Intelligent Design

A Question for Barbara Forrest

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In her recent paper, The Non-epistemology of Intelligent Design: Its Implications for Public Policy, evolutionary philosopher Barbara Forrest states that science must be restricted to natural phenomena. In its investigations, science must restrict itself to a naturalistic methodology, where explanations must be strictly naturalistic, dealing with phenomena that are strictly natural. This is the consensus position of evolutionists and, in typical fashion, Forrest uses this criteria to exclude origins explanations that allow for the supernatural. Only evolutionary explanations, in one form or another, are allowed. She writes:  Read more

9 Replies to “A Question for Barbara Forrest

  1. 1
    Joseph says:

    Design is a natural phenomenon.

    Now what?

    Science must be restricted to reality- as in the reality behind the existence of what we are investigating.

    Anything less is science-fiction.

  2. 2
    Lenoxus says:

    Here follow two relevant posts I recently made on CH’s blog.


    Let me begin by making the following assertion: Everything either is or is not a simulation. Examples of simulations include complex computer programs, novels, and dreams.

    My alternative to evolution, and scientific naturalism in general, is simply that all, or nearly all, of the known universe is a simulation, most likely in some kind of computer.

    This hypothesis explains in areas where materialist fantasies that were invented to justify materialism, like dark matter, fail.

    Any area in which known forces are at a loss is in fact the result of malfunction, a software virus, or a deliberate program modification (or whatever is analogous in the simulation to those things in ours). Apart from such exceptions, nature proceeds as guided by the master software. This much is obvious, and was realized (in another form) by Plato, among countless others.

    It’s empirically testable, because we are very much capable of using scientific and mathematical tools to identify anomalous (hence simulation-aberrant) phenomena all the time. We’ve even begun work on developing tools to positively predict what sort of aberrations will next be encountered, based both on what we know of the nature of simulations and what we have learned so far about this one. (This last area still needs some work, I admit.)

    Meanwhile, cosmologists are free to disprove us any time simply by producing, for example (just a few of many possibilities), a black hole, a star, or dark matter in a lab environment.

    Do you deny that computers exist? Do you deny that computer simulations exist? Do you deny the relevance of computing to sciences such as astronomy and biology?

    If you wish to argue that my hypothesis as given is unscientific, you are, without any warrant, ruling out an entirely possible state of affairs.


    It is well known and understood by all in this conversation that agents (in particular, people and animals) do things, and that it is frequently useful to figure out when a person or animal intentionally did something. IDists like to extrapolate from this to infer agency in areas such as cosmology and, especially, biology.

    The problem is that “agency” by itself is very, very weakly descriptive, and not in the least explanatory.

    It’s exactly like the simulation argument I raised. Simulations are known things. The universe may be a simulation. But all by itself, the proposition that the universe is a simulation gives us nothing to work with. This is a big part of why science assumes that we are in a “real world”, despite the fact that we might not be.

    So it is with supernatural design. There may be an outside-the-Universe entity capable of creating and modifying any possible life forms, and some or all life that we know of may be the work of this entity. But all by itself, the proposition is so nebulous that it gives us nothing to work with. Science (yes, even forensics and archaeology) assumes naturalism because without it, all bets are off.

    (Not to mention that in both the cases of supernaturalism and simulations, there are philosophical tug-of-wars to be had over definitions. For example, does ruling out the supernatural mean ruling out the existence of ghosts? Many would say yes, but what if ghosts became a confirmable biological phenomenon with predictable effects? Then they would be no more “supernatural” then electromagnetism or algae. Another example is ESP. Ostensibly “supernatural”, it has been formulated into many testable hypotheses, making it an “honorary” naturalistic hypothesis, albeit one that hasn’t passed many tests.)

    What are the positive detectable signs of this supernatural entity’s work — not just the problems with particular naturalistic hypotheses? Both Behe’s IC and Dembski’s CSI are really just negative arguments against the predominant naturalistic theory. And if the nature of the “supernatural” is defined such that it can only be inferred by eliminating all natural possibilities, it is useless.

  3. 3
    William J. Murray says:

    Unless Dr. Forrest considers intelligence a supernatural agency, what exactly would her problem be with ID?

