Contrived dualism and other ID fallacies

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On Nobel Intent, John Timmer discusses recent attempts by Intelligent Design Evangelical Activists (IDEA) to ‘rally its base’. Mostly this involves returning to the good old creationist claims about evolution and mutations but it also involves ad hominem attacks on Judge Jones who ruled in a devastating manner on the topic of Intelligent Design, causing Behe to describe Judge Jones as “the former head of the liquor control board who signed off on a tendentious brief by a product liability trial lawyer.””

Of course, it was Behe’s own testimony which provided much of the ammunition for the lawyers and helped Judge Jones make his ruling. Not surprisingly, Behe claims that his testimony has been misinterpreted or misunderstood. So far, it seems that Behe is unable to accept personal responsibilities for his testimony.

As Timmer explains, the recent talk by Behe was full of the usual creationist ‘arguments’

Timmer Wrote:

But the talk went on for well over an hour, and covered some ground beyond Dover. Three things struck me about the rest of the talk: explicit creationism, a flawed understanding of science, and a presentation of evolution that is a caricature of science’s actual understanding.

What is interesting is how ID seems to argue that ignorance should lead us by default to a ‘design conclusion’, an approach which has been shown by various authors to be logically flawed. For instance, in The advantages of theft over toil: the design inference and arguing from ignorance, Wilkins and Elsberry show how ID becomes untenable.

He also, as noted, runs into trouble when asked about testability. He suggests that both good and bad designs are compatible with ID, so that discoveries regarding extinctions and inefficiencies are perfectly okay as far as ID is concerned, raising questions about what aspects of ID are testable. Behe stated that the only testable aspects of ID—the only ways it could be falsified—would come by via examinations of evolutionary processes. In his view, if evolution fails, we can accept ID. Design, in short, should be viewed as a default explanation until proven wrong, despite its lack of experimental support.

There is no reason why we should consider Design to be the default explanation until proven wrong, since ID explains nothing and cannot even compete with ‘we don’t know’. So in other words, either IDers accept that Design is equivalent to Ignorance, or they should provide a scientific explanation for Design. In addition, appeals to Design have been historically shown to be flawed and nothing more than gap arguments where our ignorance was led us to conclude Design. In other words, there is no historical or logical foundation for Design to be the ‘default explanation’ and ‘we don’t know’ seems to be a much better position to take in these instances. And when, as is the case with the bacterial flagella, natural hypotheses are presented, the balance quickly shifts from ‘Design’ or ‘Ignorance’ to science, destroying any hopes for ID to remain scientifically relevant. In other words, at best ID is as ‘good’ as ‘we don’t know’ and in practice it is not better than any other scientifically vacuous concept.

Timmer Wrote:

This violates the scientific principle that unexplained or unexamined phenomena are considered just that: unexplained. In this regard, Behe’s talk is perhaps the most blatant admission that ID is a “God of the Gaps” argument.

12 Comments

In other words, at best ID is as ‘good’ as ‘we don’t know’ and in practice it is not better than any other scientifically vacuous concept.

Excellent point.

FWIW, it’s “Nobel Intent,” not “Nobel Intern.”

It’s an old metaphysical paradigm that is being used for this false dichotomy, and it seriously misrepresents science.

Dembski really is using necessity (regularity) and accident (chance) as his preconceived set of possible explanations. By contrast, in the classical sciences we only use regularity, which is also not exactly the same thing as “necessity” as conceived in metaphysics.

But then where do they get “design”? This is the Judeo-Christian addition to metaphysics, since Dembski (and I suppose Behe) actually thinks that intelligence is supernatural altogether (or something like supernatural—you know they’d play word games with me if I wrote this on UD). So since the mind is already a soul, which is already prejudged to be outside of both regularity and chance, why not default to the supernatural at once whenever regularity and chance fail to give an immediate answer?

The point I’m making is that any demand that we give ID a chance involves the demand that we throw away all of what we know about the regularities of causation in the classical realm, and to buy into metaphysics plus supernaturalism. The brain and its evolved characteristics? Meaningless in their eyes, never once to be considered. All of science has to go for us to “open-mindedly” consider ID and its dualistic schema (dualistic because “regularity” and “chance” are together the opposite of “design” in their eyes) for deciding Causes (the capitalization is deliberate), and their worldview is not at all open to falsification.

It does not strain credibility that Dembski actually thinks that his elimination process really is science, since it is likely that the only “science” he ever learned was “scholastic science”. And I’m not faulting the scholastics per se, since they seemed to have partly led the way toward science (particularly by honing logic), but it is absurd to still believe in the dialectical relationships that ID claims is science.

