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Naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes

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[Cont’d:]

For, do we not routinely observe — and even scientifically study — signs of intentionally directed configuration, i.e. intelligent, purposeful design (or, art)? So, then — apart from ideological imposition, name-calling [“supernatural,” or even Lewontin’s and Sagan’s “demons”] and other dubious rhetoric — why is such a possibility of detecting signs of design in life or the order of the cosmos so often ruled out ahead of time on matters of scientific study of origins?

Last but not least, is it not the case that intelligently directed configuration is “reproducible,” even routinely so?

It is well worth pausing to read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on “Naturalism,” where we may observe how David Papineau begins:

The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003) . . . . [N]aturalism can intuitively be separated into an ontological and a methodological component. The ontological component is concerned with the contents of reality, asserting that reality has no place for ‘supernatural’ or other ‘spooky’ kinds of entity. By contrast, the methodological component is concerned with the ways of investigating reality, and claims some kind of general authority for the scientific method . . . [HT: Nullasalus]

The effect of that quiet separation of duties and associated redefinition of “the scientific method” — itself a problematic issue (and, Wikipedia on Demarcation is in interesting comparison) — is that our attention is drawn to the imposing authority of Science, and so we too often overlook the associated a priori metaphysical commitment that Lewontin so aptly summarised.

In effect, there is often a before the fact decision that the world must be seen as comprising only matter and energy, spontaneously interacting in space and time, in accord with the (idealised) laws of physics, thence of chemistry and biology. Out of a cosmic egg, the observed universe came to be at the Big Bang’s singularity. From that primordial explosion came hydrogen, thence stars and galaxies. As the bigger first generation stars burned out, heavier elements formed, and second generation stars such as our sun formed in Galactic Habitable Zones with high-water content terrestrial planets. Thence, Darwin’s warm little electrified pond (or a volcanic vent, or a handy comet, or whatever scenario) and voila, poof, life. Thence, presto, us. All, without intelligent direction, never mind the little probabilistic problem of how blind chance and necessity on the gamut of the observed cosmos can plausibly get to the complex, functional organisation and associated code-based information systems that are a hallmark of cell-based life.

After all, we are here.

And, we are “sure” that “the supernatural” could not have had anything to do with it.

“Science” can only study our world by making “natural explanations,” and there “must” be a solution to that problem that does not involve — shudder — intelligence to create codes, algorithms and the information systems that use such. Never mind that the first fact of our experience is that we are intelligent, thinking, deciding, acting creatures, or that we uniformly and routinely observe that the source of such information systems in today’s world is highly knowledgeable, expertly skilled intelligence. (Mere embodiment is not even relevant, just ask your friendly neighbourhood computer engineer.)

Never mind, too, the explosive exponentiation of configuration spaces for even 1,000 bits of information (1.07 * 10^301 possibilities), compared to the resources of an observed world of some 10^80 atoms and 13.7 billion or so years since the Big Bang, changing Planck-time state every 10^-45s or so. Namely: less than 1 in 10^150 of that number. If we have to take it on faith that there “must be” an unobserved quasi-infinite wider multiverse as a whole to make it seem plausible for life to happen and evolve into what we see in the current and fossil worlds by mere chance and necessity, so be it.

Oops.

The begged worldview-level question is plainly showing.

Again.

So also, is the self-referential incoherence that makes such evolutionary materialist scientism self-refuting:

a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture.  So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains.

d: These forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [[“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [[“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].

e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways?  Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

f: For further instance,  we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion.  Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely error, but delusion. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be an illustration of the unreliability of our reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

h:  That is, on its own premises [and following Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence.

i: The famous evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]

j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt and (v) the “conclusions” we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or logical validity. (The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them.)

k: And, if materialists then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories.

l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.

m: Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, “Billions and billions of demons,” it is now notorious that:

. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

n: Such a priori assumptions of materialism are patently question-begging, mind-closing and fallacious.

o: More important, to demonstrate that empirical tests provide empirical support to the materialists’ theories would require the use of the very process of reasoning and inference which they have discredited.

p: Thus, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces reason itself to the status of illusion.  But, as we have seen: immediately, that must include “Materialism.”

q: In the end, it is thus quite hard to escape the conclusion that materialism is based on self-defeating, question-begging logic.
r: So, while materialists — just like the rest of us — in practice routinely rely on the credibility of reasoning and despite all the confidence they may project, they at best struggle to warrant such a tacitly accepted credibility of mind relative to the core claims of their worldview. (And, sadly: too often, they tend to pointedly ignore or rhetorically brush aside the issue.)

In short, we have warranted and can freely state our conclusion: naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes.

As a corollary, once we see that, we are free to follow the force of the many reliable signs of intelligently directed configuration that we so often see in our world, and confidently infer — however provisionally — that things which exhibit such signs may do so for the very excellent reason that they are the product of art.

That is, of design.

Even, when we did not design them, and even when we do not otherwise independently and directly know the designers.

Indeed, once the imposition of Lewontinian, a priori materialism is out of the way, we can now see clearly that such signs of intelligently directed configuration count as just that: empirical evidence of design.

And from that soil springs a nascent scientific revolution. The Design Revolution. END

_____________________

FOOTNOTE: Let me take this occasion to express thanks to the blog owners for again extending an invitation to participate as a contributor.  With some reluctance, and on advice, I have agreed to (occasionally) contribute. Thanks to the many commenters here at UD, pro and con, who have helped me clarify my own thought. Let us trust that we will all be able to find a way forward on the vexed question of intelligent design.

145 Replies to “Naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes

  1. 1
    vividbleau says:

    kf Well done!!

    I credit P Johnson ( Darwin on Trial) for opening my eyes to the metaphysical underpinnings of Darwinism. I agree with PJ when he says that Darwinism is metaphysics disguised as science thus you are correct when you say

    “In the end, that’s why there is so much heat and smoke rather than light in the controversy over Evolution, Creation and Design. “For, much is at stake institutionally, educationally and culturally, and yet it turns on something so simple and obviously fallacious as aggressive materialist ideology-driven begging of worldview questions presented under the false colours of science.”

    Vivid

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    kf, I keep wondering, “What is this purely material basis that materialists build their entire worldview on now that Quantum Mechanics has demolished any ‘purely material’ misconceptions for the basis of reality that we may have harbored in the past?”

    notes:

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistrywo.....ammeup.asp

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1) — Concept 2. is used by Bennett, et al. Recall that they infer that since an infinite amount of information is required to specify a (photon) qubit, an infinite amount of information must be transferred to teleport.

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.

    leading quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger has followed in John Archibald Wheeler’s footsteps (1911-2008) by insisting reality, at its most foundational level, is ‘information’.

    “It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin.” John Archibald Wheeler

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.” Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:
    http://www.metanexus.net/Magaz.....fault.aspx

    Quantum mechanics
    Excerpt: The Everett many-worlds interpretation, formulated in 1956, holds that all the possibilities described by quantum theory simultaneously occur in a multiverse composed of mostly independent parallel universes.[39] This is not accomplished by introducing some new axiom to quantum mechanics, but on the contrary by removing the axiom of the collapse of the wave packet:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner
    Excerpt: The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    The Underlying Mathematical Foundation Of The Universe -Walter Bradley – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4491491

    The Five Foundational Equations of the Universe and Brief Descriptions of Each:
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

    The following site lists the unchanging ‘transcendent information’ constants of the universe:

    Systematic Search for Expressions of Dimensionless Constants using the NIST database of Physical Constants
    Excerpt: The National Institute of Standards and Technology lists 325 constants on their website as ‘Fundamental Physical Constants’. Among the 325 physical constants listed, 79 are unitless in nature (usually by defining a ratio). This produces a list of 246 physical constants with some unit dependence. These 246 physical constants can be further grouped into a smaller set when expressed in standard SI base units.,,,
    http://www.mit.edu/~mi22295/co.....tants.html

    Materialism compared to Theism within the scientific method:
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc....._5fwz42dg9

    etc… etc.. etc…

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF, great inaugural post. I look forward to your furture posts as well. When I see your posts I think of the proverb “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”

  4. 4
    john_a_designer says:

    “Science ‘must’ explain by natural causes.”

    Actually I’m okay with that, as long as we also are willing to concede that science cannot explain everything.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Well,

    “Science ‘must’ explain by natural causes.”

    How in the world is science going to build a coherent view natural’ causes, if it artificially removes intelligent causation as ‘natural’. In fact if methodological materialism/naturalism is the standard by which we must judge whether something is ‘natural’ or not, then the everyday intelligent conscious activity of humans is by definition ‘supernatural’ since the functional information generated by ‘conscious’ humans in their day to day goings (even on just 1 page of a written paper) greatly exceeds what can reasonably be expected to be produced by the ‘natural’ material processes of the universe over the entire history of the universe! Clearly the definition of ‘natural’, that materialists have highjacked for their own ends, is not a ‘natural’ definition!

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    correction:

    How in the world is science going to build a coherent view OF ‘natural’ causes,,,,

  7. 7
    CannuckianYankee says:

    KF,

    Nice thorough job. So like with VJ, if you disappear for a while, we can assume you’re working on something for us? 🙂

    I was reading recently the following from Ed Brayton’s blog “Dispatches from the Culture Wars” from 12/08 regarding some remarks made here at UD by Steve Fuller:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispat....._desce.php

    Fuller was discussing how like Marxism and Freudianism, Darwinism is a 19th Century social theory, and has become a “theory of everything.”

    Fuller (as quoted by Brayton): “The big difference is that Marxism and Freudianism – throughout their existence – have been contested (many would say decisively) by several alternative ways of organizing and interpreting the same body of data. In the case of Darwinism, this largely ended by 1950. However, it doesn’t mean that Darwinism has somehow turned into something other than a 19th century social theory. No, it’s simply a 19th century social theory with unusual clout. Indeed, Darwinism is really no different from Marxism and Freudianism in using its concepts as rhetorical devices for associating intuitively clear phenomena with rather deep and mysterious causes.”

    Brayton’s response: “I submit to you that anyone writing such gibberish in a freshman philosophy class would justifiably be flunked for it; this [ad hominem] has a PhD in the subject. The only ones who have turned evolution into a grand theory of everything are those religious enemies of evolution who use absurd rhetoric about “worldviews” and who fancy themselves (and everyone else) as soldiers in a holy war between God and Satan. These are the people who use the term ‘evolution’ to mean all of modern science and every possible non-theistic inference anyone has ever derived from it.

    To working scientists, evolution is no different from any other scientific theory. It is a testable, compelling explanation for a discrete (though very large) set of data. Evolution is no more naturalistic than any other theory in science, nor is it naturalistic in some qualitatively different way than any other theory in science. It does not explain, nor does it attempt to explain, “everything.” It explains only what it is intended to explain and it does so very successfully.”

    (I edited the offending ad hominem in [])

    It seems to me that while discounting worldview issues, the materialists are now denying the materialism of their own Darwinian theory. Seems like the way to go if you want to convince people you are truly on their side even if they are religious – well except for the fact that Brayton almost always resorts to disparaging ad hominem in his blog towards the “religious.” That certainly won’t win any converts.

    I would also submit that while perhaps Dr. Fuller may have seemingly, as Brayton pointed out, misconstrued Darwinism as a “theory of everything,” it was the theory, which made all other materialistic theories palatable to the scientific elite, such that all other materialistic theories in scientific circles become synchronistically supportive of Darwinism – M-theory, RNA world theory, abiogenesis theories, etc. So in actuality, while Darwinism is just one branch, it is no less the main focus of a larger supportive methodology, which only accepts naturalistic inquiry (and I might add speculation), and which seeks to answer everything. In that, Dr. Fuller is right on the mark. Darwinism needs all the other materialistic speculations in order to succeed.

    Note: I realize that Brayton is not actually a scientist, but a journalist – nonetheless, he is responsible for popularizing Darwinism through his own blog, and through his involvement in forming Panda’s Thumb.

  8. 8
    CannuckianYankee says:

    BA,

    “Clearly the definition of ‘natural’, that materialists have highjacked for their own ends, is not a ‘natural’ definition!”

    Brilliant!

  9. 9
    above says:

    @Cannuck

    marxism, freudianism, darwinism and nihilism are the 4 -isms that have contributed to much of the intellectual and moral descent of the west.

    They might be theories in their limited respective fields but as theories anything outside their respective fields they serve only as poor excuses to propagate specific socio-political agendas.

  10. 10
    above says:

    *theories of anything outside their respective fields

  11. 11
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Above,

    I would submit that the first 3 isms – Marxism, Freudianism and Darwinism all lead to the 4th ism, Nihilism, if taken to their inevitable extremes, because they all stem from a materialistic premise.

    It’s interesting though, that Marxism and Freudianism are out of the picture now – most forcefully because critics were able to see the end result, and to persuade the rest of us what that end result really was.

    It seems to me that ID critics of Darwinism, such as Philip Johnson are correct when they point out that we simply need to expose the materialistic foundations of Darwinism for it to equally fall with the rest of them.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    Excellent post KF!

    A conversation between a questioner and a methodological naturalist.

    MN: Science must study only natural causes.

    Q: What does “natural” mean?

    MN: I don’t know, but whatever it is, science must be exclusively about that.

    Now come on people. If you have any sense of humor at all, you have to love this.

  13. 13
    tgpeeler says:

    G, nice job. I refer to Lewontin’s comment that “Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

    One of the many ways in which I find materialism to be incoherent is the idea that we only know what we sense. Although that is not often pointed out as an implication of materialism it most certainly is. If all that actually exists is comprised of matter and energy then all that we can know is what we sense. It has to be that way. It’s true by definition.

    But we do know more than what we sense. We know of the Pythagorean theorem, for example. As far as I have been able to tell, the Pythagorean theorem is not visible, audible, gustatory, olfactory, or touchable. In other words, we cannot “sense” it. Yet we know of it. How is that? There is obviously something more to us than our five senses.

    The people who embrace this philosophical position are either willfully and deliberately ignorant or they just haven’t thought about it very deeply.

    There is an immaterial world that is real and it is a world of minds (or souls, if you will) reason, laws, morality, information, and yes, God. Gasp. How people can be deceived by such utter nonsense as materialism/naturalism/physicalism is beyond me.

    As you and others have ably and relentlessly pointed out, their fundamental intellectual commitment is self-defeating. It’s irrational in the extreme. It’s so wrong it defeats itself without “us” having to defeat the truth of premises or attack the validity of their logic. Yet it persists, and persists. Go figure.

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    tg,

    there is so much more to ‘what we sense’ than can possible reduced to the ‘natural’ material world:

    There Is More – Inspirational Poem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102086/

    There Is More
    Once I saw a very old Godly man who, being very near death, had
    Become deaf, blind and invalid; Yet somehow he glowed happily
    Then it occurred to me…
    There is more to see than the light we see with our eyes
    There is more to behold than to watch setting skies
    There is more to hear than the airwaves of sound
    There is more to stand on than to stand on the ground
    There is more to feel than what we can touch with our skin
    There is more to all things, things that come from deeper within
    Then I saw a miserly old rich man who had angrily driven away his family
    Now he was in a coma, in his mansion, with no one around who loved him
    Then it occurred to me…
    There is more to the hurt of a word than to sticks and stones
    There is more to people than just skin and bones
    There is more to a home than bricks, steel, and lumber
    There is more to waking up than rising from slumber
    There is more to riches than having gold piled high
    There is more to living than just being alive
    Then I saw a Godly young woman full of compassion
    Working with homeless people helping them get off the street
    Then it occurred to me…
    There is more to loving than the warmth of feeling good
    There is more to understanding than a fact being understood
    There is more to work with than the tools of our crafts
    There is more to cleaning up than taking a bath
    There is more to freedom than having no prison walls
    There is more to poverty than having no stuff at all
    Then I saw a bitter old man who angrily didn’t believe in
    Miracles at all and thinks that this cold world is all there is
    Then it occurred to me…
    There is more to being dead than a body in a tomb
    There is more to being born than coming out of a womb
    There is more to heaven than all the stars above
    There is more to Jesus Christ than a distant example of God’s love
    There is more to learning than books teach us in schools
    And there is more to walking with God than keeping TEN rules
    Then I got home at the end of the day
    Went into my room and quietly prayed
    Lord, If there is more than a lesson to my heart You could teach
    Would You teach me to see spiritually to add depth to my reach
    And Lord, If there is more than a gift to this world You might give
    Would You give the miracle that in all hearts Your light would live.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    Ah, Gentlepeople:

    First, thanks for some very kind words. I will try to live up to them.

    My thought on the “theory of everything” issue is that it is not that Darwinism at macro-level is a TOE like the holy grail of physics would be, but that it is a gateway theory for a worldview.

    Namely, evolutionary materialism wearing the lab coats of science.

    So, once it makes the worldview seem plausible [and from Darwin’s own writings it was intended to do so from the outset], we see a worldview level paradigm entrenched and dressed in the holy lab coat as “science.”

    In that context, under the label science, we see a cluster and cascade of evolutionary theories, models and narratives that mutually reinforce: cosmological, solar system, chemical, biological, socio-cultural, and now socio-technological. All of which are presented as “science” and even in some cases, as “fact” comparable to the fact of gravity. (Cf the discussion in the summary unit for the IOSE critical survey course, here.)

    Of course, somehow, the inconvenient fact that we did not and could not observe the remote actual past of origins is typically glided over in a discreet silence.

    A silence that covers over the fact that we are here dealing with the origins narrative for a worldview beyond the reach of empirically verifiable scientific knowledge. And where actual science is relevant through the method of inference to best explanation, the censoring power of evolutionary materialism cuts off working out the best of a true level playing field set of alternatives. For, as we see the denunciations of “supernatural” or “beyond nature” or “spooky” above doing, anything that may point where evolutionary materialism would not go is cut off and excluded a priori.

    Thus, we see the terrible impact of worldview level question-begging.

    And, as Johnson aptly pointed out, for those caught up in the worldview agenda, evolutionary materialism is confused for rationality itself. When, of course it is question-begging and self-referentially incoherent [as page 2 linked through that “more” develops].

    That is why we have to expose the question-begging and highlight the self-referential incoherence of the evolutionary materialist world-origin narrative. Otherwise, we cannot do real science unfettered by a priori impositions.

    When we do such real science, we soon enough find out that intelligence is an empirical fact [fact no 1 for each of us], that real choice and decisions are foundational to such intelligence and the credibility of both reasoning and mind. Then, we see that if we are to trust induction to yield the sort of provisional warrant for knowledge that we are forced to by our epistemic plight as finite, fallible and inferring creatures, then we see there are many, many strong and empirically reliable signs of intelligence.

    When we turn such unfettered reasoning loose on the origins question, it immediately tells us that cell based life is riddled with information systems and complex, functional, digitally coded information of a type that has only one routinely and reliably known source: intelligence.

    I therefore find it amusing to see how there is now a scurrying around to excise the use of terms like code, information, information processing, nanomachines and so on from the vocabulary that discusses the cell. Somewhere along that line the hoary old saw is trotted out that these terms are metaphorical and thus analogical. Analogies of course are prone to breaking down, and so they cannot provide proof beyond all doubt.

    Sorry.

    Digital information and codes are pretty clearly defined ans that is what we see in DNA and RNA. Code reading and algorithms, with the molecular units that process them are what they are. We are dealing with sophisticated instantiation, not poetic analogies.

    Then, when we look at the parameters to get to a cosmos that is supportive of C-chemistry, cell based life, we find that it is extraordinarily fine-tuned around the observed operating point.there may be other possible modes for sub-cosmi that will provide other operating points, maybe on architectures and technologies that we do not yet dream of.

    (And BTW, a bit of news: Judaeo-Christian theism is a multiverse worldview, and argues for a different technology of life that can intersect with the C-chemistry world we see: spirit.)

    But, when I look at a class AB push-pull transistor amplifier circuit and see it is biased at an operating point that just happens to give great audio output, I do not dismiss the case as irrelevant to inferring design, because other operating points are possible. The same holds for a well-tuned control loop, and for many many other systems. Getting things that conceptually will work together into that finely balanced mutually tuned condition we call and operating point is a non-trivial design issue. Engineering design uses but is not reducible to block diagram algebra!

    So, the key issue in this post, is that we need to open the mindset so we can hear the empirical data speak for itself, without the censoring bias imposed by evolutionary materialism.

    GEM of TKI

  16. 16
    gpuccio says:

    KF:

    just a short message of copngratulations for your very good “opening post”.

    I will be away for a few days, so to next week, and keep on!

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    GP:

    Enjoy your break!

    G

  18. 18
    Frost122585 says:

    G,

    I am so glad to see you have your own thread here on this one. I really enjoy the depth of your posts and you unorthodox style of presentation. It enriches this blog to have a full range of styles and personalities. Congrats.

    In regards to the main quote:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth . . . .

    There are many problems when an academic fallaciously leverages the straw man argument of super naturalism against their opposition. First there is the issue of defining what the term supernatural actually denotes- which like the term evolution can have various different definitions. At any rate it is not being used in this case to discuss what the proper role of supernatural categories are to a proper scientific paradigm but in this case just to simultaneously stigmatise the word as it pertains to science and label those who hold religious or “certain” metaphysical beliefs as being “supernaturalists” in a similarly silencing way as being called a “racist” often does. That amounts to both a straw-man and an ad hominem attack combined in one.

    While he plays the supernatural card I think we can easily see the immediate flaw in his analogy of metaphysical explanations as to “demons” – in that he fails to distinguish between “sufficient” (ie good) metaphysical (supernatural in his words) explanations – and “insufficient” (ie bad) ones. To him all supernatural explanations are inadequate or even apparently EVIL. Thus, at the very least we can infer that he is indeed clearly afraid of supernatural explanations if to him they are equal to the evil manifestation and controlling power of demons.

    But purly naturalistic explanations of which he seems to esteem as the supreme paradigm of knowledge and truth, are as we know from direct experience always incomplete. Besides the inconvenient truth of Godel to formal logic and arithmetic or Heisenberg to physics there is also the simple practical problem of trying to get a human brain to fully comprehend the origin of all things (including its own question) through the countless dimensions of modern quantum physics (which in and of itself is arguably a metaphysical theory).

    Lest we forget though that Lewontin and his kind, almost always know and understand the flaws and weaknesses of their own beleifs from the get go, but yet still remain fully beholden to their own “religious” agenda which is to maintain the old naturalistic paradigm that rules out mind and intelligence a priori as primary causative factors- despite there being no demonstrable evidence nor sufficient reason for them doing so- and that is true bigotry- to barrow one from his playbook.

    And so the question that must be posed to Lewontin is ‘what naturalistic reason or law can you site to support your faith in a purely, uncompromising, MANDATORY, materialistic naturalist approach to science?

    What law of physics proves that matter must be the primary causative factor in the origin of all, or any, thing?

    What law demonstrates that matter precedes mind?

    It is actually Lewontin’s faith in his own particular brand of metaphysical dogma that truly sticks out as insufficient and thus so are his demands and expectations for science. There in lies the true nature of HIS problem, and the deceiving demon behind it too.

  19. 19
    john_a_designer says:

    Earlier (#4) I very politely wrote:

    [“Science ‘must’ explain by natural causes.”

    Actually I’m okay with that, as long as we also are willing to concede that science cannot explain everything.]

    Apparently that ruffled some feathers.

    I think there is a case for methodological naturalism (MN), as long as we define MN as being distinct from philosophical naturalism (PN) or materialism. On the other hand, I do think that people with a commitment to PN are sometimes guilty of blurring the distinction.

    However, I think that I can rationally argue that there is nothing that we know about natural causes operating in a pre-biotic environment that can explain the kind of design that we see even in the simplest or primitive cells. We haven’t experimentally proven that it’s impossible that some unknown natural cause (x) is responsible for the design we see in the cell. Logically it is not possible to prove a negative.

    So the burden of proof shifts to those who claim that life is somehow the result of natural causes alone. Until they provide the evidence, (An experiment realistically simulating an a-biotic environment that actually does give rise to some kind of primitive life) they have only a belief about what happened.

    Can ID’ists provide an experiment demonstrating how some intelligence created the first living things. I don’t see how. However, they can give us a positive argument that the only thing that we know of that can presently explain certain features of the cell, such as it’s coded sequences, is some kind of intelligence.

    We know that intelligence exists in the universe. We are intelligent. However, it’s obvious that the intelligence is not us, so it must be some other kind of intelligence. I would also argue that logically it must be a more advanced kind of intelligence, since we do not yet know how to create life.

    Now is that a scientifically testable explanation? I don’t think so. However, I do think it is a better explanation than that somehow life is the result of natural causes.

    So in conclusion, MN could, at least in principle, lead to an experiment that could demonstrate that life arose by natural causes alone. ID, on the other, hand cannot lead to such an experiment. If you think that is wrong, please explain how and why.

  20. 20
    Matteo says:

    “So in conclusion, MN could, at least in principle, lead to an experiment that could demonstrate that life arose by natural causes alone. ID, on the other, hand cannot lead to such an experiment. If you think that is wrong, please explain how and why.”

    Is a bit like saying “Belief in perpetual motion could, at least in principle, demonstrate a perpetual motion machine. Statistical Mechanics and adherence to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, on the other hand, cannot lead to such an experiment.”

    This doesn’t count as a weakness of the Second Law, so why should your statement count as a weakness against ID? Why should ID be faulted for not having the ability to demonstrate the indemonstrable?

    Seems more like a feature than a bug to me.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    Frost:

    Interesting thought.

    You are right that there is a stigmatisation going on, with the “demonic” supernatural serving as both a strawman and an ad hominem.

    In fact, in the immediate context of the last part of the quote, this is what Lewontin had to also say:

    ________________

    >> With great perception, Sagan sees that there is an impediment to the popular credibility of scientific claims about the world, an impediment that is almost invisible to most scientists. Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. When, at the time of the moon landing, a woman in rural Texas was interviewed about the event, she very sensibly refused to believe that the television pictures she had seen had come all the way from the moon, on the grounds that with her antenna she couldn’t even get Dallas. What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity “in deep trouble.” Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen . . .

    ______________________

    He then went on to speak of how in ancient Chinese culture, a superior adept of magic could kill the demons, which are limited, and presented Newton as a champion of deism and the God of the gaps concept. And he then topped off (harking back to a debate in 1964 that Johnson also discusses) as follows:

    The struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world is one aspect of the history of the confrontation between elite culture and popular culture . . .

    A few remarks are in order:

    a –> The contrast between the scientist’s superior knowledge and the ignorance of a woman who does not know about how a TV broadcast could be made from the moon to her TV is a metaphor for the claimed ignorance of the populace driving a fundamentalist bigotry that rejects the “self evident” truths of science on origins.

    b –> But, a priori imposition is not a question of superior knowledge but of controlling ideology.

    c –> So, a further excerpt from Johnson’s rebuttal is apt:

    if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    The prior commitment explains why evolutionary scientists are not disturbed when they learn that the fossil record does not provide examples of gradual macroevolutionary transformation, despite decades of determined effort by paleontologists to confirm neo-Darwinian presuppositions. That is also why biological chemists like Stanley Miller continue in confidence even when geochemists tell them that the early earth did not have the oxygen-free atmosphere essential for producing the chemicals required by the theory of the origin of life in a prebiotic soup . . . .

    The scientific leadership cannot afford to disclose that commitment frankly to the public. Imagine what chance the affirmative side would have if the question for public debate were rephrased candidly as “RESOLVED, that everyone should adopt an a priori commitment to materialism.” Everyone would see what many now sense dimly: that a methodological premise useful for limited purposes has been expanded to form a metaphysical absolute. Of course people who define science as the search for materialistic explanations will find it useful to assume that such explanations always exist. To suppose that a philosophical preference can validate a cherished scientific theory is to define “science” as a way of supporting prejudice. Yet that is exactly what the Darwinists seem to be doing, when their evidence is evaluated by critics who are willing to question materialism.

    [ . . . ]

  22. 22
    JDH says:

    My two cents which is written in a form of some questions and dialogue.

    1. Is it suitable to define “Natural” causes as what occurs without the input of primary causal agents?

    For example consider Newton’s theory of gravitation. When he ( perhaps apocryphally ) considered the falling of an apple to earth, he created something. He was able in his mind to think of not the mass of the earth, not the mass of the apple, but mass as an inherent property of matter. Then he wrote down ( in the notation of the day )

    F = G m1 m2 / r^2.

    Now the incredible thing about Newton’s Gravitational theorem is that it is a thing. It stands on its own as a created object. It is not the paper it is written on or the ink that it was written with. It is an idea. The only possible way for it to be invented was to imagine the existence of objects of all different types of masses. Note that for most of those masses and distances, no actual “naturally produced” objects existed. In his mind he imagined objects of a continuum of masses.

    Note also that Newton’s theory is not correct. It does not contain relativistic corrections, and imagines point particles instead of quantum wave functions. But it does not have to be correct to be a thing.

    For that matter, the Theory of Evolution is a thing. It can only be created by imagining all of the necessary transitional forms and OOL schemes that are not currently observable. It does not have to be correct, but it is also a thing.

    Also materialism is a thing. It is a certain viewpoint. It may or may not be right, but it is definitely a thing.

    The interesting thing, is that all of these objects: Newton’s Gravitational Theorem, The Theory of Evolution, and Materialism lie outside the realm of natural causes. They can not be created without induction from only a few observables to the creation of a general statement. Its too bad then that science can have no comment on how these things came about.

    Its also interesting, that if we define “naturalism” as above, that the origin of the thing we call materialism, can not be studied by science. And the existence of the theory of materialism proves that things outside of materialism exist. But that disproves materialism.

    Thus it is easily seen that although materialism is a thing, the invention of it lies outside the realm of materialism, and it thus refutes itself. If the theory of materialism exists, it must be wrong. But I guess that was kf’s point anyway.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    d –> A question-begging prejudice like that cannot be frankly acknowledged, so it is no surprise to see the trifecta fallacy of red herring subject-changing distractors, led away to strawman caricatures of “fundy ignoramuses” and onwards to ad hominems against said “backwards” people.

    e –> Similarly, no-one who seriously reads either Newton’s General Scholium to this Principia or Query 31 to his Opticks could properly characterise him as arguing deism and God of the gaps as his main view on God and science.

    f –> Instead, his view is that of a sophisticated design thinker, as may be seen from a brief snippet from the latter:

    Now by the help of [[the laws of motion], all material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles above-mention’d, variously associated in the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages . . . .

    f –> It seems Newton “pripsed” his successor to the Lucasian chair, Hawking, by a tad over 300 years.

    g –> Similarly, it is plain from the General Scholium [and a lot of Theology 101, easily accessible for thousands of years] that on a theistic view the miraculous is not the source of chaos that makes science impossible, but instead the creation by the God of order undergirds confidence in that ordered system of reality that finds expression in scientific law:

    This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems . . . .

    He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space. Since every particle of space is always, and every indivisible moment of duration is every where, certainly the Maker and Lord of all things cannot be never and no where.

    h –> This is of course precisely the opposite of the caricatured deism that Lewontin would put upon Newton. Newton plainly thought in terms of inference to best explanation across Intelligence and art, chance chaos, and mechanical necessity. He saw that the evidence points strongly to intelligence as the “natural” best explanation. the one that would be persuasive to most people once there is a level playing field.

    i –> Similarly, the very point of the miraculous as a sign is that it stands out distinct fromt he ordinary course of events and points to an order of reality beyond the world. in short, miracles have to be rare and have to stand out from a predictable order of reality.

    j –> No wonder then that modern science began and was nurtured in theistic, Judaeo-Christian soil. For, theism gives confidence that the God of order created and sustains the world, which will be intelligible, indeed, he so orders it that its order points to his attributes, as Rom 1 roundly declares:

    20 . . . since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse . . .

    k –> So, what we are seeing is the imposition of a priori materialism, in part aided by loaded caricatures and distortions of the “natural” theistic alternative in our civlisation.

    l –> Which brings us back to the point being made by Johnson: “Imagine what chance the affirmative side would have if the question for public debate were rephrased candidly as “RESOLVED, that everyone should adopt an a priori commitment to materialism.”

    __________________

    State the matter straight and plain, and the proud tower at once collapses.

    GEM of TKI

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD:

    You have raised an interesting point, at 4 and 19, one well worth a specific response on the merits. Pardon my not having commented before (I am trying to deal with a national crisis on constitutional law):

    “Science ‘must’ explain by natural causes.”

