fails to be scientifically relevant either as a hypothesis or a metatheory”, on the other say that comes from within the scientific society when it fails and no biologist or experiment is involved.

Again, your arguments are unnecessarily ad hominem. Even if you were right and no biologist were involved, this still should not affect the scientific claims made. Additionally, experiments are also not necessarily a requirement for science, unless you want to retract your argument about string theory. In fact, IDers would argue that experiments are involved, in the sense of applying the ID methodology. With little success I would argue or little relevance but we cannot ignore this. Scientists can make hypotheses which can fail to be scientifically relevant.

But you are repeating your earlier argument without looking to my objections, thus forcing me to repeat myself. I don’t see any sense in continuing.

I am sorry to hear that. Nevertheless, your objections seem to be somewhat ad hoc: why accept string theory and not ID when testability or experiments are so important in rejecting ID? In the end, even your objections suggest that ID cannot be rejected a priori. To argue that ID does not involve scientists or biologists or whatever has no relevance to its claims, unless one wants to use the demarcation argument of ‘only scientists can contribute to, or question science’. Not a very good demarcation argument.

Look, we both seem to agree that ID is vacuous, and pseudo-science, all we disagree on is the question of how this was established, a priori via some fixed rules or a posteriori based on scientists’ investigations.

I am arguing that rejecting ID because it ‘contradicts MN’, or ‘wants to extend MN’ or ‘ID is not done by scientists or biologists’ or ‘ID is religiously motivated’ are fallacious anbd have no relevance to establishing the veracity of vacuity of ID’s claims. In other words, even though the demarcation problem may be something only philosophers struggle with (although even scientists seem to struggle with this), this is again no reason to reject demarcation arguments as irrelevant to ID. We cannot just change the rules for ID just because…

And this went on even over labor day weekend?

Yes, ID is religion masquerading as science (which is what I assume you meant to state). But to claim that ‘those of us who understand science emphasize the fact that ID isn’s science’ is needlessly ad hominem as well as a meaningless statement.

You could try dealing with what science is, and the necessity for present or future evidence to decide issues in science, that I brought up a number of times.

Since you, no more than IDists, fail to respond to the criteria that decide what is science (not perfectly or exactly, but well enough to distinguish rank pseudoscience from science), what else am I to say?

The fact is that, as per your previous practices, you have focused on the less substantive post of mine. And you have focused on the less detailed issues, preferring to attack me for “ad hominems” when you have consistently failed to address substance.

ID’s religious motivations do not make ID scientifically vacuous,

That’s what I said.

it’s the consequences of ID’s hypotheses which make it so.

You have once again failed to address the question of what makes their hypotheses “scientific” in the first place. Again it’s dirty pool on your part.

And it seems that there are those who do understand science (and philosophy of science) who have come to realize this.

Why don’t you for once detail how ID is a scientific hypothesis, and how it’s consequences are all that can make it unscientific?

We’ve brought up the faulty terminology and the metaphysical ideas that IDists try to put into their “hypotheses”. That you haven’t answered our charges after all this time is a pretty good indication that you have no answers whatsoever, but will only continue to re-write the false conception of “science” that you share with the IDists.

It’s increasingly obvious that you have no substantive response to make to our statements.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Glen mostly asserted that those familiar with science would understand the problems with my arguments and realize that ID is vacuous, further suggesting that my position would make it impossible to reject the teaching of ID in schools on constitutional grounds. As far as your contributions are concerned, I remember idiocy and some other terms but none of them struck me as particularly relevant. If I missed some of your more relevant comments then I am surely interested in hearing about them.

Emphasis added.

I guess Pim is done with trying to best the IDists in dealing with evidence, and simply resorting to IDist tactics of mischaracterizing his opponents’ statements and tactics. I did not “mostly” state what he claimed, I wrote a long post dealing with a number of matters that he completely ignored in order to misrepresent what I had written. Here it is again, Pim, and try to deal honestly at least in matters where you can so easily be shown to be wrong:

PvM Wrote:
Popper Wrote:

All very good ideas.

Especially that your argument is against a strawman.

Especially since your argument fails in supporting logic. Care to expand so that we can determine indeed if my argument is one against a strawman. Fill the heads of people with science… Allen’s seminar seems to be doing exactly this.

It appears that that is in question at the present. I’m not saying that I know for sure that it is not filling heads with science, but with the suggestions that ID is a “theoretical hypothesis” or a scientific hypothesis, we have reason to doubt the claim.

PvM Wrote:

And yet some consider it to be a failure if it cannot be shown to have changed the minds of IDers involved. By that standard perhaps every single posting on PT and other ID critical sites are failures because they fail, by themselves to convince IDers of much of anything. And yet, every single one forms a seed of doubt which eventually may expand and grow into skepticism, asking the right questions and exploring how science truly deals with issues and compare this to ID approaches.

For myself, I would make less of the fact that minds are not obviously changed, and more of the fact that there is little evidence of these “seeds of doubt”. In fact, what appears to be happening is that you are being persuaded toward ID foundations.

PvM Wrote:

Thus perhaps your position is far more of a strawman

As I said, for myself I wouldn’t make much of the “results of the seminar”, especially since they’re so nebulous to us.

Popper Wrote:

PvM frames the goal as convincing IDers that ID is scientifically vacuous. But that’s not the goal; the goal is to produce a scientifically literate society, and that can’t be achieved by convincing two IDers here and two IDers there that ID doesn’t have a scientific foundation.

PvM Wrote:

In fact, if we have sufficient ‘here and there’s’ it seems inevitable that this will improve the level of scientific literacy in this country. Of course, we should be very aware that scientific literacy, or lack thereof is not limited to just ID proponents either.

