Telic Thoughts

On Telic Thoughts Krauze objects to critics pointing out the existence of false positives as being problematic to ID by showing that false positives exist in science. Telic Thoughts features several well known ARN players, including Krauze and Mike Gene.

Krauze wrote:

ID critics often point to cases where design was mistakenly inferred, claiming that present design inferences are also likely to be wrong. Those raising this objection forget that all human conclusions are fallible, and that an explanation shouldn’t be ignored, just because it has been wrongly applied before. As another example of this, let’s look at a case where unintelligent processes were wrongly infered.

As I pointed out in the comments, Krauze misses the point. And while he tries to argue that he is not interested in the explanatory filter, he does not realize that this is the form of ID to which critics are objecting.

Krauze wrote:

Let me just remind everybody that the original post made no mention of Dembski’s design filter. IOW, stop leading the discussion off topic. If you want to discuss Dembski, start a thread somewhere else (I hear the ARN Board is beautiful this time of year) and post a link to it here. I’d hate to start deleting posts.

In short, a good and relevant discussion was started but quickly cut short by the moderator who started deleting responses. Krauze’s claim that he did not mention Dembski specifically, ignores that mainstream ID is based on the explanatory filter approach.

Lacking the opportunity to respond to Guts ill-informed comments, I will first present my response to Guts followed by an overview of why the explanatory filter, which is based on an eliminative argument, is useless if it cannot avoid false positives and thus cannot even eliminate “we don’t know”. Ironically, Guts had the guts to argue that ‘we don’t know’ is not an explanation. But then again neither is intelligent design.

PvM wrote:

That Dembski admits that false positives exist is self evident.

Guts: Where does he say it? Why havn’t you quoted him yet

I have. Incomplete knowledge. Countless examples. Guts shows his confusion when stating

PvM wrote:

Do you want an example for a false positive? Lightning used to be seen as an act of God(s) until science explained it… Countless examples exist that render an eliminative approach quite useless.

Guts: Thats not a false positive wrt Dembski’s method, a false positive refers to using Dembski’s methodology to determine whether something is designed, and finding out it actually evolved.

No, no, no. You seem to believe that the EF is limited to evolutionary processes alone. The EF can be applied in many instances and it has been shown how the EF has been wrong in many cases in history. As far as applying the EF in biology is concerned, since there are no real examples, it is hard to establish its success but I am arguing that irregardless, Dembski’s argument that the EF is reliable because it avoids false positives which would otherwise render it useless is shown false by his own admission that false positives can exist in the form of incomplete knowledge. Since ID presents no way to establish how to differentiate between incomplete knowledge and an correct ID inference, we can at most accept “we don’t know’. Guts argues that it isn’t an explanation but then neither is ID.

Now back to the argument

Problem with this argument is that general science does not rely on eliminative approaches. Thus ID is unique in the sense that it does not provide positive evidence for design but rather depends on an eliminative argument, or set theoretic complement of chance and regularity. In such cases, as Dembski points out correctly, false positives would render the approach useless. When thus ID critics have shown that such false positives exist, and when Dembski admits that false positives exist, the conclusion should be obvious: The explanatory filter, the foundation of ID, is useless This posting on PT explores in some more depth the evolution of the ID argument and its ultimate demise. Similarly, while initially denying that algorithmic processes can increase CSI (complex specified information), Dembski now accepts this but wonders, where did the original CSI come from. How ID can resolve this issue is not addressed either.

Krauze responded that he does not adhere to Dembski’s explanatory filter nor that he uses the eliminative approach.

I responded

Then you are addressing the wrong issues since ID critics do address the eliminative approach chosen by ID proponents. If you believe another, better way exists to detecting intelligent design, then please do share this with us. ID has too long been hindered by its reliance on eliminative approaches that it has reintroduced the concept of gap arguments with little or no hope to make ID scientifically relevant. It’s good to see that ID proponents are dropping Dembski’s EF and with it most of ID’s arguments.

I await your positive theory of ID with much anticipation.

When I pointed out where Dembski accepts that false positives exist, Guts objected

Guts wrote:

 Guts: Umm, PvM, Dembski in that quote doesn't say that any false positive actually exists. Why would you think so? In fact, Dembski does not think that any false positive currently exists. Just that there is a risk, as with all fallible scientific inferences.


That is sufficient to render the ID explanatory filter useless. Dembski asserts that the explanatory filter has no false positives, that is an extensive claim and easily shown to be overly optimistic. That ID has failed to present any scientifically relevant examples of the use of the explanatory filter to infer design in non trivial cases shows not only the methodological complexities of eliminating all known (and unknown causes) but also the vacuity of ID as a scientific endeavor.

Remember what Dembski stated On the other hand, if things end up in the net that are not designed, the criterion will be useless. but he also argued that I argue that the explanatory filter is a reliable criterion for detecting design. Alternatively, I argue that the Explanatory Filter successfully avoids false positives. Thus whenever the Explanatory Filter attributes design, it does so correctly.

These statements combined with the admission that false positives are possible make the EF useless. For example, assume that ID had presented a clear case of an EF applied to infer design, how would we know that it had not forgotten a particular hypothesis?

This is a major shortcoming of ID, not just that ID is scientifically vacuous but also built on a theoretically flawed foundation.

A poster named Pete responded that I “ignored this sentence ‘But these are the risks of empirical inquiry, which of its nature is fallible.’”

Missing the point that empirical research is NOT based on eliminative approaches but presents positive explanations. Dembski’s original claim was that the EF would not allow for false positives since such would make the EF useless. This is because the EF is an eliminative approach, if there is a chance for false positives, then one cannot eliminate ‘we don’t know’ as a competing hypothesis. In other words, if an eliminative filter cannot eliminate false positives, the it cannot exclude ignorance as an explanation. SInce ID does not present any positive hypothesis or explanation of its own, the EF is doomed. That false positives are a problem for science is clearly true but science can at least compete with ‘we don’t know’ by proposing testable positive explanations.

I am not the only one who has come to this conclusion

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

Ryan Nichols wrote:

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

Quite an interesting discussion which shows how unfamiliar ID proponents are with the explanatory filter and Dembski’s claims. In addition, it is good to hear that Krauze, and others, are abandoning or rejecting Dembski’s (and mainstream ID’s) approaches of using eliminative arguments. Of course, until they present their theory or even hypothesis of design, not similarly flawed, we can only await with much eagerness their work.

Note also that teleology in nature is not really the issue since I accept Ayala and Ruse’s observations that natural processes involved in evolution are inherently telic/teleological. It’s in other words not design in nature but the nature of the designer which is the issue.