    Actually I’m okay with that, as long as we also are willing to concede that science cannot explain everything.

    Unfortunately, the point of evolutionary materialism as an ideological agenda propped up by ideologised scientific research programmes is precisely to try to explain “everything.”

    For such materialists, reality itself is constrained to matter, energy, space, time and their interactions under scientific laws and forces of chance and mechanical necessity.

    In that context, methodological naturalism serves as a stalking horse, a blind that hides the ideological agenda.

    And, to push that agenda, the a priori materialists routinely distort what designt hought actualy does: they present he matter as a contrast between natural and supernatural explanation, tothe detriment of the latter.

    But in fact, the true alternative ever since Plaoto’s The Laws, Bk X [360 BC], is natural vs ART-ificial, and in that context, there are abundant signs that serve as reliable markers of art, or intelligently directed configuration. that is, design.

    So, the effect of methodological naturalism on origins science, is to bias the outcome by censoring out ahead of time the possibility that empirically reliable sings might point to art as the best explanation for say the digitally coded, funcitonally specific complex information in cell based life, or the fine-tuned balance that sets our observed cosmos at an operating point that enables C-chemistry cell based life.

    And, until we consistently expose and challenge the question begging imposition, and go on to point out that the evo mat worldview is also self-referentially incoherent [it undermines the credibility of mind and organised thought, necessarily including its own system of thought], the a priori imposition backed by the august presence of the Magisterium in Lab coats, will prejudice the outcome.

    Instead of falling for it, we should insist that science properly can empirically investigate our world by identifying and explaining in light of causal factors tracing to chance, necessity and intelligence.

    The explanatory filter, appropriately used on an aspect by aspect investigation of phenomena, is an excellent tool for that.

    GEM of TKI

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    Matteo:

    Thanks for surfacing a key issue, how the design inference focusses on a key goal of science: truth.

    Ideologising science leads it away from being what science should be at its best:

    the unfettered (but intellectually and ethically responsible) progressive pursuit of the well-warranted truth about our world, in light of observation, experiment, hypothesis, theorising, discussion among the informed, and empirical testing

    Further to this, the identification and validation of reliable signs of intelligently directed configuration is not only a legitmately scientific activity, but it opens up the door to empirical testing of design inferences.

    Ironically, it is the a priori imposition of evolutionary materialism that begs the question and insulates the reigning orthodoxy from empirical test.

    Johnson is apt:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    The prior commitment explains why evolutionary scientists are not disturbed when they learn that the fossil record does not provide examples of gradual macroevolutionary transformation, despite decades of determined effort by paleontologists to confirm neo-Darwinian presuppositions. That is also why biological chemists like Stanley Miller continue in confidence even when geochemists tell them that the early earth did not have the oxygen-free atmosphere essential for producing the chemicals required by the theory of the origin of life in a prebiotic soup. They reason that there had to be some source (comets?) capable of providing the needed molecules, because otherwise life would not have evolved. When evidence showed that the period available on the early earth for the evolution of life was extremely brief in comparison to the time previously posited for chemical evolution scenarios, Carl Sagan calmly concluded that the chemical evolution of life must be easier than we had supposed, because it happened so rapidly on the early earth.

    That is also why neo-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins are not troubled by the Cambrian Explosion, where all the invertebrate animal groups appear suddenly and without identifiable ancestors. Whatever the fossil record may suggest, those Cambrian animals had to evolve by accepted neo-Darwinian means, which is to say by material processes requiring no intelligent guidance or supernatural input. Materialist philosophy demands no less. That is also why Niles Eldredge, surveying the absence of evidence for macroevolutionary transformations in the rich marine invertebrate fossil record, can observe that “evolution always seems to happen somewhere else,” and then describe himself on the very next page as a “knee-jerk neo-Darwinist.” Finally, that is why Darwinists do not take critics of materialist evolution seriously, but speculate instead about “hidden agendas” and resort immediately to ridicule. In their minds, to question materialism is to question reality. All these specific points are illustrations of what it means to say that “we” have an a priori commitment to materialism.

    The scientific leadership cannot afford to disclose that commitment frankly to the public. Imagine what chance the affirmative side would have if the question for public debate were rephrased candidly as “RESOLVED, that everyone should adopt an a priori commitment to materialism.” Everyone would see what many now sense dimly: that a methodological premise useful for limited purposes has been expanded to form a metaphysical absolute. Of course people who define science as the search for materialistic explanations will find it useful to assume that such explanations always exist. To suppose that a philosophical preference can validate a cherished scientific theory is to define “science” as a way of supporting prejudice. Yet that is exactly what the Darwinists seem to be doing, when their evidence is evaluated by critics who are willing to question materialism . . .

    GEM of TKI

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    JDH:

    Some very provocative thoughts.

    Why not elaborate them a bit more?

    I gotta go now . . .

    G

  27. 27
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    I disagree: Naturalism is not materialism. And I can cite quite a number of self-described naturalists who are not materialists: David Chalmers and many of those who join him in rejecting materialism. Galen Strawson – unless you join him in calling panpsychism materialism. Bertrand Russell – unless you consider neutral monism materialism. That list can go on.

    You yourself quote the SEP entry where, explicitly, no attempt is made to rigidly define naturalism. Indeed, there’s another telling quote from that same entry:

    So understood, ‘naturalism’ is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers. The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject ‘supernatural’ entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the ‘human spirit’.

    Even so, this entry will not aim to pin down any more informative definition of ‘naturalism’. It would be fruitless to try to adjudicate some official way of understanding the term. Different contemporary philosophers interpret ‘naturalism’ differently. This disagreement about usage is no accident. For better or worse, ‘naturalism’ is widely viewed as a positive term in philosophical circles—few active philosophers nowadays are happy to announce themselves as ‘non-naturalists’.[1] This inevitably leads to a divergence in understanding the requirements of ‘naturalism’. Those philosophers with relatively weak naturalist commitments are inclined to understand ‘naturalism’ in a unrestrictive way, in order not to disqualify themselves as ‘naturalists’, while those who uphold stronger naturalist doctrines are happy to set the bar for ‘naturalism’ higher.[2]

    The intentional vagueness of the opening should be striking: So many philosophers want to be considered ‘naturalist’, so they loosen the definition as needed. Indeed, the one thing that unites them is accepting science (not even as the exclusive method of gaining knowledge) and rejecting things that are supernatural and ‘spooky’, without any attempt to define supernatural – its own can of worms.

    At the same time, some naturalists – really, some materialists as well – openly assert ID theories: John Gribbin and Nick Bostrom come to mind (Bostrom advances the simulation argument, but rejects the simulation hypothesis. But it’s important to note that according to Bostrom, the hypothesis is materialistic!), as do others. Bostrom explicitly calls the simulation argument and simulation hypothesis naturalistic and materialistic. Gribbin, I strongly believe, would say the same.

    You’ll also note that in that same SEP entry, naturalism has morphed repeatedly over the years – at certain times it rejected ‘action at a distance’, then when the concept came to have utility, it accepted it. It stuck to a cartesian material view, then a newtonian, and now a quantum physical view that still has to be pieced together.

    My humble suggestion is this: Materialism is a red herring, as is naturalism. Words like ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ get thrown around, a lot of bluffing about ‘naturalism’ comes to pass, but at the end of the day the targets in question are particular religions and particular religious beliefs. Rather like how “Darwinism” can go through all manner of changes, ‘natural selection’ can even be discarded as the principle mechanism for diversity or the origination of novel traits, but for some people it’s very important to call it all “Darwinism” anyway.

    One last note: Even when it comes to ‘matter and energy’, questions must be asked: What is matter? What is energy? As far as I know, scientists still are trying to puzzle out what matter ultimately is. As for energy, a quote:

    It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge of what energy is. We do not have a picture that energy comes in little blobs of a definite amount. It is not that way. However, there are formulas for calculating some numerical quantity and when we add it together it gives “28”—always the same number. It is an abstract thing in that it does not tell us the mechanisms or the reasons for the various formulas.

    A pat on the back to whoever can guess the source of that quote without googling.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    Nullasalus:

    I hear your thought.

    Appreciated, and welcomed [I know how much effort and risk goes into making a comment in a controversial situation], but I think I must still respectfully disagree. In particular, I am not talking about narrowest reductive or eliminativist materialism or physicalism as such but the “scientific” worldview-level claim and origins narrative that may be aptly described as evolutionary materialism.

    It will help to cite Wiki as linked on materialism:

    In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance.

    I am modifying this with “evolutionary” to bring to bear the origins science narrative from hydrogen to humans, and to point out that there is a commitment to avoid “spooky” entities beyond matter. As for neutral monism, it comes down to an extension of the relativity-inspired idea that we have matter-energy as interconvertible per E = m*c^2.

    (NB: I actually thought a fair bit about that “is,” and concluded that once the evolutionary materialist paradigm for origins is accepted and given the imprimatur of “science,” it is definitive of all species of naturalisms, as opposed to the “spooky,” “demonic” etc “supernaturalism” that “naturalists” reject. For, it is the “scientific” evolutionary materialistic account of origins that provides the plausibility, authority and cultural credibility for naturalistic views and sets the context in which things like life, consciousness and intelligence are held to have “emerged.” It also gives the hard core “scientific” framework on which the wider ideas and claimed emergent properties, or entities or whatever are anchored. Therefore, I believe the “is” is warranted, once the “evolutionary” modifier is understood more broadly than simply biological evolution. And that I have always explicitly argued: the familiar origins science narrative from hydrogen to humans by cosmological, solar system, chemical, biological and socio-cultural evolution.)

    In short, there is a specific and central reason why I use a significant descriptive modifier to “materialism,” i.e. evolutionary.

    This opens up room for that “scientific” emergentism that often distinguishes many “naturalists” from physicalists in the reductionistic or eliminativistic sense. (Here, notice how the common core as observed by SEP is acceptance of “science,” which on origins means evolutionary materialism, from hydrogen to humans.)

    How one elaborates that evolutionary emergentism or contextualises it may vary indeed, but the common skeletal framework so far as I can see is the “scientific” evolutionary materialism.

    That core “scientific” worldview narrative, presented with all the august authority of institutional science, asserts that the world emerged by spontaneous processes, from hydrogen to humans, and is fundamentally constituted by matter, energy, space, time and interactions that are based on chance and necessity. Without external initiation, sustaining or intervention. What is, up to and including he human mind and spirit, are held to have emerged spontaneously from that process.

    Or, so it is held.

    (Indeed, I observe how remarkably often it is claimed, or simply assumed — without empirical evidence — that a suitably sophisticated computer with sufficiently complex looping software will spontaneously emerge into consciousness. Thus, spirit emerges from matter, on software that writes itself through chemical and biological evolution rooted in chance and necessity!)

    Even in the odd cases where there is the argument that the world is a software simulation, that narrative is a key defining characteristic.

    So far as I can make out, those “naturalists” who are sympathetic to the design view tend to believe that design is immanent in the natural world, so that the front-loading if you will is a part of the underlying cosmic order. Life — DNA, RNA, executing machinery and all — is somehow written into physics and chemistry. And, I presume, such are held to be brute — albeit as yet not fully identified — givens (laws, forces, materials etc) of the physical world. (I stand to be corrected on that, as I gather there are atheists out there who pray!!)

    When it comes to panpsychism,SEP observes a bit coyly: “Panpsychism is the doctrine that mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe.” Wiki is a bit more forthcoming:

    “the view that all parts of matter involve mind, or the more holistic view that the whole Universe is an organism that possesses a mind . . . . Panpsychism claims that everything is sentient and that there are either many separate minds, or one single mind that unites everything that is.”

    This is either a claim about the nature of the physical cosmos, or it is a modified form of pantheism [or panentheism], which is not a naturalistic view. But, merely repackaging pantheism or its kissing cousins to make it more palatable in an evolutionary materialistic age does not change it into naturalism.

    That common core evolutionary materialism, is also precisely the key vulnerability [question-begging, self-refuting], and that is why I join those who strip off the superstructure and go for the framing skeleton. Thus, with all due respect this is not a red herring issue, nor — anticipating another possible objection — is it a strawman distortion.

    We can go further. For, that vulnerability also extends to the implication of basing a worldview on ises that cannot ground oughtness, i.e. amorality. (I think there is a recent UD thread which discusses that.)

    Coming back on topic, I believe it is therefore fair and reasonable comment to hold that — despite denials, subtle distinctions, sub-species or deflections — “Naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes.”

    Of course, you (or others) may be able to show me in material error, and if so I would be happy to adjust my view.

    GEM of TKI

  29. 29
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    Appreciated, and welcomed [I know how much effort and risk goes into making a comment in a controversial situation]

    Well, not so much in my case. I’ve little to risk, and the effort’s a pleasure. I’m just some guy discussing something on the internet.

    It will help to cite Wiki as linked on materialism:

    I’m not sure how much it helps, only because what ‘matter’ is – by my understanding – remains under debate even in scientific contexts, certainly in an ultimate sense. Matter, ultimately, used to be something like ‘tiny colorless odorless marbles’. I’ve seen suggestions ranging from the ‘strings’ of string theory to (in some platonic way, I assume) ‘math’ in Max Tegmark’s ultimate ensemble to information to an infinity of splittables to who knows what else.

    I’m not trying to split hairs here just to do so. But materialism isn’t what it used to be (good thing too, I suppose, since what it used to be is now widely regarded as false.) And part of my reason for objecting to the identification of naturalism with materialism (even evolutionary materialism) is because it suggests that naturalism has more to it than it really does.

    Even this doesn’t really help much:

    I actually thought a fair bit about that “is,” and concluded that once the evolutionary materialist paradigm for origins is accepted and given the imprimatur of “science,” it is definitive of all species of naturalisms, as opposed to the “spooky,” “demonic” etc “supernaturalism” that “naturalists” reject.

    So nothing ‘spooky’? Nothing ‘supernatural’? But the problem here remains what it was in the SEP article: What’s this “supernatural”? What is it, particularly, when the “natural” won’t even be defined in the SEP of all places?

    Even in the odd cases where there is the argument that the world is a software simulation, that narrative is a key defining characteristic.

    I would agree that those who offer up simulation arguments tend not to notice that their position is in direct conflict with Darwinism, but I don’t think that narrative works in that case. Simulationists could allow for direct intervention of the programmer in the universe, after all. (Bostrom himself cites such an example as one which would provide additional evidence for concluding we live in a simulation.)

    This is either a claim about the nature of the physical cosmos, or it is a modified form of pantheism [or panentheism], which is not a naturalistic view.

    Why isn’t it? There are panpsychists who claim they are naturalists. There are philosophers and even scientists who explicitly reject materialism and claim they are naturalists. And while I am aware of other philosophers challenging their position, I can’t recall one who ever claimed their positions made them ‘non-naturalists’. (Actually, I can recall one. Alex Rosenberg, who argued that anyone who believes in intentionality – aboutness – is not a real naturalist. I also recall other self-described naturalists squaring off with him over that.) The SEP explicitly avoids settling this question and outright notes that lots of ‘naturalists’ call themselves such because the name is popular – and the head of the Center for Naturalism has repeatedly shown up on sites, insisting that naturalism does not mandate materialism.

    Let me be clear here: I’m not denying that evolution is wielded as a political and cultural club in many ways. Nor am I denying that defenders of evolution often are motivated heavily by metaphysics, or try to pass off their metaphysics as science. I agree with all of that.

    What I’m saying is that ‘naturalism’ is demonstrably not materialism (at least if we go by many prominent self-described naturalists and what they believe or consider naturalistic), and what’s more, ‘naturalists’ are not afraid of relying on anything ‘spooky’. Brute facts are spooky. Multiverses are spooky, violations of causality are spooky, quantum physics is spooky, neutral monism is spooky, strong emergence is spooky, panpsychism is spooky – the list goes on. Self-described naturalists will in fact dive for and conditionally entertain just about any idea, no matter how “spooky”, so long as it can be envisioned and rhetorically employed in opposition to what they dislike: Particular religions. (Not even “all religions” – merely specific ones.)

    I don’t want to come across as defending naturalism either by insisting that naturalism is not materialism. Quite the opposite: Naturalism is mush. Clay. It hardly means anything anymore, and in the hands of a self-described “naturalist” the definition changes to whatever is most convenient for him. I think it is far too forgiving of naturalism to regard the position or idea as having much more to it than that.

    For the self-described naturalist, “science” must explain things with absolutely any concept, idea, theory or imagined possibility available, so long as it stays hostile to or, at the very least, dead silent towards specific religions. That’s what I contend, and I think a survey of just about every self-described naturalist will reveal that to approach the lowest common denominator, even moreso than materialism.

  30. 30
    mikev6 says:

    As far as I know, extensions of science beyond the natural have only been used to explain events not otherwise explainable by ‘naturalist’ science. I’m not aware of any concrete results that resulted from these explanations. Am I missing something?

    At a pragmatic level, what else changes in a science that includes “non-natural” explanations? Do we still question? Do we strive for repeatability? Are random controlled studies still valid?

  31. 31
    bornagain77 says:

    nullasus you state:,

    I’m not sure how much it helps, only because what ‘matter’ is – by my understanding – remains under debate even in scientific contexts, certainly in an ultimate sense. Matter, ultimately, used to be something like ‘tiny colorless odorless marbles’. I’ve seen suggestions ranging from the ‘strings’ of string theory to (in some platonic way, I assume) ‘math’ in Max Tegmark’s ultimate ensemble to information to an infinity of splittables to who knows what else.

    with quantum teleportation of ‘matter’,,,

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.

    ,,, thus nullasus, whatever people may debate is the foundation of ‘matter’, ‘strings’, maths. infinity of splittables, the point really is moot for the entirety of ‘matter’,(‘strings’, maths. infinity of splittables or whatever else may be in a atom) is reducible, in its entirety to transcendent information. Their simply is not anything else left to reduce to!!!

  32. 32
    Bantay says:

    How interesting. On one hand we have scientists who consider [materialistic] science itself to be the standard of truth…many of whom also appeal to unobserved, untestable ideas like Naturalism, or the Multiverse, or anything naturalistic, no matter how much faith it requires.

    On the other hand, we have other scientists of equal intellectual merit claiming that after observation and and consideration of the effects intelligent agents leave behind as evidence of design activity, that we are reasonable to consider that some features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an inference of design.

    Though I am open to where the evidence leads, even if it is a naturalistic explanation, I think only one of the two groups of scientists above are seeking a truthful, accurate explanation.

    It seems to me that science is worthless if truth is not the standard by which the natural world is explained.

  33. 33
    JDH says:

    My question is this.

    Are the theory of materialism or the theory of naturalism things(entities) or not? Since we are sitting here discussing them they appear to me to be entities.

    Since they are real entities we can discuss their origins.

    The follow up question is, “Did any intelligent agent create these things ( theory of materialism, theory of naturalism )?”

    If they were created by some intelligent agent which exists outside of materialism, and outside of naturalism, then the theory of materialism or naturalism is disproved since it asserts that only materialism or naturalism exists.

    If they were NOT created by some intelligent agent which exists outside of materialism, and outside of naturalism and only came about by unguided processes, why in the world should I choose to believe them over any other theory?

    I don’t see any way for the advocate of materialism to climb out of this contradiction. As soon as he advocates his position, he has lost.

  34. 34
    JDH says:

    As an aside, it strikes me as odd that some of the most intelligent minds of the world are committed to proving that they are not.

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    Nullasalus:

    Taking a break after losing and reconstructing about an hour’s worth of work.

    I am not so much interested in what people say by way of labelling, as in the substantial structure of their thought, especially the hard core skeleton that frames the thought. The naturalists’ priority on adhering to “science” in a world where origins science is dominated by [totalising] evolutionary materialist [meta-]narratives, is enough to see that we are here looking at a hard core of a paradigm, similar to Lakatos’ thought. That sort of hard core is defended stoutly, and sometimes by any means, fair or foul.

    It is that hard core that I am speaking to.

    And, when it comes to what mater is, the relevant forms are made up of atoms, their components and related species, interacting energetically; and of course in some cases transforming to energy. What sub atomic particles and their quark-level components are, is another cycle on the old reduction of composites to elements story, but it does not have particular relevance to what stars, galaxies, planets, and C-chemistry life forms are made of, and how they come to be. (Dark matter and dark energy debates are largely irrelevant to our concerns!)

    So long as our naturalists are playing the totalising evolutionary materialistic narrative game, they are in that paradigm, and the above concerns apply.

    When it comes to panpsychism, they are plainly more pantheists or the like than naturalists, though they seem to be trying to be in the big tent, which is where the cultural power is.

    BTW, anybody interested in commenting on the last 1/2 of the post, i.e. p. 2?

    GEM of TKI

    PS: MEv6, welcome to the thread. While the inference to design is a bit off topic, the issue is that science at its best is truth seeking. Once an evo mat metanarrative is imposed as a reigning orthodoxy, tha tis compromised. Especially when it is backed up by power games, as it is. In fact, it is routine in scientific work and related fields to infer on empirical evidence to chance, mechanical necessity and intelligence as causal factors. Knowing what is accident, what is necessity and what is intelligently directed is important in a great many fields, and the praxis is well established. I suggest — and I think I have done so before — you look at ANOVA and experiment design on control and treatment groups for starters to see just how important this stuff is in science.

    PPS: Bantay, welcome. you have made a very good point.

    PPPS: JDH, keep that good stuff coming. Draw out your thought a bit more. DV, overnight I will look at it.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: When it comes to what energy is, I am back at an updated form of my 4th form definition sheet: if something can be made to carry out work, it is or contains energy. Work, being the process by which ordered motion is imposed on bodies by forces acting on them. WHAT ENERGY IS BEYOND THAT SEEMS TO VARY, AND AT QUANTUM LEVEL, THE WAVE-PARTICLE DUALITY THING BEGINS TO APPLY, e.g. consider what photons and phonons are. And of course electron-positron pair production from gamma photons of was it 1.12 MeV and up shows that energy can be transmuted into massive particles.

  37. 37
    bornagain77 says:

    actually kf, though you are right, as usual, that for all practicle purposes the debate is limited to atoms fro materialists/naturalists, at least one materialist/naturalist has actually tried to access the ‘quantum world’ to resolve the insurmountable problems they face in Darwinism:

    The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution – Eugene V Koonin – Background:
    “Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin’s original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life’s history, the principal “types” seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate “grades” or intermediate forms between different types are detectable;
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/21

    Biological Big Bangs – Origin Of Life and Cambrian – Dr. Fazale Rana – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4284466

    It should be noted that Dr. Koonin tries to account for the origination of the massive amounts of functional information, required for the Cambrian Explosion, and other ‘explosions’, by trying to access an ‘unelucidated and undirected’ mechanism of Quantum Mechanics called ‘Many Worlds’. Besides Dr. Koonin ignoring the fact that Quantum Events, on a whole, are strictly restricted to the transcendent universal laws/constants of the universe, including and especially the second law of thermodynamics, for as far back in time in the universe as we can ‘observe’, it is also fair to note, in criticism to Dr. Koonin’s scenario, that appealing to the undirected infinite probabilistic resource, of the quantum mechanics of the Many Worlds scenario, actually greatly increases the amount of totally chaotic information one would expect to see generated ‘randomly’ in the fossil record. In fact the Many Worlds scenario actually greatly increases the likelihood we would witness total chaos surrounding us as the following points out:

    Quantum mechanics
    Excerpt: The Everett many-worlds interpretation, formulated in 1956, holds that all the possibilities described by quantum theory simultaneously occur in a multiverse composed of mostly independent parallel universes.[39] This is not accomplished by introducing some new axiom to quantum mechanics, but on the contrary by removing the axiom of the collapse of the wave packet:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics

    Perhaps some may say Everett’s Many Worlds in not absurd, if so,, then in some other parallel universe, where Elvis happens to now be president of the United states, they actually do think that the Many Worlds conjecture is absurd,, and that type of ‘flexible thinking’ I find to be completely absurd!!! And that one ‘Elvis’ example from Many Worlds is just small potatoes to the levels of absurdity that we could draw out if Many Worlds were actually true.

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

    The Absurdity Of The Many Worlds Hypothesis – William Lane Craig – Last 5 minutes of this video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4784630

    Though Eugene Koonin is correct to recognize that the infinite probabilistic resource found in ‘Quantum Mechanics’ does not absolutely preclude the sudden appearance of massive amounts of functional information in the fossil record, he is very incorrect to disregard the ‘Logos’ of John 1:1 needed to correctly specify the ‘precisely controlled mechanism of implementation’ for the massive amounts of complex functional and specified information witnessed abruptly and mysteriously appearing in the ancient genomes of these ancient fossils. i.e. He must sufficiently account for the ’cause’ for the ‘effect’ he wants to explain. And as I have noted previously, Stephen Meyer clearly points out that the only known cause now in operation, sufficient to explain the generation of massive amounts of functional ‘digital’ information, is intelligence:

    Stephen C. Meyer – What is the origin of the digital information found in DNA? – August 2010 – video
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....37271.html

  38. 38
    CannuckianYankee says:

    KF,

    I was a little confused by Lewontin’s (or was it Sagan’s) quote. It seems that what is construed as absurd is actually rational – The woman watching TV made a category error, and that is all. Secondly, there is a very rational explanation for the cheese with regard to particle physics. I can’t help but think that this is done in order to smuggle in what is actually patently absurd into scientific theory and to use what may only appear to be absurd as an excuse for the smuggle.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    CY:

    You are perfectly right, so far as you go.

    This is a case of “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.”

    (In these cases, mostly ignorant. Smell is a perceptually sensed chemical response to particular patterns of chemicals. And someone who does not know the relevant telecomms may wonder how a signal can be sent from the moon.)

    But this serves admirably to set up an ad hominem laced strawman to be burned to provide cover for the absurdity of a priori materialist censorship on science of origins.

    GEM of TKI

  40. 40
    john_a_designer says:

    kairofocus:“Unfortunately, the point of evolutionary materialism as an ideological agenda propped up by ideologised scientific research programmes is precisely to try to explain “everything.”

    For such materialists, reality itself is constrained to matter, energy, space, time and their interactions under scientific laws and forces of chance and mechanical necessity.”

    >I agree with that. But the top-down metaphysical interpretation that you draw from scientific bottom-up evidence are not themselves science. They are not science from a naturalistic perspective nor are they science from an ID’ist perspective.

    “In that context, methodological naturalism serves as a stalking horse, a blind that hides the ideological agenda.”

    >That is psychoanalyzing other peoples motives. For example methodological naturalism, albeit in a very restrictive sense. I am not advancing materialism or any form of naturalism.

    >My view is very simply that science limited. Because some people misuse MN doesn’t invalidate it. Why not criticize them for misusing the concept rather condemning people, like me, who don’t.

    “And, to push that agenda, the a priori materialists routinely distort what design thought actually does: they present he matter as a contrast between natural and supernatural explanation, to the detriment of the latter.”

    >I have no problem with you criticizing people who do that, but how is that my problem?

    “So, the effect of methodological naturalism on origins science, is to bias the outcome by censoring out ahead of time the possibility that empirically reliable sings might point to art as the best explanation for say the digitally coded, funcitonally specific complex information in cell based life, or the fine-tuned balance that sets our observed cosmos at an operating point that enables C-chemistry cell based life.”

    >Once again that is their abuse of science and scientific methodology not mine. Both naturalistic and ID explanations for the moment are metaphysical explanations. But there is an asymmetry here: only naturalistic explanations can be the result when we trace a chain of natural cause back in time. Clearly there are discontinuties in these causal chains, and it is completely possible that some of dicontinuities can be explained as some kind of intelligent intervention, but does it follow from that, that all discontinuities are the result of an intelligent intervention?

    >For example, is the Cambrian explosion the result of some of intelligent intervention? Has that ever been proven? How would you prove it? Is it impossible that there is a natural explanation? I would argue that MN does not dictate an answer here. In my opinion MN (despite the way the term is abused by others) is simply a tautology: MN simply follows natural causation as far as it goes, without necessarily ruling out other kinds of causation. By the way, there are people not sympathetic with ID, who along with me, hold that view. Of course you no doubt already know about theists like Stephen Barr and null-asalus who accept MN in a strictly defined way.

  41. 41
    nullasalus says:

    JAD,

    Of course you no doubt already know about theists like Stephen Barr and null-asalus who accept MN in a strictly defined way.

    Just to stress something: I accept an approach to science that does recognize limits, and which puts the design question beyond science. But I absolutely no longer accept “methodological naturalism”, and I regard referring to such limited science as “methodological naturalism” a grave mistake for a number of reasons. One of which is that ‘naturalism’ is compatible with a wide variety of explanations and possibilities – very wide – which go beyond the limits of science. Another, that non-naturalists can happily accept many of the findings, even theories, of science. “Methodological naturalism” is an utter misnomer.

    >For example, is the Cambrian explosion the result of some of intelligent intervention? Has that ever been proven? How would you prove it? Is it impossible that there is a natural explanation?

    How would you prove, for either the Cambrian explosion or even vastly more mundane and less mysterious events, that the causes were wholly natural (here meaning ‘utterly unguided, not borne of intention, direction, or guidance’)? The same can’t be done. At most you can get a kind of limited, scientific narrative.

    Now, I know this is where a defender of MN would say “Ah, that’s true. But it’s just *methodological* naturalism! We’re not making a metaphysical commitment! Our model treats nature as if its utterly unguided and random and without purpose or intervention, but we’re not saying reality is like that! We simply don’t logically need to refer to those things to explain the data – the utterly unguided can do the job!”

    But we don’t need to tack on ‘utterly unguided’ or ‘without purpose or intervention’ either. They add nothing to the science, and nothing that the science can hope to demonstrate. They are superfluous, and shall forever remain so. Science only needs the models, even probablistic models, which – as far as science is concerned – are statements about the limits of our knowledge, not about what we know (or worse, must assume) about reality.

    Pardon this slight derail with my MN talk, but my views on MN changed over the past couple years, and I felt the need to clarify a little.

  42. 42
    StephenB says:

    I think that both kairosfocus and nullasalus have made some very interesting points on the relationship between materialism and naturalism. Here is my take on it.

    If we compare the traditional definition of materialism with the traditional definition of naturalism, there would not seem to be much difference between the two, except for the following emphasis: materialism would focus on a metaphysical view of reality, while naturalism would focus on the way that metaphysical reality behaves. Put another way, naturalism could be described as materialism in action.

    In that context, each term serves a function. Materialism rules out non-material realities, such as mind, soul, and goodness, while Naturalism rules out Supernatural realities, such as a transcendent, creator God and, of course, angels. Materialism says that no spiritual world exists that could be the effect of a creator God; Naturalism says no God exists that could have created the spirit world in the first place—same point, different emphasis.

    Still, as Nullasalus rightly points out, there are some who say that naturalism is a much broader concept than that. Is it? Does the term naturalism also apply to reductionist world views that do not purport to be atheistic? Should it include Pantheism, Panetheism, Panpsychism, or any other Eastern-type world view that posits either a solely immanent God or a spiritualized nature? Could we, as some thinkers do, characterize New Age Pantheism as a kind of naturalism because its proponents agree with Materialist Darwinists on the point that “nature is all there is?” Isn’t it the case that when New Agers trivialize God by making him organic with the universe, they are, in their own way, accomplishing the same thing as Darwinists by not allowing a Divine [transcendent] foot in the door?” If that is the case, does this fact not show that naturalism should be defined to include both Pantheism and Darwinism?

    Well, I think, we should pause a bit here. Since the strategic aim of methodological naturalism is to rule out any discussion about design, we do well to ask ourselves if all forms of Eastern mysticism are compatible with naturalism in that context. Clearly, the answer is no. All we need to do is compare the world view of someone like Allen MacNeill, for example, who integrates Eastern thought with anti-design Darwinism with someone like Deepak Chopra, who synthesizes Eastern spirituality with a decidedly non-Darwinian, pro-design philosophy. If some forms of Eastern thought allow for the design hypothesis, and if naturalism does, by definition, rule out intelligent design, then surely we cannot characterize Eastern thought as “naturalistic,” even if it shares a reductionist world view with the Darwinists.