I’ll start wrapping up by emphasizing the fact that ID’s whole raison d’etre is predicated on the dialectical method, which goes back to Plato and Socrates with the other Sophists. I would guess that Behe learned some of it while in college, while Dembski betrays a wholesale commitment to the scholastic way of thinking, complete with a belief in the “final cause”. One may well write of “contrived dualism” or some equally sound characterization of it, however the comprehensive term for their “science” is the “dialectical method”.

This was Marx’s most serious mistake, by the way, the (Hegelian-styled) belief that the universe (or historical process) is dominated by poles. If you really want to find a thought process today that is still reasonably akin to the failed Marxist thought (and I don’t mean to completely fault Marx’s often incisive critical judgments regarding specific economic matters), it is ID.

The IDists primarily see the world as a clash between two forces, as Satanic vs. Godly (when they write “secular” they mean anti-God), and as matter vs. the supernatural/mind. Any sort of induction or abduction from the evidence is foreign to them, for they fight the crusades that they imagine that Christ wished them to fight. They literally cannot see how it is that evolutionary theory was produced and accepted primarily in order to explain what ID had so woefully failed to provide any cause for, all of the “pathetic level of detail” of biology.

Neither Dembski nor Behe stoop to explain biology, for they are defending the good against the evil of evolution. It may be, it is, a false dualism, however it is how they understand the world to be. They really do not know why science doesn’t recognize the dialectical arguments that they use, eliminating “material causes” to “scientifically demonstrate” that non-material mind has acted (upon matter—a huge gap that they don’t bother to notice) to create life.

What we might call “false dualism” is the “Truth” by which they know the world, and through which they also know that evolution cannot be anything but wrong from time immemorial. They cannot be scientific because they are dialectical thinkers, to whom the variousness of thought is not only foreign, but anathema.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

PvM Wrote:

In other words, at best ID is as ‘good’ as ‘we don’t know’ and in practice it is not better than any other scientifically vacuous concept.

And even that gives ID the benefit of the doubt of being at least an honest, if flawed, attempt at science. But every indication is that it is not even that. In particular, by making every excuse not to discuss, much less test, what the designer did, and when, in biological history, ID seeks to cover up the fatal flaws and irreconcilable contradictions in those pseudoscientific explanations that arguably did try, and fail, to be scientific, namely the classic creationisms that ID tries pathetically to “distance itself” from.

The irony is that if ID would just give up the “don’t ask, don’t tell” nonsense, concede at least Behe’s old earth-and-common-descent position (which no IDer has ever directly refuted), and perhaps even occasionally refute a few YEC and OEC arguments, it would gain at least some respectability as honest speculation, if not as science.

Their latest antics, however, makes it clearer than ever that they are not about to trade the political support of a few million clueless YECs for that of a few thousand educated religious leaders, or heaven forbid, the ~99.9% of biologists who haven’t sold out to their scam.

For instance, in The advantages of theft over toil: the design inference and arguing from ignorance, Wilkins and Elsberry show how ID becomes untenable.

Great article, thanks for the link. Does anyone know if Dembski has replied to it?

ID isn’t even wrong.

And while we’re at it, all lawyers’ briefs are “tendentious.” That’s what they’re for.

I too would like to know if Dembski has replied to the linked article. I doubt it, but I would love to read his reply.

Really, if Behe had been around during the time when Lamarck’s theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics had started running into trouble, I suppose he’d have been asserting that therefore it must be Design because the scientific explanation was flawed. As a scientist, he ought to know that flawed scientific explanations get replaced by other scientific explanations and that so far there’s never been a need to admit defeat and invoke the God of the Gaps.

CJColucci:

And while we’re at it, all lawyers’ briefs are “tendentious.” That’s what they’re for.

With apologies to dead horses everywhere for our further flogging…

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000):

1) tendentious. Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan.

Gosh. So what Behe is loudly proclaiming is that the parents’ lawyer had the sheer temerity to actually advocate the parents’ side of the case. Shame on them! Despite every ethical commitment to represent their own clients’ point of view, those darn evilutionist lawyers should’ve squelched those teensy ethical quibbles, flouted the expectations of their clients, and risked their bar tickets and their livelihoods by flat-out refusing to subject Behe’s testimony to cross-examination.

No wonder the IDiots and Creationists keep losing all their court cases. They’ve completely failed to bribe and suborn the scientists’ lawyers, leaving the likes of Behe unfairly surprised and indecently exposed to withering cross-examination.

One really could compile a “How Not To Be A Successful Litigator” book based on nothing but bloopers from the “creationist” bar.

It’s an old metaphysical paradigm that is being used for this false dichotomy, and it seriously misrepresents science.