  4. 4
    Heinrich says:

    William – I guess Forrest thinks that the intelligence that is posited as influencing the history of life is supernatural: biology is divine technology, if you will.

  5. 5
    Joseph says:

    Is archaeology merely a negative argument against geology?

    If we listen to the anti-ID “logic” it is…

  6. 6
    above says:


    Your entire post and reasoning (or lack thereof) depends on the false assumption that methodology dictates ontology. A good effort but invalid nonetheless.

  7. 7
    StephenB says:

    Inasuch as the scientist in the only one who knows which problem he is trying to solve and which questions he is trying to answer, I can’t imagine why he would seriously consider anyone else’s opinions about which methods he should use or how far he can extend his investigation.

    Science investigates and draws conclusions about what it can observe and measure. If God decides to raise someone from the dead and chooses a convenient location for the event, there isn’t a reason in the world why a scientist could not examine that “supernatural” event and hypothesize that it likely did not occur solely as the result of natural processes. If Moses comes back to part the waters, the scientist can study that event as well.

    If evidence exists for a supernatural beginning of the universe [translation, the big bang] that, too, should be part of the mix. If the Catholic Church asks a medical scientist to provide an opinion about a miracle healing in order to attribute it to the intervention of a saint, all well and good.

    Are we getting the drift here? If it can be observed and measured, science should be open to it.

    All this talk about methodological naturalism comes from self-serving bureaucrats, many of whom could not distinguish an independent variable from a dependent variable if their life depended on it. Translation for the methodological naturalists—mind your own business.

  8. 8
    CJYman says:

    “Both Behe’s IC and Dembski’s CSI are really just negative arguments against the predominant naturalistic theory.”

    1. The argument from thermodynamics that perpetual motion free energy machines cannot exist is also a negative argument.

    2. The ID argument goes beyond the merely negative to the positive when one observes that foresight and rationality (key components of intelligence) are utilized and even necessary, in at least some cases ie: the creation of vehicles and computers, in order to generate IC and CSI systems.

    3. So, ID has its bases covered, since it has formulated a no-go theorem and an hypothesis stemming from observation, the mathematics of probability and information theory, and testing with computation. The great thing is, ID Theory is also falsifiable if CSI could be shown, ie: via computer simulation, to be generated absent any consideration for future results (foresight).

    4. Intelligence is purely natural, depending on how one wishes to define “natural.” If you are defining “supernatural” as some spooky, nebulous concept, then there is no need to place intelligence in that category. Is your intelligence supernatural?

    “And if the nature of the “supernatural” is defined such that it can only be inferred by eliminating all natural possibilities, it is useless.”

    1. The “supernatural” that you are speaking of, as it is defined by those IDers who utilize the term, is merely that which controls the natural. If nature is defined as law+chance, then that to which law+chance is subservient is indeed “super” natural. That which can control law+chance for future goals and targets would be “super” natural according to the definition of the term we are working with. In this case “super” is only used to indicate a subservience as opposed to a “violation” of nature. But then again, as I’ve stated before: “However, I do see that definition to be artificial, even though it is useful, since “nature” can just as easily be defined as that which exists (is real) or that which exists within our universe.”

    I have explained this is greater depth in these three following comment links:




    2. There is really no need, IMO, to define “intelligence” as supernatural or to define it as merely “the negation of chance+law.” Intelligence is readily defined as the application of foresight and rationality; foresight being defined as “the ability to envision a future goal which does not yet exist and engineer a solution utilizing matter and energy to accomplish that goal.” We (engineers and scientists and all other people) do that every day.

    Therefore, intelligence exists and there is really no need, other than to show the “super” and “sub”-servient relationship between law+chance and intelligence, to define intelligence as supernatural. Furthermore, upon defining intelligence in terms of rationality and foresight, it becomes so much more than merely the “negation of law plus chance.”

  9. 9
    Robert Byers says:

    Okay. Fine,. It seems to make sense that naturalistic boundaries should be only used.
    I’m a biblical creationist and so reject this but for the sake of argument .
    They seem confident this helps censor I.D.
    It doesn’t.
    if the universe has within the complexity from a creator and the clear processes of a thinking being then naturalistic trails will lead to this fine.
    This is the point of I.D. the creation shows within the results of a thinking being. Not happenchance on everything.

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