    In this context, we haven’t even mentioned that fact that Buddhist/Darwinists, [I can’t think of a better word at the moment] straddle two incompatible worlds. Unlike the Deepak Chopras of the world, who embrace idealism and disdain materialism, these mystic Darwinists want both the benefits of pseudo “spirituality” that comes from Taoism AND the freedom from real spirituality that comes from Darwinism’s relentless naturalism. I will not attempt to describe the ways in which they twist the language to justify this logically impossible combination.

    In keeping with that point, I hold that we should not honor the definitions of those who consciously misuse words in order to obfuscate and cause confusion. In fact, the term “materialism” can be manipulated just as easily as the term “naturalism,” often in such a way that the communicator seems to embrace two simultaneous world views. When the epiphenomenalist speaks of a “mind” that emerges from matter and is, at the same time, grounded in matter, for example, he is, in spite of his protests to the contrary, really speaking of a brain, not a mind. A mind is, by definition, a non-material faculty. If it doesn’t mean that, then it doesn’t mean anything. Yet the savvy materialist, insofar as he embraces epiphenomenalism, hopes to reduce everything to matter even as he creates the illusion that he is open to something more, such as a mind—an entity that, for him, is different enough from a brain to be called by another name, but not different enough to be, in fact, a real mind. In truth, the epiphenomenalist, like so many others in the materialist camp, seeks to have it both ways.

    When it comes to science, though, we cannot allow its gatekeepers to play with words in this same disingenuous way. Most assuredly, we have to pay attention to the fact that Darwinists, demand AND GET, precise methodological definitions from their adversaries, even as they exempt themselves from that very same standard. For the ID scientist, a natural cause is defined as non-agency cause, characterized as law, chance, or a combination of the two. For the Darwinist, a natural cause has no meaning; it could be anything at all, and often does. At the same time, these same Darwinists, who insist that scientists must study “nature” as if nature is all there is, and who are prepared to discredit, slander, and disfranchise ID on the grounds that it does not meet that dubious standard, cannot even define the operative word that informs their demands. Surely, it is situations like that for which the word “outrageous” was conceived.

    I submit, therefore, that the words naturalism and materialism are two different ways of saying the same thing,—a secularist, reductionist, anti-Theism that rules out design apriori. If that is what Eugenie Scott, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, William Provine, Gaylord Simpson, the National Academy of Science, and all the other heavy hitters means by naturalism, then that is the definition we ought to use.

  43. 43
    john_a_designer says:

    Nullasalus: “Just to stress something: I accept an approach to science that does recognize limits, and which puts the design question beyond science. But I absolutely no longer accept “methodological naturalism”, and I regard referring to such limited science as “methodological naturalism” a grave mistake for a number of reasons. One of which is that ‘naturalism’ is compatible with a wide variety of explanations and possibilities – very wide – which go beyond the limits of science. Another, that non-naturalists can happily accept many of the findings, even theories, of science. “Methodological naturalism” is an utter misnomer.”

    >I am sorry I must have remembered (or misremembered. Is that a word?) something you said some time ago, or I was confusing you with someone else.

    >However, after reading what you have just written I think the problem is with the meaning we invest MN with. To me the key word is methodological. You seem to be hung up on the word naturalism which obviously has philosophical/metaphysical overtones. However, in my opinion the term methodological divests naturalism of its metaphysical meaning. In other words, when we say the science limited MN we are saying science is limited to the methodological study of natural causes. So, at least to me, naturalism used in this context means natural causes.

    >On the other, I am not an advocate for MN. Terms acquire meaning by what people collectively choose by custom and habit to invest them with. I was really arguing that MN has a number of different meanings. The ASA, a Christian fellowship of scientists, for example has a number of papers which discuss/ debate the meaning of MN.
    http://www.asa3.org/

    ‘According to Ronald Numbers, [the term methodological naturalism] was coined in 1983 by Paul de Vries, a Wheaton College philosopher. De Vries distinguished between what he called “methodological naturalism,” a disciplinary method that says nothing about God’s existence, and “metaphysical naturalism,” which “denies the existence of a transcendent God.”‘
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N.....hilosophy)

    >So,clearly at least at the beginning the term was not used by materialists as a stalking horse. Indeed, it appears the term was used originally in an accommodating way. Once again, it’s been used in a number of different ways over time.

    nullasalus:“How would you prove, for either the Cambrian explosion or even vastly more mundane and less mysterious events, that the causes were wholly natural (here meaning ‘utterly unguided, not borne of intention, direction, or guidance’)? The same can’t be done. At most you can get a kind of limited, scientific narrative.”

    >True, at this point we can’t provide much of an hypothesis. But it is also my argument that we can’t, in principle, rule out the possibility that Cambrian explosion (CE) is the result of natural causes acting alone. Did life exist and evolve before the CE? Is it reasonable to assume that there is a causal connection of some kind of between evolving CE life and life before the CE? Now what do we know about intelligence before and after the CE? If some kind of intelligent agency was responsible for the changes during the CE, how were those changes effected? Were the different phyla created instantaneously ex nihilo or did th designer meddle with the genetics?

    >By the way, my argument about the Cambrian explosion has never been that it supports ID, but that it is very difficult to reconcile with Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolution. Darwin himself thought it posed problems for his theory. The problems have not gone away as he hoped but have only gotten worse. I believe that ID is a reasonable explanation because the history of life is riddled with these kinds of discontinuity problems. Obviously if things like natural selection (NS + RV) genetic drift etc. are insufficient to explain the evolution of life here, there must be something else. ID could tentatively be that something else. However, how could an ID scientific explanation be pursued?

    >If someone has a clue how to do ID research on the Cambrian explosion pleas speak up (or, forever hold your peace). Just joking, we’re not getting married here.

  44. 44
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    Still, as Nullasalus rightly points out, there are some who say that naturalism is a much broader concept than that. Is it? Does the term naturalism also apply to reductionist world views that do not purport to be atheistic?

    Well, my point wasn’t that there are naturalists who are “not atheistic” – that’s a whole other ballgame. My point was only that there are many naturalists who reject materialism, and that ‘naturalism’ nowadays is a wild card. But yes, here are people who believe in things that in any other age would have been called gods and supernatural (the simulation hypothesis, Gribbin’s universe-creating civilizations hypotheses, etc) and still call themselves naturalists (even materialists!) – and I see no other naturalists disputing this. My point of citing the SEP entry was to show how widespread this extraordinarily loose version of ‘naturalism’ is.

    Well, I think, we should pause a bit here. Since the strategic aim of methodological naturalism is to rule out any discussion about design, we do well to ask ourselves if all forms of Eastern mysticism are compatible with naturalism in that context.

    But that’s the thing: Naturalism does not rule these things out. Oh, you’d think so wouldn’t you? But then why does Nick Bostrom call the simulation hypothesis “naturalist”, even “materialist” and no one bats an eye? Why does John Gribbin openly speculate that our universe was designed and that – even better – *the majority of universes in the hypothesized multiverse* are designed, and seems to think that this is all entirely naturalistic? Why does no one start yelling ‘that’s not naturalism!’ when Sir Martin Rees entertains the possibility our universe is simulated, or when Max Tegmark hypothesizes that the universe ‘is math’ (and his hypothesis would open the door to simulations, created universes, etc by necessity)? Or when David Lewis speculates all possible worlds are actual, gods and all? Was Francis Crick ‘not a naturalist’ when he argued for directed panspermia?

    That list can go on. And each and every one of those ideas are presented as naturalistic possibilities, despite them being variously A) Non-materialist and B) Design hypotheses, among other things. Are they really naturalistic? Or are they supernatural?

    If it’s ceded they are naturalistic, then you see the problem with giving much of a definition to naturalism – it is open to some pretty fanciful stuff, including solipsism and last thursdayism. If it’s argued that they are, despite the views of their proponents and the treatment by their colleagues, supernaturalists after all… then be alert: Naturalists are passing off supernatural hypotheses and ideas *as naturalism*. Either response should be eye-opening in this discussion.

    When the epiphenomenalist speaks of a “mind” that emerges from matter and is, at the same time, grounded in matter, for example, he is, in spite of his protests to the contrary, really speaking of a brain, not a mind. A mind is, by definition, a non-material faculty.

    More tangential, but I want to comment on this briefly: When someone attributes to the brain (and thus, ‘mere matter’) qualities that matter does not have (intentionality, subjectivity, etc), one of two things is going on. Either they’re confused or kidding themselves and thus they’re eliminating the qualities in question, or they’re confused and kidding themselves and aren’t materialists after all. When a man has two ideas that add up to an inconsistency, he can break either way – there may be fewer materialists around than we think. Maybe fewer atheists than we think as well.

  45. 45
    nullasalus says:

    JAD,

    However, in my opinion the term methodological divests naturalism of its metaphysical meaning. In other words, when we say the science limited MN we are saying science is limited to the methodological study of natural causes. So, at least to me, naturalism used in this context means natural causes.

    I admit, I believe words are important – and I see the ‘naturalism’ in ‘methodological naturalism’ as shoved in there to associate naturalism with science, without warrant. Like I said, I agree with the idea that science has limits by its very nature. But those limits are not “naturalistic” in any way, shape, or form – and I have seen too many people, scientists included, utterly mangle what “science shows” to calm down about this.

    Ask yourself this: Do you think many naturalists would object to the limits of science being described as ‘methodological theism’, even if it was qualified that it does not entail metaphysical theism, and how all it meant was that the universe is rational and thus can be studied and explored and understood as if it were a comprehensible artifact? The limits would be the same, the ‘lack of metaphysical commitment’ would be the same. But I’d bet you quite a number of them would put up one hell of a fight, because of the label alone.

    On the other, I am not an advocate for MN. Terms acquire meaning by what people collectively choose by custom and habit to invest them with. I was really arguing that MN has a number of different meanings.

    I see where you’re coming from. I used to come from a similar position, really. In the end I had to change – too much at stake, too many problems present.

    True, at this point we can’t provide much of an hypothesis. But it is also my argument that we can’t, in principle, rule out the possibility that Cambrian explosion (CE) is the result of natural causes acting alone.

    I don’t think it’s ‘at this point’. The key claims of naturalism could never be known by science – namely, that the CE happened unguided, unintended, etc. Even if mechanisms or events are discovered which could lead to such an ‘explosion’ in nature, etc.

    I think, though I’m not certain, we’re on the same page here too. I’m just fierce on tight definitions and meanings in these contexts.

    Darwin himself thought it posed problems for his theory. The problems have not gone away as he hoped but have only gotten worse. I believe that ID is a reasonable explanation because the history of life is riddled with these kinds of discontinuity problems.

    See, my own view is that ID (again, not as a science, but the belief in design) is reasonable, even supreme, not because it has utility in explaining those problem areas, but because it has utility in explaining the known areas. The universe, in aspect after aspect, has all the makings of a rational product, a thing behaving like a design, rife with intention and formal/final causes. Yes, perhaps we can have reason to suspect specific intervention at this or that point, or specific kinds of design. But design isn’t hiding in the problems of the Cambrian alone. The universe is positively rife with it.

  46. 46
    Frost122585 says:

    The difference between materialism and naturalism is that materialism requires a material cause and effect explanation. Materialism is a limited perspective on the nature of reality and it has for a very long time bumped heads with metaphysics. Kant’s critique of pure reason was supposed to be a synthesis of the physical (materialistic) view of nature and the metaphysical view of nature (that mind gives existence to reality). Kant attempted to reconcile the conflict by saying the mind leaning on experience and intuition transcendentally realizes that it is part of a material reality. For Kant reality begins with the mind matter interface (experience) and ends with a proper understanding of the manifold through pure reason. While somewhat useful, his critique leaves many questions unanswered.

    Yet his critique was a look at reason through a naturalistic (not super naturalistic) approach. The question then is what defines supernaturalistic?

    Supernaturalistic is where a naturalistic explanation is applied to a scenario where it is proposed to account for or do things GREATER than it has ever been none to account for in experience. That is why materialists hate using mind as a causative explanation for the origin of the specified complexity of the universe. While materialists would agree that intelligent minds can design constructs of great complexity and organize matter into constructs similar to the universe as a whole (ie cities, video games with real world simulated environments etc) – the task of organizing an actual universe has never been demonstrable by any “yet know” intelligence.

    Yet, the objection to super-naturalism is not one of logical necessity since the proposition of a mind or minds account for the universe is only a matter of plausibility as it pertains to the level of magnitude of the mind in question.

    This is where Kant comes back into the situation. Kant said to just say “a mind did it” was unreasonable not because it was false but because it was not useful. To the materialist the notion of a supreme intelligence or mind is useless and perhaps hurtful to the progress fo science.

    Yet as Stephen Meyer points out this is not an argument against ID as a naturalistic explanation of specified complexity in the universe- for Meyer uses the naturalistic device of Darwin himself to support the ID inference and hypothesis. The only presently acting causes of specified complexity that we know of are minds and intelligent causes. It is through this realization that the ID inference is not merely a possible consideration but a necessary one.

    Whether the prowess of the intelligence responsible for the universes origin and structure should be described as “super” is beside the point. Certainly the big bang should not be excluded from cosmological science simply because it was a “super” event of magnitudes that we have never verified “could” happen by our own very limited experience as earthlings.

    And so the final question is does the ID inference tell us anything scientifically useful about the world? It certainly opens up the possibility that our understanding of how form comes into being maybe more complex than our current materialist approaches can appreciate and investigate. But the question can also be asked to a materialist whether it is truly useful to accept the notion that single “big bang” began the universe?

    If it started with a bang than that is it and it does not take us any further nor does it open the door to further outside the box thinking. Of course now we have materialists that predict a beginning “before” the beginning- with prematter and pertime and other totally nonsensical purely speculative anti-phenomena. They are happy to use Kant when it suits them and throw out his adherence to the principle of real “experience” when it suits them too.

    Bottom line is that the naturalsitic approach dcoes not begin nor end with explanations limited to mechanical descriptions of actions of matter. Whether an explanation is super or not should be beside the point.

  47. 47
    nullasalus says:

    Frost122585,

    They are happy to use Kant when it suits them and throw out his adherence to the principle of real “experience” when it suits them too.

    A very good point, and it’s another manifestation of this all-too-common inconsistency.

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    Okay folks:

    Thanks for some very thought-provoking onward commentary. (I must now confess that my mind is a bit distracted by the onward development of a constitutional crisis that I have to address when I put on a different hat later this morning.)

    My overall impression is that it is clear that there is an agenda to impose an anti-supernaturalist view on our civilisation, in the name of science. Science, because this institution has high prestige as a major gateway to knowledge and powerful applications, also to securing an empirically well-warranted understanding of our cosmos, from hydrogen to humans. Indeed, we observe that in Lewontin’s declaration in the original post, it is seen as a legitimate goal that the general public comes to see science as “the only begetter of truth.”

    This is of course a sophomoric blunder: a philosophical truth claim is being made that is self-referential and implies that non-scientific approaches cannot arrive at truth.

    Q: But, how many people are equipped to spot that blunder, right off?

    A: all too few, and probably shrinking in an age where logic, first principles of right reason, epistemology and science are at a discount and/or are matters of acquired and very unusual taste. But equally, in an era where science has great prestige, such nonsense can easily have great rhetorical — persuasive/plausibility — impact. And, manifestly it does.

    So, when we begin to talk about the limitations of science and its knowledge claims, let us understand that a lot of people are lost right there. For, our education and mass media hidden — and, not so hidden — persuaders have indoctrinated many into the suitably “”scientific” mindset that if it’s not science it’s not knowledge, and that what science says is for all practical purposes true. Indeed, to many, it seems appropriate to declare that highly speculative and assumption-burdened reconstructions of the remote past as we imagine it happened [for we certainly cannot observe the actual remote past], are as much “fact” as the observation that a dropped guava falls at 9.8 m/s^2 near our earth’s surface.

    In that context, methodological naturalism has devastating and manipulative impact, as JDH, Bantay, StephenB and Frost — as well as Nullasalus have all highlighted, from somewhat different angles.

    Especially, we must recognise a point that philosopher of science Imre Lakatos (read the Google preview of an appreciation here, and look him up on Wikipedia, a most under-appreciated intellectual force of C20) spotlighted. Namely, that research programmes have stoutly defended cores that are deeply riddled with worldview level commitments, and which are guarded by an armour-belt of auxiliary hypotheses, models, techniques, bodies of lore and of accepted facts [all of these overlap] etc.

    When such a programme becomes the dominant paradigm of an era, it tends to be buttressed not only by the “consensus” of that dominant school — notice, the institutional relativism and implicit appeal to the orthodoxy of a reigning Magisterium — but also by allied centres of power. here, in education, mass media, the courtroom and even legislatures. In short, to deny evolutionary materialism in our day is fraught with hazard for one’s reputation, career prospects, and credibility in happs of power and influence. One is liable to be held up to ridicule and to have one’s words twisted into ad hominem-laced strawman caricatures, the better to present you as “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.” Indeed, one is liable to he held guilty of engaging in a “Christo-fascist” [a term dripping with the inference to Nazism — which is actually an ideology of the LEFT, as “National Socialism” implies — that I have personally been subjected to], right-wing Jihad or holy war against “Science.”

    Resemblance to all too much of what passes for public and Internet discussion of “science” is NOT coincidental.

    It is in that toxic, trifecta fallacy shaped, Alinski-ite Rules for Radicals propaganda-polarised atmosphere that we have to assess the claims of methodological naturalism, and those of ever so many who would label themselves “Naturalists.”

    Lakatos was once taken by the chekists for being too intellectually honest to salute and blindly follow orders of his Russian Masters, and interrogated, then gaoled for three years. He often said of this experience, that “the strain of interrogation proved too much – for one of his interrogators.”

    Alas, the balance of institutional power did not align well with the balance of the merits, and it was Lakatos who went to gaol. He was “expelled” for raising inconvenient questions and sticking to the premise that policy should make objective sense. (FCO, if you are monitoring this,the resemblance to current events and issues on the Montserrat Constitution, sadly, is not coincidental.)

    In such a thought-police atmosphere, the prudent man tries to quietly conform, and not draw unwelcome attention. So, even if his actual view is at logical sixes and sevens with the evo mat reigning orthodoxy, he will try to make it look close enough that he will not be an immediate focus of attention of the NCSE et al. After all, there are bigger fish to fry out there.

    Null, I believe that a lot of the fuzziness about “naturalism” that SEP summarises and you give examples of is not objectively warranted, but is shaped by the rhetorical and power game atmosphere that rules the intellectual roost at this time. (The very similar case on climate change issues, and on wider environmental questions, is very comparable.)

    So, I would separate the fuzziness from the objectively warranted conclusions. Yes, a lot of things are being described as “naturalistic” views, and a lot of folks are getting away with that for the moment.

    No prizes for guessing why.

    [ . . . ]

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    When it comes to methodological naturalism, JAD, first, pardon: I am not at all targetting you in specific.

    I am pointing out that there is an agenda out there, backed up by clever and ruthless folks with a fair amount of money and access to mikes and presses that often will not even let the likes of a Behe publish a letter of correction. (Rick Trebino of Georgia Tech did an expose on the 123 steps to try to publish a corrective paper in a field of optics where he was right and his critics had made simple errors; HT: Climate Audit. Peer review, today, is largely bankrupt once the power games come into play.)

    What I am pointing out is that we havfe an ideologically polarised environment, in which an aggressive agenda of evolutionary materialism as the defining essence of origins science is being pushed. In that context, the separation of duties, where the a priori assumption of such materialism is disguised under the sheep’s clothing that “science can only explain by natural causes” needs to be exposed for what it is.

    Namely, a hidden agenda.

    For in fact, it is easy to show — just look up the use of ANOVA in experiment design on control and treatment cases by blocks — that in science we routinely investigate the impacts of chance, mechanical necessity and art/ design/ intentional configuration. And, ANOVA is precisely a well-accepted technique for identifying and separating out the impacts of chance, necessity and intelligent interventions aka treatments.

    So, the rhetoric of contrasting natural vs supernatural is tendentious and red herringly distractive, led on to ad hominem laced strawmen — spooky, demons, Christofascists, war against science, etc — ignited to cloud, polarise, and poison the atmosphere. Ever since Plato in the Laws Bk X [have you had a look at my intro-summary for the IOSE?] in 360 BC, it has been well known that the relevant contrast for empirical investigation is natural vs artificial.

    Indeed, the term was originated as such in the 1980s by a Wheaton scholar [Wheaton being notoriously an Evangelical school]. The agenda that he term now describes was NOT invented by a Wheaton Scholar in the 1980’s. Nope, by 1981-82, it was being imposed by a certain Judge Overton in Arkansas, when he defined science tendentiously and based on what he had been taught by evolutionary materialism advocates at the Arkansas Scopes II trial, i.e. that science must explain by natural causes. (So, now we know why on cultural context a Wheaton scholar in 1983, was discussing the agenda and giving it a descriptive label.)

    Timelines are often very revealing on causal patterns. And the willful omission of the antecedent context is quite revealing on the agenda at work, too. Notice how evo mat advocates will cite Wheaton, but will not cite Overton on Ruse’s counsel:

    1. It is guided by natural law;
    2. It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law;
    3. It is testable against the empirical world;
    4. Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word; and
    5. It is falsifiable

    In fact, on what we could call natural history sciences [those relevant to origins] only point 4 stands up to a moment’s serious scrutiny. For instance, such sciences are guided by the process of inference to best causal explanation on plausibly observed PROCESSES, plausible INITIAL CONDITIONS and FORCES and RATES seen to act in the present, not necessarily by “natural law.” Thus, they explain on such parameters, not primarily natural law. Given that we are here reconstructing a remote, unobserved plausible past, we cannot observe and test models empirically against the real world of the past. And, Popper himself highlighted that falsifiability of such theories or models is more of an aspiration than a fact.

    Point 2 is particularly telling.

    For, here, we see that there is an imposition that explanation deemed scientific HAS to be EXPLANATORY by NATURAL LAW (i.e. chance plus necessity, and by implication of the context, without intelligent guidance or configuration).

    In short, by 1981-2, the reigning orthodoxy had imposed methodological naturalism censored by evolutionary materialist a priorism on origins science studies and education. Just, by some accident, a brief window had opened up and some Creationists had had a proposal to teach comparative models in schools, so that a generic scientific creationism could be allowed to speak as an option for students, not least by way of pointing out the explanatory holes in the reigning paradigm. We cannot have that, and so the Creationist context was used to suppress on grounds of separation of church and state. But since evolutionary materialism — the functional equivalent of a religion, BTW — is NOT theistic, it does not SEEM to be a similar imposition. But, it manifestly is.

    It is often argues that methodological naturalism makes no explicit metaphysical commitments. Indeed, and by design. Most people find it very hard to see when something is done implicitly. In this case, observe that by a priori censoring out a whole class of possible causes relevant to natural history, namely, art or design, and by plastering the Scarlet S-word -“supernatural” — across such possibilities, the field is decisively tipped.

    But, inference to best explanation only works right when ALL reasonable alternative explanations are allowed to sit to the table and address the comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance.

    So, once we see the a priori Lewontinian imposition of evolutionary materialism, we are right back to the title of this post:

    “Naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes”

    Anyone want to take up the second half, from part II of the post?

    GEM of TKI

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Onlookers, observe UD Weak Argument Correctives, No’s 17 and 18 :

    _____________________

    >> 17] Methodological naturalism is the rule of science

    Methodological naturalism is simply a quite recently imposed “rule” that (a) defines science as a search for natural causes of observed phenomena AND (b) forbids the researcher to consider any other explanation, regardless of what the evidence may indicate. In keeping with that principle, it begs the question and roundly declares that (c) any research that finds evidence of design in nature is invalid and that (d) any methods employed toward that end are non-scientific. For instance, in a pamphlet published in 2008, the US National Academy of Sciences declared:

    In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. [Science, Evolution and Creationism, p. 10. Emphases added.]

    The resort to loaded language should cue us that there is more than mere objective science going on here!

    A second clue is a basic fact: the very NAS scientists themselves provide instances of a different alternative to forces tracing to chance and/or blind mechanical necessity. For, they are intelligent, creative agents who act into the empirical world in ways that leave empirically detectable and testable traces. Moreover, the claim or assumption that all such intelligences “must” in the end trace to chance and/or necessity acting within a materialistic cosmos is a debatable philosophical view on the remote and unobserved past history of our cosmos. It is not at all an established scientific “fact” on the level of the direct, repeatable observations that have led us to the conclusion that Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun.

    In short, the NAS would have been better advised to study the contrast: natural vs artificial (or, intelligent) causes, than to issue loaded language over natural vs supernatural ones

    Notwithstanding, many Darwinist members of the guild of scholars have instituted or supported the question-begging rule of “methodological naturalism,” ever since the 1980’s. So, if an ID scientist finds and tries to explain functionally specified complex information in a DNA molecule in light of its only known cause: intelligence, supporters of methodological naturalism will throw the evidence out or insist that it be re-interpreted as the product of processes tracing to chance and/or necessity; regardless of how implausible or improbable the explanations may be. Further, if the ID scientist dares to challenge this politically correct rule, he will then be disfranchised from the scientific community and all his work will be discredited and dismissed.

    Obviously, this is grossly unfair censorship.

    Worse, it is massively destructive to the historic and proper role of science as an unfettered (but intellectually and ethically responsible) search for the truth about our world in light of the evidence of observation and experience.

    18] Methodological naturalism is a centuries-old, traditional rule for science

    In an attempt to rationalize the recently imposed “rule” of methodological naturalism, some Darwinist academics have resorted to rewriting history. As the ‘revised” story goes, Newton and other greats of the founding era of Modern Science subscribed to the arbitrary standard of ruling out design in principle. Thus, one gathers, ID cannot be science because it violates the “traditional” and “well-established” criteria for science.

    However, as anyone familiar with the real history of science knows – e.g. cf. Newton’s General Scholium to his great scientific work, Principia — this proposition is at best a gross and irresponsible error, or even an outright deception. For, most scientists of the founding era were arguing on behalf of the proposition that God, as a super-rational being, does not act frivolously, unpredictably, and without purpose. For such men, and for their time, searching for “natural causes” was a testimony to the belief that the Christian God, unlike anthropomorphized Greek gods, did not throw capricious temper tantrums and toss lightning bolts out of the sky. In other words, the issue was not natural causes vs. design; (they were all design thinkers) it was orderly and intelligible natural processes vs. chaos.

    That directly contradicts Lewontin’s dismissive assertion that “[t]o appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.” Indeed, the theologians and philosophers will remind us that for miracles to stand out as sign-posts of more than the ordinary being at work, they require that nature as a whole works in an orderly, intelligible and predictable way.

    So, for the founders of Modern Science, science (as a delimited field of study within a wider domain, i.e., “natural philosophy” and “natural history”) was primarily about discovering the underlying principles, forces and circumstances that drive observed natural phenomena. But, as Newton so aptly illustrates, it was simply not in their minds to insist dogmatically that only “natural” causes — i.e. blind mechanical necessity and even more blind chance – exist or may be resorted to in accounting for the nature and functions of our world. They made a provisional judgment based on the best information available, but they would never have dared to presume that they knew enough to close off all other options.

    Further, in their estimation, the foundational scientists were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Obviously, they could hardly have believed in Methodological Naturalism while, at the same time, believing that God, as Creator, purposely left clues about his handiwork so that his creatures could interpret them as evidence of his existence and plan for the orderly conduct of the world that are also accessible to us to use for our betterment. Even apart from their religious inspiration, they understood that only the individual scientist knows what he is researching and why, so it is s/he who must in the first instance decide which methods are reasonable, responsible, and appropriate for the task

    Indeed, it was their love of truth and the disinterested search for it that made them great. They were always ready to challenge rigid conventions and seek new answers. More importantly, they were wise enough to know that someone new could come along and make their ideas seem old, just as they had made the ideas of their predecessors seem old.

    Now, in our day, a new idea has indeed come along, and it is embodied in the information found in a DNA molecule. It is beyond ridiculous, then, to suggest that men like Francis Bacon, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Faraday, Maxwell or Lord Kelvin — all of whom were in part motivated by religion and whose religion gave meaning to their science — would ignore or dismiss such evidence of design because of its possible religious implications. >>
    _____________________

    No. 19 is also relevant.

  51. 51
    bornagain77 says:

    kf, this Dr. Don Johnson video is relevant to your thread:

    Is Undirected Naturalism Sufficient?
    http://vimeo.com/11827337

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    You are a genuine treasure-trove of research and helpful, provocative links and excerpts.

    Sometimes, we are tempted to take it for granted, but such an exercise is actually very valuable. (Without librarians, where would we be?)

    And the linked is indeed quite a video, nigh on 42 minutes of substance. Food for thought.

    Back to my ongoing constitutional crisis . . . do pray.

    GEM of TKI

  53. 53
    john_a_designer says:

    kairofocus:
    “I am pointing out that there is an agenda out there, backed up by clever and ruthless folks with a fair amount of money and access to mikes and presses that often will not even let the likes of a Behe publish a letter of correction.”

    Let me cut to the chase here. I don’t think it is tactically wise to get into debates over the definition of methodological naturalism. Do you really think that anyone, beside ID’ists who already agree with you, really cares? Do you really think you can persuade people on the other side with these kind of arguments? In my view the only thing that they care about is using the debate over MN as a diversionary tactic. Sorry to break the news to you, but you’ve been suckered into taking the bait.

    I think a better tactic, from our side, (and I am on your side) would be to point out who originally coined the term how it was originally being used. Then turn the tables. Point out that what they are actually trying to do is justify their particular metaphysical belief system using the findings of science and that they are really being disingenuous in the way they use the term MN.

    On the other hand, it is not illegitimate for them to have metaphysical beliefs based on their interpretation of scientific evidence, anymore than it is for you or me to have to beliefs based on our interpretation of the evidence. The debate then becomes as to whom, based on what we presently know scientifically, has the better explanation.

    As a matter of fact, I think Phil Johnson has some great critiques of materialism in his writings. And, I find myself largely in agreement with him there.

    But, on the other hand, I don’t accept ID as science. I think that is where, several decades ago, the ID movement (at least the Discovery Institute brand) led, or misled, by Johnson and others got itself off track, and now, unfortunately, due to it’s own doing, has gotten itself boxed in.

    My belief is that we should argue that methodologically that empirical science needs to be metaphysically minimalist. If an atheist, Hindu and Christian chemist run the very same experiment, are they going to get different results based on their different beliefs? The answer I think should be obvious. On the other hand, if they all think about the universe from a cosmological perspective I think most of us would agree that they would probably come to different beliefs based on a different understanding and interpretation of the evidence. Is that top down interpretation of the evidence science or philosophy?
    I would argue that it is the latter. I would add, however, that this is a particular place where we need to bring back and use the term “natural philosophy.”

    Once again the debate is about what is the better philosophical/theological interpretation and explanation. I think that is where theists and ID’ists can win the debate, because theism and ID, from at least what I understand, are a better explanations. Of course, that is why I am on your side.

  54. 54
    john_a_designer says:

    nullasalus: “Ask yourself this: Do you think many naturalists would object to the limits of science being described as ‘methodological theism’, even if it was qualified that it does not entail metaphysical theism, and how all it meant was that the universe is rational and thus can be studied and explored and understood as if it were a comprehensible artifact? The limits would be the same, the ‘lack of metaphysical commitment’ would be the same. But I’d bet you quite a number of them would put up one hell of a fight, because of the label alone.”

    I would like to make a couple of minor points.

    First I want to point out to you that you used the word ‘naturalist’ above to refer to someone who holds philosophically to a naturalistic world view. But is that the way the word naturalist is always used? Look it up in the dictionary you’ll find it defined like this:

    1
    : one that advocates or practices naturalism

    2
    : a student of natural history; especially : a field biologist
    http://www.merriam-webster.com.....naturalist

    In other words naturalist has an equivocal meaning. One has metaphysical overtones the other does not. It is not too of a stretch then to argue, as I do, that the word naturalism in the term metaphysical naturalism is being used in an equivocal non-metaphysical way. Clearly it was to De Vries who coined the term in the first place. I don’ t think an evangelical Christian philosopher at Wheaton College was trying to advance metaphysical naturalism, overtly or covertly.

    You then brought up ‘methodological theism.’ Curiously, Nancy Murphy, another evangelical philosopher, coined the term methodological atheism which she define as follows.