It’s ironic that someone posting on the “panda’s thumb” would criticize old metaphysical paradigms. The only way a panda’s thumb type of argument works is by assuming Victorian era theology and then counting its falsification as “scientific evidence” along these lines: “What sort of Creator would make a thumb this way? I can’t imagine that they would so that’s scientific evidence for natural selection then.” This type of reasoning which assumes intelligent selection only enough to purport to falsify it in favor of “natural selection” has been merged with Darwinian reasoning for over a century. It relies on a specific type of theology that was prevalent in Darwin’s day, combined once again with citing your own imagination about the past as “scientific evidence” that is epistemically equivalent with the theory of gravity. Another form: “If I can imagine a way that this happened then that is evidence for my theories. So if I couldn’t imagine a way this happened then my theories would absolutely break down. Fortunately it seems that I can always imagine something!” And so on. If all the imaginary evidence and imagining of what God would or would not do were to be taken away I wonder if some fellows wouldn’t find it all so “overwhelming.” It’s very easy to overwhelm your mind once you begin citing your own imagination as evidence, especially when you are a spiritual monist and don’t believe that “mind” really exists to limit the imagination.

…in the classical sciences we only use regularity…

Then the textbook writers and national science organizations are all wrong about what science is, or they are wrong about the scientific status of “evolution” because they have included more than regularity in their statements about it.

You say that ID types are dialectical thinkers based on dualism and that they tend to adhere to the philosophy of Socrates and Plato. I don’t disagree because it’s not so bad to be in agreement with Socrates. In contrast, their opponents tend to be spiritual monists that also have thousands of years of history behind their philosophy, a philosophy that they mask these days in “science.” You and others stand with those throughout history who have had the urge to merge into the womb of Mother Nature. I.e. those who reject the advice of Plato to come on out of the metaphoric “cave” and so on to see the metahoric light by which forms and therefore information (i.e. the metaphoric itself) can be judged. It seems that it is you who will seek to shut down dialectic and therefore tend to smother dialogue, the opposite of Socrates. I agree that you’re in opposition to Socrates, yet why should people be of a mind to agree with you?

What we might call “false dualism” is the “Truth” by which they know the world.… They cannot be scientific because they are dialectical thinkers, to whom the variousness of thought is not only foreign, but anathema.

Funny though, how the Greek philosophers seemed to have a lot to do with “science” and so on when their type of philosophy “cannot be scientific” and so on. And supposedly those who tend to agree with such philosophers are against “variousness of thought”? Was Socrates against variousness of thought? It’s ironic to try to argue against dualism in such ways given that spiritual monists have always work to shut down the metaphysical dialectic/dialogue typical to philosophers because they don’t believe that thought is “real” or that information/form has been or can be encoded in matter and that the conceptual forms “exist” in a way that is real enough to have an impact on public knowledge/scientia. These days mental incompetents of this sort view admitting to the intelligence, logic and information by which things work as just like believing in a Flying Spaghetti Monster, Santa, Pink Unicorns, fairytales, etc. Their apparent point with all their fairytales being that anyone can supposedly just make conceptual forms and information up. Little wonder that logic, geometry, mathematics and principles of probability have little impact on these who supposedly reject fairytales, yet ironically are gullible enough to believe in “Darwinian Fairytales.” (See David Stove’s book: Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution) It is actually the spiritual monist (“Darwinist”) who is left citing their own imagination as evidence, thus fairytales are typical to them.

Mynym, was any of that meant to mean anything? I notice that you spend a whole lot of time tossing around philosophy 101 vocabulary words, but you never specifically actually state what it is about the theory of evolution that you consider so objectionable. The whole post looks like just a bunch of obfuscation to me.

The only way a panda’s thumb type of argument works is by assuming Victorian era theology and then counting its falsification as “scientific evidence” along these lines: “What sort of Creator would make a thumb this way? I can’t imagine that they would so that’s scientific evidence for natural selection then.”

I’m not sure what you’re saying here. One reason why the panda’s thumb might be considered an argument in favor of the theory of evolution is that it is an excellent example of the evolutionary mechanism of exaptation, whereby a structure develops for one purpose, then later takes on a new function. This mechanism, as exemplified by the panda’s thumb, provides a fascinating demonstration of how evolutionary processes can produce innovative solutions to problems guided only by the pressures of their environment, as well as conveniently providing the refutation of the narrow-minded “irreducible complexity” concept which some intelligent design writers are enamored of.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on December 27, 2006 2:17 PM.

Behe’s confusion about falsification was the previous entry in this blog.

UCSD TV: Pennock - Convocation on Intelligent Design Creationism is the next entry in this blog.

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