That is so. Your characterization of what science is leaves much to be desired.

PvM Wrote:

To ‘argue’ that this is my unique and only goal seems well, a bit of a strawman.

For instance I wrote

I think that the course has exposed the scientific vacuity of intelligent design and while few if any may have changed their immediate positions, it has helped spread the seed of doubt.

Remember that upto this seminar most IDers had not been exposed to much of any of the critical arguments against ID. Especially not at the level of the supposedly ‘scientific’ claims of ID. Different audiences require different approaches to expose them to the many problems of ID. As such Allen’s course has been an excellent opportunity to do exactly that. By showing how not only ID is scientifically vacuous but also how teleology and purpose in biology are not surprising given the processes involved. In other words, evolutionary processes are inherently teleological. That’s why we talk about apparent versus actual design for instance.

Yes, again you are on the side of the IDists in your characterization of biology. That you claim that evolutionary processes are teleological does not heal the damage that you may be doing to science in your mistaken conception of science.

MacNeill himself wrote this in his course description (emphasis added):

The current debate over “intelligent design theory” is only the latest phase in the perennial debate over the question of design in nature. Beginning with Aristotle’s “final cause,” this idea was the dominant explanation for biological adaptation in nature until the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Darwin’s work united the biological sciences with the other natural sciences by providing a non-teleological explanation for the origin of adaptation. However, Darwin’s theory has been repeatedly challenged by theories invoking design in nature.

By the way, I rarely if ever speak of “apparent design” in nature. There is no design apparent when one looks closely, without prejudice, and with a knowledge of the types of effects which evolution produces.

PvM Wrote:
Glen Wrote:
PvM Wrote:

That’s simple: My definition of design is the same as Dembski’s: The set theoretic complement of chance and regularity.

Now defend it using science and its standards, not ID metaphysics.

Let’s first establish that the statement as formulated above is a coherent and consistent definition, even if design were to be found to be the empty set. After all, from the definition alone it may not be self evident that it IS the empty set, a-priori.

And what of that? I implied that it could be a reasonable proposition in philosophy. What you are not doing, either above or below, is backing up your claim that it is a scientific understanding of “design”.

PvM Wrote:

As far as using science, that’s relatively simple, you formulate a hypothesis H and calculate the probability P(T|H) where T is the event of interest. You then take the -log2 and call it information. You then repeat this for any known and unknown hypothesis and thus eliminate chance and regularity hypotheses. So far, this is relatively straightforward and yet very intractable. How does one calculate P(T|H) for any non trivial H? That by itself is not self evident, although IFF one could calculate this measure and IFF one could successfully eliminate any and all relevant hypotheses THEN one may conclude that that which remains is ‘design’. The problem here is that the meaning of the word design has lost its customary definition, and only by equivocation can one confuse the reader that information and design are similar to how one commonly uses these terms.

The real problem is that evidently you still do not understand that scientific hypotheses do not operate via the elimination of unscientific “phenomena” of “chance and regularity”. Not just anything that is a hypothesis is also a scientific hypothesis. So you’re going through the motions without heeding the requisites of science, causal chains (in classical science) and the essential need for evidence in favor of the hypothesis.

That is to say, a hypothesis needs to be tested against effects which are entailed by the antecedent causes. A real design hypothesis would say, humans design many things that involve rational solutions to a problem which appears to be addressed by these designs. Hence an apparent machine that has rational (as opposed to derived and adapted) solutions to an apparent problem may very well be designed by humans, or by human-like organisms (and we could add, via robotic processes as well).

And yes, you do understand the equivocations of “information” and “design” produced by IDists. Thus I do not know why you do not address adequately my point that IDists are not utilizing terms and understandings as real scientific hypotheses do.

PvM Wrote:
Glen Wrote:

Has any actual scientist ever accepted such a definition, that is, has he accepted it as a scientist? Let’s revisit what Jones wrote again, since I think it can’t be presented to Pim any too often:

Jones is neither a scientist nor did he address the design inference, mostly because Dembski withdrew as a witness.

That’s an appalling bit of misdirection. I quoted Jones because he was referring to a philosopher of science and an IDist, both of whom acknowledged that science would be changed if ID were to be included in science. You totally avoided my actual point, that Jones was relying upon “expert witnesses” in order to judge that ID is not science.

Jones addressed ID, not the stupid “design inference” that you keep defending, as if it were worthy of ours and the courts’ attention.

PvM Wrote:

However, that by itself says nothing about scientists accepting such a definition. Depending on whether on considers Del Ratzsch a scientist, he seems to have accepted the definition, very well aware of its limited nature.

And why would anyone consider Del Ratzsch a scientist? I have no information that he is anything but a philosopher of science. Philosophers of science do not uncommonly misunderstand science, though I do not know if Ratzsch generally does well or poorly in understanding science.

The important thing is that very few scientists, at best, accept such a poor formulation as a scientific hypothesis.

PvM Wrote:

I believe that most ID critics have implicitly come to accept this definition, not realizing how they were tricked into accepting a definition of design which rendered it succeptible to equivocation.

And what do they say that is not susceptible of equivocation [I missed the “critics” part first time around. Well, why not, unless one is trying very hard to understand Pim’s IDist view of science? After all, he is the one who actually accepts the IDist claim as if it were a “scientific hypothesis, not the rest of us.]? ? Do you still not understand that the “design inference” was made in order to introduce non-scientific terms and equivocation so that it could pass as science among the naive?

PvM Wrote:

The definition is the basis for the design inference.

Yes, and it fails even to reach the threshold of science.