    “There is what we might call methodological atheism, which is by definition common to all natural science. This is simply the principle that scientific explanations are to be in terms of natural (not supernatural) entities and processes. … (Nancey Murphy, 1993)
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/educat...../mn-lh.htm

    On the surface it appears that her definition is equivalent to what others mean by MN. However, I can’t think of an equivocal meaning of the word atheism. So in my mind Murphy is saying something completely different. That we have to metaphysically pretend to be atheists to do science. So I think that the connotative use of MA is totally different from MN. But maybe that is just me.

  55. 55
    nullasalus says:

    JAD,

    It is not too of a stretch then to argue, as I do, that the word naturalism in the term metaphysical naturalism is being used in an equivocal non-metaphysical way.

    I do not disagree that one can understand a particular meaning of the word ‘naturalism’ that strips it of metaphysical connotation. But you can’t be saying that a word which has an equivocal meaning can not confuse, or cannot be employed with the intention to confuse. That a Christian came up with the term does not speak to my objection – people are entirely capable of making moves or coming up with ideas that, while well-intended, take on a life of their own. Dumb moves are possible.

    I’ll use a loaded example: “Teabaggers”. It has an innocent, equivocal meaning when used to describe Tea Party supporters. Maybe it even originated with some kindly old lady, herself a Tea Party member, who thought the name was cute – you have the Tea Party, and the members of the party are the teabaggers. Do you think Tea Party members shouldn’t object to being called teabaggers, on the grounds that it has an innocent equivocal meaning?

    If you think Tea Party members should be suspicious of people calling them teabaggers – that maybe their intention is not that of the kindly old lady – then hopefully you’ll see some of my point here. Words and meanings are important, and can be employed deceptively. In fact, I think it’s very common and something we should be alert to. And MN, as most people would understand it, as many people would choose to implicitly present it, is wrong. A misnomer. The possibility of an innocent reading helps little.

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD & Nullasalus:

    Interesting exchange overnight.

    Null is right to point out how a word that may well have an innocent, naive interpretation, can be actually heavily loaded.

    (The p-word from the infamous list of seven comes to mind; I recall as a 6 year old child doing piano lessons, being quite ambivalent about a song about an owl and its friend, as I was even then aware of the other meaning and the loading of double-meanings. And Mr Cooper’s apparent personal background loaded the T-word term even more heavily. Orwellian 1984-style double-think/ double-speak is a serious issue, and the less innocent meaning can and often does subtly polarise and poison discourse. Which of course was intended with the T-word.)

    When we turn to methodological naturalism, it is in fact the thin edge of a wedge, used by those with an agenda to redefine science, especially origins science, as in effect applied atheism.

    (The so-called new atheists are only the most blatant, and it is no accident that Oxford University’s recently retired Simonyi professor for the public understanding of science is both a leading promoter of evolutionary materialism in the name of science and perhaps the most virulent and rhetorically violent of the new atheists. We must ever understand Mr Dawkins in light of his view that those he derides for rejecting his evolutionary materialism are “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.” If the atmosphere is polarised and poisoned, we have to face that fact, and understand that the aggressive champions of evolutionary materialism flying the flag of science have to shoulder much of the blame.)

    That is, the current debates over origins science are close to the heart of the culture wars triggered by aggressive secularists who in recent decades have sought to de-Christianise our civilisation.

    Nor is this particularly new: Plato exposed and rebuked much the same attitude, confident assertionsin teh name of knowledge and implications for the comunity 2,300 years ago, in his 360 BC The Laws, Bk X:

    _________________

    >> Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily “scientific” view!] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them. >>
    _________________

    Complete with the implications of amorality, radical relativisation of knowledge, ethics/morality and law, the delegitimisation of authority as such [in the end all legitimate authority is rooted in moral capital] etc, and the creation of power-seeking destructive factions, this sounds all too familiar to current events.

    And yet, somehow, this key passage is well under our radar screens.

    No prizes for guessing why.

    Let us therefore look a little closer at some key issues:

    a –> On the second page of the original post, I cite David Papineau in SEP’s article on Naturalism:

    The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003) . . . . [N]aturalism can intuitively be separated into an ontological and a methodological component. The ontological component is concerned with the contents of reality, asserting that reality has no place for ‘supernatural’ or other ‘spooky’ kinds of entity. By contrast, the methodological component is concerned with the ways of investigating reality, and claims some kind of general authority for the scientific method . . . [HT: Nullasalus]

    b –> Observe subtext: naturalism starts with a subtle metaphysical agenda of Lewontinian a priori evolutionary materialism and cleverly prioritises prestigious “science” to front that agenda.

    [ . . . ]

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    c –> By “science” of course, is meant evolutionary materialism in a lab coat, conjoined to the sophomoric philosophical blunder Lewontin made: abusing the prestige of science to claim that “science” effectively exhausts the field of credible knowledge.

    d –> Where, in fact this claim or implication [more usually the latter] is a major — but disguised — question-begging philosophical commitment. For the question of how one can warrant beliefs as credibly true (i.e. as knowledge) is inescapably a philosophical one.

    e –> And the “scientific method” in view, per Lewontin, a priori, is based on evolutionary materialistic worldview level assumptions and narratives.

    f –> In short, the imposition of methodological naturalism — the substance, not just the term — on science is not only question begging and self-defeating (given the breakdown of evo mat through self-undermining discussed on page 2)but it is an imperialistic power grab meant to control the entire field of knowledge and education.

    g –> Which, JAD, is why it is important to expose what is going on and what is being sacrificed, whether or not those who hope to benefit from the power grab are inclined to be sympathetic.

    h –> For if we do not understand the magnitude and proximity of a threat, we will be the less inclined to resist it. That is why Churchill’s “while England slept” is so telling a phrase. And, it is why Flower of Scotland — the unofficial national anthem and Rugby song of that great little country — has such force as a song.

    i –> Bullies who hope to gain from our lack of clarity, love of peace and wish to get along with “everyone,” indeed have little or no inclination to listen to and heed correction.

    j –> That would run counter to their agendas, and would require repentance and reformation on their part, which of course — until they have been duly and stoutly resisted and defeated then sent “homewards tae think again” — they have but little inclination to reflect on.

    k –> So, our better strategy is to first, expose the hidden agendas, and to point out the dangers that lurk behind the smokescreen of confusing verbiage and sowing of discord among us, and with that, point to a better path.

    l –> The first point of that better path is to point to the saner understanding of what science at its best is:

    the unfettered, ethically and intellectually responsible progressive pursuit of the provisionally warranted, empirically credible truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, modelling and theorising, reasoned analysis, uncensored discussion among the informed, and ongoing empirical testing

    m –> The subtle imposition of evolutionary materialism through methodological naturalism censors and fetters that pursuit of the truth, especially on origins science, and by substituting the contrast natural vs supernatural for natural vs artificial, it distorts the key issue highlighted by the rising alternative, design theory.

    n –> Namely, on origins science, we were not there to directly observe the true world of the deep past. As such our natural history theories and models are based on projecting patterns of the present into the past and checking against such remnants of the past as we may recover in fossil beds etc.

    o –> And, there are three major empirically warranted causal patterns we observe, mechanical necessity, chance circumstances and processes, and intelligent, intentionally directed configuration, or design aka art [techne], as Plato long since used in the above excerpt, which is well enough known to those at the top of the game that this “natural vs artificial” framing is quite deliberate.

    p –> Each of the three factors has characteristic, well-known and reliable observable signs. So, for instance when you mix the right amount of NaOH and HCl in a titration experiment, you will get a certain mass of NaCl and H2O and will trigger a colour change in say Phenolphthalein indicator, as the designed circumstances trigger certain chance molecular motion patterns of interaction that call forth ionic forces, yielding a mechanically necessary chemical result and optically observable consequence as one reaches the point of stoichiometric balance and that one drop more shifts pH dramatically.

    q –> Notice, by properly applying the causal factor filter, we can assign the different aspects of this familiar exercise to their proper category. Design sets up the experiment and manipulates the equipment to yield results, also showing its presence by a finely co-ordinated, functional configuration of apparatus and chemicals that would not have been credible on blind chance and/or necessity. Chance shows itself in the mixing action and interaction at ionic levels. Mechanical necessity shows itself in the results that happen when you open the cock on the buret and the acid drips out drop by drop [duly indicating necessary mass conservation as the meniscus drops along the scale on the buret], and in the inevitability of the colour change once we hit then pass equilibrium.

    r –> So also — setting materialistic censorship aside — we have every scientifically warranted epistemic right to infer with high confidence (tempered as always by the inherent provisionality of all science) to design as a causal factor on signs of intelligence, such as digitally coded, symbolic, functionally specific, complex information.

    s –> We therefore have a serious alternative, and one that bully-boy [“expelled”] tactics are being used to try to suppress. That censorship and oppression have to be confronted and exposed, and the underlying errors of thought need to be corrected.

    t –> Such is plainly unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous to one’s career, but that does not make it any less necessary or important.

    __________________

    GEM of TKI

  58. 58
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: It helps to be specific, so let us look at this step by step layout for a titration experiment.

  59. 59
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    Some quick questions about q.

    Why shouldn’t I determine what you call ‘chance’ and ‘mechanical necessity’ to itself be the product of design, or even an instance of design? What stops me from regarding everything you speak of (including the NaOH and HCl, etc), as well as their properties and so on, as if they were artifacts?

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    GP has put this well: we are dealing with what is empirically warranted, as opposed to speculating on abstract metaphysical possibilities.

    I think it was Newton who pointed out that across time, the accumulating body of empirically well-warranted (albeit inevitably provisional) knowledge will help constrain our views on metaphysics.

    Whatever the ultimate source of chance processes and circumstances, such chance processes [e.g. thermal motion of molecules] collectively are a proximate causal factor that leaves characteristic empirical signs, i.e. we see probabilistic distributions.

    Similarly, mechanical necessity acting on whatever initial conditions obtain will yield natural regularities: the drops emitted form the buret fall into the flask, and as drops are subtracted, the volume indicated by the meniscus reduces in an exact mass-conservation match.

    Thirdly, the configuration of the apparatus, the solutions, the indicator, and the structure of the items all bespeak functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information as the proximate cause.

    Such signs of causal factors are readily observable, testable on reliability, and well-supported.

    Thus, we can make observations, measurements etc and draw well-warranted conclusions about the causal factors directly at work.

    This set of inferences does also have ultimate metaphysical import, but that comes in a particular context of circumstances. Namely, the observed cosmos is at a finely tuned operating point that facilitates C-Chemistry intelligent, cell based life. Which life also shows dFSCI in the cell.

    So, we have cogent — as opposed to demonstrative [not relevant to matters of fact] — best explanation on comparative difficulties reason to see a unified cause of cosmos and life in it that is intelligent, purposeful, personal, designing and effective, indeed awesomely powerful: some estimates put the energy density of free space at 10^107 J/cc. A cause that goes beyond the observed cosmos and its beginning. A cause that is then a good candidate for the necessary being that is implicated by a contingent observed cosmos.

    But at that point the issue is not a scientific one, but a worldview level inference.

    Design theory is about the far more restricted context of signs of design that are empirically credible and detectable.

    GEM of TKI

  61. 61
    tgpeeler says:

    This is a fascinating thread and I’d like to toss out a couple of ideas. The first observation, already noted extensively by reference to the SEP article online, is that naturalism is very hard to pin down. Conveniently, I might add.

    My Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd edition, page 563, says:

    “The view, sometimes considered scientific (but an assumption rather than an argued theory) that all that there is, is spatiotemporal (a part of “nature”) and is only knowable through the methods of the sciences, is itself a metaphysics, namely metaphysical naturalism (not to be confused with natural philosophy).”

    It goes on to say on page 596, that naturalism is:

    “the twofold view that (1) everything is composed of natural entities – those studied in the sciences (on some versions, the natural sciences) – whose properties determine all the properties of things, persons included (abstracta like possibilia and mathematical objects, if they exist, being constructed of such abstract entities as the sciences allow); and (2) acceptable methods of justification and explanation are contiguous, in some sense, with those in science.”

    My Oxford Guide to Philosophy says on page 640 that:

    “In metaphysics naturalism is perhaps most obviously akin to *materialism, but it does not have to be materialistic. What it insists on is that that world of nature should form a single sphere without incursions from outside by souls or spirits, divine or human, and without having to accommodate strange entities like non-natural values or substantive abstract *universals.”

    And not to be pedantic but to save scrolling, the pertinent quote from the SEP entry on naturalism:

    “By the middle of the twentieth century, belief in sui generis mental or vital forces had become a minority view. This led to the widespread acceptance of the doctrine now known as the ‘causal closure’ or the ‘causal completeness’ of the physical realm, according to which all physical effects can be accounted for by basic physical causes (where ‘physical’ can be understood as referring to some list of fundamental forces).”

    What I take from all of the above is the following:

    1. There are two distinct aspects to “naturalism,” the metaphysical, or more precisely, ontological aspect, and the epistemological aspect. It bears keeping those distinctions in mind.

    2. Concerning ontological naturalism (ON), it seems that there are at least two fundamental intellectual commitments the naturalist must make to hold to any kind of meaningful naturalism.

    The first one is that “nature” (further described in terms of epistemological, or more commonly, methodological naturalism (MN) – more on that later) is all there is. I suggest that it’s useful to accept this at face value as true and then examine the obvious implication(s). The first and most obvious being, that if all that exists is “natural” then nothing that exists is “supernatural.” God, for example. For now, we need not dive any deeper to consider whether or not minds or souls (I will use souls as I distinguish between acts of the intellect and acts of the will and they are often intimately connected) actually exist. But it is clear to me that naturalism entails atheism. It’s true by definition. If natural things are all that exist and God is a supernatural (i.e. a non-natural) thing then He does not exist. Simple enough.

    The second commitment is that nature is “causally closed.” That is, that nothing interferes from “outside” of nature. Things like God, angels, satan and other demons, and even souls have no causal power in nature. So even if souls, for example, should end up being some “emergent” or even real entities, it would not matter as their presence would be undetectable. That is, we cannot sense it. Here is where we see that ON and MN are joined at the hip. They create a vicious circularity that cannot be penetrated.

    It goes like this. All that exists is natural (ON) and we know that because science (MN) studies natural things, things that can be empirically detected, material things, physical things, natural things and these are the only things that exist.

    I suppose now is as good a time as any to trash the idea that there is no immaterial part of human beings, apart from (yet related to in some unexplainable way) our brains. In other words, that there is no such thing as a soul. My argument goes like this. If all I am is a physical being, a sensing machine, then all I know MUST BE what I can sense. This is a matter of definition. It is one of our foundational assumptions or premises. Now, if we are going to have intellectual integrity then we must go where our premises take us. We must follow reason wherever it goes. Even Dawkins pays lip service to this. (“Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration.” To a scientist, these are noble words. – From the God Delusion, page 49.) Well, let’s see.

    Let’s assume for the moment that ON and MN are true. Let’s then try to answer the following questions. How is it that I am even aware of immaterial or abstract things to begin with? How is it that I know that my car is in the driveway even though I cannot see my car? How is it that I know how to get to Skeeters for lunch with my friends today even though I cannot sense either Skeeters or my friends? How is it that I can even conceive of the “future”? How is it that I can remember that I have a car even though I cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it right now? How do I know about the past? How do I know that when I put a pencil in a glass of water that the pencil does not bend? How do I know that when I stand on the railroad tracks and look off into the distance that they do not converge even though they look like they converge?

    Obviously, we cannot answer any of these questions in terms of ON and MN. If ON and MN mean that I am purely a sensing being, and they do, then I all I know is what I sense. (This is all true by definition.) But I know more than this. I know about mathematics and the rules of reason and the moral law and economic laws and symbols, languages, information, justice, love, etc…………. I know where my car is even though I cannot sense it right now, assuming that it has not been stolen. I know how to get to Skeeters even though I cannot see the roads I will take to get there. I know that my friends will be there even though I cannot see them now. I know that a pencil does not bend when I put it in a glass of water and I know that when I take it out it does not magically straighten out. The obvious conclusion to which I am forced, by REASON, is that there IS something more to me than my sensing equipment. There MUST BE another part to me. And since that part cannot be physical it must be not-physical. It MUST BE immaterial. And, as a brief aside, now that I have every good reason to believe that there is an immaterial part to me that reasons, chooses, manipulates symbols, etc… I have every good reason to think that my soul is indestructible. Immaterial things cannot be destroyed. I cannot destroy the Pythagorean theorem by erasing it from the blackboard. If immaterial things cannot be destroyed, and my soul is immaterial, then my soul cannot be destroyed.

    Now let’s go back to pretending that ON and MN are true. How then, do we explain anything in terms of MN? The “causal closure” of nature doctrine now informs our epistemology. If “nature” is all there is and if “scientific” methods of knowing are the only way to know, then our best science and how we know our best science MUST BE the only way to explain anything. Ignoring for the moment the vicious circularity here, which any competent or honest thinker would have recognized by now, what this means is that the laws of physics, or what may be described by the laws of physics, MUST stand as the ultimate, and only, explanations for everything since nature is everything. So what do the laws of physics explain? And what if the laws of physics change in the future?

    The laws of physics (I am not a physicist but this seems true to me from what I’ve read) describe the interactions of sub-atomic particles in energy fields. Of course, this raises the question: What are sub-atomic particles? And what are energy fields? Here’s where naturalism necessarily morphs into some sort of materialism. Sub-atomic particles are “material” things that are governed by certain rules (physical laws) and they always act in certain ways. OK, so now we have to answer the question: What is material? Fortunately, I think there is a clear way to do this. We can say that something is material if: it is extended and space and time; if it has mass; if it obeys the laws of physics; if it can be converted to energy; or if it can heat or move matter (is energy). This accounts for, as far as I can tell, all of the particles in the Standard Model and the four fundamental forces and it would, more importantly, account for any future particles or forces that may be discovered. This makes it easy to tell if something is material (thus “natural”) or not. Perhaps the most glaring deficiency of materialism, and there are many, is that the laws of physics themselves are immaterial. That is they are not located “anywhere,” they do not have mass, they do not obey themselves, they cannot be converted to energy, and they cannot do work, i.e. heat or move matter. Be that as it may, our construal of naturalism includes mathematics and the laws of physics as allowable “abstracta and possibilia” so we will let that slide for now. But a strict construal of materialism is demonstrably false.

    So how can physics explain language, for instance? At its most basic, a language is a set of symbols and set of rules that govern the arrangement of those symbols so that information may be encoded, transmitted, and decoded. We all get this. But physics has nothing to say about either symbols or rules because that’s not what physics is about. Physics is about only what is “natural” and only “natural” things exist (ON, by decree) so according to the necessary implications of ON, language does not exist. But language clearly exists, so ON is false. This is the jist of the madness, to me. ON denies, using language, that “spooky” entities (souls), that have causal power in nature, exist in space and time. But clearly the use of language involves an abstract soul, the exercise of logic, free will, and the manipulation of symbols according to rules, all of which are logically denied by ON. Hmmm.

    There is another significant implication of the “causal closure” of nature and it is this. If by soul we mean an immaterial part of ourselves, enabled by our brains but apart from our brains, that can manipulate symbols, recognize moral and immoral acts, act “freely” and have causal power in nature (act purposefully), then souls do not exist. We can see this easily enough. If nature is causally closed and that means all explanations for everything are to be found in the laws of nature and souls are apart from the laws of nature then souls do not exist. We are forced to say that soul (or mind in philosophy of mind) = brain. It also follows that there is no free will and no purpose. Other things follow too, but this was going to be a short post.

    Still, this may not be enough to nail things down. I suggest one final standard for what is “natural” and that is: Can it be detected by means of our five senses, aided by instrumentation? In other words, can we see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or touch it? If so, then it is certainly material and it would certainly be “natural.” I would also note that our senses may and do deceive us and there are several cautionary tales bound up in that truth claim.

    So where are we now? Granting that there may still be some light housekeeping to do, any serious intellectual commitment (more on what that means in a moment) to naturalism binds the naturalist, at a minimum, to atheism, to physicalism in philosophy of mind, and to materialism plus mathematics and physical laws (at least) in ontology. MN in my view is simply incoherent because ON denies the laws of reason upon which the physical laws are inferred from observations. That said, I also would claim that there are no privileged truth claims and that ultimately, truth is discovered by the application of reason to sense experience. As far as intellectual integrity goes, I think Dawkins defined it acceptably. We go where reason leads. But reason starts somewhere as does everything in this finite universe. WE start with first principles (identity, LNC, excluded middle, causality) that cannot be denied. ON starts with an unargued assumption, or better yet, a dogmatic assertion, that only the natural world exists. Well certainly the natural world exists and science has been very effective in describing and explaining the natural world but from that it does not follow that the “natural” world is all that exists.

    This is way longer than I had originally intended and even though it is a stream of consciousness post and not precisely written, not to mention woefully incomplete, I’m sure I’ve said enough to stir the pot once again.

  62. 62
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hello TGP,

    I read a short paper I found on-line a couple of years ago that has (at least) some of the trappings of your argument (which I agree with by the way).

    I thougt I might share it…

    http://www.uni-konstanz.de/ppm.....ralism.pdf

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    TGP:

    INDEED, YOU HAVE STIRRED THE POT.

    Well done.

    The dictionaries on naturalism are especially thought provoking.

    And, your onward discussion is not far behind.

    G

  64. 64
    tgpeeler says:

    Hey Upright, thanks much. I’ll read asap.

    G, thanks, too.

  65. 65
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hey Tom,

    I didn’t mean to imply the pdf was making the same argument as you – just covering some of the same thinking.

    I love the exception given to the abstract of mathematics. Apparently, when something is undeniable, some give an exception based upon the need to give an exception – which is acceptable to those who are accepting of such exceptions. I know it sounds crazy when you say it fast like that.

    Off on the lake – have a good weekend…

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: UB, food for thought indeed, too.

  67. 67
    tgpeeler says:

    Sure. I also love the exception for mathematics, the universal language for the communication of the physical laws of the universe. And then there are the laws of physics themselves, written in that language. But nevertheless…

    Only material things exist!!!!! Hmmm, wait, except for those things that exist and are immaterial and that no rational person will deny!!! I don’t have a mind. I don’t have free will. I don’t have any purpose for writing anything or doing anything or thinking anything, EVER!!! And you are stupid or insane or wicked if you disagree with me!!

    But we’re the nuts… Yeah, we’re the whack jobs here alright… 🙂

  68. 68
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    GP has put this well: we are dealing with what is empirically warranted, as opposed to speculating on abstract metaphysical possibilities.

    That would mean the very question of whether we should regard natural processes and objects (natural selection and atoms, say) as artifacts is a question that can’t be empirically determined. And frankly, I’m fine with that viewpoint. But that bleeds into these debates from every angle – and, particularly if you think (even due to strictly metaphysical or philosophical argument) that everything in our universe is designed, top to bottom.

    I think everyone in this thread would agree that metaphysics are really a central part of this entire debate. But I think one looming point, one nasty habit, is the tendency to cede large swaths of ground to atheists and ID critics without warrant. I say this because, over and over again, I see ID proponents treat nature and natural processes as not designed, or as entirely purposeless, unintelligent processes (With the implication that no intelligence originated these processes, or guided them in any way). But if this cannot be empirically determined, as you say, that’s the last concession that should be made.

  69. 69
    molch says:

    tgpeeler:
    a question about this curious statement:

    “I suppose now is as good a time as any to trash the idea that there is no immaterial part of human beings, apart from (yet related to in some unexplainable way) our brains.”

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here, but it sounds like you are saying that human brains are immaterial???

  70. 70
    nullasalus says:

    TGP,

    That really is a fantastic find, and thank you for reproducing it here. I’m intrigued to see yet more cites showing this curious problem of even defining ‘nature’ and ‘naturalism’ is so widespread.

    Now, I agree with your arguments against materialism so stated – James Ross’ “Immaterial Aspects of Thought” and the Argument from Reason, etc, resonate with me. But I think the problems with defining naturalism run deeper here.

    One problem is this: In trying to tie naturalism to physicalism, the question becomes “Alright. What’s physical?” And guess what? The answer there is *almost as up in the air as naturalism*. Have a look at the SEP entry for physicalism, and head down to section 11. Particularly Hempel’s Dilemma, and panpsychism, though other problems with even defining ‘physical’ persist. The money quote on the latter one?

    The first thing to say in response is that the mere possibility of panpsychism cannot really be what is at issue in this objection. For no matter how implausible and outlandish it sounds, panpsychism per se is not inconsistent with physicalism (cf. Lewis 1983).

    I have encountered self-declared physicalist, materialist philosophers in discussion. One time I asked one of them just what the physical is. His response was ‘Whatever the physicists say it is.’

    Which brings me to another point, this one made by Noam Chomsky:

    There is no longer any definite conception of body. Rather, the material world is whatever we discover it to be, with whatever properties it must be assumed to have for the purposes of explanatory theory. Any intelligible theory that offers genuine explanations and that can be assimilated to the core notions of physics becomes part of the theory of the material world, part of our account of body. If we have such a theory in some domain, we seek to assimilate it to the core notions of physics, perhaps modifying these notions as we carry out this enterprise. (p. 144)

    The mind-body problem can therefore not even be formulated. The problem cannot be solved, because there is no clear way to state it. Unless someone proposes a definite concept of body, we cannot ask whether some phenomena exceed its bounds. (Language and Problems of Knowledge, p. 145)

    Now, Chomsky is only one person, but I think his idea is surprisingly on target – especially given the previously mentioned SEP entry.

    And how about John Searle. Are you aware of John Searle’s response to the mind-body problem? It is to admit that subjectivity exists, that thoughts exist, intentionality, that (if I recall correctly) these things don’t reduce to mindless things.. and that they’re all physical. Searle is accused of being a property dualist, and Searle denies this. To him, he’s no dualist, he’s just a physicalist. And really, if panpsychism (once described as ‘dualism all the way down’) is “not inconsistent with physicalism”, then how is Searle? In fact, who CAN be inconsistent with physicalism? Even Berkeley seems to be caught up in that net.

    And that leads into the second problem. You suggest that naturalism requires physicalism about minds. Putting aside for a moment that I now seriously wonder if ‘physicalism’ has enough meat in it for that claim to pin anything down, we’re left with the problem that Chalmers, Searle, Strawson, and many others either explicitly reject physicalism (Chalmers), or accept a ‘materialism’ that obviously flies in the face of the meanings I think you require. (Galen Strawson being a panpsychism advocate. Of course, he calls panpsychism ‘real materialism’).

    I’m reminded of a great response Behe had to some of his work, where critics objected to one of his “calculations” about the odds of a particular type of mutation coming to pass in a population. Behe’s response was: This calculation is not some off-the-cuff estimation on my part. It is the result of an observed lab experiment. It is not a guess – it is data.

    In this case, I humbly suggest there is data in the form of numerous self-described naturalists either explicitly rejecting physicalism or radically redefining it, and this must be accounted for. Maybe you’ll want to class Bertrand Russell as a supernaturalist (He accepted universals and was not a materialist – he favored neutral monism.) On the flipside, maybe you’ll want to brand Bishop Berkeley a materialist (He regarded nature as the thoughts of God, so seemingly God would be included in nature, and since he proposed nothing existed beyond God – and since apparently by some historical twist idealism can be regarded as physicalism – the man was apparently a naturalist.)

    I’m sure this all sounds nuts. But I maintain this is the state of the field, the fallout from various factors – the onset of quantum physics, the pervasiveness of the problems of the mind (qualia, intentionality, reason, etc), political and academic shifts (‘naturalism’ and the rejection of traditional religion being judged with favor, often for reasons quite unrelated to rationality), and so on.

    I say all this while agreeing with you on many points. I think the status of ‘laws’ in particular is tremendously interesting (if science is not merely description, if laws are taken as ‘existing’, they are stellar examples of an immaterial thing), the incoherency of a consistent mechanistic-materialism, etc. I certainly agree that one common binding agent of ‘naturalism’ is, if not atheism, a particular anti-theism aimed squarely at certain religions.

    The difference is that I think that binding agent, or something like it, is key among naturalists. A kind of “anything but THAT” metaphysic, hence why outright deniers of materialism can call themselves naturalists. Even that ‘dogmatic assertion that only the natural world exists’ is further dogmatic, because – since it does not start from any reason or first principles, the defining of nature itself is arbitrary! And if it’s arbitrary, then it can just as easily include God and gods as anything else. (Indeed, I argue that if one accepts a so-called materialism, and accepts the idea of a simulated universe as compatible with materialism, then pagan gods are entirely compatible with that materialism!)

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    —nullasalus: “I say this because, over and over again, I see ID proponents treat nature and natural processes as not designed, or as entirely purposeless, unintelligent processes (With the implication that no intelligence originated these processes, or guided them in any way).”

    To say that certain features of nature exhibit detectable design patterns is not the same thing as saying that other features that do not have those detectable patterns were not designed. A formal inference to design simply does not require or even encourage that kind of assumption.

    No ID advocate that I know of would question the proposition that natural laws require a lawgiver. Indeed, it is the ID advocate that must continually remind both Darwinists and Theistic Darwinists about the reasonableness of a guided evolution and the folly of an unguided evolution.

    Question to a prominent Theistic Darwinist Robert Russell:

    True or False–“Evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind.”

    Answer: “True from a scientific perspective; false from a theological perspective.”

    Ask any ID proponent the same question and he/she will say, unequivocally, “false.”

  72. 72
    vividbleau says:

    tgp re 61

    Thanks for those great observations.

    tgp “If all I am is a physical being, a sensing machine, then all I know MUST BE what I can sense.”

    Here is the rub. In all the discussions Stephenb and others have had with those who deny that rules of right reason are self evident you will find this assumption. They start with the assumption that it is our senses that inform us of reasons rules not the other way around.

    They dont grasp that all empirical information is after all nothing more than a set of data points. The data , the senses, tell us NOTHING unless subjected to rules of right reason. This is so obvious that one must wonder what else is going on. Of course what is going on is that they are so wedded to their worldview that they are 1) blind to rational argument or 2) willfully defending their worldview even though they know that what they are putting forth is incoherent and absurd. Truth is not important to them it is slain on the altar of their ideology

    Vivid

  73. 73
    tgpeeler says:

    hey molch @ 69 – “Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here, but it sounds like you are saying that human brains are immaterial???”

    Yes, you are misunderstanding. I’m saying that brains are physical and that souls are immaterial and that the connection is, as of anything I’ve read lately, still unexplained. I think it may be unexplainable in principle.

  74. 74
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    No ID advocate that I know of would question the proposition that natural laws require a lawgiver.

    See, that’s another worry I have with ID, and I’ll give my two favorite recent examples. Nick Bostrom argues that it’s possible we live in a computer simulation, that our whole universe is an intentionally created program. He’s also a self-described naturalist, and argues his simulation argument is not only compatible with ‘materialism’ but requires it. John Gribbin proposes that, given a multiverse, intelligence will come to dominate and become the principle means by which new universes propagate (they will create universes, etc).

    These seem to be ID ideas. But if we’re going to allow simulation theories and ‘creating universes’ on the table, then yes, the idea of an ultimate lawgiver in the sense you mean is an open question in ID. I don’t even have a problem with that necessarily – ID is defended as identifying design, and the scope of the designers is very broad. But if it is, then shouldn’t it be admitted that those ideas, and the people advancing them, are ID proponents?

    But that does have the odd side effect of conflicting with a core commitment stated on this site, about the opposition to materialism.

    Question to a prominent Theistic Darwinist Robert Russell:

    True or False–”Evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind.”

    Answer: “True from a scientific perspective; false from a theological perspective.”

    Ask any ID proponent the same question and he/she will say, unequivocally, “false.”

    This one, however, I cannot agree with. First, Robert Russell is dead wrong: Science cannot make the determination he suggests it does, and this is *precisely* the sort of metaphysical smuggling that is rife in science. He should know better, or he’s a quisling.

    Second, and more importantly… I would be shocked if, even among the ID proponents here, evolution and other more mundane physical processes are anything but ‘purposeless’ and ‘mindless’. I would be very pleased if they even went so far as to say science is incapable of making the determination of whether these ‘mundane’ processes and mechanisms are themselves artifacts, but that certain more particular things (flagellum, etc) are different cases. But the contrast I entirely see is ID versus ‘unguided, purposeless processes’, with the assumption that evolution, chemical interactions, etc are exactly that.

    That is one thing that appeals to me about thomism versus ID. Thomism is willing to argue that even the mundane processes in the universe show design of a sort. But I really do see many ID proponents (keeping in mind Dembski’s claim that ID does not rule out that ‘everything is guided’) immediately conceding that these various aspects of nature are exactly what many atheists, materialists and naturalists say they are.

    Believe me, I want that not to be the case. It’s part of the reason I’m in this thread – because I see so much, too much, credit given to atheism and naturalism, but the people who should know better.

  75. 75
    tgpeeler says:

    nullasalus @ 70, “But I think the problems with defining naturalism run deeper here.”

    I’ve got no problem with that. And I have read Searle, at least three of his books, as far as I know, and several articles. I think he’s funny and bright although he gets it wrong in the end. He’s a guy with whom I’d love to take a philosophy of mind seminar. His exchanges with Dennett are classic. I wish I had time to reply now but I’m under the gun to get on the road and won’t be at a computer again until probably Monday morning. I hope this thread is still active then. Thanks for your comments. I will print them out and take them with me. I’ll think about them while I’m fishing. 🙂 It will give me something to do since I hardly ever catch any fish…

  76. 76
    nullasalus says:

    tgpeeler,

    No rush at all. I often hear Searle complimented as ‘Fantastic as a critic, not so good at offering solutions’, which seems right. Dennett… I have little nice to say about Dennett. That he can get the reputation he has as a philosopher to me says a lot more about academia than about Dennett himself.

    Have a good trip, and thanks again for the very interesting observations and quotes. Fishing, I really have to try that again sometime.

  77. 77
    tgpeeler says:

    Daniel Dennett is the Richard Dawkins of philosophy. One could make a career of just following along behind him correcting all of the blatant error he spews onto an unsuspecting public. One of my Dennett favorites is from Breaking The Spell, he says on page 244: “It (the universe) … does perform a version of the ultimate bootstrapping trick; it creates itself ex nihilo.”

    This from an alleged philosopher. The universe created itself. I have GOT to go. Adios amigos.

  78. 78
    tgpeeler says:

    argh. nullasalus re. “fantastic find” was that in reference to naturalism definitions?

  79. 79
    nullasalus says:

    tgpeeler,

    Yes, though add the Dennett quote to the list. The universe created itself ex nihilo? Good Lord. I think someone once told me he wrote/thought that, and I wrote it off as “Heh, they’re kidding probably. He wouldn’t be that crazy.”

  80. 80
    StephenB says:

    —nullasalus: “Nick Bostrom argues that it’s possible we live in a computer simulation, that our whole universe is an intentionally created program. He’s also a self-described naturalist, and argues his simulation argument is not only compatible with ‘materialism’ but requires it. John Gribbin proposes that, given a multiverse, intelligence will come to dominate and become the principle means by which new universes propagate (they will create universes, etc).”

    I don’t think we should expect everyone who associates himself with the ID paradigms to be a responsible metaphysician. Indeed, a great many prominent scientists know next to nothing about philosophy and often demonstrate that fact in public.

    —“These seem to be ID ideas. But if we’re going to allow simulation theories and ‘creating universes’ on the table, then yes, the idea of an ultimate lawgiver in the sense you mean is an open question in ID.”

    Intelligent Design science, if understood within a reasonable metaphysical framework, would certainly be consistent with any argument that proposes a lawgiver. However, the ID community is hardly in a position to insist that everyone who carries its banner should also be a responsible metaphysician. On the other hand, ID science, AS SCIENCE, is committed to neutrality on metaphysical questions about lawgivers. Why would you expect otherwise? As one who doesn’t even think that ID can do what it claims it can do [measure the effects of design] why would you expect it to do something it knows it can’t do [identify a lawgiver as a lawgiver]?

    —-“But that does have the odd side effect of conflicting with a core commitment stated on this site, about the opposition to materialism.”

    This site is committed to opposing materialistic ideology that intrudes itself in the scientific process. It is not necessarily committed to the practice of condemning all materialists who claim to support ID science. A materialist who believes in intelligent design, though not philosophically coherent, is obviously not committed to materialist ideology, which refuses to consider intelligent design as a scientific option.

    —-“I would be shocked if, even among the ID proponents here, evolution and other more mundane physical processes are anything but ‘purposeless’ and ‘mindless’.

    That’s interesting, because I would be shocked if ANY regular ID contributor on this site thinks that physical processes are purposeless.

    —“ I would be very pleased if they even went so far as to say science is incapable of making the determination of whether these ‘mundane’ processes and mechanisms are themselves artifacts, but that certain more particular things (flagellum, etc) are different cases. But the contrast I entirely see is ID versus ‘unguided, purposeless processes’, with the assumption that evolution, chemical interactions, etc are exactly that.”

    As I indicated earlier, detecting design patterns in the universe does not require or even encourage the ID advocate to suggest that other physical processes are not designed. I honestly don’t know why you would think otherwise.

    —z’That is one thing that appeals to me about thomism versus ID. Z’

    ID does not conflict with Thomism at all. I suspect that we have devoted 10-15 threads to that very subject. The more we emphasize the point, the less the theistic evolutionists who make the accusation will engage us on the matter.

    —“Thomism is willing to argue that even the mundane processes in the universe show design of a sort.”

    Yes, and I suspect that most ID proponents, when they don their philosopher’s hat, would likely say the same thing. For what it is worth, I would, and do. The nature of things and the way they behave [not the sensibly perceptible ID patterns] also indicate design, albeit not a scientifically detectable design. Final causes are not at war with formal causes—they are both part of the same reality. Truth is unified. It is the theistic evolutionists who want to split things up and compartmentalize.

    —“But I really do see many ID proponents (keeping in mind Dembski’s claim that ID does not rule out that ‘everything is guided’) immediately conceding that these various aspects of nature are exactly what many atheists, materialists and naturalists say they are.”

    This seems like a very strange interpretation to me. Why not simply take Dembski at his word and assume that all other major players are of the same mind? With respect to those on the fringe, I know of no way to insure that everyone who associates himself with ID science will also be a good philosopher or an worthy ambassador.

    —“Believe me, I want that not to be the case. It’s part of the reason I’m in this thread – because I see so much, too much, credit given to atheism and naturalism, but the people who should know better.”

    The offenders that you refer to are self-described naturalists who would NOT be inclined to know better. Do you have any local examples of this phenomenon you describe? Are there any ID proponents who regularly visit this site that would fall into this category of unwittingly supporting the materialist position? The next time it happens, if it does, please call my attention to it so we can catch that person in the act. My guess is that we will have a long wait. Better still, why not simply go with the many ID proponents who do good philosophy and eschew the few who do not? Surely, you would not want to hold the former group accountable for the irrational behavior of the latter group.

  81. 81
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    I don’t think we should expect everyone who associates himself with the ID paradigms to be a responsible metaphysician. Indeed, a great many prominent scientists know next to nothing about philosophy and often demonstrate that fact in public.

    Bostrom’s a philosopher I believe, though if you shoot back “that doesn’t mean he knows a damn thing about philosophy”, I’d be inclined to agree. 🙂

    Nor do I think ID or ID proponents should ‘associate themselves’ with anyone in particular. But, I also think an ID argument is an ID argument, no matter how radical. Don’t you agree?

    On the other hand, ID science, AS SCIENCE, is committed to neutrality on metaphysical questions about lawgivers. Why would you expect otherwise? As one who doesn’t even think that ID can do what it claims it can do [measure the effects of design] why would you expect it to do something it knows it can’t do [identify a lawgiver as a lawgiver]?

    Two things. I don’t expect otherwise. In fact, I’m saying that you should call a spade a spade, and Bostrom and Gribbin should be tagged as employing ID arguments. In fact I have written repeatedly for my *admiration* for Dembski in his willingness to say just how broad the ID tent is in principle (platonic demiurges, simulated universes, impersonal telic processes, etc). My point was that if Gribbin and Bostrom count as ID proponents (and there are others who could be added to that list) – and I have to say, fringe as they are, they seem to qualify – then there are some ID proponents who seemingly would deny the existence of ‘lawgivers’.

    Second, I don’t believe I’ve said that ID arguments can’t ‘measure the effects of design’. In fact, my understanding is that ID doesn’t even try to prove design, but infer it. And I believe design can be inferred, strongly and powerfully. I’m even saying that ID proponents should regard and argue that mundane processes and parts of nature are in fact artifacts, or at the very least not concede that these things are unguided, without purpose, etc. My position is that ID is not science and that it fails to be so because science is rightly far more anemic than most people appreciate. Further, my position has always been a bit nuanced and conditional: I have said outright that if talking about ‘totally unguided, impersonal’ processes and mechanisms, and claims that there are no design in nature (even in minute areas) are ‘scientific’, then ID is science as well. Darwinism as Darwin and Jerry Coyne know it, in my view, is not science either.

    As I indicated earlier, detecting design patterns in the universe does not require or even encourage the ID advocate to suggest that other physical processes are not designed. I honestly don’t know why you would think otherwise.

    I don’t think ID requires this. I think it just happens to be the case. More on that below.

    ID does not conflict with Thomism at all.

    Sorry, that’s not what I meant. I am making no claims here that thomism is ‘opposed’ to ID. I am simply contrasting two different methods of ‘design detection’, for lack of a better phrase.

    Yes, and I suspect that most ID proponents, when they don their philosopher’s hat, would likely say the same thing. For what it is worth, I would, and do.

    You do, yes. I can think of a few others who may. I don’t think this is a majority position.

    Look, I follow ID news constantly. Not just on here – I hit intelligentdesign.org regularly, I’m on the mailing list. All I can say is that I at least somewhat often see ‘evolution’ derided – not merely Darwinism, but evolution – or natural processes placed *in opposition* to ID. Are you honestly going to tell me that there are not regular claims where ID ideas are proposed, and the challenge is for atheists and naturalists to show how ‘unguided and natural processes’ could account for this or that feat?

    When I see ID proponents point out the amazing architecture in cells, or the existence (and technology!) of the genetic code, and various other things – and then say ‘Now the naturalist has to show how these things came about through unguided and purposeless processes!’, I cringe. It’s like watching a guy play blackjack, hit 21, and yell “Hit me!” Not because natural processes as we know them can accomplish these things, but because it’s a useless step that distracts from their strongest points. The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things hardly matters except for specific design proposals.

    The offenders that you refer to are self-described naturalists who would NOT be inclined to know better. Do you have any local examples of this phenomenon you describe? Are there any ID proponents who regularly visit this site that would fall into this category of unwittingly supporting the materialist position?

    Let me ask you clearly. What do you want me to provide to show you what I’m speaking of, and that it isn’t just self-described naturalists? Would quotes of ID proponents saying that natural processes of various types are unguided and purposeless (and thus could never accomplish certain things) suffice?

    I’m not trying to hold anyone accountable for anyone else’s problems here. I’m stating my case and citing some of what I’ve seen for why I’m stating my case. As for credit being given to atheism and naturalism, I’ve been arguing about it here – the idea that ‘naturalism’ is anything more than intellectual clay that can be molded into anything whatsoever so long as it rejects particular religious beliefs. The idea that even ‘physicalism’ is well-defined anymore. And of course my worry that ID proponents regularly at least seem to me to cede that evolution and natural processes and objects are not themselves instances of design, or that no design can be inferred from them.

  82. 82
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    Interesting onward exchanges.

    I would love to see many threads of discussion teased out and brought to a reasonable consensus, even if that is just clarification of where we differ, why.

    As to the issue of ID and design beyond empirical detectability, I think that is probably one of the points that needs some balanced clarification.

    1 –> I have pointed out (often) that when we shift from the signs of design in C Chemistry, cell based life [CCCBL] on earth, to the evidence that points to an observed cosmos set to a fine-tuned operating point as a system/environment that facilitates/makes possible such CCCBL, we have empirical warrant for inferring the design of the cosmos as a whole.

    2 –> On what we can see in the world around us, not on metaphysical a prioris.

    3 –> Which is vital. We can be far more confident on the degree of warrant for specific than for grand worldviews as a whole lump. So, when we look to warrant for worldviews, it is far wiser to start form the well warranted matters of observable, public fact, so that we hold ourselves properly accountable over factual adequacy of worldviews.

    4 –> When it comes to the design inference, we have just such a case of well warranted fact. Namely, we live in a world where chance, necessity and design are all known proximate causal factors.

    5 –> Let’s get concrete. Drop a fair, unloaded die, it falls by necessity. It tumbles to read a value by chance. Alternatively, we could set it to read a value by intent, or a crook can load it to read a value not by chance but by intelligently built-in bias.

    6 –> From many such cases, we have built up a considerable basis of common sense and technical praxis on detecting chance, necessity and design, not least to prevent being manipulated and taken advantage of, or to find out the best treatments to give in practical situations like agriculture, the classroom or the medical clinic. [Cf. above on ANOVA and experiment design. Yes, design. The experimental method puts design into the heart of science, and design detection as well, not least in cases of scientific malpractice. the case of Sir Cyril Burt’s separated twins studies on inheritance of IQ is a classic of how intelligent design of faked results had significant impact on practice in the field, and later on — once computers were there to make data cross-checking easier — the cheat was detected by the data being too close to the ideal theoretical model to be credible as real-world statistical data. Design vs chance, detected in a key and important field with significant policy consequences. Including on the debates over bell curves, class and race.]

    7 –> In many fields, we routinely identify credible signs of intelligent design, and use them.

    8 –> But, as we will see, once such signs run afoul of a priori evolutionary materialism, imposed via the trojan horse of the seemingly reasonable methodological naturalism, the a priori commitment to materialism that Lewontin highlighted censors the content of science, and frustrates inference to best explanation on the credible causal factors responsible for, say, life.

    9 –> For instance, dFSCI is a plainly routine and reliable sign of design, on our observation, stand to witness the whole field of computer technology. And, we have very strong reasons linked to the statistical foundation of the second law of thermodynamics to see that it is not credible to see undirected chance configurations and changes acting with equally undirected forces of mechanical necessity on the gamut of our observed cosmos, spontaneously getting us to the sorts of islands of function that are needed to have metabolising, self-replicating cell based life using DNA, RNA and effecting machines.

    10 –> So, what is the response? First, censorship [and even expulsion of dissenters].

    11 –> Second, suddenly we see ad hoc proposals of quasi-infinite multiverses — for which there is not an iota of solid independent observational evidence, and in some cases the proposals would rule out such observations — that work to try to expand the scope of space and matter to undertake configurations.

    12 –> With some pretty bizarre and even absurd consequences. But, evolutionary materialism is the worldview-tinged hard core to be defended at all costs, it seems. Never mind question-begging and self-referential incoherence of this philosophical agenda — it most certainly is not primarily science, though nowadays it is usually dressed up in a lab coat.

    13 –> But, instead, if we reject this a priorism which is why “naturalism” is a priori evolutionary materialism, we have an alternative.

    14 –> Namely, we can start with the humble step by step process of scientific warrant of basic facts and hypotheses.

    15 –> Careful observation will show that there are empirically reliable signs of intelligent design, such as digitally coded, functionally specific complex information. Such dFSCI is a commonplace in textual information, and in now ubiquitous computer and digital information system technology.

    16 –> So we are well warranted to infer that dFSCI is a well-rested, reliable sign of intelligent design.

    17 –> Thence, to use it freely — albeit provisionally [a counter-instance would falsify!] — as a recognised signature of such design: intelligently directed configuration of informational and information-processing elements towards function.

    18 –> And so, when we see the joint presence of metabolism and a von Neumann type self-replicating mechanism in life forms, we are well-warranted to provisionally infer that they are designed. Not on a priorism about the world, but on empirical data and inductively warranted inference from such.

    19 –> Does that mean that he cosmos as a who9le is not designed, or that the chance mechanisms we see or the mechanical laws of our cosmos are not equally designed? No, it is just a question of empirical warrant eon publicly accessible in-common evidence. And that life on earth is designed does not tell us who did it, or whether that designer or set of designers are within or beyond our observed cosmos. As has been openly stated since Thaxton et al, TMLO, 1984.

    20 –> And in fact, on other empirical signs of design, i.e. the presence of fine-tuned operating points for multipart, complex functional systems, we have good enough reason to infer that the cosmos is designed, too. Without getting into metaphysical debates.

    21 –> So, GP’s empirical warrant based approach is very important and useful.

    ___________________

    GEM of TKI

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    TGP:

    O/T.

    This site on bankfishing USA may be interesting, and this on Southern California surf fishing, too.

    Time for a good old fish fry!

    Escoveitched fish, Jamaican style. (I remember Gramma E, esco fish, bammie and spoon-standing thick gungo peas soup like it was yesterday.)

    G

    +++++++++++++++

    PS: Since there are so many fishermen around UD, on both sides, maybe we need an O/T forum on that and like topics of mutual, neutral interest — it will I am sure help the dynamics in the hotter discussions. I believe in the civilising influence of angling and water recreations! (Walton had somewhat to say on that.)

  84. 84
    StephenB says:

    —nullasalus: “I am simply contrasting two different methods of ‘design detection’, [ID, Thomism] for lack of a better phrase.”

    It sounds like a good phrase to me, and yes, you are right. They are two different [though compatible] methods of design detection.

    — “Look, I follow ID news constantly. Not just on here – I hit intelligentdesign.org regularly, I’m on the mailing list. All I can say is that I at least somewhat often see ‘evolution’ derided – not merely Darwinism, but evolution – or natural processes placed *in opposition* to ID. Are you honestly going to tell me that there are not regular claims where ID ideas are proposed, and the challenge is for atheists and naturalists to show how ‘unguided and natural processes’ could account for this or that feat?”

    I think you are mixing apples with oranges. Your second point, which I do not advocate, does not really tie in with your first point, which I do advocate. Taking it in reverse order, I would surely echo those who challenge Darwinists [and TEs] to show how solely naturalistic forces can drive the macro-evolutionary process. Indeed, those of us on this side of the argument HAVE issued the challenge, and it has not been met. If there is no evidence for such a proposition, and there isn’t, why would you take it seriously?

    On the other hand, I do not deride the idea of a guided macro “evolution” [universal common descent]. While I am not completely convinced of it by any means, [Cornelius Hunter, BornAgain 77, and others make some really good counter arguments] I often argue as if I assumed it was true because the ID paradigm can grant the point for the sake of argument and sill win the day.

    However, I think a little perspective is in order here. YECs do not make me cringe. It is the Darwinists who make me cringe. To suggest that God made the earth in seven days [unlikely] is not nearly as problematic as saying that universes [and life forms] can create themselves out of nothing [impossible]. To hear the theistic evolutionists talk, YECs are crazy for proposing the improbable and Darwinists are brilliant for asserting the impossible.

    —“When I see ID proponents point out the amazing architecture in cells, or the existence (and technology!) of the genetic code, and various other things – and then say ‘Now the naturalist has to show how these things came about through unguided and purposeless processes!’, I cringe. It’s like watching a guy play blackjack, hit 21, and yell “Hit me!” Not because natural processes as we know them can accomplish these things, but because it’s a useless step that distracts from their strongest points. The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things hardly matters except for specific design proposals.”

    ID has to answer the aggressive and intrusive claim from Darwinists that evidence for biological design is an illusion and cannot possibly be anything else. The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things is the Darwinists [and the Theistic Evolutionists] main claim, asserted, I might add, in the name of science. I think it is vitally important to know if it is true or untrue. Based on current evidence, we can safely say that it is likely untrue. If it is untrue, teleology is back on the table. That is big.

    —“Let me ask you clearly. What do you want me to provide to show you what I’m speaking of, and that it isn’t just self-described naturalists? Would quotes of ID proponents saying that natural processes of various types are unguided and purposeless (and thus could never accomplish certain things) suffice?”

    I think you need to go to the next step which you claim follows from that complaint. Show me that some mainstream ID proponents are guilty of arguing that the laws of nature were not designed. It sounds like someone’s caricature of Dembski’s explanatory filter and not the real thing.

    Also, I am still puzzled about your main theme here. On the one hand, you seem to acknowledge that ID’s main trailblazers [Dembksi, Behe, Meyers etc] and all ID administrators, authors, and posters on this thread, [there must be a least a hundred of them], understand and agree that the laws of nature were designed. On the other hand, you don’t accept this as definitive of the ID position because you know of other ID supporters who, based on your reports, disagree. At the same time, you tell me that you are not holding the views of the former accountable for the views of the latter. I don’t get it.

    —“The idea that ‘naturalism’ is anything more than intellectual clay that can be molded into anything whatsoever so long as it rejects particular religious beliefs. The idea that even ‘physicalism’ is well-defined anymore.

    I agree with you that naturalism is an elusive concept.

  85. 85
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    Taking it in reverse order, I would surely echo those who challenge Darwinists [and TEs] to show how solely naturalistic forces can drive the macro-evolutionary process. Indeed, those of us on this side of the argument HAVE issued the challenge, and it has not been met. If there is no evidence for such a proposition, and there isn’t, why would you take it seriously?

    ‘Show how solely naturalistic forces can drive the macro-evolutionary process’? It can’t be done, even in principle. This is part of my complaint here: You’re not only asking for a demonstration that naturalistic forces (and by naturalistic, it really seems you mean ‘unguided, undirected, unintentional’) can accomplish this or that thing, you’re assuming – or at least, you would have to assume for this challenge to make sense – that processes in nature are unguided, undirected, without intention.

    However, I think a little perspective is in order here. YECs do not make me cringe. It is the Darwinists who make me cringe.

    I didn’t bring up YECs, directly or indirectly. What makes me cringe is that nature screams design and guidance, the Darwinist replies ‘Let me show you how processes can yield these results you see! That will demonstrate the lack of design and guidance!’, and it seems many people say “I dare you!” instead of “If you succeeded, you would be demonstrating a design tool employed by a designer.”

    The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things is the Darwinists [and the Theistic Evolutionists] main claim, asserted, I might add, in the name of science. I think it is vitally important to know if it is true or untrue. Based on current evidence, we can safely say that it is likely untrue. If it is untrue, teleology is back on the table. That is big.

    And thomists and TEs who actually have a spine say that teleology is ‘back on the table’ because it never left the table, and ‘natural processes accomplishing things’ could never hope to unseat it. This is like playing Texas Hold ’em, having a royal flush in your hand at the flop, then angsting about whether or not you’ll get ANOTHER ace on the turn or river. It’s not necessary.

    I can grant, design doesn’t need to have taken place through evolution or natural processes. Maybe there was more direct or sudden intervention, and we should certainly investigate and even speculate about that. But design can take place wholly through natural processes as well – do you deny this? Does ID deny this? And a natural process unfolding according to a design, or operating under a design, is not ‘wholly naturalistic’ in the relevant sense. Call it a competing form of ID if you wish.

    Also, I am still puzzled about your main theme here. On the one hand, you seem to acknowledge that ID’s main trailblazers [Dembksi, Behe, Meyers etc] and all ID administrators, authors, and posters on this thread, [there must be a least a hundred of them], understand and agree that the laws of nature were designed.

    No, I didn’t say that. I agreed with the claim that ID does not demand that the laws of nature or that ‘mundane’ natural processes and objects are not designed. I said that in spite of this it seemed to be the case that particular ID proponents took the view that those processes and objects were not in fact designed. Let me quote you.

    Yourself: The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things is the Darwinists [and the Theistic Evolutionists] main claim, asserted, I might add, in the name of science. I think it is vitally important to know if it is true or untrue. Based on current evidence, we can safely say that it is likely untrue. If it is untrue, teleology is back on the table.

    I would surely echo those who challenge Darwinists [and TEs] to show how solely naturalistic forces can drive the macro-evolutionary process.

    Kairosfocus, if I take him right, argues that it’s entirely possible for natural mechanisms themselves as well as more basic natural objects to be designed – but that that requires a foray into metaphysics. And I’m okay with someone taking that stance, though oddly enough I don’t think – if we’re going to insist that ID itself is not sufficiently ‘metaphysical’ enough to rule out – that it needs to be ruled out.

    But keep in mind what this position adds up to if taken consistently: There is no possible scientific demonstration of ‘purely naturalistic’ forces accomplishing anything. The mere possibility of a plan or guidance, whether in a front-loaded or intervention sense, precludes this.

    The funny thing here is, look at Stephen Barr and Michael Behe’s debate. Both of them – both! – objected to evolution (and the mechanisms and processes at work in it) being characterized as an impersonal, unguided, purposeless process. Barr took the position that we should be seeking out language like this in science textbooks and removing them (though to be frank, I think he’s a bit naive in thinking this would happen without a fight and duplicity.) Behe’s complaint was that, if such metaphysical smuggling was going on already, it granted license to include ID in the textbooks (you’ll note the similarity between this position and my own.) But I still took it that Behe agreed with Barr in objecting to that language, thinking it was beyond the scope of science.

    But oddly enough, if you think that ‘wholly naturalistic’ processes – unless you mean something other than ‘unguided’ or ‘impersonal’ and so on – are demonstrable, that puts you in a very curious position. One where Barr the TE, possibly Behe the ID proponent, and certainly myself and other design-believers are on the side of insisting there is evident design in nature, with you granting that this is not the case.

    Say I’m wrong here – I’d welcome that. But maybe you can at least see why I’m getting the impression that, at least in this case, we oddly enough have ID proponents either arguing against design in nature, or at least seem willing to grant that there is none in these cases for the sake of argument. (I expect you to deny this. I hope you do. Because even Karl Giberson, if I recall right, was willing to talk about the notion of evolution being guided and itself the product of a mind. And man, you do not want to be less committed to design in nature than the Biologos guys.)

  86. 86
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    Could you pause for a moment and — per empirical tests — discuss the key differences between your design on purely natural processes from Dawkins’ designoid [i.e. only appearing designed but tracing to blind chance and mechanical necessity in an evolutionary materialistic world]?

    Curious . . .

    GEM of TKI

  87. 87
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    Could you pause for a moment and — per empirical tests — discuss the key differences between your design on purely natural processes from Dawkins’ designoid [i.e. only appearing designed but tracing to blind chance and mechanical necessity in an evolutionary materialistic world]?

    Well, my claim here is not that ’empirical tests’ can determine design for the instances I’m talking about (‘natural processes and natural objects’). Now, my own view is that neither design *nor its lack* can be demonstrated empirically, at least without bringing in metaphysics.

    But here’s the thing: That’s a point you seem to agree with anyway, at least on the particular parts of nature I’m focusing on, if I take what you’ve said correctly:

    Does that mean that he cosmos as a who9le is not designed, or that the chance mechanisms we see or the mechanical laws of our cosmos are not equally designed? No, it is just a question of empirical warrant eon publicly accessible in-common evidence. And that life on earth is designed does not tell us who did it, or whether that designer or set of designers are within or beyond our observed cosmos.

    This would extend even to your example of rolling a fair, unloaded die, unless you’re arguing that it’s impossible in principle for a designer to know the outcome of a die roll in advance. But that has the result of making our regard for even natural processes which we model in a probablistic fashion an open question re: design. Which in turn means that there’s no calling these things ‘wholly naturalistic’ or ‘unguided’ and so on based on science, or at least science alone. It’s a metaphysical move, and again, my impression from their debate was that both Barr and Behe agreed on these points.

    Keep in mind, I believe design arguments can be mounted even for these more mundane processes and outcomes. The thomists think so too, and I’m willing to grant – as StephenB has suggested – that ID does not rule this out. I can even grant that these questions are outside the scope of ID. We can say that ID is only concerned with particular kinds of design, for example. Fair enough.

    But then I think there’s an important lesson here: It should not be granted that these ‘natural’ processes and mechanisms, and their outcomes, are A) not artifacts themselves, in the truest sense of the word, and/or B) not guided or purposeful. Please note: I am not saying that it should therefore be granted that these processes and mechanisms can accomplish what people claim they can accomplish. Software programming is a process, and mixing paint is a process, but it doesn’t follow that these processes can account for the Empire State Building’s construction.

    Hopefully I’m making myself clear here. I don’t like to see unnecessary concessions made, much less metaphysically loaded concessions, or having it presented as if these things were scientifically demonstrable when they in fact are not, nor ever could be in principle.

    (An aside: Now, someone may counter that what I say is correct, but that they harbor doubts that a person sternly committed to materialism could ever be swayed by arguments on those lines, or even the obvious demonstration of science’s limits in that capacity. That could be, but it’s not my concern. Sometimes people are hopeless causes.)

  88. 88
    bornagain77 says:

    kairosfocus and all, you may find this recent article interesting:

    Rationality vs. Randomness Dr. Gerald Schroeder
    http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951611.html

  89. 89
    StephenB says:

    —nullasalus: “And thomists and TEs who actually have a spine say that teleology is ‘back on the table’ because it never left the table, and ‘natural processes accomplishing things’ could never hope to unseat it. This is like playing Texas Hold ‘em, having a royal flush in your hand at the flop, then angsting about whether or not you’ll get ANOTHER ace on the turn or river. It’s not necessary.”

    I don’t think it takes much courage for TEs to emphasize the role of teleology when they are talking to Christians and then de-emphasize it when they are talking to the Darwinists, especially those who wield power in the academy. The Darwinists in power will forgive that little gambit in a minute because they know it poses no threat to their pseudo scienctific faith claims. They know where the real threat lies. That is why they persecute ID scientists, while they laugh at the TEs and YECs. If we weren’t on to something, the Darwinist herd would not be stampeding. That the TEs do not understand the significance of this dynamic is a testimony to their cluelessness. The YEC’s, at least, do get it, which places them one step higher on the intelligence register.

    —“I can grant, design doesn’t need to have taken place through evolution or natural processes. Maybe there was more direct or sudden intervention, and we should certainly investigate and even speculate about that. But design can take place wholly through natural processes as well – do you deny this?”

    I think that macro-evolution could certainly take place if the process is pre-planned to produce a specified outcome. I don’t think it is possible if the process is unplanned and appeals to “emergence” as its explanatory driving force. Not even in theory. “Emergence” is a phantom; it doesn’t do anything.” It doesn’t even qualify as a description, let alone an explanation.

    —“I said that in spite of this it seemed to be the case that particular ID proponents took the view that those processes and objects were not in fact designed. Let me quote you.”…………..

    I was challenging Darwinists to show that solely naturalistic forces can produce the effects that they claim. I was not saying that I agree that it is possible. Implicit in my challenge is my belief that Darwinists are, indeed, proposing the impossible. My skepticism is based on their “naturalistic process.” If by “natural process” you mean the Darwinian process, I declare that their scenario constitutes an impossible explanation that no rational person could believe. Molecules just bouncing around going by the euphemism of random variations cannot produce anything but minor changes, and not necessarily the kind of changes you would want. If you mean some other kind of naturalistic process, let me know what it is and I will comment. Earlier, you said that the word “naturalistic” is too vague of a term on which to build an argument. Has that changed?

    —-“There is no possible scientific demonstration of ‘purely naturalistic’ forces accomplishing anything. The mere possibility of a plan or guidance, whether in a front-loaded or intervention sense, precludes this.”

    I agree. That is why Darwinists should not assign the word “science” to their un-provable faith claims that no designer is needed, and it is also why TEs should stop encouraging them by entertaining variations on that very same theme and taking seriously such anti-teleological notions as “emergence.” However, you can’t blame me for asking both sides to back up their claims even when I know that they cannot. There is simply no other way to keep them honest and publicize the fact that they don’t have the goods.

    —- “Barr took the position that we should be seeking out language like this in science textbooks and removing them (though to be frank, I think he’s a bit naive in thinking this would happen without a fight and duplicity.) Behe’s complaint was that, if such metaphysical smuggling was going on already, it granted license to include ID in the textbooks (you’ll note the similarity between this position and my own.) But I still took it that Behe agreed with Barr in objecting to that language, thinking it was beyond the scope of science.”

    Evolution itself is beyond the scope of science. It is an religious alternative to the creation story, which is also beyond the scope of science. Eugenie Scott has suggested that this metaphysical language about “unguided evolution” be taken out of the textbooks as a response to public complaints from ID critics who rightly protested that Darwinists were stacking the deck in favor of Godless evolution. She was less concerned about the intellectual dishonesty involved and more concerned about the fact that the propagandistic cat had ben let out of the bag and wanted to remove the evidence. Indeed, she asked her fellow materialist Darwinists to hide their prejudices so they could be more successful in implementing their brainwashing strategy on young skulls full of mush. I suspect that if the cat could have remained concealed, Barr would have been OK with the language. It never appeared to bother him until the Darwinists got outed, and he never raised the issue until Behe raised it. Evolution is a statement about how we got here. As such it cannot escape the realm of metaphysics. It was either guided or unguided, and it isn’t even rational to avoid confronting that point and discussing it. Evolution should be taught for what it is—philosophy. It sure isn’t science.