PvM Wrote:

Richard Wein observes

Dembski has caused considerable confusion through his peculiar use of the terms “design” and “intelligent agency”. He defines “design” as “the set-theoretic complement of the disjunction regularity-or-chance” (TDI, p 36), i.e. it’s what is left over after eliminating regularity and chance explanations. But he also specifically denies that an inference of “design” necessarily entails intelligent agency:

‘Thus, even though a design inference is frequently the first step toward identifying an intelligent agent, design as inferred from the design inference does not logically entail an intelligent agent. The design that emerges from the design inference must not be conflated with intelligent agency.’ [TDI, p 9]

On the other hand, he never gives any additional criterion for distinguishing intelligent agency from mere “design”, and he goes on to write:

‘Yet in practice, to infer design is not simply to eliminate regularity and chance, but to detect the activity of an intelligent agent.’ [TDI, p 62]

I will not attempt to reconcile these apparently contradictory statements. Instead I will simply assume that the latter statement accurately reflects Dembski’s position, and will ignore the former statement. In other words, I will assume Dembski is claiming that rejection of chance and regularity does allow us to infer the involvement of an intelligent agent. This then allows us to consider the terms “design” and “intelligent agency” to be synonymous (and I assume they are both synonymous with the more widely used term “intelligent design”). If this assumption is not correct, then Dembski needs to clearly state what additional criterion is necessary to distinguish intelligent agency from mere “design”, or else recognise that the Design Inference cannot detect intelligent agency.

Wein accepts the latter definition of design, I think that he is too gracious here.

It is the only reasonable one, since it at least acknowledges that an effect needs a cause. And, it isn’t just Dembski’s two definitions that are incoherent, “design” without an agent is incoherent by itself.

As you refuse to invoke normal cause and effect demands for any “scientific hypothesis”, you fall for the trick that Dembski is trying to pull, that “design” doesn’t need a plausible cause in order for the “design inference” to be treated as science (even if a vacuous one).

I have to ask how you can be so pliable as to read a incoherent statements made about the “design inference” by its principle author, and still suppose that the pile of scientific-sounding gibberish constitutes a scientific hypothesis.

PvM Wrote:
Wesley Elsberry Wrote:

The “design inference” of the book’s title is an argument to establish that certain events are due to and must be explained with reference to design. Dembski crafts his argument as a process of elimination. From the set of all possible explanations, he first eliminates the explanatory categories of regularity and chance; then whatever is left is by definition design. Since all three categories complete the set, design is the set-theoretical complement of regularity and chance.

Dembski’s book and major concept share a name, The Design Inference. The Design Inference is an argument which leads to a conclusion of design for an event. Dembski deploys a large number of terms and phrases in making his argument that design must be recognized as a necessary mode of explanation in science. Fortunately, Dembski is also scrupulous in making clear what each term means, even when it has a common or casual usage. Design is one of those terms, and it becomes a category defined by the elimination of events that can be attributed to regularity or to chance.

A second problem with the filter is that its concept of design is profoundly idiosyncratic and limited. In Dembski’s filter, “design” does not have its usual meaning, but rather is defined negatively as “the set-theoretic complement of the disjunction of regularity-or-chance.”337 This means that design is by default anything that is not the product of either regularity or chance.

This constricted definition is problematic for scientists, for the simple reason that it appropriates as “designed” everything that is neither wholly random nor completely inevitable.338 More specifically, Dembski’s filter

classifies as “intentionally designed” every complex phenomenon that is the product of interactions between chance and regularity—a set that explicitly includes nearly all evolutionary phenomena!339 This is nothing less than conceptual sleight-of-hand. Following Dembski’s filter for any complex biological system will result in a decision of “designed,” no matter how extensive the evidence that the system arose through the interactions of mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection

IS IT SCIENCE YET?: INTELLIGENT DESIGN CREATIONISM AND THE CONSTITUTION MATTHEW J. BRAUER BARBARA FORREST STEVEN G. GEY

So is “conceptual sleight-of-hand” really the equivalent of a scientific hypothesis? Elsberry quite sensibly does not think so.

PvM Wrote:

Is “design” merely a label for the “set-theoretic complement of the. disjunction regularity or chance,” or could it be that this category label is intended to convey a more substantial meaning that could further another agenda, such as that of the “Intelligent Design” movement? What does an intelligent agent do? Dembski says, “The principal characteristic of intelligent agency is directed contingency, or what we call choice.

Van Till see also this link

Once again your attempts to divorce design and agency are contradicted by the very person you are using as your authority for the supposed scientific hypothesis, the “design inference”.

What is more, “agent” only stands in for empirically known phenomena which have yet to be fully understood according to physics. “Directed contingency” is another at best philosophical term, and it does not convey anything about “intelligent agency” that science would be interested in.

Science wants to explain everything using physics. Until then, it understands “agents” according to empirically known habits, customs, development, tradition, and evolution, among other things. Dembski’s “definition” is so much vacuous nonsense, which is used in order to convey the sense that intelligence is something other than physics and evolution (which is probably the furthest reduction we are permitted).

As such he again shows his metaphysical philosophy, and no scientific understanding whatsoever. That you continue to treat this nonsense as if it crosses, or even approaches, the threshold of science indicates that you have little conception of what science actually is, beyond your own area of specialization.

Those of us with a philosophy and science background recognize the non-scientific nature of these sorts of claims immediately. You’re being “educated” by Dembski and others into their illegitimate manner of thought, and you’re judging us to be wrong based upon your IDist-inspired misapprehensions of what science is.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

So you accept the IDist conception of science, and you adopt their other tactics as well, being “polite” while writing blatantly untrue statements like this one: “Glen mostly asserted that those familiar with science would understand the problems with my arguments and realize that ID is vacuous, further suggesting that my position would make it impossible to reject the teaching of ID in schools on constitutional grounds.”