    —-Say I’m wrong here – I’d welcome that. But maybe you can at least see why I’m getting the impression that, at least in this case, we oddly enough have ID proponents either arguing against design in nature, or at least seem willing to grant that there is none in these cases for the sake of argument. (I expect you to deny this. I hope you do. Because even Karl Giberson, if I recall right, was willing to talk about the notion of evolution being guided and itself the product of a mind. And man, you do not want to be less committed to design in nature than the Biologos guys.)

    I am sorry, but I really do think you have things backwards. I have stated very clearly and very emphatically that I believe both the laws of nature and life was designed. I have asked you to provide evidence of your claim that other ID proponents [the hundred or so on this site] do not believe that everything was designed. Your response was to reframe one of my quotes and one of kairofocus’ quotes in an attempt to show that we don’t believe that which we have both emphatically stated that we do believe. Don’t you think that is a bit bizarre?

  90. 90
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    I don’t think it takes much courage for TEs to emphasize the role of teleology when they are talking to Christians and then de-emphasize it when they are talking to the Darwinists, especially those who wield power in the academy.

    That really depends on the TEs in question, and I certainly wasn’t saying the TEs were all courageous. What was my view of Russell’s quote? What is my view of Biologos, which attempts to be TE Central? What do I think of the NCSE? You certainly know these things, because I make no attempts to hide my views on these fronts.

    Even in the response you’re quoting, I’m qualifying this to TEs who have a spine. And I’m doing so because so many of them manifestly do not, for the reasons you stated.

    I think that macro-evolution could certainly take place if the process is pre-planned to produce a specified outcome. I don’t think it is possible if the process is unplanned and appeals to “emergence” as its explanatory driving force.

    I’m certainly not saying that the processes are unplanned, and as for ’emergence’ that really depends on what’s being said – precisely because it’s such an airy word in the hands of philosophers and scientists speculating on the unknown. Insofar as it’s the claim that holism is required in understanding nature, all I can say is “I like it. I liked it better when Aristotle discussed it.”

    I am not trying to argue that ‘God can design through undesign’ or any such nonsense. I am calling the very processes, objects, and mechanisms that exist in nature themselves instances of and tools used in the process of design.

    Earlier, you said that the word “naturalistic” is too vague of a term on which to build an argument.

    I said that ‘naturalism’ is not bound to ‘materialism’, or really, much of anything save for opposition to religion, and even then particular religions. In this discussion I’m using the language of others because they take naturalistic to mean, in this context, ‘unguided’ and ‘undirected’ and ‘without purpose’.

    Let me ask you this: Are there any processes, mechanism or objects in nature that you would say are not designed in any way – not even ultimately? Mutation? Natural selection? Given what you’re saying here, maybe you’d say no – all is guided, all is purposeful, from atoms to mutation to, etc. Even while qualifying that these things being ‘guided’, even ‘ultimately’ does not mean they are, certainly not as commonly described and modeled, capable of accomplishing what many evolutionary biologists claim.

    However, you can’t blame me for asking both sides to back up their claims even when I know that they cannot. There is simply no other way to keep them honest and publicize the fact that they don’t have the goods.

    I can cite a problem in how you’re doing it though, if there really is one. I’ve seen you argue with, at this point, probably over a dozen atheists who have insisted – against all reason and logic and experience – that things can pop into existence from absolute nothing, utterly uncaused. Have you ever asked them to ‘back up their claims’ with a scientific experiment or demonstration?

    To my knowledge you haven’t, and I’d venture to guess it’s because you know it’s beside the point. Worse, to even *suggest* that it’s possible is to make a logical, metaphysical and philosophical issue empirical without warrant, and thus to make it seem as if this is some kind of open question that science can decide.

    I suggest a similar mistake is made when you ask Darwinists or TEs to prove this or that can take place without guidance or design in any sense, ultimate or proximate or otherwise. I think there are better ways to expose their dishonesty (or perhaps it’s merely confusion) and their ineffectualness. Maybe you disagree, and that’s fine too. I disagree with everyone, pain in the ass that I am.

    Eugenie Scott has suggested that this metaphysical language about “unguided evolution” be taken out of the textbooks as a response to public complaints from ID critics who rightly protested that Darwinists were stacking the deck in favor of Godless evolution.

    You think I disagree? You should see some of my past exchanges with NCSE reps. I can smell their con-game a mile away, and the duplicity involved with Eugenie Scott, particularly in the NABT case, is stunning.

    As for Barr, I think that goes too far. Why wasn’t Barr talking about it before? Maybe it wasn’t on the radar for him and he was unaware of it. Maybe his attention was directed elsewhere, since he’s a physicist and it’s not as if cosmological issues aren’t another topic of contention. I said myself, I think Barr is naive when it comes to the topic in general – he seems to think it’s easier than it really is to fix these things, and that atheists are more sincere than they truly are.

    It was either guided or unguided, and it isn’t even rational to avoid confronting that point and discussing it.

    And I agree that the issue must be confronted, but I don’t think the confrontation in question is science or scientific. That said, where did I oppose this? All I’ve been saying is not to yield that various processes, mechanisms, and objects of nature are ‘naturalistic’ – again, here so qualified to mean ‘unguided, without purpose or plan’.

    I have stated very clearly and very emphatically that I believe both the laws of nature and life was designed. I have asked you to provide evidence of your claim that other ID proponents [the hundred or so on this site] do not believe that everything was designed. Your response was to reframe one of my quotes and one of kairofocus’ quotes in an attempt to show that we don’t believe that which we have both emphatically stated that we do believe. Don’t you think that is a bit bizarre?

    I reframed nothing. I quoted straightaway, in the exact same thread, not to somehow prove what you all are thinking on this subject – but to explain what worries me about the language used and the focus had. You claimed that teleology would be ‘back on the table’ if the processes in question were ruled to be inadequate – hence my pointing out that those very processes are themselves teleological and purposeful. Even artifactual. And hence, teleology was never taken off the table by science – it was, and can only be, taken off the table by metaphysical demonstration (no luck there so far) or smuggling (sadly, much luck there). You’re asking Darwinists to ‘show’ unguided processes can accomplish this or that, which strikes me as very similar to asking someone to ‘show’ you that something came from absolute nothing uncaused.

    Now, if you tell me that you didn’t mean an empirical demonstration of these things is impossible – that it’s not possible in principle because guidance or its lack is a metaphysical/philosophical issue, and your view is that the processes, mechanisms, and objects within nature are themselves instances of design – then that’s that. Points of confusion arise in these debates, and while I still worry about how others approach these issues, at least in our case it would come down largely to communication. (Still tremendously important, but obviously a different subject.)

  91. 91
    StephenB says:

    –Nullasalus: “I reframed nothing. I quoted straightaway, in the exact same thread, not to somehow prove what you all are thinking on this subject – but to explain what worries me about the language used and the focus had.”

    The context of my two paragraphs was that Darwinists make claims that cannot be verified and that they should be asked to defend those claims. You cited those two paragraphs as evidence that I don’t think that all of nature was designed. I didn’t say that, nor do I believe that, nor was there anything in those paragraphs that could justify such an interpretation. That is reframing a quote.

    Regretfully, I also have to add this: You attributed the same position to kairosfocus. This represents two consecutive instances in which you have assigned to an ID proponent a position which is the very opposite of that which he holds.

    —-“You claimed that teleology would be ‘back on the table’ if the processes in question were ruled to be inadequate – hence my pointing out that those very processes are themselves teleological and purposeful.”

    Teleology has always been on the table for me, as it is with ID, as it is with you. When I say that exposing the impossibility of purposeless evolution will put teleology would be “back on the table” I mean that it will loosen the Darwinist anti-teleological death grip that rules the academy. It doesn’t mean that no one believes in teleology or that the idea has been lost.

    —“You’re asking Darwinists to ‘show’ unguided processes can accomplish this or that, which strikes me as very similar to asking someone to ‘show’ you that something came from absolute nothing uncaused.”

    That’s right. Since they claim it has been “shown,” and can be shown, then I publicly challenge them to show it–even if it can’t be shown. When someone claims that something can come from nothing, I ask them how such a thing is possible. If the Socratic method was good enough for Socrates, it is surely good enough for me. When someone claims that emergence can do the work of God, I ask them to show how that is possible. A well-conceived question can open doors that a long-winded argument could never budge. When someone makes any irrational claim, I often ask them to defend it —especially if it cannot be defended. It is a good way of introducing a person to his own error.

    On the other hand, the specific question I asked of you, for which I sought a specific answer, pertains not to any irrational statement of yours, nor to any Socratic exercise, but rather to a decidedly problematic statement that you made about ID. Why do you think that mainstream ID proponents hold that the laws of nature were not created when such is not the case?

  92. 92
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    The context of my two paragraphs was that Darwinists make claims that cannot be verified and that they should be asked to defend those claims. You cited those two paragraphs as evidence that I don’t think that all of nature was designed. I didn’t say that, nor do I believe that, nor was there anything in those paragraphs that could justify such an interpretation. That is reframing a quote.

    Let me read this straight: You are demanding of Darwinists an empirical demonstration of what you take to be a metaphysical claim? As in, you want a demonstration that nature or a ‘natural process’ works without guidance or purpose?

    Regretfully, I also have to add this: You attributed the same position to kairosfocus. This represents two consecutive instances in which you have assigned to an ID proponent a position which is the very opposite of that which he holds.

    I’m inquiring about these very statements because that’s how they read: As if you and others really think there are unguided, purposeless processes in nature. You insist that that’s not what you think, and act shocked that I would even broach the question. But I have to ask anyway, and I’ll ask it again with this quote from VJ Torley:

    I’m not asking for a detailed probability calculation, let alone a pathway or mechanism; just a rigorous demonstration that the emergence of said structures as a result of non-foresighted processes (“RM plus NS”) over a time period of several billion years has a probability of greater than 10^(-120). I think that’s a pretty reasonable request. If NDE proponents can’t even produce that, then I think they deserve all the ridicule they get.

    I like your writing, Stephen. I like Kairosfocus’ and VJ Torley’s as well. I often agree. But if I read language that seems to admit to the existence of non-guided, non-purposeful, non-foresighted processes in nature, then I have to object and say how it sounds to me. If it gets clarified upon my objection, wonderful. If not, then I’ve identified a problem.

    Teleology has always been on the table for me, as it is with ID, as it is with you. When I say that exposing the impossibility of purposeless evolution will put teleology would be “back on the table” I mean that it will loosen the Darwinist anti-teleological death grip that rules the academy. It doesn’t mean that no one believes in teleology or that the idea has been lost.

    Do you really think that the academy is ‘anti-teleological’ because of Darwin? Or that evidence really matters for the people in question? Take a look at PZ Myers talking about what evidence it would take to convince him of the existence of God, and presumably any designer of either life or the universe. If you haven’t heard, that evidence is ‘nothing’. And his gathered horde seems to agree.

    That’s right. Since they claim it has been “shown,” and can be shown, then I publicly challenge them to show it–even if it can’t be shown. When someone claims that something can come from nothing, I ask them how such a thing is possible.

    Here is the problem: When you ask someone ‘Show me something popping into existence from nothing’, it strongly implies that an empirical demonstration of this is possible and on the table – even though it’s not. And that same confusion also feeds the habits of other people who act on such misinformation to say “Yep, it can happen. See, right here?” and hoodwink people. There’s a reason you encounter a number of people who think something can come from nothing and that scientists have observed it – because other people, usually scientists, have convinced them such empirical observation is possible.

    Why do you think that mainstream ID proponents hold that the laws of nature were not created when such is not the case?

    Show me where I said this. To my recollection, I said that A) ID does not require a commitment on the laws of nature issue, B) that there are men who are making what I think really are ID arguments who deny this (more fringe), and C) That some ID proponents seem to accept, or even accept for the sake of argument, that various processes in nature (mutation, selection, evolution, etc) are unguided, undirected, and so on. I had little to say about ‘laws of nature’, unless you’re equating selection and mutation with ‘law’ here. (I did discuss them in passing with tgp.)

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    Okay:

    An interesting exchange between Null and SB overnight.

    However, I think some context, from Dawkins, will be very revealing on what is going on (and incidentally on the underlying problem highlighted in the title of this thread):

    ________________

    First, Dembski on the key question addressed by, the focus of and core nature of design theory:

    >> . . . intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? . . . Proponents of intelligent design, known as design theorists, purport to study such signs formally, rigorously, and scientifically. Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence. [BTW, it is sad but necessary to highlight what should be obvious: namely, that it is only common academic courtesy . . . to use the historically justified definition of a discipline that is generally accepted by its principal proponents.] >>

    Observe the explicit definition on focus and method.

    Now, Dawkins, from The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p.1, i.e. the opening page:

    >> biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. [Elsewhere, appar. in the opening arguments of The Blind Watchmaker [and on comparing Mt Rushmore with a rock formation in Hawaii that can cast a shadow looking like JFK’s profile], he defines that systems which only appear to be designed should be viewed as “designoid.”] >>
    ________________

    In the context of the original post, this contrast shows the crucial issue in the starkest terms. It also shows why I agree with SB and disagree with Null:

    a –> The real world context for the discussion we are having is that we are dealing with a neo-magisterium-backed, ruthless imposition of a priori Lewontinian evolutionary materialism, using so-called methodological naturalism as the stalking horse (or the thin edge of the real wedge).

    b –> As SB rightly observed, some seek to accommodate to that situation by speaking of darwinian processes as a part of the teleological picture in specifically Christian contexts, and dropping teleological claims in evo-mat dominated circles. (And, I repeat, my core thesis, defended in the OP, is: “naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes.”)

    c –> In short,t he context is not only loaded with metaphysical claims, but is also fraught with the implicit threats of the reigning orthodoxy.

    d –> In such a situation, as Paul showed in AD 50 in Athens [cf Acts 17], clarity and going for the key crack in the foundations of the orthodoxy are the key correctives, but to make such an argument is going to be exceedingly dangerous.

    e –> There is a time and place for compromise, but there is a time where one has to stand on the hill with the pruning hook one has beaten into an impromptu spear and be willing to die for “wee bit hill and glen.”

    f –> The reigning orthodoxy’s claim is that all appearances of design in biology are MISLEADING. (And, as Hawking’s recent remarks show, the same now increasingly extends to the cosmological picture.)

    g –> This is because, precisely, they are committed to a priori evolutionary materialism, and on such premises something like Darwinian mechanisms MUST be responsible for life as we find it. As naturalists, they hold that there is nothing else “there” in reality to account for it.

    h –> Thus stands revealed the worldview-tinged core of the dominant research programme on origins science.

    i –> So also, as Lakatos warns, such a hard core will be stoutly defended, protected by an armour-belt of auxiliary assumptions, models, hypothesis, subsidiary theories, lore etc.

    j –> In such a context, appeals to how chance itself and mechanical necessities of nature were designed, will be at best seen as foibles of otherwise competent colleagues. At worst, after the ID folks have been seen off, it will be the next target for the ideologues. This, already, the so-called new atheists portend.

    [ . . . ]

  94. 94
    kairosfocus says:

    k –> But, we have an alternative. Science, in the end, is about observing and seeking empirically well-warranted, logically cogent explanations of observed patterns in the world.

    l –> One cluster of patterns, is that when we observe the dynamics of phenomena, we often can directly observe three distinct causal factors at work: (i) chance circumstances and related random/stochastic processes, (ii) mechanical necessity and associated natural regularities, (iii) intentionally directed configuration and action, i.e. design.

    m –> These come up quite frequently in experimental studies, e.g.

    i: chance-related scatter is the reason why as good praxis one should do three to five runs of a titration, and average the result.

    ii: Similarly, natural regularities are being relied on to equate the volume run out of the buret with the volume and associated mass of standard solution reagent added to the conical flask to reach the end-point. And,

    iii: the functionally specific complex organisation and associated information involved in the apparatus and its set-up and operation are hallmarks of intelligent design.

    n –> So, without implicating grand metaphysical arguments and debates, we can see that there are empirically detectable, commonly encountered and reliable signs of the three key causal factors.

    o –> The point of design theory — as Dembski pointed out — is to explore this observationally anchored pattern, and test the degree of reliability of such signs, then use the findings to infer to cases where we did not or cannot directly see the causal process.

    p –> The signs of chance and of necessity as proximate causal factors are non-controversial: stochastic processes, lawlike regularities and the like.

    q –> Where the controversies swirl is on the reliability of signs of intelligence as proximate cause of given aspects of an object, process or phenomenon. Signs such as CSI and its sub-set [d]FSCI in particular.

    r –> Strangely, it turns out that [d]FSCI, the most easily tested and directly relevant case [cell based life has DNA in it, which is chock full of digitally coded, functionally specific, complex information] is such that on billions of test cases, there are no known exceptions. (Indeed, there are no known cases where codes were invented, algorithms designed, and instantiated in machine code tailored to co-ordinated executing machines, by chance. NIL. ZIP. ZILCH. ZERO. CERO. NADA. NONE.)

    s –> Objectors therefore tend to try to imply that the definition is vague or ambiguous, or that things like tropical cyclones, or snowflakes or tree rings or scattered iron filings showing a magnetic field fit into it. But NONE of the proposed “exceptions” is a case of symbolically coded, algorithmically or linguistically functional coded information.

    t –> All of this then becomes strong evidence that the sign of intelligence is indeed reliable. So, it gives us high confidence to infer that the coded information in the heart of the living cell had a proximate intelligent cause.

    u –> And, whether or not random variation was used to create some degree of significant diversity [which would make sense to build in robustness in a changing environment], the system as a whole is plainly designed, as an irreducibly complex von Neumann self-replicating mechanism, simply cannot credibly be accounted for on chance plus necessity. Too much organisation, too much coded algorithmically functional information, too many implementing machines which are similarly complex. [Cf IOSE discussion, here.]

    v –> Of course, ever since Thaxton et al in 1984, it has been known and acknowledged that this does not point to any particular designer within or beyond the cosmos. But that is not a problem: the key, empirically warranted conclusion is that we have credible signs of design, and they point to a decisive breakdown in the Darwinian view:

    Cell-based metabolism plus von Neumann replicator based life, and its major varieties — which also require huge increments of dFSCI to account for novel, embryologically feasible body plans — are not credible products of the Darwinian, alleged blind watchmaker chance + necessity only “methodologically naturalistic” mechanisms. Instead, they exhibit many signs that point strongly to intelligent causal factors.

    w –> When we go on to look at the origin of the “observed cosmos on a fine-tuned operating point that facilitates C-chemistry, cell based life,” in turn we see — again on empirical evidence and inductive inference, not a priori imposition of a worldview — that the complex functional organisation becomes evidence that the cosmos we see is itself designed, including not only the specific parameter values, but also the system of physical law, materials and energetic processes that set up the world in which we can live.

    x –> It it this case that points to an extra-cosmic, highly intelligent and astonishingly sophisticated, powerful designer of a cosmos set up to facilitate the kind of life we experience and observe. Which grounds the empirical claim that the laws and processes of nature are designed, including mechanically necessary and chance/stochastic ones.

    y –> And so, the issue is not one of battling a prioris, but the contest between a consciously empirical, epistemological approach and the imposition of a priori evolutionary materialism that begs the key questions at stake,creating the false impression of empirical warrant for what is actually an a priori: darwinian and related mechanisms, on the naturalistic view, MUST account for the phenomena of nature.

    z –> And therein lies the fatal crack in the foundation of the imposing edifice of evolutionary materialistic science as reigning orthodoxy today.

    _____________________

    Null, i hope this is able to make it clear to you that I do not START from the asumption that chance and necessity are designed and so everything is “known” to be designed. Such a view would make it seem that inference to design on signs of design is useless. But in fact, there are excellent scientific best practices reasons for not begging metaphysical questions and instead recognising facts we easily observe about causal factors and climbing the ladder of inductive, scientific inference from that key start-point: the three causal factors have characteristic and empirically reliable signs.

    GEM of TKI

  95. 95
    bornagain77 says:

    kf, not to detract from the obviousness of letting the evidence speak for itself, I think you will get a smile out of this:

    An eccentric professor, thinking to have some fun with a small boy who was reading a Sunday school paper, said to him, “Tell me, my good boy, where God is, and I will give you an apple.”
    The boy quickly looked up at the man and replied, “I will give you a whole barrel of apples if you tell me where He is not.”

  96. 96
    nullasalus says:

    Kairosfocus,

    Thank you for the reply. Going to work this one in reverse.

    Null, i hope this is able to make it clear to you that I do not START from the asumption that chance and necessity are designed and so everything is “known” to be designed. Such a view would make it seem that inference to design on signs of design is useless.

    I did not say you did start there, or even that you should start there (at least, not in the context of ID). My problem is that from what I’m seeing, some ID proponents seem to concede from the start that natural processes, mechanisms, and objects are not themselves designed. If they insisted on neutrality, or a ruling that such questions are themselves metaphysical in nature rather than scientific, that would be one thing. Instead I see it conceded in essence that yes, mutation and selection are in fact random, chance, unguided, undirected, non-foresighted, etc things and not designed. StephenB insists that’s not the case – I say, the language certainly seems to indicate otherwise, which is why I’m bringing this up.

    Nor is my suggestion to say that we ‘know’ all these things are designed. If ID’s focus is elsewhere, focus on that elsewhere – but don’t make this concession. Stephen Barr, in his debate with Behe, strongly objected to allowing nature to be so marked – and Behe seemed to agree with Barr that regarding nature as such is both an importation of atheist metaphysics, and incorrect besides.

    p –> The signs of chance and of necessity as proximate causal factors are non-controversial: stochastic processes, lawlike regularities and the like.

    What is controversial is the status of those processes and lawlike regularities with regard to design. Further, both the stochastic processes and the lawlike regularities are themselves, within the context of science, models. Is the universe itself stochastic (say, at the quantum level)? That question science does not address, and (as I’ve seen others say) ‘well most of the scientists think it is’ doesn’t change that.

    e –> There is a time and place for compromise, but there is a time where one has to stand on the hill with the pruning hook one has beaten into an impromptu spear and be willing to die for “wee bit hill and glen.”

    Well, that’s a point I’m trying to make. You realize that the problem in question is one of metaphysical motivation, rather than one of scientific evidence. Clearly. So your response is to leave metaphysics entirely aside, or even grant certain controversial (and in my view, flat out wrong) points for the sake of argument, simply in order to make a ‘scientific’ argument – that your opponents don’t even recognize as scientific, in large part because their metaphysics and other non-scientific concerns are running the show?

    This is like having to do a term paper for a teacher who deeply dislikes you personally and intends to give you an F no matter what you present – and coming up with the plan ‘I’ll just have to write the best essay possible!’

    That’s the part of your reply that shocks me. You know that this is a metaphysical, a philosophical, even a theological bias on the part of that ‘neo-magisterium’. You know that the problems are ultimately metaphysical in nature. So your response is to put all the metaphysical claims aside, or even yield them in some cases (Unless I read that wrong), and focus on empirical claims? I know I just gave an example here, but I’m doing it to stress a point: Why do you think Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure? Because he wasn’t good enough at science?

    g –> This is because, precisely, they are committed to a priori evolutionary materialism, and on such premises something like Darwinian mechanisms MUST be responsible for life as we find it. As naturalists, they hold that there is nothing else “there” in reality to account for it.

    And this is another point where I think things are mistaken. First off, evolutionary mechanisms do not suffice to get them where they want to be. They must, and do, take that extra step and import their metaphysics, saying ‘and these processes are totally random and unguided and without purpose!’ The science doesn’t, and can’t, show that. So they simply assert it, however they can.

    Further, I again say that the metaphysical commitment is broader. They are committed to ‘evolution’ only because that’s what they’ve invested themselves in for so long. Think of it this way… decades ago, someone may have made the argument that atheists *need* a static universe, an eternal universe – and the Big Bang is the antidote to that. Have the science indicate that the universe had a beginning, and the entire atheist mindset falls upon the instant!

    It would have sounded compelling at the time too, because for a long time the steady state model was king, the eternal universe model was not only assumed, but anything else was regarded as supernatural (this came up in Behe v Barr too). Fast forward to today – atheists have adapted quite well. While I won’t comment on how convincing their arguments are, just look. Stephen Hawking writes a book saying that the universe popped into existence out of nothing “because laws!”, basically. Dennett says the universe created itself ex nihilo. Oh, and not only is it no longer supernatural, it’s natural and so is a ‘mother universe’ mindlessly spewing off new space-times like something out of Lovecraft. This change happened practically overnight as far as time-scales go. And essentially no science was required on their part to make this move.

    Can you ask for a better example of why this really isn’t about evolution itself at heart? Do you at least see why I say that atheists, and the sort of ‘naturalists’ of which you speak, are vastly more adaptable than most give them credit for? Naturalism is the Calvinball of metaphysical positions.

    b –> As SB rightly observed, some seek to accommodate to that situation by speaking of darwinian processes as a part of the teleological picture in specifically Christian contexts, and dropping teleological claims in evo-mat dominated circles.

    I’m aware of the hypocrisy and I condemn it openly. But it’s the hypocrisy I condemn. Claiming that evolutionary processes (Not ‘Darwinian’, since ‘Darwinian’ would mean taking a specifically anti-design, anti-guidance, anti-teleological stance) are themselves designed and instances of design is not the problem. The hypocrisy is, the insincerity is.

    Or do you disagree? Is the hypocrisy the problem, or the fact that they’re opening a design front by arguing that evolution – included mutation, selection, and even macroevolution – are themselves teleological processes, guided processes?

    >> biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. [Elsewhere, appar. in the opening arguments of The Blind Watchmaker [and on comparing Mt Rushmore with a rock formation in Hawaii that can cast a shadow looking like JFK’s profile], he defines that systems which only appear to be designed should be viewed as “designoid.”] >>

    You have no need to convince me that there is a deep institutional opposition to design and teleology. And frankly, I don’t think much of Dawkins as a scientist. He’s a good writer and little more.

  97. 97
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Null,

    I’m afraid I side with KF and stephenB on this one (probably no surprise there). I respect your position, and in fact, I have considered it at some length.

    If we’re not supposed to ask the Darwinists to show us how unguided natural selection can lead to a “designoid,” then as stephenB rightly pointed out, we are then conceding. We are not conceding to their metaphysic by simply asking them to demonstrate it.

    Recently a young man told me that he did not accept the concept of truth – he believes that all truth is relative to each individual. At that point I asked him to explain this rationally. Of course he couldn’t – after a long discussion regarding self-evident laws of logic, he very appropriately conceded that he couldn’t demonstrate this to me because it might not be “my truth,” and he was quite comfortable in it being only for him.

    The point in this is that by asking someone to demonstrate what we already strongly and reasonably suspect cannot be demonstrated, is not a concession to what they believe. We are asking them to take what they believe and to apply it to reality in order to hopefully lead to a concession on their part that it can’t be done. In other words, we are asking questions to arrive at certain answers, for which we might already have a strong indication that the answers might confirm what we already suspect.

    KF is correct in my view that these things should be exposed no matter what the cost – and if you look at it, those who are doing the exposing are paying the price. They aren’t paying the price because they conceded to metaphysical materialism, but precisely because they opposed it.

  98. 98
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    That’s okay. I never discuss expecting to convince.

    If we’re not supposed to ask the Darwinists to show us how unguided natural selection can lead to a “designoid,” then as stephenB rightly pointed out, we are then conceding. We are not conceding to their metaphysic by simply asking them to demonstrate it.

    There is no demonstrating metaphysical claims in the sense under discussion. That’s the problem, and the point. No empirical demonstration for ‘not guided or designed’ exists, even for the very processes Darwinists themselves lean on. Pretending that there can be confuses the issue deeply.

    Again, look at StephenB’s own example of causality. Do things really come into existence from utter nothingness, utterly uncaused? Whatever you believe, this is simply not open to empirical demonstration. Even StephenB himself realizes this – he’s explicitly argued that ‘ex nihilo nihil fit’ is not something we learn empirically, it’s a rule of reason that comes before empirical investigation.

    But you know what? There’s quite a number of people who mistakenly believe otherwise. They do think that this is something that can be empirically demonstrated. I think that’s a considerable problem.

    The point in this is that by asking someone to demonstrate what we already strongly and reasonably suspect cannot be demonstrated

    You didn’t ask for empirical observation though, did you? Your argument was a philosophical one, a logical one. Would your argument have been better served if you said ‘show me empirical evidence that there is no truth!’ and he shot back with some quantum mysticism? Wouldn’t that have confused the issue deeply? Would you have made progress with him? Do you think it’s unlikely you would have gone *backward* in the discussion?

    I don’t understand how you think I’m conceding anything. My argument here is the opposite: Concede nothing. Or rather, when your opponent is your opponent precisely due to metaphysics, don’t rely on empirical observation to do the job. I’m not even saying don’t rely on empirical observation at all – make the ID arguments. But do not concede points needlessly. If you truly believe – and I say there’s great warrant to believe – that the universe is designed from top to bottom, then don’t concede evolutionary processes as unguided. Don’t even give the impression that you do.

    In other words, we are asking questions to arrive at certain answers, for which we might already have a strong indication that the answers might confirm what we already suspect.

    Look at the example of the Big Bang again. Notice the pattern: When it was speculative, when it was a fresh idea, it was supernatural. Even outside the bounds of science. But when the evidence mounted, did all cosmologists suddenly convert to theism? Did most of them? Many? Or did they shift gears, re-baptize the idea as entirely natural, put their own spin on it, and try to wield it *against* religious believers?

    And why could they? Because they can and will speculate about whatever they wish. They’re not playing the same game as you. Consistency doesn’t matter, and ideas are attached to not as points of principle but for their utility.

    KF is correct in my view that these things should be exposed no matter what the cost – and if you look at it, those who are doing the exposing are paying the price. They aren’t paying the price because they conceded to metaphysical materialism, but precisely because they opposed it.

    I know they are, though again, I don’t think ‘materialism’ has as much to do with it as you think. Nor am I saying ‘don’t fight them’. If you think I’m saying that, I have no idea why. If anything I’m saying fight them on every ground, and make no pointless concessions.

    But since so many seem to think that this comes down to materialism, I will note something again: I brought up John Gribbin and Nick Bostrom as proposing ID ideas. Sir Martin Rees and others have openly speculated that our universe may be simulated. These guys ideas are somewhat on the fringe now, but let me give a bit of prophetic warning.

    Keep your eye on them. Because if ever the popular idea arose in academia that certain aspects of our universe and of nature must be explained by design, they won’t even have to give up materialism, much less reduce their opposition to those specific religions they dislike. The simulation hypothesis, the Gribbin or Biocosm hypothesis, will be wide open to them. The ID critics of today can become the ID proponents of tomorrow. And if you don’t believe that, just look at Francis Crick in his moment of weakness.

  99. 99
    vividbleau says:

    null “The ID critics of today can become the ID proponents of tomorrow. And if you don’t believe that, just look at Francis Crick in his moment of weakness.”

    null you are so right about this. The reason ID recieves so much push back is because of the metaphysical implication ( God). Take this distatsteful implication out of the equation and voila design is no longer a problem. As long as the design hypothesis is compatible with materialism it will be embraced. Thats ok with me.

    Vivid

  100. 100
    StephenB says:

    nullasalus, thanks for the comments. Although I disagree with your current themes, I appreciate your generous spirit.

    First, I would like to take a brief pause to retract a comment I made about Stephen Barr. I wrote this:

    “Eugenie Scott has suggested that this metaphysical language about “unguided evolution” be taken out of the textbooks as a response to public complaints from ID critics who rightly protested that Darwinists were stacking the deck in favor of Godless evolution. She was less concerned about the intellectual dishonesty involved and more concerned about the fact that the propagandistic cat had ben let out of the bag and wanted to remove the evidence. Indeed, she asked her fellow materialist Darwinists to hide their prejudices so they could be more successful in implementing their brainwashing strategy on young skulls full of mush. I suspect that if the cat could have remained concealed, Barr would have been OK with the language. It never appeared to bother him until the Darwinists got outed, and he never raised the issue until Behe raised it.”

    If I had begun with the phrase, “I wonder if,” one might be able to make the case that I had pushed the envelope to the edge and no more. By using the words, “I suspect that,” I went over the top. I must learn to be more charitable to those with whom I disagree.

    On the other matters under discussion, I will restrict myself to two comments:

    [a] Although we have bounced it back and forth a few times, I still find that you have provided no evidence that any mainstream ID proponent [or anyone on this thread] believes that the laws of nature were not designed.

    [b] Granted that the discussions about evolution often take place at the intersection of science and philosophy, I can find no justification for your argument that Darwinists should not be challenged either on an empirical or philosophical basis.

  101. 101
    above says:

    @nullasalus

    You have explicated an idea I have been playing with for a while now.

    -“ Naturalism is mush. Clay. It hardly means anything anymore, and in the hands of a self-described “naturalist” the definition changes to whatever is most convenient for him.”

    You are absolutely correct. I could not agree with you more. Every month there is a new flavor naturalism in an attempt to either avoid the fact that reality simply does not appear to be so or to attempt and fabricate pseudo-explanations for certain aspects of reality that are incompatible with naturalism.

    So to correct the usually laughably erroneous pz meyers:

    -“[nature/naturalism]* is always vague and undefined and most annoyingly, plastic — suggest a test and it is always redefined safely away from the risk”

    *I substituted nature/naturalism to rid the statement of its irony and make the statement logically coherent.

  102. 102
    above says:

    @nullasalus (again)

    -“Why shouldn’t I determine what you call ‘chance’ and ‘mechanical necessity’ to itself be the product of design, or even an instance of design? ”

    I think Del Ratzch made that suggestion as well.

  103. 103
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    I am using the same precise scientific methods that the evo mat advocates say they stand on, to highlight the critical crack in their thought system’s foundation.

    In other words, I am exposing a critical point of incoherence, once the imposed a priorism is blocked from begging the question.

    Per empirical reliability and induction on that, there are credible signs of intelligently directed configuration that — though they don’t show up in all cases where design may well hold in the end — do show up in certain key cases. When we pursue the cases on origin and body plan level diversification of life, they drastically undermine the heavily pushed notion that life on earth can be explained on matter and energy interacting spontaneously by blind chance and necessity across time, through chem evo, abiogenesis and darwinian or similar macroevo.

    That snaps the main rhetorical wedge used by the evo mat advocates. And, when we see the tactics used to suppress that message getting out, that underscores just how serious a blow it is.

    Then, when we look at the observed cosmos, we see that its physics is at a finely tuned operating point that makes C-chemistry cell based life possible. Again, that points to design.

    But, this time, it is pointing to extra-cosmic design of the physics of the universe. Implicating a powerful, intelligent, deeply knowledgeable, technically sophisticated extra-cosmic designer.

    That of course strongly suggests that the laws of chance and necessity are designed, and that he initial conditions of the cosmos were also designed.

    All, on empirical methods that start with the commonplace scientific methods we all have learned from grade school on. Save this, we have not allowed a priori evolutionary materialism to censor our thinking and impose conclusions that beg big questions.

    In turn that raises serious questions about how the neo-magisterium is operating, and highlights the significance of the a priorism, and the further significance of their vaunted methodological naturalism.

    This resort now takes on the aspect of a thin edge of the wedge, especially as we can see that natural vs supernatural is a rhetorically loaded contrast, where the alternative long since put from the days of Plato: nature vs art [techne] is empirically well supported.

    So, far form “conceding” a claim, we are exposing a hidden agenda of censorship and imposition.

    In turn, we can further show that evolutionary materialism is not only question-begging [and too often backed up by bully boy tactics], but it is arguably self-refuting.

    So, the crack in the foundations of the proud edifice of evolutionary materialist secular humanism and its handmaiden ideologised science are yawning ever wider, and the building is beginning to creak and sway alarmingly.

    But we must recognise that, on track record, “shoot the messenger who brings bad news” is still very much with us.

    GEM of TKI

  104. 104
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Null,

    “There is no demonstrating metaphysical claims in the sense under discussion. That’s the problem, and the point. No empirical demonstration for ‘not guided or designed’ exists, even for the very processes Darwinists themselves lean on. Pretending that there can be confuses the issue deeply.”

    Nobody is pretending anything here. The point in asking for a demonstration is to show that such a demonstration will not occur. It’s to help the materialist first ask the appropriate question: “does this really happen?” and then for them to answer it for themselves, because clearly they aren’t asking the right question.

  105. 105
    above says:

    @nullasalus

    -“I disagree with everyone, pain in the ass that I am”

    I’m sorry to inform you but I agree with much that you have said in this thread.

    -“If you truly believe – and I say there’s great warrant to believe – that the universe is designed from top to bottom, then don’t concede evolutionary processes as unguided. Don’t even give the impression that you do”

    Exactly! Why grant the atheist the privilege of claiming ‘natural processes’ as his own and in term “bastardize” them into a notion ridden with metaphysical presuppositions such as unguided and purposeless? The atheist has no right to claim them as such and I agree (hence my rejection of the natural/supernatural false dichotomy).

    Your approach is a lot more aggressive and I like it. Concede nothing indeed!

    Trivia: The word stochastic has its origins from Greek (stochos). The word literally means target, which of course is a synonym for purpose. Interesting is it not? :

  106. 106
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: While worldview-level core claims cannot be proved (they tend to be start-points in thinking) they can be comparatively examined by comparative difficulties with live option alternatives. And, in some cases they turn out to be factually inadequate, or logically/dynamically incoherent, or simply either simplistic or plainly such an ad hoc patchwork that they fail the test of elegantly powerful simplicity.

  107. 107
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Null,

    “Look at the example of the Big Bang again. Notice the pattern: When it was speculative, when it was a fresh idea, it was supernatural. Even outside the bounds of science. But when the evidence mounted, did all cosmologists suddenly convert to theism? Did most of them? Many? Or did they shift gears, re-baptize the idea as entirely natural, put their own spin on it, and try to wield it *against* religious believers?”

    This is an excellent point, but I fail to see how it has anything to do with your larger issue. Materialists will be materialists not because there’s any physical evidence for materialism, but because they don’t want to be religious. My father is a materialist. He’s not a scientist, so he’s not committed to anything based on science, but he makes certain assumptions about what religion is, and based on those assumptions, he doesn’t want any part of it. And the interesting thing is that his 3 daughters and I are all now Christians. He spends much of his time among Christians who all have a strong witness, yet he continues to believe there is no God. The point is that materialists aren’t materialists because there is no strong witness against their rationalizations from the other side, but because they choose to be so. It has nothing to do with evidence or logic. It has everything to do with choice. My dad is a very intelligent man and quite capable – perhaps more than I, of making rational decisions, but with regard to God, he chooses what he believes.

    Most materialists won’t even deal with the issue of whether God exists. As I argued in another thread, they avoid the positive arguments for God’s existence, and they focus on denialist arguments – strawen mainly. You can ask them to demonstrate that God does not exist, and they will most likely tell you that it can’t be demonstrated. Even Richard Dawkins doesn’t say “there is no God,” rather “there probably is no God.” Did it ever occur to you that it can’t be demonstrated not because it is a metaphysical question, but because it simply isn’t true? You can’t demonstrate what isn’t true. Thus to ask for a demonstration that won’t have success is to help the materialist (or in this case, the atheist) to make the appropriate choice in the matter.

    Your Big Bang example illustrates the issue just fine. Big Bang cosmology screams for God, yet the materialists didn’t hear; or they heard, and they quickly drowned out the sound with materialistic noise. The Big Bang theory didn’t lead to a logically coherent theory on the origin of the universe in wake of this materialistic noise. Instead it led to further speculation about multiverses, etc., because materialists do not want the universe to have a beginning. If the universe has a beginning, the materialists would have to concede the coherence of the cosmological argument.

    This is why we ask the same sorts of questions with regard to cosmology.

    Theist: Can you demonstrate that there is a multiverse?

    Materialist: Well, no but it just makes sense.

    Theist: How does it make sense?

    Etc. You get the gist of where this goes. It doesn’t go where you think because the theist is conceding that there could possibly be a multiverse. The theist is merely helping the materialist to make the right parsimonious choice in the matter, that the origin of the universe – everything that physically exists began at the Big Bang singularity and not anywhere else according to the evidence we have, and not according to speculation. It’s the same with Darwinism. Darwinism is a speculation due to materialistic investments. We get the Darwinist to attempt to demonstrate actual Darwinian processes, and we get him/her to rule out the speculation. Will they do so? Probably not. They are still committed materialists, let’s not forget. But some of them will. Some here on this blog were once committed materialists who chose to be theists based on just such tactics. Actually it’s not even a tactic. God’s truth speaks for itself.

  108. 108
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Null,

    “Keep your eye on them. Because if ever the popular idea arose in academia that certain aspects of our universe and of nature must be explained by design, they won’t even have to give up materialism, much less reduce their opposition to those specific religions they dislike.”

    Yes, you are quite right. Even if ID becomes the accepted paradigm in science, it doesn’t do away with materialism, precisely because materialism is a choice, and not a logical conclusion based on any evidence. Materialism has everything to do with the denial of God. Because the current ID theorists are not materialists, they will somehow claim the design argument as their own and not give credit where credit is due.

    Or perhaps another scenario:

    Even now the materialists are attempting to divorce theistic assumptions from science history – Bacon, Newton et al were scientists first and theists second, and their science had nothing to do with their theism – and other such assertions.

    Now the IDists are accused of positing ID theory out of their a priori theism. When the tables turn, the materialists will say that it had nothing to do with their theism.

  109. 109
    nullasalus says:

    Greetings all. Forgive me if I don’t write exhaustively complete replies today – busy day for me, but I appreciate the polite disagreements here and wish to hit as many points as I can in one go.

    vividbleau,

    As long as the design hypothesis is compatible with materialism it will be embraced. Thats ok with me.

    Sure, and I think there’s merit and grounding for accepting that sort of ID. The problem is that presents a kind of dilemma for ID, in that there is (certainly on this site) a stated opposition to materialism, with that opposition being a facet of ID itself. But design arguments are being made by people who present themselves as naturalists and at least materialists-in-name. So should ID proponents bite the bullet and claim these guys for their ‘big tent’? That’s one hell of a topic.

    StephenB,

    [a] Although we have bounced it back and forth a few times, I still find that you have provided no evidence that any mainstream ID proponent [or anyone on this thread] believes that the laws of nature were not designed.

    Again I ask, where did I claim this about ‘laws’? My focus has been on ID proponents regarding evolution, mutation, and natural selection as ‘unguided processes’ and so on. And even there, my intention was not to accuse and denounce, but to say ‘this is what I’m seeing you say, this is how I interpret it, and if I’m correct than this is the problem.’

    I’m not out to prove that ‘mainstream ID proponents argue laws are not designed’. Maybe you can read me that way if you regard mutation and selection and evolution as ‘laws’, but that’s a funny way to put it.

    [b] Granted that the discussions about evolution often take place at the intersection of science and philosophy, I can find no justification for your argument that Darwinists should not be challenged either on an empirical or philosophical basis.

    And this I have *never* said. I’ve been arguing the opposite – that no concessions should be made to Darwinists. And that includes concessions that natural selection or mutation or evolution are unguided, purposeless, blind, unforesighted, etc. I even said, go right ahead and argue that these processes cannot accomplish what they’re claimed to – but you can do that without arguing these processes are themselves (instantiated in nature) unguided, and so on.

    above,

    Well, I’m glad someone other than me is on board with this! And Myers is hilarious – he’s shredding the New Atheists even as we speak with his ‘no evidence possible’ schtick. Free thinking, indeed.

    The naturalism bit (and to a lesser degree, the physical bit) hit me like a ton of bricks when I first realized what was going on with the term. I’m also intrigued that you ‘reject the supernatural/natural dichotomy’, because that dichotomy is part of the bluff in my view. Again, the Barr/Behe debate touched on that – things that were ‘supernatural’, once they seemed to be evident, became ‘natural’ by fiat. I think Keith Ward has said explicitly that the multiverse hypothesis (to give an example) is supernatural by any previous reasonable definition of the term.

    CannuckianYankee,

    Nobody is pretending anything here. The point in asking for a demonstration is to show that such a demonstration will not occur.

    I think you are misunderstanding me. When I say ‘no demonstration is possible’, I’m not saying ‘Well, it’s possible in principle to empirically demonstrate this – but it’s false so this won’t happen’. I’m saying ‘in principle, this demonstration is not possible’. Again, it’s like ‘observing something coming from absolutely nothing without cause’. It’s not going to happen. Not because ‘that doesn’t happen’. Grant for the sake of argument that it DOES happen. That it happens all day, constantly, all around you. You still will never observe it – it is beyond empirical demonstration. Confusing people into thinking that this *can* be empirically demonstrated is the source of a lot of problems here.

    Even if ID becomes the accepted paradigm in science, it doesn’t do away with materialism, precisely because materialism is a choice, and not a logical conclusion based on any evidence. Materialism has everything to do with the denial of God.

    Actually, if ID is compatible with materialism, materialism is compatible with full-blown gods. It may not be the God of classical theism, but it sure is compatible with Zeus and Thor and the like. And I challenge any defender of the simulation hypothesis and similar to explain how Odin can be a god, but a full-blown creator of our universe is not. The only alternative is to conclude that pagans with the wildest pantheons were naturalists.

    The Big Bang theory didn’t lead to a logically coherent theory on the origin of the universe in wake of this materialistic noise. Instead it led to further speculation about multiverses, etc., because materialists do not want the universe to have a beginning. If the universe has a beginning, the materialists would have to concede the coherence of the cosmological argument.

    Multiverses do not themselves get rid of an ultimate beginning. Hawking, as far as I read, does not deny such a beginning. Neither does Dennett, as per the quote. They don’t concede anything – they simply start accepting what once was regarded as absurd. Again, here’s the Dennett quote tgp provided:

    One of my Dennett favorites is from Breaking The Spell, he says on page 244: “It (the universe) … does perform a version of the ultimate bootstrapping trick; it creates itself ex nihilo.”

    That’s Dennett, famous philosopher from Tufts. I humbly submit that if you are expecting self-styled naturalists to make concessions in the face of either powerful metaphysical argument OR empirical data, your expectations will come for naught. They are limited only by their imaginations.

    Kairosfocus,

    When we pursue the cases on origin and body plan level diversification of life, they drastically undermine the heavily pushed notion that life on earth can be explained on matter and energy interacting spontaneously by blind chance and necessity across time, through chem evo, abiogenesis and darwinian or similar macroevo.

    Here we go again. There is no empirical demonstration of ‘blind chance’ possible – not in the sense naturalists need. And ‘necessity’ just rolls us back to questions of laws, which are easily argued as instances of design.

    Let’s say they – against all odds – were able to demonstrate that there exists some accessible pathway for abiogenesis, of macroevolutionary body plans, etc. The problem is that this would be, upon the instant, a demonstration of a viable design route! It would show that the development of life, of codes, of development, was a design feature of the universe itself. I contend that the mere existence of coded language in nature, of ferociously advanced technology in nature, is evidence (even empirical evidence!) of design *regardless of how this design came about*. If natural processes wrote Shakespeare, that would be tremendous evidence that nature itself was designed.

    So why write or speak about ‘blind’ or ‘unguided’ anything, as if this was empirically demonstrated, or even could be? And let me make the practical argument as well: I have a low opinion of Biologos, and so far they’ve largely stood as a monolithic example of why ID proponents rightly are deeply suspicious of many TEs. But notice that when Biologos moved in the direction of hinting that evolution was itself a guided process, Dawkins denounced them in a rage. Notice that when Francis Collins was nominated to the position he now has, they reaction wasn’t one of celebration (Hooray! An evolution-celerating Christian in a prominent position! That’ll spread the word of evolution!) but terror.

    They are afraid, very afraid, of people making ID arguments based on evolution itself. Whether its Simon Conway Morris or Mike Gene or Denton or anyone else, it spooks them deeply. And note, I’m talking about sincere arguments in favor of a guided, teleological, foresighted evolution and nature, not the ‘it’s totally random and purposeless but it’s still design’ self-contradiction.

    Now, I’m not saying this is all ID should be. Frankly, if you want to argue that these processes can’t accomplish what they’re claimed to – again, go for it. You may well be right. But ID is a big tent, and supposedly front-loading and so on is supposed to fit under that tent – ID as a collection of ideas with a common thrust, rather than as one specific proposal and such. And if that’s truly the case, again I suggest – do not make the ‘blind’ concession on natural selection or mutation or anything else in nature. It’s not empirically evident, it’s not necessary for your positions or your arguments, and it only advances what amounts to a naturalist con game.

  110. 110
    StephenB says:

    —nullasalus, here is the language in which you expressed it the point I am asking you to follow up on:

    ….”some ID proponents seem to accept, or even accept for the sake of argument, that various processes in nature (mutation, selection, evolution, etc) are unguided, undirected, and so on.”

    Now that we have the language exactly right, will you tell me why you believe this.

  111. 111
    StephenB says:

    —nullasalus: “And that includes concessions that natural selection or mutation or evolution are unguided, purposeless, blind, unforesighted, etc.”

    Who are making concessions like this? Has anyone on this site ever made such a concession? Are you saying that we are somehow conceding their impossible claims when we demand that they tell us how in the world it could be possible, understanding as we do that it isn’t.

    –“I even said, go right ahead and argue that these processes cannot accomplish what they’re claimed to – but you can do that without arguing these processes are themselves (instantiated in nature) unguided, and so on.”

    I have every confidence that you will finally tell me what you mean because I really do want to know.

  112. 112
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    Who are making concessions like this? Has anyone on this site ever made such a concession? Are you saying that we are somehow conceding their impossible claims when we demand that they tell us how in the world it could be possible, understanding as we do that it isn’t.

    I am stating that I am at least seeing language used, repeatedly, which grants that there do exist processes which are blind, unguided, non-foresighted, etc. I don’t know whether it’s granted for the sake of argument (I would assume so), because of a metaphysical commitment (possibly, but I doubt it), or some other reason. But I’m reading the words and quoting them at you. I’m not the one describing various processes as blind, unguided, non-foresighted, etc. Do you deny that others are, even in this thread? And if you don’t, can you explain how I should take these words?

    I have every confidence that you will finally tell me what you mean because I really do want to know.

    What ‘finally’? I’m not even sure what question you’re asking me here. How, in principle, a theist could see that mutation and selection are in fact guided? Are you asking me how an ID proponent can argue in favor of intervention while granting that the more mundane processes are ultimately guided besides?

  113. 113
    vividbleau says:

    null “The problem is that presents a kind of dilemma for ID, in that there is (certainly on this site) a stated opposition to materialism, with that opposition being a facet of ID itself”

    I don’t see it as a dilemma for ID. I think you may be confusing a stated opposition to strictly materialistic scientific explanantions with stated opposition to materialistic metaphysics. Both battles are waged by ID proponets on both fronts for sure. I think you are lumping in two disticnt arguments and treting them as one ths in your view a dilemma.

    null “So should ID proponents bite the bullet and claim these guys for their ‘big tent’? That’s one hell of a topic.”

    Why not? Although that is not ID’s call is it?

    Vivid

  114. 114
    nullasalus says:

    vividbleau,

    don’t see it as a dilemma for ID. I think you may be confusing a stated opposition to strictly materialistic scientific explanantions with stated opposition to materialistic metaphysics. Both battles are waged by ID proponets on both fronts for sure. I think you are lumping in two disticnt arguments and treting them as one ths in your view a dilemma.

    Well, this is a whole other topic than what I’m getting into here. I think it’s a dilemma only in the sense that ID, at least on this site, is presented largely as an opposing contrast to ‘materialism’ (I think it’s right on the ‘about’ page), but now we’re seeing at least nominally ‘materialistic’ ID proposals. (I say nominally because, again, materialism is just hard to pin down anymore.)

    That’s all. For the record, Dembski himself says ID is open to many ‘scenarios’, including simulated universes and so on, so I’m aware that it’s not some utterly unforeseen thing. More of a question ‘Is the Big Tent THAT big?’

    Why not? Although that is not ID’s call is it?

    Well, yes and no. If Professor Z makes an ID argument and insists he’s a staunch materialist and rejects ID and so on and so forth, he’s still making an ID argument and ID proponents should count his views among the tent, it could be so argued. I don’t object to dragging someone kicking and screaming into the big tent. Then again, I have a sense of humor about that sort of thing.

  115. 115
    bornagain77 says:

    kf and all,

    This new clip from a new 2010 Bill Wiese video may interest you:

    Bill Wiese – 23 Minutes In Hell – High Quality – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5391398/

  116. 116
    StephenB says:

    —“nullasalus, I am stating that I am at least seeing language used, repeatedly, which grants that there do exist processes which are blind, unguided, non-foresighted, etc.”

    I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask one last time. Can you tell me specifically what language is being used, who is using it, and why you interpret it to mean what you say it means.

  117. 117
    tgpeeler says:

    I guess my fear that this link would have died by now was, um, overblown, to say the least.

    KF – thanks for fishing link. I caught a couple of 2 pound blue cats and about 5 other not worth keeping. I relocated the two worth keeping to my part of the lake. 🙂 Fat lot of good it does…

    There has been so much going on and so much to talk about but I’d like to chime in with a couple of points.

    First, concerning naturalism, I agree with nullasalus and others that naturalism/materialism/physicalism (nmp) are virtually infinitely plastic and this only demonstrates the intellectual hypocrisy and/or degeneracy of these people. I remember being chastised once on a thread here some time ago for being rude for suggesting that nmp’s were not willing to make intellectual commitments and live with the consequences. This was around post 40 or so. I replied that if she would tell me what her foundational intellectual commitments were I’d happily apologize. I think the thread ended at over 400 posts and guess what? Yes. No explication of foundational commitments. Arguing with these people is like trying to nail jello to the wall or grab smoke. They are like creatures out of a bad horror novel, shape shifters or something like that. I figure the lurkers are the real audience anyway so that’s why I engage at all. I’m probably like everyone else in that regard.

    I did manage to find the time to read “Programming of Life” by Don Johnson (Ph.D.’s in Computer and Information Science and Chemistry) and Hawkings’ new book, “The Grand Design.”

    I guess the summary of “The Grand Design” is that there is no grand design. Sometimes it reads like Dawkins collaborated. It is amazing how otherwise brilliant men could possibly be so deluded.

    I highly recommend “Programming of Life.” It wasn’t an easy go for me at times (damn that mathematics past business calculus) but the case is devastatingly made that life and information are inseparable and that information only comes from mind. I’ve said before, maybe not here, that neo-darwinian evolutionary theory will one day be the epic scandal of science. The cat is out of the bag and since truth wins in the end I am certain that my grandkids, if I ever have any, will only read about the “modern synthesis” in history of science classes. That assumes, of course, that the U.S. hasn’t destroyed itself with reckless borrowing and spending but that’s definitely off topic so I will say no more about that. Johnson’s book is amazing.

    Back to mnp for a moment regarding how difficult it is to pin them down. That’s why I tried to define it the way I did. I think it covers everything that can be detected by our aided senses (i.e. “seeing” an electron trail in a cloud chamber). And I throw in math and the laws of physics for the naturalists. But I think a larger point needs to be made here and I think it was nullasalis who said:

    “Now, my own view is that neither design *nor its lack* can be demonstrated empirically, at least without bringing in metaphysics.

    I would say that nothing can be claimed without bringing in metaphysics, i.e. logic. Granted, “scientific” logic is inductive, or abductive, and not deductive, but it’s still metaphysics. Without using logic to tell the story of the data all we ever have are data. There are no privileged truth claims and all truth claims ultimately are borne out, or not, by reason and evidence. Now may be a good time to say, with due credit to StephenB, “reason’s rules inform evidence; evidence does not inform reason’s rules.” Empiricism is nonsense.

    It’s late. What a great thread.

  118. 118
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask one last time. Can you tell me specifically what language is being used, who is using it, and why you interpret it to mean what you say it means.

    Stephen, I have pasted – more than once – direct quotes of the language in question, from yourself, someone else, and Kairosfocus showing the sort of language that worries me. When I did, you insisted I was ‘reframing’ and that those things did not mean what I took them to mean. It’s incorrect to suggest that you’ve been asking for quotes and I’ve been refusing to supply them. That I’ve supplied them and you disputed my reading is the case.

    But I’m more than willing to repeat these quotes, and to be thorough in laying out – in some cases, again – just where my problems came in. And if I’m being exceptionally hair-splitting and pedantic here, it’s because I feel as if that’s required of me.

    Yourself: The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things is the Darwinists [and the Theistic Evolutionists] main claim, asserted, I might add, in the name of science. I think it is vitally important to know if it is true or untrue. Based on current evidence, we can safely say that it is likely untrue. If it is untrue, teleology is back on the table.

    This sounds as if science itself can take teleology writ large off of the table. In fact, it sounds like you think it has already done so, and ID will change matters. And at a first reading, it comes to me across as if you think natural processes themselves are not purposeful, teleological.

    Again, you said I was reframing, and you denied my reading was right. Fine, I’m willing to accept your word. But if you cannot see any reason I would wish you to clarify these words – why I may, at the least, worry – then all I can say is this: I hold even natural processes to be teleological, even while agreeing that particular processes and mechanisms may be incapable of producing certain results. I hold that science never has taken teleology off the table – nor can it unless it’s being infused with metaphysics. And I do not hold so on the grounds that, say, ‘mutations and selection can’t make the flagellum or certain other biological artifacts’, even while admitting that these processes and mechanisms may be wholly inadequate for the tasks in question. Mutations and selections, both the incidents we’re aware of and in any hypothetical, are best conceived of as teleological, purposeful, and yes – even guided processes and mechanisms. The Darwinian graft of ateleology and unpurposefulness – and that’s really what it is, a purely metaphysical grafting on of a position about nature that is disconnected from the very processes being proposed – is something I reject. If I think that’s what’s being said, or even if there’s a chance of it being said, I will express my concern. If my fears are unfounded, so be it. If not, it’s something I’ll discuss.

    Yourself: I would surely echo those who challenge Darwinists [and TEs] to show how solely naturalistic forces can drive the macro-evolutionary process.

    I brought this up because, again, it sounded previously as if you granted that natural processes themselves lacked teleology, or guidance, or purpose, or direction – ‘naturalistic forces’ being a stand-in for ‘natural processes’. And the fact that you’re specifying ‘macro-evolutionary’ made me additionally wonder if you already conceded that ‘microevolutionary’ events were lacking teleology, guidance, or purpose – worse, that science and observation demonstrated this lack.

    Before I go on: You denied this apparently, and again, I take you at your word. But you’ve demanded I explain what I read and what worried me, so I’m following suit. If you insist I’m wrong, I’ll be pleased – I don’t want ID proponents to give up the ground I’m speaking of.

    Kairosfocus: And, we have very strong reasons linked to the statistical foundation of the second law of thermodynamics to see that it is not credible to see undirected chance configurations and changes acting with equally undirected forces of mechanical necessity on the gamut of our observed cosmos, spontaneously getting us to the sorts of islands of function that are needed to have metabolising, self-replicating cell based life using DNA, RNA and effecting machines.

    Now, again. ‘Undirected and chance configurations’, ‘equally undirected forces of mechanical necessity’. This seems to me a claim that natural forces are undirected, unguided, without any teleology. You insisted I was incorrect, that that was not what was mentioned. Yet again, fine – if you say so, then sure, I’ll accept it. I can misread someone. But I maintain, as I did with what you said, that it’s possible to read those words and come away with the impression that it’s being claimed that natural forces are not guided. If you disagree and say no such reading is possible, we’re at an impasse. That’s fine too – I’ll have attempted to explain myself.

    I quoted another person earlier, but I withdraw that because he is not taking part in this thread and it doesn’t seem proper to call up his quote given that.

    I hope what I’ve provided here is adequate. If it were necessary, I’d go through the intelligentdesign.org archives and the mailing list mails I’ve received to highlight similar language that has worried me (And I’ll flat out say, there’s also been plenty of entries on both I agreed with strongly, and which also took a difference stance on these processes and this language.) But that would be asking me to go on a fishing expedition of sorts – it shouldn’t be necessary, and hopefully my explanations of my position, and the reason I read the quotes the way I did, will suffice.

    And before it gets asked of me: I’m not saying ID should be about making metaphysical arguments. That’s apparently not of interest to ID proponents (at least, not an interest in having it be a part of ID itself), and that’s fine. Nor am I saying that insisting teleology is evident in the ‘natural processes’ in question should be a universal requirement for ID proponents. But I am pointing out that, for those wishing to take on the institutionally hunkered-down ‘naturalism’ that exists, these points should not be conceded. Not even for the sake of argument, unless they themselves believe the natural world truly lacks guidance and teleology (which, one more time – I promised to be pedantic, remember? – you say is not the case.) The idea that nature is unguided, lacking teleology, without purpose, etc, even in these processes, is an idea which should be fought and disputed. I not only regard it as bad metaphysics and bad science, but bad strategy as well.

    If the NCSE and others want to present themselves as saying science can’t rule on the presence or lack of design, guidance, purpose, or intention in nature, fine – hold their feet to the fire on the issue. Pressure them to release a statement saying that, for all science can tell, evolution is a guided and purposeful process – because if science really can’t rule on those questions, that position naturally follows now doesn’t it? Lay on the same pressure in discussion with those who take their line. And for the atheists who don’t, refuse to grant them even that those processes are unguided or without purpose. Make them establish it, with science no less. They will be unable, and will choke in the debate.

    So there. Hopefully I’ve explained myself to your satisfaction. I stand by the legitimacy of my concerns, and if I’m wrong, so be it. Hallelujah, in fact, if I am. Because with at least a couple of Biologos’ crew seemed more and more willing to say outright that evolution is a designed process (from top to bottom, even), I would hate to see some bizarro situation unfold where those guys – not exactly the most inspiring bunch – were the ones presenting the firmer front against inane atheist metaphysics.

  119. 119
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    A further clarification is in order. For, I think you have — understandably, this topic is complex and riddled with underlying worldview issues — misread what I have argued, and how I have argued:

    1 –> It is a commonplace in physics, that we have stochastically based, more or less random processes: gas molecules, diffusion, the basis of temperature, etc etc come to mind. Indeed, statistical thermodynamics is based on large collections [~ 10^22 or so] of micro particles, randomly going to particular states and interacting with one another. A highly successful discipline.

    2 –> In this context, no appeals are made to intelligent direction of the microparticles, and that random models work so well leads to the conclusion that such phenomena do not need to be explained on proximate, intelligent interventions. (Cf Maxwell’s demon as an interesting side-topic.)

    3 –> What happens here is that parsimony, Occam’s principle, is being brought to bear: the simplest explanation of the facts is the most apt to be right. Of course, in principle it is logically possible for a large enough congregation of little demons to push around the gas molecules to present the appearance of what a random process model predicts. But such is superfluous, ad hoc, and not warranted on other evidence. [Cf Laplace’s famous remark to Napoleon that he has no need of a specifically intervening God as a scientific hypothesis, on having solved the perturbation problem and eliminated Newton’s suggestion of angelic adjustment of planetary orbits.]

    4 –> Thus, we come to the infamous — and often highly persuasive — God of the Gaps rhetorical barb.

    5 –> By way of a mirror image parallel, on the assertion of a sufficiently large multiverse, everything that seems to be lawlike or designed can be assigned to a random chance outcome. (Which becomes just as patently absurd.)

    6 –> So, the best path of reason is to recognise that from our experience, lawlike necessity, chance and intelligently directed configuration are all empirically credible causal factors on the gamut of the observed cosmos, and we need a reasonable filter to distinguish them.