Of course you’re likely to complain about ad hominems yet again should you respond to this post, because I point out your egregious misrepresentations, blatant ignoring of the many mistakes you’ve made, and your continued inability to deal with reasonable standards of science.

(Btw, PG, I hope I didn’t offend in my responses to Pim’s responses to yourself. I realize and realized that I had just guessed what the alleged “strawman” was, but tried not to actually ascribe anything false to you, simply responding to my own guesses.

Anyhow, spot on in your critique of Pim’s misconceptions of science).

I can see why you’d want to ignore your astounding mistake about evolution being teleological, which even MacNeill disputes. So why would you want to acknowledge the points that I made, when you think to set up a false claim about what I had written and to respond to it?

And even though you are so very wrong about science that you supposed that evolution is teleological, you still think that you are able to dictate what science is, without, of course, addressing the points that we have brought up.

And once again you the ignored issues I brought up of cause and effect that lie at the basis of science, preferring to mis-characterize what I had written and to simply respond to a strawman.

It was MacNeill who praised Cordova’s dishonest “politeness”, yet it is you who appear to be peppering this thread with a repeat of Cordova’s tactics.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ym

PvM Wrote:

I do not care that I have not convinced you or the few others on this thread. I am interested in pursuing the arguments about the scientific nature of ID.

Then why do you ignore the criteria that we bring up, resorting to false ad hominem attacks on those of us who would never make the mistake of calling evolution “teleological”?

PvM Wrote:

Your responses suggest that you don’t really care to argue much of anything. Too bad.

Said the man who ignores most of the points presented to him.

PvM Wrote:
Popper Wrote:

Since you are demonstrably not capable of hearing it, I am not able to present it in a manner such that you are. Sheesh.

How comfortable, blaming the recipient for your inability to communicate, or even show evidence of such communication. That’s fine with me Popper.

We’re waiting for receipt and understanding of our communications, and also for you to cease from mischaracterizing our communications to fit your desires.

PvM Wrote:
Popper Wrote:

You have failed miserably in this thread to convince anyone of your position, and your silly tu quoque posturing does nothing to help your case.

It helps to show the vacuity of your case. That people are objecting to my position is something I can understand since people see it as giving in to ID when in fact, it strengthens the legal and scientific position by actually dealing with the arguments proposed by the ID movement.

Right, we’re all wrong, the courts are wrong, Steve Fuller is wrong in claiming that science would be changed if it were to accept ID, and you still can’t make a single argument in favor of your claims that passes muster with science and with most of what the philosophy of science states.

Most of all, we’d like you to address our points instead of ignoring them.

PvM Wrote:

Now I understand that such may be a novel concept, especially with the recent trend to reject ID as merely religious or an idiocy, or “better” by name calling or ad hominem arguments.

OK, so you don’t know what we’ve written, either here or on many other threads. We’ve made numerous considered arguments against various versions of ID, not resorting to mere ad hominem attacks. But since you either don’t know of, or can’t comprehend, our considered comments, you resort to your ad hominem attacks, and merely state the issue in a manner which is not true.

PvM Wrote:

Never mind that such arguments will eventually fail to convince people to reject intelligent design. Certainly, a large fraction of ID proponents seems to be religious people. What effect do you think such arguments have on them? So why not show that ID is scientifically vacuous and avoid having to argue issues like the demarcation problem? Why not embrace the teleology of biology rather than awkwardly avoiding this while at the same time using strongly teleological language?

It’s because we don’t sell out, just because religious/political forces are arrayed against us. Your own religious predilections are showing, Pim, and it is not a pretty sight.

PvM Wrote:

What if we can show that ID is vacuous a posteriori? What if we can show that teleology in biology is to be expected and nothing to be ‘ashamed’ of?

Yes, why not just show that God did it after all? How about, because it is impossible to do?

You’re demanding that we show that science, which has never been able to discern teleology outside of the purposes of animals (including ourselves) at least may be teleological. When you can’t begin to demonstrate any such thing.

PvM Wrote:

Why should some be afraid to address these issues and resort to silly logical fallacies?

I’m not, and have addressed them repeatedly. You are the one who avoids our arguments.

PvM Wrote:

If, as you suggest, my arguments are that weak, how come that you need to use such logical fallacies? And why, when I explicitly ask you to present your arguments, you refuse?

They have been presented, and you ignore them in favor of mischaracterizing what we have written.

PvM Wrote:

I think that these issues are getting too far away from the original thread and it’s time to start some new threads discussing both the demarcation problem in further details, as well as the issue of whether or not ID can be rejected as scientifically vacuous a=priori or a-posteriori. You are of course invited to present your arguments and I am looking forward to them.

Science is something that arises out of practice, and is “defined”, to the degree possible, by what scientists do and accept as “scientific”. The truth is that we can’t argue down anyone like yourself who insists on redefining science to fit your “education” via the IDists. You don’t even respond to our points, rather you make your unevidenced claims over and over again, without a hint that you understand why we reject your IDist-type “science”.

PvM Wrote:

Finally, the issue of teleology in biology could benefit from some postings. Allen’s course did a great favor to its students by discussing the many papers which discuss teleology in nature by such people as Mayr, Nagel, Ayala and Ruse.

You can try to change the subject all you wish, but every time that someone like yourself claims that biology is teleological we ask for evidence and you and the IDists are never able to give the evidence. We are more than capable of allowing for agency and teleology where these can be demonstrated, the trouble is that you want to assert what you haven’t demonstrated–evidently, since you have demonstrated exactly nothing in favor of your claims as yet, mostly making rather obvious mistakes (Del Ratzsch a scientist? And I’m not putting him down by saying this, I’m noting your inability to demarcate between scientists and philosophers).