    7 –> That filter recognises that the factors may interact, but heir effects are empirically distinguishable, and may be addressed on taking a phenomenon apart analytically, aspect by aspect. Then,

    I: we identify mechanical necessity from low contingency outcomes on a given initial condition and release for dynamics to play out

    II: we recognise chance/random processes from statistical scatter patterns, and from similar patterns in the “accident” of having particular initial conditions among reasonably plausible alternatives

    III: we recognise designed actions from dFSCI, associated functionally specific complex orgqanisation unlikely on the other source of high contingency, chance, and similar signs

    8 –> Now, as I noted and as you clipped out, evolutionary Materialists (including many Darwinists) hold that the origin and body plan level diversity of life as we observe, can be adequately accounted for on reasonably likely chance initial configurations of matter in our solar system, the resulting undirected chemical and thermodynamic processes in a warm little electrified pond or the like, and random mutuations [etc] plus natural selection across the past 3.8 BY, and especially the past 500 – 600 MY.

    9 –> So, on their view, no intelligent direction is necessary, and such a suggestion is a dubious attempt to inject a God of the gaps into science. (Thus, too, the natural vs supernatural dichotomy they so often emphasise; to dismiss the latter. Notice, naturalists get their name from identifying reality as “natural” — in praxis, fitting into an evolutionary materialistic cosmology, whatever gilding of the lily may be indulged — and objecting to anything that may be seen as “supernatural.”)

    10 –> In response, modern, scientific design thought has highlighted that necessity, chance and design are ALL empirically observed processes, that have characteristic and reliable observable signs. So, as a basic duty to face facts we must not censor out empirically credible possibilities ahead of time.

    11 –> Thus, the different and more justifiable contrast that has been on the table at least ever since Plato: natural [= chance/accident + necessity] vs artificial [= intelligently directed configuration].

    [ . . . ]

  120. 120
    kairosfocus says:

    12 –> In that context, to try to debate at metaphysical levels will most likely be futile. But, we can start from the factual evidence we can observe and follow up the implications of empirically credible, reliable signs of intelligence.

    13 –> In that context, we are dealing with credibly highly contingent phenomena, so chance/accidental circumstance vs design are the critical alternatives. (Even in cases of sensitive dependence on initial circumstances, it is accident of tiny variation in initial conditions that leads — through nonlinear dynamics — to the vast differences on outcome often typified by the butterfly effect.)

    14 –> And, we have identified and tested signs that detect the key difference.

    15 –> Signs that are linked to the related analytical point that we have islands of function in vast seas of in principle thermodynamically possible but non-functional configurations, so that it is not plausible on the gamut of the observed cosmos to credibly get to shores of initial function for a metabolising entity with a von Neunamm self-replicating facility on undirected chance plus necessity.

    16 –> That is, we have discredited the chemical evolution, pre biotic scenarios. This is why neither the metabolism first nor the genes/rna first schools of thought are credible.

    17 –> The only empirically observed source of the required functionally specific organisation, codes, algorithms and executing machines, is proximate cause by direct action of an intelligence.

    18 –> Thus, the warrant for the objection to a priori question-begging Lewontinian censorship, that arbitrarily prevents a live option from sitting to the table of comparative difficulties.

    19 –> Similarly, for embryologically feasible novel body plans to emerge, we repeatedly jump over the 500 – 1,000 bit plausibility threshold for chance configurations to be even marginally plausible. This again points to design as proximate cause. (Of course, within an island of function, chance plus selection forces can move one towards peaks of function, but that is AFTER we have to get to the shores of function first. Observe, how Weasel and kin consistently beg this question, and how evo mat advocates react with rage, slander and wider abusive selectively hyperskeptical rhetoric when it is pointed out. Methinks he doth protest too much.)

    20 –> At this stage, simply by insisting on facing ALL the empirical facts, and allowing ALL major empirically warranted alternatives a voice at the table, we see a very different picture of the balance of plausibility on scientific explanation for the origins of life and of body plans. Intelligent design makes sense.

    21 –> Now, go for the jugular. Can we properly insist that designers be confined to an ontology of matter and energy, i.e. embodied entities within the observed cosmos or multiverse extensions thereof?

    22 –> That is where the cosmology issues come to bear. Again, origins science. And, again, full of signs of intelligence: our complex world is based on a sophisticated pattern of physics that sets us to a fine-tuned operating cosmological point that accommodates C-chemistry, cell based life.

    23 –> The quasi-infinite multiverse is of course proffered and championed, but notice: there is no empirical support for it, other than the proposal of an ad hoc explanation to save the phenomena for a materialistic worldview. (And this does not get away from the John Leslie point that the best explanation for an isolated fly on a stretch of wall being swatted by a bullet is a skilled marksman, not an accident, even if other sections of the wall may be literally carpeted with flies so that a bullet hitting at random will hit some fly or other.)

    24 –> So, it is a serious option to see that an observed cosmos at a fine tuned operatng point is best explained on an intelligent, powerful, knowledgeable designer. On which, physics itself — including laws and dynamics of chance and necessity and key parameters — is designed.

    25 –> A programmed cosmos, if you will, physics being the operating system for the cosmos, with chemistry and biology as increasingly higher level applications.

    26 –> And, science on this view would be thinking the designer’s cosmos- creating and sustaining thoughts after him, essentially the classic view of the founders of modern science.

    _____________________

    At no point is there any granting of claims to materialists, just an insistence on sitting to a level table of comparative difficulties and assessing on the merits of empirically warranted fact, logic and cogency of explanation.

    And, the typical reactions of the advocates of methodological naturalism show that the system of origins scientific thought they have, deeply embeds a priori evolutionary materialism. So, it is question-begging.

    And, going further [as I went on to point out on page 2], it is self-referentially incoherent in many, many ways.

    GEM of TKI

  121. 121
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    First, thank you for the civil exchange. I want to stress that I’ve meant no offense here, and even though I feel passionate about this subject I strive to moderate myself and remain civil if firm in my arguments. I understand your point a bit better now, and I’ll try to keep my replies concise. This has been going on, after all.

    Re: 1, yes, we absolutely do have very successful stochastic models. I certainly don’t deny that.

    2, 3 and 4 is where problems start to come in, and I’ll try to explain why I think so concisely.

    To come to the conclusion I think you’re coming to, this question has to be asked: “What pattern should these phenomena (gas particles, diffusion, etc) have in a universe that is completely unguided versus guided?”

    But empirically, here is the only answer available: “Answer not available.”

    The answer is not available for a number of reasons. Empirically (and empirically alone) we can’t determine whether the universe, in whole or in part, is guided. By the same token, empirically alone we can’t determine whether the universe, in whole or in part, is unguided. This applies even these phenomena you mention.

    Now, what we can do empirically is find patterns – come up with equations that describe the phenomena, and so on. Even stochastic equations. However, we’re not ‘discovering these things are unguided’ by doing so – we’re coming up with predictive models based on our observations. We test the models, and if they work, wonderful. And if they fail to work sometimes, perhaps it was an exceptional case or we missed something. Models don’t get thrown away at the first violation.

    Now, you make the point about the possibility of ‘little demons pushing’, and yes, that’s superfluous. But it is so because it adds nothing to the predictive end – do the calculations while assuming the demons are pushing everything, and everything still works. You still get the same pattern. But that’s the problem – with or without the demons, the pattern is the same. So, Occam’s razor slices the demons.

    Now, here’s the trick: This doesn’t get us to (and Occam never suggested that sort of reasoning should get us to) ‘unguided’ or ‘unintelligent’. That’s a positive claim, and notice: It has the exact same status as the little demons. It adds nothing to the model or the prediction. You may as well say ‘pushed by mindless little demons’. Occam’s razor slices unguided and without purpose too.

    Back to “Answer not available”.

    Empirically, both the explanation with guidance of a sort, and the positive lack of guidance, get scrubbed. Rather like how if you’re on Let’s Make a Deal, if you simply don’t know what’s behind Door #3, when Monty Hall asks you ‘What’s behind Door #3?’, your lack of information doesn’t lead you to say ‘nothing’. If you don’t know – if you can’t determine the answer – you don’t know.

    This is why I’ve been saying that ‘unguided’ or ‘not designed’ and so on should not be conceded, but I haven’t been arguing that (in the case of science) ‘guided’ or ‘designed’ should be asserted in its place. It’s also why I’ve been stressing that ‘Darwinism’ is engaged in a smuggling game here: ‘Darwinists’ manifestly do not accept ‘Answer not available.’ They smuggle in the positive claim of ‘Not designed.’ as an article of faith, and try to pass it off as demonstrated because that view is ‘compatible with the theory’. Little demons causing mutations is also compatible with the damn theory. As I said in the other thread, compatibility is a shockingly low bar.

    Hopefully you see now where I’m coming from on this.

  122. 122
    bornagain77 says:

    kairosfocus, I’ve added 10 minutes to the end of the Bill Wiese video here:

    Bill Wiese – 23 Minutes In Hell – High Quality
    http://vimeo.com/16155839

    kairosfocus, I highly recommend the book and DVD combo to you. His writing style is meticulous much like yours. I was impressed by his attention, and ‘neatness’, to detail in the book: (p.s. the book DVD combo is only $10

    23 Questions About Hell–Book and DVD
    By: Bill Wiese
    http://www.christianbook.com/C.....1616380274

  123. 123
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    I think we are looking at two different ways of addressing the issue. Notice, how I specifically start from observable facts in the small, and go out and up from there.

    On the case of micro-evo, Darwinist mechanisms are valid and empirically supported [e.g. resistance to drugs or to insecticides, ability to digest nylon]. So, there is no need to invoke proximate design for the outcomes, though of course the system may have a design built in that allows that to happen.

    Going upwards to proposed body-plan evo, we run into the Behe edge of evo. And, there are indeed no observational data points to support darwinian mechanisms. So, proximate design comes in, however effected, e.g. front-loading or even viri designed to trigger a new stage when the earth reaches a certain degree of “terraforming” would work, etc. So would a super-Venter lab, with teams of scientists busy at work on the project. One could even go on to connect these with ideas like angels and even gods or daimons. Or, it could be God.

    Onwards, when we see there is a need to account for simultaneous metabolism and a von Neumann self-replicating facility that codes to reproduce the metabolic automaton, we hit roadblock. Codes/language, algorithms, expression in molecular storage units, implementation using molecular nanomachines, all in a self-replicating entity. Design full stop: thermodynamics simply will not allow anything less than that, the islands of function are just too deeply isolated in far too big a space for our cosmos.

    The only alternative is a quasi-infinite multiverse, and that raises the question of he cosmos-baking factory, which will have to be pretty carefully set up to produce subcosmi with appropriately varying parameters and laws.

    So, step by step, stsaring with what is acknowledged and accepted, we come to the point where we are led to see that the design of the cosmos is a very plausible view.

    But, back down at he level of chance processes and mechanical laws, that is not immediately obvious.

    GEM of TKI

  124. 124
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    Interesting video.

    Not my usual focus of thinking, or cognitive style [I acknowledge the possibility of revelatory visions, but am careful indeed about testing specific claimed cases], but interesting.

    Many connected issues, cf here, here, here and here, but way off-topic for this thread.

    GEM of TKI

  125. 125
    bornagain77 says:

    Thanks kf, sorry for being way off topic, but I thought Book-DVD may be of interest to you. I agree with you to ‘test all things’, especially in this spiritual area, since so much has been ans is being falsely asserted (New Age etc.. etc..) Yet, I have payed close attention to this one testimony over the last few years and I find his testimony extremely consistent and trustworthy. i.e. the thing is true!

  126. 126
    above says:

    @Nullasalus

    In one of your previous posts where you were addressing Stephen you said that it would be practically impossible for anyone to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused events. (I think the notion of uncaused events is absurd btw)

    Do you mind elaborating a little on that? I find that claim to be very intriguing but I am having a little difficulty visualizing it. I’m not disagreeing, I just want to understand how you’ve reached that conclusion so I can visualize the notion a little better. Simply put, how would you justify that it is EMPIRICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to demonstrate that there are uncaused things? It’s the impossibility of its empirical demonstration that I am having some troubles with.

    I hope my question is not confusing.

  127. 127
    vividbleau says:

    above “In one of your previous posts where you were addressing Stephen you said that it would be practically impossible for anyone to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused events. (I think the notion of uncaused events is absurd btw)”

    Hi above if you dont mind I would like to jump in here. Well I guess I am jumping in here even if you do mind LOL.

    Anyway how would one go about emperically demonstrating that there are no uncaused events? This takes me back to what I wrote previously empirical observations tell us nothing unless informed by reasons rules ( thanks stephenb).

    Empirically all we can say is that every observation we have is that effects always have causes ( I want to ignore QM to simplify things). What does that tell us about the next effect we observe? Just because we have only observed white swans does not mean there are no black swans out there.

    Empirical observation tell us nothing, the best one could say is that all we have are data points. I would go so far to say that even that is an overstatement. They are not even data points really since to say they are data points can only be deduced through the rules of right reason. All we have is some kind of sensory input, thats it!! Its what comes after the sensory input, the employment of rules of right reason that makes sense of the sensory input. Thats why those who put emperical observation above rules of right reason really havent thought very deeply about what they are saying.

    We do not empirically demonstrate that all effects have causes we get there through the employment of self evident rules of right reason.

    I look forward to hearing from null.

    Vivid

  128. 128
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    I appreciate the thought.

    I am only expressing concern that this might get the thread far off on a tangent, and asking that it not be allowed to do so.

    G

  129. 129
    kairosfocus says:

    Above and Vivid:

    Slightly tangential but related.

    For, causality and the claimed causal closedness of “nature” [= the matter-energy, space-time world we observe] is a big part of the definition of “naturalism.” (the “supernatural” is locked out as being causally isolatred, and is dismissed, including by the way the concept of an immaterial mind. [Cf discussion here.)

    “Cause-less-ness” has to be clarified itself.

    That starts with the various ways factors can be causal: contributory, necessary, sufficient, necessary and sufficient. Each of heat, fuel and oxidiser is necessary, and the three are jointly sufficient, for a fire. Something like a dash of kero may contribute further to the fire.

    So, the key point is that once we acknowledge that there are necessary causal factors — remove them, and no effect — then events in the physical, observable world will not be causeless. As, such an event would have to come out of nothing, nowhere (or anywhere), anytime, for no reason and with no constraints.

    If that were happening, we would be living in a chaos, not a cosmos.

    This even obtains for quantum events, which are constrained by the driving forces of their physics, e.g. think of radioactive decay and quantum tunnelling that helps explain it. No RA atom, no instability in the atom, and no decay. Sure, we do not know the sufficient conditions that make a particular atom in a particular location decay at a particular time, but that is not the whole story.

    And, we also see how connecting data points and experiences into intelligible sequences implicitly assumes the experienced fact of conscious mindedness that works by the first principles of right reason.

    Nor can we escape by suggesting that the world of things in themselves is utterly separate from the inner world of perceived and interpreted phenomena. the denial of the possibility of accurate knowledge of the external world, is it self a knowledge claim about that world, and so since it explicitly denies what it implicitly depends on, it is self-refuting.

    And, again, right reason rides to the rescue, courtesy yet another reductio on its rejection!

    GEM of TKI

  130. 130
    StephenB says:

    nullasalus: Thank you for hanging in there with me. Tell me if this summarizes your objection:

    Because the explanatory filter analyzes the relationship between LAW/CHANCE/AGENCY, some events in the universe are assumed to occur as a result of chance and are, therefore, unguided and undirected.

  131. 131
    above says:

    @Vivid + Kairosfocus

    Thanks for your responses.
    I’m definitely with you on the importance and primacy of right reason. Data needs to be interpreted otherwise it’s worthless.

    But I think there might be something more to it than that. In trying to understand what nullasalus was talking about, I thought that the impossibility of demonstrating causelessness might arise due to the fact that one needs to presuppose causality in order to engage in empirical research in the first place… Therefore, denying causality would in effect be a reductio ad absurdum. I’m not sure if this was the route nullasalus was trying to take though, which is why I wanted him to elaborate on it a little bit more.

    I was to trace his line of thinking because I think he might be on to something I may not have thought about yet.

  132. 132
    above says:

    *I want to trace his line of thinking…

  133. 133
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    On the case of micro-evo, Darwinist mechanisms are valid and empirically supported [e.g. resistance to drugs or to insecticides, ability to digest nylon]. So, there is no need to invoke proximate design for the outcomes, though of course the system may have a design built in that allows that to happen.

    I grant that mutation and selection are tremendously helpful concepts when it comes to explaining antibiotic resistance, etc. Absolutely. If by ‘proximate design’ you mean ‘there’s no need to invoke a designer actively and particularly sticking a hand into that process to secure the outcome’, again I agree. It’s logically possible, sure, but as with the demons, it’s not required for the model.

    But the reason there is ‘no need to invoke proximate design’ is due to a limitation of the method (empirical demonstration) and the investigators (us). Was the world set into motion according to a fully deterministic plan by a mind and thus this event (say, developing nylon digestion) proximately designed? Sure, as far as the empirical can inform us that’s possible. Does a designer intervene at each moment to determine the particular outcome of every probablistic process? Again, possible. Only sometimes? Possible once more. Never and everything is some kind of wholly unplanned event? Also possible.

    So yes, ‘there’s no need to invoke a designer’. There’s also ‘no need to invoke purposelessness, non-guidance, or a lack of design’. They both get sliced by the same razor empirically, and both are questions which extend beyond the science. We’re stuck with “Answer not available.” on the question of design or minds or their lack in that context. And this is the case even for the mundane examples you list.

    I bring this up because this positive claim, the positive lack of any guidance or design, is exactly what many Darwinists claim A) is the case, B) is wholly scientific to claim, and C) is demonstrable in a lab. This is every bit as much of an injection of metaphysics and science-superfluous claims as the ‘little demons’ idea. It also happens to be, if I take them right, something both Barr and Behe objected to in their debate as an injection of metaphysics into science. And it’s what I’m principally objecting to here.

    When the only answer available given empirical observation and the limits of science is “answer not available”, that’s simply that. It should not be allowed to be morphed into another answer due to a metaphysical commitment, or by smuggling metaphysics into science.

    (I would add, this goes doubly in the case of evolution if only because ‘selection’ is something minds are demonstrably capable of via artificial selection. For all we know, for all science can show, absolutely every case of selection is ultimately artificial selection.)

  134. 134
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    Because the explanatory filter analyzes the relationship between LAW/CHANCE/AGENCY, some events in the universe are assumed to occur as a result of chance and are, therefore, unguided and undirected.

    See my response just now to Kairosfocus, as I think that and my previous response to him best encapsulates where I’m coming from. My objection has nothing to do with the explanatory filter, and I’m putting ID claims about flagellum and such utterly aside. These are ground-level concerns about very mundane processes and mechanisms, and how they are described with an eye on science and empirical observation.

  135. 135
    nullasalus says:

    above,

    Do you mind elaborating a little on that? I find that claim to be very intriguing but I am having a little difficulty visualizing it. I’m not disagreeing, I just want to understand how you’ve reached that conclusion so I can visualize the notion a little better. Simply put, how would you justify that it is EMPIRICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to demonstrate that there are uncaused things? It’s the impossibility of its empirical demonstration that I am having some troubles with.

    Well, let’s be clear. I’m not saying it’s ’empirically impossible to demonstrate that there are uncaused things’, if by that you mean ‘all things that exist or begin to exist are caused, and this is empirically demonstrated’. I’d say it’s ‘impossible to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused things/events’.

    Think of it this way. Suppose a pocketwatch (or anything else) suddenly appeared in front of you. One second there’s no watch, the next second there is. You saw no one place it there, etc. Let’s say you saw this happen 100 times. 1000 times. As many as you like. Did you just see the watch pop into existence utterly uncaused from absolute nothingness?

    Well, no. All you see is a watch suddenly appearing – and that’s all you can ever see. Was it put there by a cause of some kind? Some immaterial cause? Some unknown natural cause? Good questions all. You can investigate, and try to come up with a causal story. But you never, not even in principle, observe ‘the watch pop into existence utterly uncaused from absolute nothingness’. Arguably, you can’t even imagine this. (It’s been argued that at best you can imagine ‘watch popping into view’ and you slap the label ‘uncaused’ over it, and that that’s not the same thing.)

    In trying to understand what nullasalus was talking about, I thought that the impossibility of demonstrating causelessness might arise due to the fact that one needs to presuppose causality in order to engage in empirical research in the first place… Therefore, denying causality would in effect be a reductio ad absurdum.

    Well, there’s that too. How do you do science if causality is optional? StephenB’s gone over this a number of times, and as far as I read his thoughts on that mirror my own. Sure, it’s a reductio ad absurdum, but I’ve also learned that (in the context of trying to convince someone) such things are only useful if a person isn’t willing to believe absurd things. I’ve been surprised at how many people are so willing.

  136. 136
    above says:

    @null

    Thanks for the reply. That’s pretty much how understood your words. I just wanted to be sure.

    And yes, I did understand your claim to be that it’s ‘impossible to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused things/events’.

    I just stated the question wrong. Apologies for the confusion.

    To sum up, I would say that I agree that it is ‘impossible to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused things/events’ due to the reasons mentioned by you, me, kairosfocus and Stephen. I would also say that given our experience in the world through our empirical investigation, which is of course subject to the principles of right reason for interpretation, as of yet all aspects of reality (that are subject to human inquiry) seem to have causal relations. As a result, neither through reasoning nor through our empirical experience as of yet is there any evidence that there is such a thing as an uncaused thing/event.

    Would you agree?

  137. 137
    StephenB says:

    nullasalus, I have gone over your writings a number of times, and I confess that I just do not understand the substance of your objections. Perhaps the problem is not with your means of expression but rather with my capacity to understand what you are getting at. I have tried to probe your thoughts, but your answers never seem to align themselves with my questions. Perhaps someone else can crack the code and explain it to me. Thank you for a lively discussion.

  138. 138
    nullasalus says:

    above,

    No problem at all. I’m just being very specific and careful here to avoid confusion – no apologies necessary.

    As a result, neither through reasoning nor through our empirical experience as of yet is there any evidence that there is such a thing as an uncaused thing/event.

    Would you agree?

    What’s holding me back here is that it sounds like you’re saying it’s possible in principle that some result of our empirical experience could suffice to make us say ‘oh, that was an uncaused thing/event’. That I wouldn’t agree with, because it makes it sound as if our thoughts about causality are determined by empirical results, when they actually come before the entire scientific project. So the lack of observing something coming from total nothingness utterly uncaused not a ‘so far’ or ‘as of yet’ thing.

    It’s similar to claiming there exists a square circle. It doesn’t seem right to cast that as ‘So far, we have not seen any square circles, and that’s why we say they do not exist.’ The problem with square circles is disconnected from observation.

    But maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

  139. 139
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    Well, fair enough. But let me just say: If you think I’m rolling in here with an anti-ID argument, that’s incorrect. If you think I’m arguing that ID requires certain assumptions that conflict with other important metaphysics (Thomism, say), that’s also incorrect. This isn’t some kind of cryptic attack on ID from me.

    I’m making a point about the limits of what we can extract from science divorced (as much as possible, anyway) from metaphysics, and how an inability to empirically detect design or intention (particularly an inability that results due to the limits of the methods and conditions we’re investigating with) does not give us warrant, much less empirical warrant, to say ‘this thing was unguided, and not designed’. And again, maybe that’s not what’s being said here. Maybe there’s confusion on my part. I’m trying to sort that out myself.

    But again, this isn’t some kind of weird, roundabout attack on ID or ID proponents as ID proponents. If it helps, think about how Barr objected to atheistic claims of ‘non-designed’ or ‘unguided’ even in his own field (physics), and even about, as kairosfocus noted, some fairly mundane and well-verified processes.

  140. 140
    above says:

    @null

    So what you’re saying is, since it’s impossible even in principle to empirically verify an uncaused thing/event, talk of empirical observation is utterly irrelevant.

    The square example did it for me. Something clicked… 🙂

  141. 141
    nullasalus says:

    above,

    Exactly. All you ever can see is ‘some existing thing’ or ‘some event’. You never observe this utter nothingness, this complete lack of a cause.

  142. 142
    CannuckianYankee says:

    StephenB, Null, others,

    I too am having a similar problem with Null’s thinking (and Null, you have obviously put a lot of thought into this, but we differ on specifics). From earlier discussions, I think the whole issue stems from his concerns with limiting metaphysical assumptions in science. In that respect his caution seems valid, but I don’t think it applies necessarily to ID. I will have to leave that to another discussion, however.

    Here’s his basic argument as far as I’ve been able to understand (I want to go back to some earlier issues in the discussion, because I think they are less hampered down with side issues):

    Darwinists bring a lot of metaphysical assumptions into play when they claim that random chance mutations can account for complex biological systems. (I think we all agree).

    ID proponents have often challenged Darwinists to demonstrate how random chance mutations can achieve CSI.

    Null is of the opinion that even asking the question is indirectly conceding to the idea that purely natural processes apart from teleological influences are involved in nature. It’s conceding because that’s how the Darwinists will view such a challenge if in their minds, they are able to demonstrate it. Null is also of the opinion that neither teleological nor random natural processes can be demonstrated scientifically, since they are both metaphysical issues. While teleology is the more parsimonious of the two, it is so based on reason’s rules, and not on science. (again, I think we all agree to some extent – in the sense that we view evidence from ID as an implication of a designer, and we don’t find that the implications actually identify the designer).

    So he’s cautioning against the danger of Darwinists being able to demonstrate (actually or in their own prejudiced opinion) purely natural processes for CSI, and thus, further advancing the assumption of metaphysical materialism.

    So he sees the challenge as a very dangerous bluff for ID.

    In other words, we’re so certain that such processes will never be able to be demonstrated, that if they are (even in the minds of materialists), we’ve given up the game to the materialists, because he views that even such seemingly undirected chance processes are not in fact evidence on the side of materialism, but that the materialists, due to their a priori metaphysical commitments, and also due to their poor application of reasons’ rules, will equate it with evidence on their side.

    So asking Darwinists who are committed to metaphysical materialism to demonstrate something is not relevant to whether ID is valid, or is science. We should stick to the facts, and allow the facts to speak for themselves – regardless of whether they support our metaphysical leanings, or regardless of whether they seem to contradict materialism.

    It’s sort of like KF’s caution to BA at post 128 (sorry KF, BA, I wanted to lend some relevance to BA’s post) 🙂 – it will set the materialists off on an irrelevant tangent (just like they did with Behe’s mousetrap).

    Am I understanding you adequately so far, Null?

    I may have further comments and questions after you respond.

  143. 143
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    Well, you’re getting into issues I didn’t touch on here (the ‘what if ID is falsified’ stuff). Nor do I think that these problems come up merely by asking the questions. Like I said, I have no problem at all with arguing ‘these processes and mechanisms are incapable of accomplishing the tasks in question’. The worry is when ‘these processes and mechanisms’ are regarded as materialistic, or non-teleological, or unguided, etc. Science doesn’t demonstrate that, and science frankly can’t in principle. Again, this was (at least I take it to have been) Barr’s point in the Behe-Barr debate, and it seemed to be a point Behe agreed with. Recall, by the way, that Behe used to be a TE and saw no conflict between evolution and his faith.

    Go ahead, make the arguments about the processes. I’m not criticizing that at all here. All I’m saying is that you don’t need to regard those processes as unguided, without purpose, lacking teleology, etc to make your argument – and in fact regarding them as such is a concession to the people you’re arguing against.

    Now, if you happen to really believe that evolution couldn’t be guided even in principle, or that these more mundane processes are not themselves instances of design or available as tools for a designer, that’s another thing. But everyone seems to deny holding that view so far, so it’s put aside.

  144. 144
    kairosfocus says:

    Null, CY, SB, Above (et al):

    The basic issue is epistemological, not metaphysical.

    That is, until we have hammered out a mutual understanding of credible methods of reliably (albeit provisionally) warranting claimed truths about the world of observables, unbridled metaphysical a prioris will dominate conclusions.

    That is, the question will be begged.

    That is why the original post BEGINS with the exposure of a censoring, Lewontinian a priori evolutionary materialism. Let us see what Lewontin — here backed by the NAS, NSCE, etc etc — so directly declared:

    we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    Thus, Philip Johnson was precisely correct to rebut:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence . . . .

    The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses.

    If you beg the question and censor out otherwise credible alternatives, you lock up the discussion to an “ideologically correct” answer that has nothing to do with the real question of what is credibly true about the deep past of origins, and how can we set out to learn and be confident of that truth based on real-world observational evidence.

    Null, if someone is determined to beg questions and stick to a mind-closing, hostility-inducing ideology like that, there is little we can do to stop them. But, we can expose them before the public, especially when they set out to indoctrinate our children under false colours of science education.

    And, sooner or later, a critical mass of the public will wake up and will demand accountability over such deception. Them when they feel the heat sufficiently, the evo mat magisterium will act out of fear of loss of control over the tax money spigot.

    Actually, that is already happening, which is why they are so shrill and so determined to shoot the messenger. (Look at what is happening over in the coming clean thread with Mr Paul Burnett. That sort of over the top, arrogant, slanderous extremism is ever more and more tending to be only persuasive to the indoctrinated in their PT fever swamp. But the true believers will swallow the hostility-inducing lies hook, line and sinker: “Dembski and the other whores at the Dishonesty Institute are trying every bit as hard as the Taliban and Al Qaeda to destroy Western civilization. They must not be given any break – any quarter – at all.” [Does this person understand that “no quarter” means massacre of those who surrender or are helpless? THAT is what we are dealing with. Talk about hate speech and — frankly — slanderously poisonous lies!])

    [ . . . ]

  145. 145
    kairosfocus says:

    Instead, we can be the voice of reason.

    We therefore go back to basic scientific methods, 101.

    We point out that — once we set aside overheated rhetoric about “natural vs supernatural” — it is quite obvious that we routinely observe and distinguish on reliable signs, causal factors tracing to chance, necessity and intelligently directed configuration.

    There is a valid explanatory filter, that guides us in constructing scientific explanations:

    a: mechanical necessity –> natural regularities [dropped heavy objects fall]

    b: chance processes –> high contingency statistical, probabilistic distributions [scatter in experimental results]

    c: design or art –> functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, that put objects into configurations that would otherwise be utterly unlikely or unexpected

    So, we are scientifically entitled to trust the same reliable signs when we explore evidence of the remote past of origins. This is the same uniformity of nature principle — a sophisticated form of “like causes like” — used by Newton in the 1680’s to analyse remote star systems we cannot directly explore, and by Lyell, Darwin and Wallace when they pioneered geological and biological reconstructions of the remote past on earth that we likewise cannot directly explore.

    Of course, the findings of such research are provisional, and are less easily checked than things we can directly observe and measure. But, that does not mean that we should ignore evidence we do have and where it does point. Just, when we see more evidence, we will keep an open mind, and change our theories and models in light of evidence. Also, we must not make question-begging assumptions that block us from doing that. The mistake Lewontin et al are making.

    When we look again at the evidence we do have for the past of life, we see that cell based life is based on a complex, specifically functional, digitally coded information system that stores hundreds of thousands to billions of bits of information. Such dFSCI strongly points to intelligent design of life, and of major body plans.

    Similarly, when we look at the organisation of our cosmos, we discover that the cosmos is at a finely tuned operating point that sets up a suitable habitat for C-chemistry, cell-based life. Again, we see a strong sign of intelligently directed configuration, this time of the very physics that serves as the universe’s operating system. Without that finely tuned physics, the geology, chemistry and biology of life would not be possible.

    Again, design.

    But, design of a cosmos as a suitable habitat for cell-based C-chemistry life points to an extra-cosmic, highly knowledgeable, intelligent and sophisticated designer.

    Even, in the context of suggested, speculative multiverse models. If a lone fly on a length of otherwise clear wall gets swatted by a bullet, good reason we infer to a hidden marksman. That holds, even if there are other stretches of wall elsewhere that are so carpeted with flies that any bullet hitting at random there would swat a fly.

    Our observed universe is that lone fly swatted by a very precisely aimed bullet. And, that is how we can even be here to debate origins science.

    So, it is time to clean house and sweep out the question-begging, self-refuting impositions on our thought on origins science that come from imposing a priori materialism, however disguised by phrases such as “in science we must explain natural phenomena by natural causes.” Sorry, in the world of observation, we see and reliably distinguish causal factors tracing to chance, necessity and intelligence. So, no a priori censorship should be allowed to block our science form being what it is at its best:

    an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive, provisional pursuit of the truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, analysis, theorising and modelling, as well as free discussion among the informed.

    We ought not and cannot sacrifice truth seeking to please the leaders of an a priori, ideological materialistic agenda.

    GEM of TKI

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