PvM Wrote:

A reminder posting on how ID defines design, and how it equivocates on these terms seems also timely, given that quite a few on this thread have given the impression that they were not even familiar with the basic definition design as proposed by Dembski in his earliest work.

More like we don’t care about unscientific “definitions”. That you do is your problem.

PvM Wrote:

Of course, it’s much easier to reject ID as idiotic but making an actual scientific arguments is quite a bit harder. People at talkorigins, talkdesign and PandasThumb have done a great job at unraveling both the scientific vacuity of the design thesis as well as the various objections of ID proponents to evolutionary science. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s quite efficient at unraveling the vacuity of ID and spreading the news.

Much easier to mischaracterize our efforts to tackle ID in various ways than to actually respond to our arguments, isn’t it Pim?

We also like to point out what science actually is, since this is a very important issue legally. Btw, even though you falsely claimed that I “mostly” wrote that those of us who understand science and philosophy immediately recognize the problems in the “design inference”, you still managed not to back up your claim that ID can’t be taught because it is “scientifically vacuous”. No rulings have been made that a “scientific hypothesis” can’t be taught because it is either vacuous or “bad” science. Just another place where you attacked a strawman.

PvM Wrote:

As a final note, I am somewhat surprised how various of the posters on this thread have actually lived up to some of the stereotypes of the ID critic. I particularly was amused by Sir Toejam’s “You should consider removing yourself as a contributor.”

You should, since you apparently don’t know the first thing about the philosophy of science. And I’m not surprised that you would treat Sir TJ’s remark as if it were a priori out of line, when you can’t even begin to back up your faulty vision of what science is.

PvM Wrote:

Now that’s like handing candy to the ID movement…

So perhaps some of the so called ID critics on this thread may want to reconsider the effectiveness of their arguments and approaches and ask ‘what have I done lately in the battle between science and Intelligent Design’?

You have given aid and comfort to the enemy by adopting their definition of science, that’s what you’ve done.

PvM Wrote:

For instance: While the results from Allen’s course are hard to interpret (none shifted postion from or to ID), Allen’s comments suggest how the two ID proponents who took the class, did actually shift their positions. That’s a first good step.

You didn’t even begin to address my comments that they may have been given comfort by claims that scientific criteria are unimportant. By ignoring, yet again, the arguments and issues brought up by us (in order to bravely tackle your strawmen), you pretend positive results which are fully still in question.

PvM Wrote:

I congratulate Allen on conducting a well prepared and well developed seminar where people were allowed to explore and reach their own conclusions based on an analysis of the works of intelligent design proponents.

What do you know about what was presented, how it was presented, and how it was received?

PvM Wrote:

Allen’s work led to students understand the weakness of the argument from analogy, the unworkable nature of specification, the strength of common descent. In the end, ID critics and ID proponents alike became better informed about the concept of design, teleology. We can all hope that these ID critics will put their learned knowledge and skills to good use and politely though strongly argue their case.

Thank goodness MacNeill disagrees completely with your claims about a teleological biology.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

PvM Wrote:
Popper Wrote:

All you have to do to “hear about them” is to go back and READ them. That you characterize my constributions as “idiocy and some other terms but none of them struck me as particularly relevant” and nothing more shows how intransigently dishonest you are. I have no way of forcing you to read and comprehend the arguments that have been given and properly characterize them, and I’ve already wasted far too much of my time on you.

I did not mean to characterize your contribution as idiocy, I was pointing out how you used the term in your rejection of ID. Since little or no logic or reasons, let alone arguments were presented, I was asking for you and/or Glen to provide such arguments in a coherent manner.

Sure, you totally ignore the arguments, address the ad hominems which result from the recognition that you constantly ignore the actual arguments, then say that you were just asking for such arguments. You’re sounding like AFDave on AtBC by now, ignoring everything you don’t want to address, and complaining that you haven’t been presented with the material that you have chosen to ignore.

PvM Wrote:

Perhaps I am somewhat slow to understand your greatness, and perhaps you are right that I am unable to comprehend your arguments.

Why don’t you go get an education in the philosophy of science? We are spinning our wheels here presenting the arguments that you ought to understand, while you either ignore or misrepresent our arguments (mostly ignore).

PvM Wrote:

But in all honesty I have seen little so far which sounds like a coherent argument why ID should be considered non-science a-priori.

We weren’t presenting science to you as if you didn’t understand science at all. Unfortunately, you write as if you scarcely have any concept of what science in general is, so perhaps we should have informed you of the terminology of science and laid out in detail the recognized components of science to you.

Instead you are willing to use terms like “regularity” and “chance”, which in fact are largely synonyms of “accident” and “necessity” (as ID uses the terms), ancient metaphysical words that science has long abandoned in the way ID uses them. And when we bring up the need for a hypothesis to be open to evidence, you simply ignore such a crucial point.

We’ve argued with you like you were a scientist who should understand the basic workings of science. Unfortunately, you increasingly sound like an IDist, using metaphysical terms and ignoring anything so mundane and “materialistic” as evidence.

PvM Wrote:

So go ahead, accuse me of misrepresenting your position, whatever that may be, accuse me of ignoring your arguments even though I ask for examples and clarifications.

It’s time that you go outside of here and actually learn what science is. I don’t doubt that you are capable, within the framework of your own specialty, of practicing science, but your portrayal of what science is comes right out of the medieval period and/or ID.

We can’t really teach you the bones of science in general, though I see that PG did post a set of criteria that science usually follows.

And anyway, if you constantly fail to understand why using metaphysical terms instead of scientific ones makes all of your claims moot in scientific matters, how are we supposed to rectify that situation?

PvM Wrote:

In the end it seems clear that the emperor has no clothes worth speaking of as the claim that ID is non-science a-priori has as far as I am concerned yet to be supported. If you do not want to repeat yourself, all you need to do is reference the comments (they are identified as Comment # followed by 6 digits).

You are the one who constantly ignores our arguments. Your resort to scholastic terms, to your egregious claim that biology is teleological, and to your inability to understand how elimination among metaphysical terms cannot be science, indicates that it is you who cannot support your claims. And you are the one who is making “extraordinary claims”, hence it is up to you to show how a coherent science based on the “design inference” is possible a priori.

You aren’t even within the sphere of science with your statements. You’re on the side of ID philosophically, and as such you have a tough row to hoe to show that the majority of scientists and philosophers of science are wrong.

It’s a classic of pseudoscience to demand that we disprove the pseudoscientists’ claims. We have, of course, but even though you haven’t comprehended how we have the burden on you is to show that your claims are reasonable. Using science, not ID as a basis.

PvM Wrote:

As always I am looking forward to your contributions, to whatever extent you may feel comfortable. Feel free to take all the time you think you may need. I will be working on some more targeted postings to address these issues.

Why, really, is someone who is practically an IDist, posting on PT? Perhaps it is just as well that you do, since the ID blogs are pretty much a waste, but you ought not to claim to be representing the side of science when you present your defenses of pseudoscience.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Glen Wrote:

Why, really, is someone who is practically an IDist, posting on PT? Perhaps it is just as well that you do, since the ID blogs are pretty much a waste, but you ought not to claim to be representing the side of science when you present your defenses of pseudoscience.

You still have failed to explain why I am not representing the side of science. Glen, I suggest you take some time to support your claims why we should reject ID as unscientific a-priori when the demarcation problem is quite real. To suggest that I am defending pseudo-science also misses the point. I strongly oppose pseudo-science and consider ID to match that label, a-posteriori.

Accusing me of being dishonest or not understanding science just clearly does not cut it. Even if you were correct in your claims here, this does nothing to undermine my claims about why ID should be rejected as scientifically relevant a-posteriori. Hope you appreciate this detail.

Torbjoern Wrote:

A remarkably long thread considering the questions it revolves around.

1. Is it good strategy to have a seminar about ID? ID is, albeit with a political and religious agenda, a junk science. In other cases junk sciences, even politically involved such as atrology, is researched and debunked for their alleged scientific content. The question then becomes why ID should be treated differently, and no good answer seems to be given. It is possible to debunk creationism/ID for its vacuous main and auxilliary ‘hypotheses’, and sometimes YEC content.

I have read where college students introduced to ID/creationism tend to either give up creationism or to have a greater understanding of what is wrong with it, than are the rest of college students. I can’t point to a source, of course, but it seems plausible to me.

It may be that MacNeill’s students benefited. However, I think it would depend greatly upon how ID is presented, and particularly on how science is shown to be superior to other statements regarding the “natural world”.

There is the problem of “why ID?” and not astrology. Perhaps an answer is that astrology is probably seen less as a science today than is ID, and it may be that countering ID is worth a seminar. Or not.

Torbjoern Wrote:

2. Is there a demarcation problem? As Popper, Glen and Stevepinhead remarks concludes, demarcation is a problem in philosophy, not in practical science. Factual debunking will naturally involve falsification and demarcating supernatural causation, since ID is one of several similar junks sciences.

Quite so. In developing QM there were important questions raised about what science is, since the nature of evidence and “causality” changed with QM. In biology there is little question of what constitutes science and what does not, and anything that ascribes form and function to “design, chance, and regularity” is (at least almost) a priori not science.

Torbjoern Wrote:

3. Is there an apriori-aposteriori distinction? The apriori-aposteriori distinction is a red herring. Apriori nothing is excluded by science. But by todays knowledge ID’s main hypotheses (creationism, teleology) are more or less apriori excluded after some analysis. Auxilliary hypotheses such as IC aren’t always synomymous with creationism, and they are more or less aposteriori excluded after some analysis and research.

I agree with PG, but also with you. In one sense, sure, we don’t “a priori” exclude anything from science, because we don’t really know what science is before we start checking out beliefs and assumptions against empiricism. In the sense that we already know some things about science, about classical causality, we a priori exclude something like the “design inference” since it doesn’t even invoke “scientific categories”.

In the practical sense there is a distinction between a priori and a posteriori. However, the a posteriori informs us of what science is “a priori” once the a posteriori results have been incorporated into science.

What I’m saying is that science didn’t exclude the “design inference” a priori in the past. But because we know a posteriori that science isn’t done in the ID way, we exclude the design inference a priori at the present time.

Torbjoern Wrote:

4. Is there such a thing as teleology? Quite frankly I’m baffled by this assumption. Teleology doesn’t describe normal causation truthfully, and already causation is a derived concept.

“In particular, we should emphasize that there is no place in this view for common philosophical concepts such as “cause and effect” or “purpose.” From the perspective of modern science, events don’t have purposes or causes; they simply conform to the laws of nature. In particular, there is no need to invoke any mechanism to “sustain” a physical system or to keep it going; it would require an additional layer of complexity for a system to cease following its patterns than for it to simply continue to do so. Believing otherwise is a relic of a certain metaphysical way of thinking; these notions are useful in an informal way for human beings, but are not a part of the rigorous scientific description of the world. Of course scientists do talk about “causality,” but this is a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions; it is a derived concept, not a fundamental one.” ( http://pancake.uchicago.edu/~carroll/nd-paper.ht… )

I would only add that discarding teleology was also not done a priori, rather we found scientifically that teleology is worthless in science. Of course it isn’t wholly worthless, as “purpose” can be investigated in cognitive science. But we have every reason to suppose that this is due to our present ignorance, and that “purpose” itself is something to explain.

Pim’s faulty conception of science would impede the understanding of the brain and how it produces “purpose”, much as the ID assault on science would.

Torbjoern Wrote:

If biology has introduced teleology in science as a needed scientifical concept instead of a philosophical or religious one, it needs to define and support that necessity. Has it done so? The references given are all from journals of philosophy.

Yes, as I wrote previously, the burden is on Pim, not on us to refute his claims. We have nevertheless refuted his claims, and the fact that he doesn’t understand that we have only demonstrates how lost in ID/teleology his basic approach is.

Torbjoern Wrote:

In short, I find much of the discussion of this thread caused :-) by confusing science with philosophy.

Yes, it is the triumph of ID obfuscation, something that makes me leery of feeding too many ID works to students (perhaps in MacNeill’s class). Pim is giving us straight IDist claims about science as if we should be “informed” by his mis-education via the IDists.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Sigh… I have moved my response to Glen and his response to the bathroom wall.

Btw, PG, I hope I didn’t offend in my responses to Pim’s responses to yourself. I realize and realized that I had just guessed what the alleged “strawman” was, but tried not to actually ascribe anything false to you, simply responding to my own guesses.

Nope, no offense taken. After all, it wasn’t intentionally evasive.

If ID attacks the foundation of science, namely Methodological Naturalism, then arguing that ID is not science because it fails MN, is a flawed argument.

If NEM attacks the foundation of sentential logic, namely the law of the excluded middle, then arguing that NEM is not sentential logic because it “fails” (does not admit to) the law of the excluded middle will seem to be a flawed argument to an adherent of NEM. Generally, argumentation with an adherent of NEM is futile (of course, no argument to that effect can be given that will be convincing to an adherent of NEM, nor to that effect …).

Popper’s ghost — I have been attempting to follow this endless thread over hill and down dale, but you now have me completely stumped.

What is ‘NEM’ that it denies the law of the excluded middle? And are you aware that there is a well developed and important branch of logic which does so? It goes by various names: intuitionistic logic, constructive logic or topos logic. Finally, every so-called classical logic is a special case obtained by adding the law of the excluded middle.

I agree with PG, but also with you. In one sense, sure, we don’t “a priori” exclude anything from science, because we don’t really know what science is before we start checking out beliefs and assumptions against empiricism. In the sense that we already know some things about science, about classical causality, we a priori exclude something like the “design inference” since it doesn’t even invoke “scientific categories”.

I did ask “Just how “priori” do we have to go? Are all statements a priori scientific because we musn’t assume that they aren’t scientific before they are even made?”

Some analysis of a claim is required in order to judge whether it is scientific. An a priori judgment is about the sort of claim, whereas an a posteriori judgment is about the truth or falsity of the claim or of its implications. Regardless of the truth or falsity of “George Bush loves his mother”, it can be investigated by gathering physical evidence – examining his actions, reading his writings, doing brain scans and comparing them to those of other people who are generally held to love or not love their mothers, and so on; this can all be done even given the vagueness of the word “loves”. “The creator of the universe loves George Bush”, OTOH, doesn’t seem to be the sort of statement that can be investigated by gathering physical evidence. Likewise, while “the sum of any two primes greater than 2 is odd” can be investigated, it can’t be investigated by gathering physical evidence; it and other mathematical statements may play a role in the practice of investigating by gathering physical evidence, and it may be found that the physical world corresponds to certain mathematical models, but mathematical statements themselves cannot be so investigated.

So, we have an a priori judgment about the sorts of statements these are, independent of any judgment of their truth or falsity. Whether “cannot be investigated by gathering physical evidence” implies “not scientific” has already been discussed at length.

Popper Wrote:

I did ask “Just how “priori” do we have to go? Are all statements a priori scientific because we musn’t assume that they aren’t scientific before they are even made?”

Some analysis of a claim is required in order to judge whether it is scientific. An a priori judgment is about the sort of claim, whereas an a posteriori judgment is about the truth or falsity of the claim or of its implications.

Let’s remember the argument: Can science be defined ‘a priori’ by a list of criteria? Or is the scientific nature determined after the fact by an analysis of the claims made. In other words: Can I state that X is unscientific because it violates the scientific method? Can I state that X is unscientific because it is not testable? Can I state that X is unscientific because of… Well, you get the argument I hope. So is there a demarcation criterion that works? For example the testability criterion would eliminate string theory and multiverses. As I have argued, falsification is both too weak as many claims can be formulated in some form that makes it falsifiable, admitting too much as being scientific, or too strong as it rejects certain hypotheses which later are found to be scientific?

What is ‘NEM’ that it denies the law of the excluded middle?

I made up the term; it stands for “no excluded middle”. NEM is a (fictional, AFAIK) movement that claims that the law of the excluded middle is false.

Finally, every so-called classical logic is a special case obtained by adding the law of the excluded middle.

Only an adherent of NEM can add the law of the excluded middle to denial of the law of the excluded middle without contradiction. NEM is not simply the absence of the law of the excluded middle, but its negation.

I’m not sure about intuitionist logic, but if classical logic were simply intuitionist logic plus an axiom, then I have to wonder why the debate between Hilbert and Kronecker was so bitter.

Let’s remember the argument: Can science be defined ‘a priori’ by a list of criteria?

No, that was never the “argument” – by which you seem to mean “debate”. Or, rather, that debate only occurred between you and a strawman. The argument is that certain specific claims can be judged a priori to be non-scientific – which is not the same thing. This argument has been put forth by me, Davidson, O’Brien, Larsson, and perhaps others. One might “remember” those arguments simply by reading back over them. One need not go far, since I just gave one in the very post you are responding to – an argument that you did not address.

Popper Wrote:

No, that was never the “argument” — by which you seem to mean “debate”. Or, rather, that debate only occurred between you and a strawman. The argument is that certain specific claims can be judged a priori to be non-scientific — which is not the same thing. This argument has been put forth by me, Davidson, O’Brien, Larsson, and perhaps others. One might “remember” those arguments simply by reading back over them. One need not go far, since I just gave one in the very post you are responding to — an argument that you did not address

Reading back over them, I noticed that you have yet to support your claim that showing that ID is unscientific apriori is easy. I, like others, seem to be somewhat puzzled by your latest contributions. Are you sure you are not arguing your own strawman? Also, could you point to some explicit examples that support your version of the argument.

Let’s remind Popper of my arguments

As I explained before, the ID hypothesis has many flaws and short comings but to argue that this is no a scientific hypothesis is like saying that young earth creationism is a priori unscientific. It’s in fact the vaste evidence against a young earth which makes its claims scientifically wrong. Claiming that ID is not a scientific hypothesis and that’s it, only serves to strengthen the stereotypes of how ID critics ‘argue’. Surely there must be better ways?..

Popper’s argument included

Popper Wrote:

That ID is unscientific a priori is easy to support and the viewpoint has already given by both myself and Glen Davidson here, and others elsewhere, at considerable length, but you seem neither interested nor capable of hearing.

and my question to Popper

Explain how you resolved the demarcation problem. What part of ID allows you to reject its claims a priori? And where and when did either you or Glen provided support for such statements? Glen mostly asserted that those familiar with science would understand the problems with my arguments and realize that ID is vacuous, further suggesting that my position would make it impossible to reject the teaching of ID in schools on constitutional grounds. As far as your contributions are concerned, I remember idiocy and some other terms but none of them struck me as particularly relevant. If I missed some of your more relevant comments then I am surely interested in hearing about them.

Found another argument by Popper

And Glen pointed out that the terminology in Dembski’s definition is not scientific; “chance” and “regularity” as Dembski uses them are metaphysical, not empirical, not scientific. That makes his enterprise a priori not scientific. That you are unable to grasp this obvious fact shows — a posteriori — that you’re an idiot. You can blabber on from now to doomsday, but you will never convince the scientific community that ID rests upon an “a priori scientific” foundation because it doesn’t.

Chance and regularity are metaphysical? Could you show where Dembski defines them to be such? How does this make ID a priori not scientific? And why the need for insults? So many questions, but why not answer the simple ones. How did Glen show that chance and regularity are metaphysical. Or did he just ‘point this out’ and provided no supporting evidence or supporting arguments which would allow us to determine the veracity of his claims. In fact, in the Design Inference, Dembski defines the two concepts in an empirical manner.

Popper raises some good questions. Should we recognize that creationists do make scientific predictions or should we deny this and thereby run into the demarcation problem. To suggest that one can reject YEC or ID as unscientific a-priori based on some ‘recipe’ seems hard to support but if Popper wants to give it a try, then I am more than interested to hear his viewpoints.

I, like others, seem to be somewhat puzzled by your latest contributions.

I doubt that David Benson appreciates being employed in the service of your ad hominem.

I doubt that David Benson appreciates being employed in the service of your ad hominem

Seems you may be confused about the concept of ad hominem.

Now remind us how easy it was to define ID as being unscientific a-priori?

Seems you may be confused about the concept of ad hominem.

Not to people who understand the concept.

Now remind us how easy it was to define ID as being unscientific a-priori?

I said nothing about “define”. As for the arguments that ID is not scientific a priori, they have been given, by me, Davidson, O’Brien, Larsson, and perhaps others, as I said. I don’t know who “us” is, since I haven’t seen anyone else denying that such arguments have been presented.

PvM: Now remind us how easy it was to define ID as being unscientific a-priori?

I said nothing about “define”. As for the arguments that ID is not scientific a priori, they have been given, by me, Davidson, O’Brien, Larsson, and perhaps others, as I said. I don’t know who “us” is, since I haven’t seen anyone else denying that such arguments have been presented.

Any particular examples? After all, you claimed it was easy. How hard could it be to present the evidence? Come on Popper, you claimed it was easy and yet… Where did you or the above mentioned people argue this ‘easy argument’.

So far you have claimed that

That ID is unscientific a priori is easy to support and the viewpoint has already given by both myself and Glen Davidson here, and others elsewhere, at considerable length, but you seem neither interested nor capable of hearing.

I am very willing and interested to hear your argument(s) or that of others. How has the demarcation problem been solved? What particular aspect of ID allows one to reject it as unscientific a priori?

Present these easy arguments. Is it testability? Oops, that would not work, and neither would falsifiability. So what particular aspect of ID is it that would allow you to reject it as unscientific a-priori? You state that this viewpoint have already been given by yourself. In what particular posting?

I am very willing and interested to hear your argument(s) or that of others.

We’ve been over this. The evidence is clear to me, Registered_User, Glen Davidson, and Torbjörn Larsson, at least, that you are not, and there is no point in me wasting my time banging my head on a brick wall.

We’ve been over this. The evidence is clear to me, Registered_User, Glen Davidson, and Torbjörn Larsson, at least, that you are not, and there is no point in me wasting my time banging my head on a brick wall.

How ironic… Nevertheless, thanks for the effort, even though it ran short of expectations.

More personal attacks moved to the Bathroom Wall.

See Comment #125447.

If people refuse to be civil, refrain from personal attacks, then their postings will be moved to the bathroom wall.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 21, 2006 2:33 PM.

Live discussion at IslamOnline.net was the previous entry in this blog.

Server Issues is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter