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Back to Basics of ID: Induction, scientific reasoning and the design inference

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In the current VJT thread on 31 scientists who did not follow methodological naturalism, it has been noteworthy that objectors have studiously avoided addressing the basic warrant for the design inference.  Since this is absolutely pivotal but seems to be widely misunderstood or even dismissed without good reason, it seems useful to summarise this for consideration.

This having been done at comment 170 in the thread, it seems further useful to headline it and invite discussion:

_________________

>>F/N: It seems advisable to again go back to basics, here, inductive reasoning and why it has significance in scientific work; which then has implications for the design inference.

A good point to begin is IEP in its article on induction and deduction (which gives the modern view on induction . . . the old view of generalisation has been superseded):

A deductive argument is an argument that is intended by the arguer to be (deductively) valid, that is, to provide a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion provided that the argument’s premises (assumptions) are true. This point can be expressed also by saying that, in a deductive argument, the premises are intended to provide such strong support for the conclusion that, if the premises are true, then it would be impossible for the conclusion to be false. An argument in which the premises do succeed in guaranteeing the conclusion is called a (deductively) valid argument. If a valid argument has true premises, then the argument is said to be sound . . . .

An inductive argument is an argument that is intended by the arguer merely to establish or increase the probability of its conclusion. In an inductive argument, the premises are intended only to be so strong that, if they were true, then it would be unlikely that the conclusion is false. There is no standard term for a successful inductive argument. But its success or strength is a matter of degree, unlike with deductive arguments. A deductive argument is valid or else invalid.

The difference between the two kinds of arguments does not lie solely in the words used; it comes from the relationship the author or expositor of the argument takes there to be between the premises and the conclusion. If the author of the argument believes that the truth of the premises definitely establishes the truth of the conclusion (due to definition, logical entailment, logical structure, or mathematical necessity), then the argument is deductive. If the author of the argument does not think that the truth of the premises definitely establishes the truth of the conclusion, but nonetheless believes that their truth provides good reason to believe the conclusion true, then the argument is inductive . . .

In short, deductive arguments infer step by step conclusions through criteria of entailment relative to premises. Inductive arguments instead pivot on providing good reason for supporting a conclusion, even absent deductive validity multiplied by truth of premises leading to sound argument and logically certain conclusions.

Of course, the truthfulness of premises and how such are to be established is always an issue; especially as infinite logical regress of successive challenges to premises is futile and circularity of such a chain is also futile.

In part, we appeal to the fund of our experience and assert plausible claims. We may put up self-evident claims, on grounds that to deny X immediately, patently lands in absurdity so we go with the point that once we understand X we see it is so on pain of absurdity. (Think here on the consequences of distinct identity of say a bright red ball, A, on a table and the dichotomy of the world W = {A|~A}.)

Laws of logic in action as glorified common-sense first principles of right reason
Laws of logic in action as glorified common-sense first principles of right reason

But in many cases, we accept claims based on induction, e.g. ravens are black, per reliable empirically grounded generalisation. Where, obviously, we may modify should we encounter a white or green one, etc. That is, encountering some x such that x is non-black but also a Raven would disconfirm the generalisation that Ravens are black. (Famously, this happened with the black swans of Australia; for, Swans are white.) Likewise, it is not a certainty beyond possible doubt that there will be a sunrise on the morrow.

A related concept is abduction, where on a cluster of otherwise puzzling facts f1, f2 . . . fn, if E were asserted, these would all follow, so we regard the facts as [provisionally] providing support for the explanation. And as the body of facts widens, we seek the best of competing, empirically reliable, well-supported explanations. This is an inductive argument, and it is crucial to scientific, forensic, historical and many other contexts of reasoning.

In this context we may see that scientific investigations seek ever more accurate and comprehensive descriptions, set in the context of ever improved explanatory constructs . . . sometimes laws, sometimes models, sometimes theories; though such terms can be frustratingly loose in meanings. Such, should demonstrate empirical reliability through accurate predictive power, but we must recognise this is not establishment of truth beyond correction.

Abductive, inductive reasoning and the inherent provisionality of scientific theorising
Abductive, inductive reasoning and the inherent provisionality of scientific theorising

Such considerations provide crucial background for the design inference.

That inference, made in a scientific context, points to observable phenomena such as functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information, or digitally coded functionally specific information, or fine-tuning. On a base of trillions of observations, once we are beyond a reasonable threshold of complexity [500 – 1,000 bits works] we see that consistently such results from intelligent cause and not from blind chance and/or mechanical necessity. Analysis of search space challenges on the gamut of our observed cosmos or the solar system [our effective universe for chemical level atomic interactions], suggests strongly that the reason for that is, the search challenge is too high for blind forces, but intelligently directed configuration — aka, design — readily achieves such results.

The comments in this thread show many cases in point.

At root, then, the design inference is little more than expressed willingness to trust that base of observations and its analytical context. That is, we see here inference to a general or particular conclusion on tested, empirically reliable sign.

This applies to the world of life, and to features of the observed cosmos.

NWE has a useful summary of the general conclusion, i.e. design theory:

Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an “argument from ignorance”; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans).

ID may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution). Because of such conflicts, ID has generated considerable controversy.

Of course, apart from cosmological design thought tracing to the 1950’s and growing ever since, the modern school of thought began with Thaxton et al in the mid 80’s, then was extended across the 90’s by Dembski, Axe, Behe, Meyer and others. In the past 16 years, it has in fact created a growing body of published research. Often, in the teeth of determined opposition and outright censorship.

However, the core argument is readily accessible.

For instance, anyone who uses the Internet is familiar with coded text strings and the general causal source of such: intelligently directed configuration. Many are familiar with information processing machines that make such codes work. So, when we turn to the world of the living cell and observe similar codes and processing using molecular nanotechnology, the impression of design is overwhelming.

The design inference with a threshold of sufficient complexity that it is maximally unlikely that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity are credible as material cause, follows as a simple induction. And a strongly supported one, we have trillions of cases in point.

To test and overthrow it, it would be necessary to show that forces of blind chance and/or mechanical necessity have sufficed to create such FSCO/I per our observation.

That has never been done and in fact models for origin of cell based life and/or of major body plans have been put forth as reigning orthodoxy in spectacular violation of Newton’s common-sense rules of reasoning. Here, that we should only permit as explanatory constructs regarding things we see as traces of the remote past etc, that are shown to be capable of the like effects here and now. This prevents us from putting up metaphysical speculations without warrant that proposed causes are capable of relevant effects.

How this was done, per fair comment, was through the injection of an exclusionary rule, multiplied by a polarising prejudice.

That is, the suspicion of “the supernatural,” led to the imposition of methodological naturalism which permits only naturalistic causal explanations. So, even though blind chance and/or mechanical necessity have never been actually shown to have power to create FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits, that is the only class of explanation allowed. For, “god of the gaps” and “the supernatural” are strictly forbidden and suspect.

(And in context it is no coincidence that the timeline for this seems to be across C19, as VJT supports in the OP above.)

Only, ever since Plato in The Laws bk X, it has been well known that another way to dichotomise causal factors is natural [= blind chance and/or mechanical necessity] vs the ART-ificial [= intelligently directed configuration]. Where, we exemplify but do not exhaust possibilities for intelligent design.

So, we need to start over, from the basics.

KF

PS: Functionally specific, complex organisation can be reduced to information content by seeing configurations as strings of y/n questions in a description language that specifies parts, arrangements and coupling in a functional network. Orgel put this on the table back in 1973.>>

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Let us reflect, again, on basics. END

50 Replies to “Back to Basics of ID: Induction, scientific reasoning and the design inference

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Back to Basics of ID: Induction, scientific reasoning and the design inference

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    Timely OP. Thank you.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    D, let us see if the objectors will continue to studiously ignore fundamental issues; or, whether the first things will be pondered first. Never mind, not spectacular, this is the foundational issue on the merits. KF

  4. 4
    daveS says:

    KF,

    In the current VJT thread on 31 scientists who did not follow methodological naturalism, it has been noteworthy that objectors have studiously avoided addressing the basic warrant for the design inference.

    If I count as an objector, let me clarify that I have no problems with inductive or abductive reasoning. I also don’t think ID is necessarily unscientific. In fact, I can’t recall every making any general argments against ID per se. I do occasionally try and point out problems with what I believe are specific fallacious arguments for ID of course.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    good for you.

    Many are not in the same boat — some actually outright reject inductive reasoning. Which I think, for cause, is futile.

    Others seem to misunderstand how it works, and fail to see how a design inference could be an application of inductive reasoning, per empirically reliable sign.

    The onward issue is the imposition of evolutionary materialistic scientism on the definition of science and its methods. Where, the design inference is then often dismissed as violating science.

    The NSTA Board’s declaration of July 2000 gives an insight as to how this often comes about:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts [–> ideological imposition of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, aka natural-ISM; this is of course self-falsifying at the outset] . . . .

    [S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific [–> loaded word that cannot be properly backed up due to failure of demarcation arguments] methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> declaration of intent to ideologically censor education materials] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work [–> undermined by the question-begging ideological imposition and associated censorship] . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> question-begging false dichotomy, the proper contrast for empirical investigations is the natural (chance and/or necessity) vs the ART-ificial, through design . . . cf UD’s weak argument correctives 17 – 19, here] in the production of scientific knowledge.

    The OP is not setting up and knocking over a strawman.

    Here, there really be dragons.

    KF

  6. 6
    jdk says:

    kf:

    some actually outright reject inductive reasoning.

    Can you name someone? As the Ks Science Standards pointed out, a key principle of science is that it uses inductive reasoning.

    So please document your claim that “some actually outright reject inductive reasoning.”

  7. 7
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Many are not in the same boat — some actually outright reject inductive reasoning. Which I think, for cause, is futile.

    Really? I mean I know there are philosophical issues with it, but I wasn’t aware that anyone in this discussion was especially skeptical regarding induction. [I’m slow writing this, and see jdk is asking the same question first].

    As to the MN issue, I’m not a methodological naturalist, but of course I’m not a scientist either, so my opinion probably doesn’t mean much.

    Can we simply set aside the natural/supernatural distinction?

    IIRC, drawing a sharp line between natural and supernatural events can be problematic, so why not avoid the issue for as long as possible?

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, we have had several rather involved exchanges here at UD on the subject; some of these in the context of objections to design thought. I suggest, you will find discussions of the problem of induction etc online; on balance, in my view, the debates do not undermine the utility and significance of empirically grounded arguments for which key claims and facts support but do not prove conclusions. KF

  9. 9
    jdk says:

    So you can’t/won’t actually show me a place where someone “actually outright reject[s] inductive reasoning” as central to science – true?

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    First, we do not ever know who is lurking or may be inclined to triumphalistically pounce here at UD. Not to mention there is a penumbra of attack sites and there are those inclined to pick things up later on . . . often, on the projection those ignoramus IDiots don’t know about X, so a responsible post will need to cover key issues that are not obviously in play.

    Likewise, there are some in our audience who may well need a 101, back to basics; which also just happens to lay out the basis for the design inference.

    As to natural vs supernatural, as opposed to the natural [= blind chance and/or mechanical necessity] vs the ART-ificial [= intelligently directed cause, cf Plato The Laws Bk X], that is a key component of the imposition of methodological naturalism, god of gaps claims and the like.

    These too have to be addressed to deal with the issue at stake.

    Namely, the design inference is an inductive inference to intelligent cause as material factor, per empirically reliable signs and following abductive inference to the best current explanation. Which is a common pattern of reasoning of inductive character used in science and many other contexts.

    That needs to be recognised, understood, clarified, acknowledged.

    Too often, debate talking points directed against design thought pivot on misunderstanding, rejecting, distorting or denying this very basic and almost trivial point.

    But being almost trivial does not prevent being critically significant.

    KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, you will just have to take it — rejection of inductive reasoning as is typically understood — as a given of experience here at UD with Kantians and Popperians of various stripes and fellow travellers, with a dash or two of Hume etc. But remember, we live in an age where many reject self-evident first principles of right reason rooted in distinct identity to the point where that is in the UD weak argument correctives for cause. Maybe a site search will turn up some of the debates. But I suspect it will be far more profitable to go to discussions of inductive reasoning at Stanford Enc of Phil or Internet Enc of Phil (which is linked from the OP; try here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/conf-ind/ ). Even something so seemingly trivial as speaking of ravens and swans above is connected to that wider discussion. I add, look up the inductive turkey by Russell. But on balance, inductive reasoning is absolutely important, legitimate and reasonable. KF

  12. 12
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    But on balance, inductive reasoning is absolutely important, legitimate and reasonable

    Yes, I totally agree with that, and believe that it is a foundational principle (as stated in the 2006 KS Science Standards) of how science is understood to be practiced. So that is settled as far as I am concerned,

  13. 13
  14. 14
    J-Mac says:

    My favorite example of ID inference is this example that I actually dreamed about to a certain degree…

    I fly to an unknown planet and find a desert-like place. But in a sand-like pile I dig out something resembling a human-made-robot. Upon further examination I find out that the robot isn’t human made because the materials it is made of are not found on the Earth at all.

    What should be my conclusion about the origin of the robot-like-thingy?

    What would materialist say about it’s origins?

  15. 15
    daveS says:

    J-Mac,

    Can you find a picture online of the sort of robot you have in mind? And what materials are we talking about?

    Playing the role of the materialist, if the robot was something resembling C3PO, for example, I would conclude that it was manufactured (and therefore designed) somehow.

  16. 16
    harry says:

    daveS @15

    Playing the role of the materialist, if the robot was something resembling C3PO, for example, I would conclude that it was manufactured (and therefore designed) somehow.

    The physical dimension of life is self-replicating, digital-information-based nanotechnology the functional complexity of which is light years beyond our robotic technology. We don’t have self-replicating robots, but if we did, no rational person would assume such robots came about mindlessly and accidentally. Yet many irrationally assume that life, which is far more advanced technology than our robotics — and therefore far more unlikely than anything like our robotics to come about mindlessly and accidentally — came about just that way.

    They do this because they lack the relentless objectivity that true science requires, which allows them to irrationally cling to their materialism in spite of the overwhelming evidence provided by the discoveries of modern science that indicate that there are indeed non-material realities, including incorporeal intelligent agents.

    I listed these discoveries in a post as user harry on the Biologos web site here:
    https://discourse.biologos.org/t/why-science-uses-methodological-naturalism/5441/60

    One final thought:

    It is silly to insist that what one has no idea how to do intentionally could come about mindlessly and accidentally. It is not like we know how to build a crude version of life consisting of a tiny package that when planted in the ground develops into a tree-sized object that manufactures more tiny packages that will do the same thing. We are nowhere close to doing anything like that — we have no idea how to do any such thing — yet many insist that such a system could come about accidentally. Such assertions have no evidentiary basis whatsoever. They simply reflect what one wants to be true and do not have any foundation in science or even in reality.

  17. 17
    vjtorley says:

    jdk,

    FYI, Karl Popper wrote: “Induction, i.e. inference based on many observations, is a myth. It is neither a psychological fact, nor a fact of ordinary life, nor one of scientific procedure.” (Conjectures and Refutations, Routledge Classics, 1963, p. 53. ISBN 0-06-131376-9.)

    And philosopher Larry Laudan uses a pessimistic meta-inductive argument to reject the view that science is converging on truth, in his essay, “A Confutation of Convergent Realism”, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 48, No. 1, (Mar. 1981): 19-49.

  18. 18
    jdk says:

    That’s interesting. However, and I wonder if you agree, it seems to me that the fact that some philosophers have issues with induction doesn’t really negate the fact that for all practical purposes, science proceeds by using inductive reasoning based on multiple observations.

    Your thoughts?

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK,

    I suggest there is an underlying unstated premise of inductive reasoning, deeply rooted in our life-experience multiplied by the now half-remembered Judaeo-Christian heritage of our civilisation: the ordered, in part intelligible cosmos rather than a chaotic confusion.

    In such an ordered world, we expect to find predictable patterns rather than utterly unintelligible circumstances. Then, we can identify cause-effect bonds through studying cases in point of sufficient number to gain some confidence and infer, like causes like.

    Then, we explore, observe, experiment with circumstances and entities. We propose ordering principles and integrate into explanatory frameworks, which we test for empirical reliability.

    Not just in science, but in management, in the court room, in day to day common-sense living.

    In fact, the premise of partially intelligible order was one of the major contributions of Christendom. This was one of the key start-points for modern science.

    (Confidence in an ordered and in part intelligible world reflects the theological premise in Rom 1 and other texts and contexts, that the ordering of the world without and our inner worlds jointly point to the Creator. That is why so many pioneers of modern science spoke more or less in terms of our thinking God’s creative and providential thoughts after him when we set out to discover key laws of nature. Where the very term law shows the underlying context. What happened is that subsequently, once science had got going, these roots were in key parts forgotten or dismissed. It is unsurprising to then see that there is a loss of confidence in our ability to recognise ordering patterns.)

    Inductive logic then turns on the concept that we can recognise patterns; and, presumes that we can expect such in an orderly world. One, where even chance stochastic processes are lawlike, as statistical distributions tell us.

    This is one way in which observations support conclusions, and where predictive power is a sign of somehow approaching a genuine insight, or at least a reliable one.

    But there is never a guarantee of truth beyond dispute or doubt.

    Though, in many cases we find moral certainty such that we would be foolish to act other than on the confidence that a certain explanation is most credible, or that a pattern is indeed likely to be sufficiently general to trust, or that materially similar cases in certain respects will likely have similarities in other regards not actually examined so far. And yes, such means analogy is at the heart of inductive reasoning so it is unwise to simplistically dismiss it as fallacious. That something is hairy, warm-blooded and based on the quadrupedal vertebrate pattern makes it very likely that it has a four-chambered heart and associated respiratory and circulatory systems. But it is less likely that we can predict the precise pattern of reproduction, as mammals vary considerably.

    Which last had to be discovered, and when that first Platypus was seen, it was initially regarded as possibly a cooked up humbug. It forced a modification of our understanding of core characteristics of being a mammal.

    Contrast the concepts grue and bleen, by which Goodman highlighted certain challenges to inductive generalisation. Wiki gives a handy summary:

    An object is grue if and only if it is observed before t and is green, or else is not so observed and is blue. An object is bleen if and only if it is observed before t and is blue, or else is not so observed and is green . . . . imagine some arbitrary future time t, say January 1, 2026. For all green things we observe up to time t, such as emeralds and well-watered grass, both the predicates green and grue apply. Likewise for all blue things we observe up to time t, such as bluebirds or blue flowers, both the predicates blue and bleen apply. On January 2, 2026, however, emeralds and well-watered grass are now bleen and bluebirds or blue flowers are now grue. Clearly, the predicates grue and bleen are not the kinds of predicates we use in everyday life or in science, but the problem is that they apply in just the same way as the predicates green and blue up until some future time t. From our current perspective (i.e., before time t), how can we say which predicates are more projectable into the future: green and blue or grue and bleen?

    As a matter or argument absent the premise of order, we may well be challenged to distinguish blue and green from grue and bleen. Howbeit, the latter imply indiscernible chaos and arbitrariness; which we tend to reject absent positive evidence. Yes, we notice that there is an itch: what would be responsible for such a trigger-point and change? (We are firmly convinced, in general that changes and origin of things do not come about from nothing [= non-being], for no reason, without cause.)

    But, that is not empirically derived, it is due to an implicit metaphysical a priori.

    (And for the onlookers who are caught up in certain current forms of theistic evolutionism, this is not without relevance. Likewise for those caught up in evolutionary materialism and/or psycho-social programming.)

    Locke has some choice words for our generation, in the indroduction to his essay on human understanding, section 5:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything [–> or those things that we find it inconvenient to acknowledge, through being selectively hyperskeptical], because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.]

    the point is plain, our confidence in inductive reasoning points to an ordered world, raising the issue, whence cometh such lawlike order?

    KF

    PS: And yes, this is the exact opposite of methodological naturalism, which anachronistically imposes natural-ISM on the roots of modern science (as VJT highlighted in the previous post linked in the OP above).

  20. 20
    vjtorley says:

    jdk,

    The real problem with the use of induction in science is that it is selectively applied. Scientists are only willing to apply it when they are absolutely sure that the explanation they will come up with is a naturalistic one.

    Excerpt from Judge Jones’ ruling in the Kitzmiller trial (p. 80) on Behe’s argument that the irreducible complexity seen in living things points to their having had a Designer:

    Expert testimony revealed that this inductive argument is not scientific and as admitted by Professor Behe, can never be ruled out. (2:40 (Miller); 22:101 (Behe); 3:99 (Miller)). [Italics mine – VJT.]

    That’s the problem: that mindset.

    By the way, if you’re inclined to think that Behe was trounced at the trial (as many people believe), then I strongly suggest you read Douglas Axe’s latest book, Undeniable. I can tell you, it’s the last book you’ll ever have to read on ID.

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    There is no problem with the use of induction in science. The problem is with those who cannot accept the products of scientific reasoning where they are judged to be in conflict with their religious beliefs.

    Methodological naturalism has far and away been the most successful and productive approach to explaining the world in which we find ourselves and that is the case regardless of the religious beliefs – or lack of them – of individual scientists.

    The real concern that the movement to undermine naturalistic science – as is set out in the writings of Phillip Johnson and, more specifically, the Wedge document – is clearly intended to restore the influence and re-assert the authority of religion – more specifically Christianity – in Western society, which is feared to be in retreat before a science-based secularism. In other words, it is about political power not science.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    methodological naturalism, so-called, is an ideologically driven censoring constraint on inductive reasoning in science, which imposes blinkers on where the new magisterium allows science to go. That is, it is ideology-driven, not truth seeking. Sometimes, it is outright truth-suppressing [a big red warning-sign], especially when it is used to indoctrinate or lock out unwelcome insights.

    Not good news, if we are concerned that science seeks to accurately reflect the reality of the world.

    A capital frank illustration of the ideology and its effects — esp. on what is acknowledged as scientifically grounded knowledge — is found in the well-known remarks of Lewontin in his January 1997 NYRB review of Sagan’s last book:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads [==> as in, “we” have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge] we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] 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 [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] 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 [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    If you cannot see what is deeply wrong in the substance and attitudes here manifested frankly (they are often veiled for public consumption in other situations) then that too is part of the problem.

    Johnson et al sought to address the science and also to deal with the domination of a civilisation by an ideology, a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, which is destructively amoral to the point of inviting might makes right nihilism (a fact underscored by the past 100 years of democidal history and the in-progress global abortion holocaust of 50+ millions per year), and which is inherently self-falsifying by self-referential incoherence that undermines the credibility of the responsibly, rationally free mind.

    Also, I expect that the next time you make reference to the “Wedge Document”, you will show some responsible, substantial interaction with DI’s response to the conspiracist theorising and strawman attacks, here, and also with the import of what Lewontin so clearly inadvertently revealed.

    (And, no, as there is another current UD discussion thread in which such features, I request that there be no dragging of this thread off track. The issue of induction and of the core inductive warrant for the design inference is a big enough issue for this thread and it is one that has been studiously dodged by too many objectors to design theory in recent times. It also happens to be utterly decisive. If the design inference is a proper induction, and inductive reasoning is credible, we are well within our epistemic rights and rights to scientific opinions to be design thinkers in science. If the first fails, we are not. If the second fails, science as we know it collapses — as does a lot of other reasoning.)

    KF

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, on the strength of your recommendations, Axe’s book, Undeniable, just went on my to be read as priority list. And I see it is currently Amazon’s no 1 seller for Organic Evolution. KF

    PS: I see his key thesis as summarised:

    Axe argues that the key to understanding our origin is the “design intuition”—the innate belief held by all humans that tasks we would need knowledge to accomplish can only be accomplished by someone who has that knowledge.

    The design intuition would count as part of the background knowledge that on finding empirically reliable and analytically plausible signs, infers design of entities exhibiting such signs. (And yes, I am saying that cogent inductive reasoning on matters of significant complexity is inherently a creative process of insight which involves a lot of background knowledge [a knowledge base, which may be personal or collective], clarity and courage in thought, responsible balanced judgement and old fashioned common good sense. It is not mechanistic, and often uses powerful heuristics.)

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Axe presents Undeniable, here. KF

  25. 25
  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: IEP gives us more on induction:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/ded-ind/

    Inductive arguments can take very wide ranging forms. Inductive arguments might conclude with some claim about a group based only on information from a sample of that group. Other inductive arguments draw conclusions by appeal to evidence or authority or causal relationships [–> core to ID]. Here is a somewhat strong inductive argument based on authority:

    The police [–> presumably, from a credible force and after a sound investigation] said John committed the murder. So, John committed the murder.

    Here is an inductive argument based on [–> note, it does not present it . . . ] evidence:

    The witness [–> presumably, credible] said John committed the murder. So, John committed the murder.

    Here is a stronger inductive argument based on better [–> or more complete] evidence:

    Two independent witnesses [–> who presumably are mutually substantially corroborative, and sufficiently diverse to show lack of collusion] claimed John committed the murder. John’s fingerprints are the only ones on the murder weapon [–> where such evidence is fair on the face and comes from good chain of custody with no indicia of tampering with the investigation]. John confessed to the crime [–> presumably, a responsible person and not under undue duress by the authorities; cf. Stalin’s notorious show trials]. So, John committed the murder.

    This last argument is no doubt good enough for a jury to convict John, but none of these three arguments about John committing the murder is strong enough to be called valid. At least it is not valid in the technical sense of ‘deductively valid’. However, some lawyers will tell their juries that these are valid arguments, so we critical thinkers need to be on the alert as to how people around us are using the term.

    The concept that an inductive argument is comparable to a cumulative evidence and analysis based case in court and comes in degrees of strength up to moral certainty, is fruitful.

    It also blends over into the concept that a rhetorical proof

    [ –> the Gk term is pistis, not coincidentally, the term in the NT that is typically rendered “faith,” or “belief” etc in the Christian, salvific sense, with an extended, intensified meaning . . . cf here]

    can create well-warranted, properly firm conviction even in situations where a deductively valid demonstration on premises acceptable to all rational persons is not feasible.

    Thus also, we see the issue of selective hyperskepticism, on which self- or agenda- serving dismissals are made; not because adequate warrant is lacking (compared to materially similar matters) but because of resistance to the conclusion. This becomes manifest through inconsistency in standards of warrant demanded, such that were the dismissive criteria generally applied, there would be a sawing off of the branch on which we all must sit if we are to be reasonable and responsible thinkers. (Cf. here.)

    So, inductive reasoning is a central question for the range of issues connected to the broad context of the ID debates.

    KF

    PS: Let me add, that scientific facts of observation may be morally certain as true, but on the challenge of the inherent open-ended provisionality of explanatory inferences, no scientific theory can properly claim to be true beyond doubt or even beyond room for reasonable doubt; what such can properly claim is empirical reliability and high confidence in a zone of trustworthiness grounded in substantial testing.

  27. 27
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    In such an ordered world, we expect to find predictable patterns rather than utterly unintelligible circumstances. Then, we can identify cause-effect bonds through studying cases in point of sufficient number to gain some confidence and infer, like causes like.

    Then, we explore, observe, experiment with circumstances and entities. We propose ordering principles and integrate into explanatory frameworks, which we test for empirical reliability. …

    Inductive logic then turns on the concept that we can recognise patterns; and, presumes that we can expect such in an orderly world. One, where even chance stochastic processes are lawlike, as statistical distributions tell us.

    This is one way in which observations support conclusions, and where predictive power is a sign of somehow approaching a genuine insight, or at least a reliable one.

    But there is never a guarantee of truth beyond dispute or doubt. …

    PS: Let me add, that scientific facts of observation may be morally certain as true, but on the challenge of the inherent open-ended provisionality of explanatory inferences, no scientific theory can properly claim to be true beyond doubt or even beyond room for reasonable doubt; what such can properly claim is empirical reliability and high confidence in a zone of trustworthiness grounded in substantial testing.

    Yes, those are all true things about our world and about the scientific process

    vjt writes,

    The real problem with the use of induction in science is that it is selectively applied. Scientists are only willing to apply it when they are absolutely sure that the explanation they will come up with is a naturalistic one.

    The design inference is an inductive inference – this is true. What kf and vjt are concerned about, as stated here by vjt, is not the use of induction itself, but the fact that the mainstream world of science has not considered the arguments for design, as offered by the ID movement, very compelling at all, for various reasons concerning, among other things, lack of testable specificity.

    The big issue, in my opinion, is the difference between what we can learn, through science, about how the various parts of nature work and interact with each other, and metaphysical interpretations of what might underlie and/or have caused the universe to be what they are.

    As Josh Swamidass said in the 31 scientists thread,

    It is important to distinguish between statements made by scientists and statements made by science. There is a very big difference between philosophizing about design, final causes and God, and including this as the scientific conclusion of a body of empirical study. …

    I think an important distinction needs to be made between “science-engaged philosophy” and “arguments within science”. …

    Science-engaged philosophy has never been required to follow the rules of science. It has never been subject to MN. Scientists regularly engage in it, even in the current moment. Sometimes (usually?) our forays into philosophy are flawed (just like most philosopher’s forays into science are flawed). Ultimately, this should be subject to the rules of philosophy.

    I agree with these comments.

    I think that the ID movement’s attempt to argue that design, in the very vague way it is presented, is a proper scientific conclusion is misguided. What the ID movement in general really wants to do is convince people materialism (a metaphysical position) is wrong so as to open the door to people accepting the reality of God, and then to let religious discussion refine that belief. (Philip Johnson was quite explicit about this.)

    In my opinion, it would be much more effective to work directly on the metaphysical arguments than it is to try to claim there is scientific validation for design. The somewhat ironic thing is that ID wants to claim that scientific and material explanations are not the only valid types of belief and yet wants to support that claim by making it scientifically validated: in essence, accepting the primacy of scientific knowledge as the means to challenge that primacy.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, notice, how you have still not actually substantially addressed the empirically grounded inductive basis for the design inference? KF

  29. 29
    jdk says:

    Yes, kf, I have noticed that. I have very clearly said that my interest is in the nature of science, including the distinction between scientific and metaphysical knowledge and beliefs.

    I have no intention of getting involved in discussing the merits and/or flaws of the design inference itself. I also have pointed out some of the reasons why discussing things with you in particular (this is an inductive conclusion) is not a profitable use of my time.

  30. 30
    conceptualinertia says:

    I think that Hume’s criticism of inductive reasoning is valid and therefore inductive reasoning lacks a purely logical basis.

    This doesn’t mean that I think inductive reasoning should not be used or is “bad” but rather that the use of inductive reasoning (in science and any other field) requires a small leap of faith that there are natural laws in the universe and patterns that can be discovered. Almost all of human endeavor has been based on the faith that inductive reasoning is useful, so although we can’t prove its validity, to deny it is to deny the ability to discover almost anything.

  31. 31
    conceptualinertia says:

    jdk,

    While I think that the design inference can be tested (at least theoretically), if you acknowledge inductive reasoning as valid, it shouldn’t need to be testable to be valid.

    The idea of falsifiability as the sine qua non of science comes from Popper’s attempt to make science useful despite not believing in inductive reasoning. Because there may not be any patterns at all, the best thing we can say is that if there are patterns this theory doesn’t fit the patterns. Nothing can ever be proven true, only proven false.

    If Popper is wrong, however, then patterns can be inductively discovered without being falsifiable.

  32. 32
    jdk says:

    Interesting point, ci. In respect to everyday science, though, if you look at induction as a practical tool, despite whatever philosophical issues it might have, then also expecting inductively-generated hypotheses to be testable is a reasonable, and pretty universal, expectation of scientists, I think.

  33. 33

    jdk,

    I think that the ID movement’s attempt to argue that design, in the very vague way it is presented, is a proper scientific conclusion is misguided.

    The problem for you is that ID has not presented itself in a vague way. The observations supporting the design inference are as measurable as any other observation in science. Of course, you’ve sheepishly protected yourself in saying these things by simultaneously refusing to engage any ID arguments. Thus your opinions are intellectually meaningless because they are not subject to scrutiny. You demonstrate the opposite of good reasoning.

    What the ID movement in general really wants to do is convince people materialism (a metaphysical position) is wrong so as to open the door to people accepting the reality of God, and then to let religious discussion refine that belief.

    Need I remind you that these loaded statements make no difference to scientific reasoning? It is a point you’ve already conceded. Let us spin your positioning statements around, and say “what the materialist movement in general really wants to do is convince people religion (a metaphysical position) is wrong so as to open the door to people accepting the reality of atheism”. There is certainly as much cultural evidence for this claim as any other. Tell us, how many materialists forums have you been on to discuss their misguided ideological designs on science? I suspect none. Perhaps you can link to one.

  34. 34
    bill cole says:

    UB
    The design inference is perfectly logical reasoning. in the same way universal common descent is perfect logical reasoning. Inference based on observation of evidence. I think at this point they are the competing inferences of how diversity was created on earth.

    In both cases we are missing a mechanism that can be validated by testing.

    There are many mechanism the evolution proposes ( SNP’s, gene copy, HGT,etc.) the problem is that none of these gives us a clue how sequences (genetic information) is formed.

    The design argument does not pose a mechanism but infers design because we know from experience that intelligence (design capability) is required to create a sequence.

    We can generate sequences today with the human mind but don’t have evidence that a mind existed 3 plus billion years ago. A beautiful mystery 🙂

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, pardon but people are not one-dimensional. In its own right, I care a lot about logic and linked issues. I deeply value science for itself, and am concerned to get it right i/l/o issues of inductive reasoning. I am concerned that education in science not be turned into indoctrination, including materialistic indoctrination. I am also concerned that public policy in our civilisation has taken some seriously wrong turns (especially geostrategically). All are connected but each can quite properly be looked at separately, and here the focal issue therefore is inductive reasoning and its link to science and the design inference. Which can and should be looked at on its own merits. And that, I will continue to do in this thread, as I laid out in its OP. So, understand that the consistent refusal to engage the focal issue is sending a message; one that actually inadvertently supports the strength of that inference as a matter of inductive reasoning, as given the intensity of motivation of ever so many objectors, if this were a readily rebutted and dismissed point, that would be all over the Internet and would be readily linked. Studious avoidance therefore speaks, speaks volumes. KF

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    BC, actually, evidence of the world of life based on molecular nanotech with codes etc may well point to mind 3 BYA and for that matter fine tuning similarly points to mind 13.8 BYA, as these are points that seem to be marked by design. Which tends to be the product of the self-moved, actuating mind. In short I am inferring design on reliable empirical sign of causal process, then associating design with the known source of such, mind. KF

  37. 37
    conceptualinertia says:

    jdk,

    Whether or not a theory needs to be testable (presuming the validity of inductive reasoning) should depend on the nature of the subject being theorized about. Theories about the early universe, for example, will never be able to be tested directly. Instead, proxies or models must be used. It is just not feasible to require the same type of testing for string theory as you would for electo-magnetic theory.

    So too with a design inference. We can’t practically test whether there was a grand designer of all living beings but we can test other relevant aspects of design theory. For example (and these are off the top of my head):

    1. We can test whether it is possible to design living animals. If scientists in the near future can design new species from raw cells or design life from raw building blocks, that would show that life is something that can be designed.

    2. We can test whether humans can reliably infer design. We can set up a natural selection computer model and let it run for a while and then compare the outcomes to designed objects by artists using similar software and see if subjects (double-blind of course) can pick out the designed pictures from the random pictures.
    Alternatively we could run the same type of test with natural rock formations versus carved statues.

    I am sure other people have suggested these, or something like these, before.

  38. 38
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    In my opinion, it would be much more effective to work directly on the metaphysical arguments than it is to try to claim there is scientific validation for design. The somewhat ironic thing is that ID wants to claim that scientific and material explanations are not the only valid types of belief and yet wants to support that claim by making it scientifically validated: in essence, accepting the primacy of scientific knowledge as the means to challenge that primacy.

    Metaphysical materialism has long since been refuted. In response the materialists decided to change the debate by making unwarranted scientific claims, saying, in effect, “Sorry but your metaphysical/logical arguments are outdated because we now have empirical evidence that refutes them.”

    Further, they declared, again falsely, that scientific knowledge is the only legitimate knowledge. So some of us decided to run it back the same way it came. Show that Darwinism is false and that the materialism that prompted it is also false. Of course, we can easily refute materialism with logic and reason, but that reintroduces the false idea that metaphysical knowledge is not real knowledge.

    I have refuted materialistic arguments many times, but the materialists don’t understand the refutation because they only recognize scientific knowledge. So they mistakenly ask me to provide “empirical evidence” for my metaphysical arguments. In some cases, then, it is easier to just work with the ignorance and use ID arguments.

  39. 39
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    and yet you still go on and on about your determinist explanation of philosophy.

  40. 40
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    pray tell us who the “other” or “god”, i’m not sure what to call it. Tell me how that individual (because it must be an individual, correct?) made anything?

  41. 41
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    and please spare me your so called “proof of an interactive god”.

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:

    evnfrdrcksn,

    FYI, this thread is first a discussion about inductive logic (the logic of much of everyday life and most real world knowledge, the logic of supported, confidently reliable but not utterly certain, conclusions).

    This involves the issues of moral certainty and risky action on important matters that cannot be delayed on the fantasy of certainty beyond doubt. Thus, too, of judgement and wise insight, involving prudence, responsibility and reasoning by a mind free to weigh up a case and draw sensible conclusions.

    In this context, Simon Greenleaf, in his opening remarks in his famed treatise on Evidence, gives us today’s point to ponder:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. [–> that is, his focus is on the logic of good support for in principle uncertain conclusions, i.e. in the modern sense, inductive logic and reasoning in real world, momentous contexts with potentially serious consequences.]

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [–> the issue of warrant to moral certainty, beyond reasonable doubt; and the contrasted absurdity of selective hyperskepticism.]

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. [–> moral certainty standard, and this is for the proverbial man in the Clapham bus stop, not some clever determined advocate or skeptic motivated not to see or assent to what is warranted.]

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved. [–> pistis enters; we might as well learn the underlying classical Greek word that addresses the three levers of persuasion, pathos- ethos- logos and its extension to address worldview level warranted faith-commitment and confident trust on good grounding, through the impact of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in C1 as was energised by the 500 key witnesses.]

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [–> in British usage, the man in the Clapham bus stop], beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal [–> and responsible] test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [= definition of moral certainty as a balanced unprejudiced judgement beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Obviously, i/l/o wider concerns, while scientific facts as actually observed may meet this standard, scientific explanatory frameworks such as hypotheses, models, laws and theories cannot as they are necessarily provisional and in many cases have had to be materially modified, substantially re-interpreted to the point of implied modification, or outright replaced; so a modicum of prudent caution is warranted in suc contexts — explanatory frameworks are empirically reliable so far on various tests, not utterly certain. ] [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

    Thus, by recent extension, this thread also addresses pistis, the grounding of well-founded confident conviction i/l/o the means of persuasion; often rendered in English as rhetorical proof. (Which also builds out into worldview foundations [with their unproved and often unprovable first plausibles] and confidence, thus trust and faith in its proper sense.)

    Secondly, this thread is a discussion about science as a domain in which inductive reasoning (and especially inference to the best current explanation, often, causal) is a dominant mode of reasoning. Thus, the inherently open-ended, provisional and progressive nature of scientific explanations — hypotheses, laws, models, theories and the like. For, we are too often woefully ignorant about the undergirding logic of science, its strengths and limitations.

    In that grand context, this thread is about the inference to design on seeing tested reliable signs of design as key causal factor; as an application of scientific, inductive reasoning to the issues of origins, which are inherently less testable and more controversial than are matters of the day to day operations of the world today, which we may experiment upon or at the least, directly observe.

    Where, the warrant for such design inferences rests on:

    a: a trillion member observational base, regarding

    b: the directly and readily observable cause of functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I for short] and also of

    c: function of systems exhibiting fine-tuned co-adaptation of parts that achieves an operating point in a narrow zone of function [or, isolated island of function] in a large configuration space of possible states, which are overwhelmingly non-functional. These,

    d: are readily and reliably observed to result from design [= intelligently, purposefully directed configuration], and

    e: are equally reliably not seen to result from blind chance and mechanical necessity. Thus,

    f: per inductive inference on signs, these and similar observable characteristics can be regarded as empirically reliable signs of design. Therefore,

    g: the design inference is a confident, well grounded inference on reliable signs to the signified credible cause, intelligently directed configuration.

    This is what is on the table.

    Not, debates about God [such have been engaged in many UD threads, check under the list of categories for many such discussions under topics such as atheism, science, worldviews and society, darwinist debate tactics, natural theology and the like]. Nor, debates about socio-cultural agendas and motive mongering, as atheism and selective skepticism are just as much motives as would be theism; dressing the former up in a lab coat does not change this.

    The point is quite simple: science is a major application of inductive reasoning, so it is well worth the while to explore this type of reasoning as a matter of logic and first principles of right reason. In that context, we are in a better place to understand the design inference on tested and reliable sign, as a particular scientific issue.

    Note, inference to design as process, not to candidate agents or forces to be designers. That is a further inductive exercise, but first things are first. (As a hint, from Thaxton et al on, it has been acknowledged as a matter of induction that design of cell based life does not by itself implicate a designer within or beyond the cosmos: I have put this in terms of a molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond Venter et al being a sufficient causal explanation for what we see. However, even through a multiverse speculation, cosmological fine-tuning does point to design beyond the observed cosmos and raises questions about the roots of reality in a sufficiently capable necessary being. Where, the cosmos includes us as responsibly, rationally free embodied, minded, contingent beings.)

    And, FYI, to be able to reason, judge and prudently conclude, we must be responsibly, reasonable and profoundly free to follow the lines of argument and weight of evidence on their own merits. This is the utter opposite of determinism and/or gigo-constrained blindly mechanical processing, and/or equally blind chance. (And yes, that is already a reason to reject evolutionary materialist scientism as inherently self-falsifying.)

    KF

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    CI:

    Whether or not a theory needs to be testable (presuming the validity of inductive reasoning) should depend on the nature of the subject being theorized about. Theories about the early universe, for example, will never be able to be tested directly. Instead, proxies or models must be used. It is just not feasible to require the same type of testing for string theory as you would for electo-magnetic theory.

    Well put, sobering point.

    The idea of falsifiability as the sine qua non of science comes from Popper’s attempt to make science useful despite not believing in inductive reasoning. Because there may not be any patterns at all, the best thing we can say is that if there are patterns this theory doesn’t fit the patterns. Nothing can ever be proven true, only proven false.

    If Popper is wrong, however, then patterns can be inductively discovered without being falsifiable.

    Care to elaborate?

    KF

  44. 44
    conceptualinertia says:

    KF,

    Popper, like many before him, was bothered by Hume’s critique of inductive reasoning. If Hume was right, and inductive reasoning was irrational, then the entire endeavor of science was pointless. So Popper set out to devise a philosophy of science that could both acknowledge Hume’s critique as correct but still value science as an endeavor.

    Hume had argued that all inductive reasoning was invalid because the only reason to presume that extrapolating from the observed to the unobserved was valid is because it has been observed to work in the past. This, however, cannot serve as a valid rationale for inductive reasoning because future such extrapolations haven’t yet been observed. In other words, inductive reasoning was circular.

    Popper’s solution was the idea of “falsifiability.” He argued that Hume was correct and we could never positively demonstrate any theory to be true (after all the result of any experiment may turn out differently the next time we try it). However, we could demonstrate theories to be false. A theory, in the Humian-Popperian world is a proposed pattern that the proponent claims exists. If, upon testing, the pattern doesn’t hold, then we know the theory to be false. Because falsity is the only thing that could ever be demonstrated Popper argued that falsifying things was the only possible purpose of the scientific endeavor.

    Popper therefore proclaimed that any theory that could not be shown to be false (aka falsifiable), was pointless nonsense and not really science at all.

    However, if Popper and Hume were wrong and inductive reasoning was valid, then a theory that properly follows the rules of induction can be valid even if it can’t be proven wrong.

  45. 45
    Dionisio says:

    kairosfocus @42

    […] to be able to reason, judge and prudently conclude, we must be responsibly, reasonable and profoundly free to follow the lines of argument and weight of evidence on their own merits.

    Yes, very well stated.

    Open-mindedness, thinking out of human-imposed boxes which are based on unproven speculative assumptions, trying to understand (not necessarily agree) the discussed issues and the different presented perspectives, paying careful attention to the contextual meaning of words.
    It’s easy to tell a genuine interlocutor from a troll by what they write but specially by the way they answer simple ‘yes’/’no’ questions.
    Trolls belong in their natural habitat in the beautiful Norwegian fjords. There they are very popular and many tourists eagerly look for them. Outside that region they are not welcome. 🙂
    As you well stated, this is a serious discussion thread.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    CI,

    You have put some key issues on the table that are well worth following up. Where, in 19 above, I noted:

    I suggest there is an underlying unstated premise of inductive reasoning, deeply rooted in our life-experience multiplied by the now half-remembered Judaeo-Christian heritage of our civilisation: the ordered, in part intelligible cosmos rather than a chaotic confusion.

    In such an ordered world, we expect to find predictable patterns rather than utterly unintelligible circumstances. Then, we can identify cause-effect bonds through studying cases in point of sufficient number to gain some confidence and infer, like causes like.

    Then, we explore, observe, experiment with circumstances and entities. We propose ordering principles and integrate into explanatory frameworks, which we test for empirical reliability.

    Not just in science, but in management, in the court room, in day to day common-sense living.

    In fact, the premise of partially intelligible order was one of the major contributions of Christendom. This was one of the key start-points for modern science.

    (Confidence in an ordered and in part intelligible world reflects the theological premise in Rom 1 and other texts and contexts, that the ordering of the world without and our inner worlds jointly point to the Creator. That is why so many pioneers of modern science spoke more or less in terms of our thinking God’s creative and providential thoughts after him when we set out to discover key laws of nature. Where the very term law shows the underlying context. What happened is that subsequently, once science had got going, these roots were in key parts forgotten or dismissed. It is unsurprising to then see that there is a loss of confidence in our ability to recognise ordering patterns.)

    Inductive logic then turns on the concept that we can recognise patterns; and, presumes that we can expect such in an orderly world. One, where even chance stochastic processes are lawlike, as statistical distributions tell us.

    This is one way in which observations support conclusions, and where predictive power is a sign of somehow approaching a genuine insight, or at least a reliable one.

    But there is never a guarantee of truth beyond dispute or doubt.

    I think that history is pivotal in seeing where Hume went to, thus Popper [who has been deeply influential through his falsificationism]. For, Hume doubted cause and in effect and also argued, how does one ground induction — deductively or inductively? For instance, in simplified terms, a principle of uniformity in the world is not a fact of direct observation nor a logical necessity of premises evident to all and it cannot be grounded in an inductive leap without being somehow circular. Similarly, for claimed patterns of cause and effect. Thus we see the worldview level issues surfacing in the characteristic Western context of how do/can we know to certainty. Thence, skeptical doubt and dismissal of what cannot make the grade.

    Popper comes in in this context, but it is convenient to first mention Russell’s inductive turkey.

    This bird, a rather bright member of that species, formed the conclusion on observation, that it was a law of nature that food would be available outside the farm kitchen door 9:00 am each morning. Alas, one fine day, it was Christmas Eve and the turkey (having shown up promptly at 9:00 am) was duly prepared for Christmas dinner. (That is, inductive generalisations face the issue — in various guises — of the rare exception or the wider pattern that has not yet kicked in.)

    Now, Popper’s basic point pivots on an epistemological asymmetry; no finite number of confirmatory observations suffices to remove possibility of error or limitation from a proposed law of but just one good counter-observation is in principle enough to knock it out. So, he proposed a demarcation line between the scientific and the not-scientific (esp. the pseudo-scientific), openness to falsification and “severe” testing.

    This is first somewhat naive, as say Lakatos highlighted.

    As, no theory T stands alone, it has a belt of auxiliary hypotheses A (say about how observational instruments work, etc) that stand with it. So what observations may falsify is the cluster T + A, and if there is a consensus of confidence in T, A will act as protective armour belt. Lakatos’ point was that the actual unit of evaluation is the research programme, and that it is when there is a sufficient track record of deterioration that there will be a change to a new programme. Where, he highlighted that theories are born, live and die “refuted,” i.e. with clusters of unexplained observations that seem incompatible with them, but which are targets of research. In this context, it is repeated predictive power and ability to solve anomalies by explaining puzzles that lends credibility to theories.

    So, we see that science becomes a very messy, very human practice, not an idealised logic.

    This forces a different look at corroboration, with which Popper had a distinctly ambivalent relationship. For even after the strictures as noted, in the end we see emerging from Popper’s mind a subtle confidence in a body of theories and general scientific knowledge that has survived so far as the fittest. (For, after all, Popper stood up as a champion of science over against pseudo-science.)

    However, we must acknowledge that demarcation criteria fail: one reason for Feyerabend’s “anything goes” summary statement is that on exploring the body of successful scientific investigations across time and comparing other fields of endeavour, we will see that there is no one size fits all and only science definition of science and its methods as providing reliable empirically grounded known truth about our world.

    Instead, we are back at the messy world of inductive reasoning, pistis (“good” rhetorical proof that warrants conviction and confident action as opposed to utter certainty) and provisionality that was highlighted from Simon Greenleaf in 42 above:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. [–> that is, his focus is on the logic of good support for in principle uncertain conclusions, i.e. in the modern sense, inductive logic and reasoning in real world, momentous contexts with potentially serious consequences.]

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [–> the issue of warrant to moral certainty, beyond reasonable doubt; and the contrasted absurdity of selective hyperskepticism.]

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. [–> moral certainty standard, and this is for the proverbial man in the Clapham bus stop, not some clever determined advocate or skeptic motivated not to see or assent to what is warranted.]

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved. [–> pistis enters; we might as well learn the underlying classical Greek word that addresses the three levers of persuasion, pathos- ethos- logos and its extension to address worldview level warranted faith-commitment and confident trust on good grounding, through the impact of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in C1 as was energised by the 500 key witnesses.]

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [–> in British usage, the man in the Clapham bus stop], beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal [–> and responsible] test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [= definition of moral certainty as a balanced unprejudiced judgement beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Obviously, i/l/o wider concerns, while scientific facts as actually observed may meet this standard, scientific explanatory frameworks such as hypotheses, models, laws and theories cannot as they are necessarily provisional and in many cases have had to be materially modified, substantially re-interpreted to the point of implied modification, or outright replaced; so a modicum of prudent caution is warranted in such contexts — explanatory frameworks are empirically reliable so far on various tests, not utterly certain. ] [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

    A point of subtle, hard-won balance.

    Hilary Putnam is also deeply relevant, in an article on “The ‘Corroboration’ of Theories.” There, we may read:

    It is a remarkable fact about Popper’s book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery that it contains but a half-dozen brief references to the application of scientific theories and laws; and then all that is said is that application is yet another test of the laws. ‘My view is that … the theorist is interested in explanations as such, that is to say, in testable explanatory theories: applications and predictions interest him only for theoretical reasons—because they may be used as tests of theories’ (Logic of Scientific Discovery, p. 59).

    When a scientist accepts a law, he is recommending to other men that they rely on it—rely on it, often, in practical contexts. Only by wrenching science altogether out of the context in which it really arises—the context of men trying to change and control the world—can Popper even put forward his peculiar view on induction. Ideas are not just ideas; they are guides to action. Our notions of ‘knowledge’, ‘probability’, ‘certainty’, etc., are all linked to and frequently used in contexts in which action is at issue: may I confidently rely upon a certain idea? Shall I rely upon it tentatively, with a certain caution? Is it neccssary to check on it?

    If ‘this law is highly corroborated’, ‘this law is scientifically accepted’, and like locutions merely meant ‘this law has withstood severe tests’—and there were no suggestion at all that a law which has to withstood severe tests is likely to withstand further tests, such as the tests involved in an application or attempted application, then Popper would be right; but then science would be a wholly unimportant activity. It would be practically unimportant, because scientists would never tell us that any law or theory is safe to rely upon for practical purposes; and it would be unimportant for the purpose of understanding, since on Popper’s view, scientists never tell us that any law or theory is true or even probable . . . .

    Since the application of scientific laws does involve the anticipation of future successes, Popper is not right in maintaining that induction is unnecessary. Even if scientists do not inductively anticipate the future (and, of course, they do), men who apply scientific laws and theories do so. And ‘don’t make inductions’ is hardly reason-able advice to give these men.

    In short, we do need to build sufficient confidence in laws, models and theories — specifically, that they are empirically reliable in relevant contexts — that we may put them to practical work; including in further scientific investigations, as science itself is cumulative. So, induction is inevitable and necessary; to give it short shrift is to saw off the branch on which we all must sit. Hume is wrong, and those who followed him are wrong also.

    We can boil this down: induction is the logic of faith.

    That is, it sets the framework of investigation by postulating that we live in an orderly, partially intelligible world. One in which for serious purposes we may by investigation discern reliable patterns, whatever provisos about future correction or rare events due to broader patterns may obtain, and the like. (And BTW, this includes the point that theists have a right to the view that the God of order may reserve the right to act beyond the usual course of the world for good reasons of his own, i.e. miraculously. Where the exceptional nature of miracles is itself premised on there being a usual order. Or else we would have such a confusing chaos of unpredictability that nothing would be EXTRA-ordinary and significant by that extra-ordinariness.)

    In short, inductive reasoning cannot be severed from worldview frameworks and set up on its own.

    And, we face the issue of grounding confidence in a world that is orderly.

    Who or what made and enforces such order?

    KF

  47. 47

    Hi bill cole,

    I apologize, I missed your comment earlier. Not sure how that happened. 🙂

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: For reference it is useful to further clip from the distinguished American philosopher, Hilary Putnam, regarding Popper’s corroboration and inductive reasoning:

    . . . most readers of Popper read his account of corroboration as an account of something like the verification of theories, in spite of his protests. In this sense, Popper has, contre lui [ ~ against his intent] a theory of induction . . . .

    Standard ‘inductivist’ accounts of the confirmation’ of scientific theories go somewhat like this: Theory implies prediction (basic sentence, or observation sentence); if predic-tion is false, theory is falsified; if sufficiently many predictions are true, theory is confirmed. For all his attack on inductivism, Popper’s schema is not so different: Theory implies prediction (basic sentence); if prediction is false, theory is falsified; if sufficiently many predictions are true, and certain further conditions are fulfilled, theory is highly corroborated.

    Moreover, this reading of Popper does have certain support. Popper does say that the ‘surviving theory’ is accepted—his account is, therefore, an account of the logic of accepting theories [–> tantamount to inductive support and confident trust in results deemed reliable enough to put to serious work] . . .

    Yes, Popper points to the quasi-infinite set of possible theories and declares that the best is the most improbable, most subject to severe testing that survives thus far. But the point is, such theories are routinely seen as empirically reliable and are put to work, being trusted to be “good enough for government work.”

    Of course, when Popperians here at UD were presented with Putnam’s point, they vigorously objected along such lines. But, in the end, we see that it is hard to shake off the force of Putnam’s point, once we accept that the world of modern technology stands on a scientific foundation.

    There being a key proviso: many actually observed — not inferred — facts may indeed be morally certain, such as our local gravity field strength being 9.8 N/kg; however theoretical frameworks for those facts are not facts but explanations, models of some effectiveness. The explanations are thus empirically reliable to date, coherent and elegantly simple and balanced, they are not demonstrated as true beyond reasonable doubt. That, is not in the gift of science.

    So, we are back to inductive reasoning as in effect the logic of prudent judgement and well-founded conviction rather than utter certainty. In blunter terms, the logic of faith, rooted in commitments to first plausibles.

    Where, it is not to be overlooked that the modern sciences were rooted in the prior conviction of an orderly world created and sustained by its Creator, through the word of his power. Such that, scientists as we would now term them, were convinced that they sought to think God’s creative and world-sustaining thoughts after him.

    Thus, we see serious worldview issues lurking.

    And, we find that there are deep issues lurking behind controversies over inductive logic.

    Issues that will colour our onward reflections on scientific inductions and particularly the design inference on tested, reliable signs.

    For just one instance, if something, A, is, or comes to be, is there a sufficient reason for that to be the case? Such as, A is a possible, contingent being causally dependent on other things?

    Or, that A may be a possible and credibly necessary being, which is inextricably connected to the framework for a world existing such that for a world to be actual, A must be.

    And more.

    KF

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: In a day where lab coat clad evolutionary materialist scientism and its fellow travellers are dominant in institutions and in readily accessible messages/resources, it is important for us to note on the nature and failure of that dominance.

    Lewontin gives us a now classic case in point, which should be borne in mind at all times on origins issues:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads [==> as in, “we” have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge] we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] 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 [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] 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 [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    We may likewise note the US National Science Teachers’ Association [NSTA] in a notorious July 2000 Board declaration:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts [–> ideological imposition of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, aka natural-ISM; this is of course >self-falsifying at the outset] . . . .

    [S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific [–> loaded word that cannot be properly backed up due to failure of demarcation arguments] methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> declaration of intent to ideologically censor education materials] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work [–> undermined by the question-begging ideological imposition and associated censorship] . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> question-begging false dichotomy, the proper contrast for empirical investigations is the natural (chance and/or necessity) vs the ART-ificial, through design . . . cf UD’s weak argument correctives 17 – 19, here] in the production of scientific knowledge.

    This background becomes vital, to address the use of the epithetical steamroller, “pseudoscience,” to try to crush overt dissent from the conventional wisdom of the evolutionary materialist party line.

    In that context, ID thinker Philip Johnson’s reply to Lewontin in First Things, Nov 1997, is a crucial first step:

    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.

    [–> notice, the power of an undisclosed, question-begging, controlling assumption . . . often put up as if it were a mere reasonable methodological constraint; emphasis added. Let us note how Rational Wiki, so-called, presents it:

    “Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific “dead ends” and God of the gaps-type hypotheses.”

    Of course, this ideological imposition on science that subverts it from freely seeking the empirically, observationally anchored truth about our world pivots on the deception of side-stepping the obvious fact since Plato in The Laws Bk X, that there is a second, readily empirically testable and observable alternative to “natural vs [the suspect] supernatural.” Namely, blind chance and/or mechanical necessity [= the natural] vs the ART-ificial, the latter acting by evident intelligently directed configuration.

    And as for the god of the gaps canard, the issue is, inference to best explanation across competing live option candidates. If chance and necessity is a candidate, so is intelligence acting by art through design. And it is not an appeal to ever diminishing ignorance to point out that design, rooted in intelligent action, routinely configures systems exhibiting functionally specific, often fine tuned complex organisation and associated information. Nor, that it is the only observed cause of such, nor that the search challenge of our observed cosmos makes it maximally implausible that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity can account for such.]

    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 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 [–> actually, ideology] from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    KF

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: The next “logical” question is how inductive reasoning (modern sense) applies to scientific theories and — HT Lakatos and Kuhn, Feyerabend and Putnam — research programmes.

    First, we need to examine the structure of scientific predictions, where:

    we have theory T + auxiliary hypotheses (and “calibration”) about observation and required instruments etc AI + auxiliary statements framing and modelling initial, intervening and boundary conditions, AM, to yield predicted or explained observations, P/E:

    T + AI + AM –> P/E

    We compare observations, O (with AI again acting), to yield explanatory gap, G:

    P/E – (O + AI) –> G

    In an ideally successful or “progressive” theory or paradigm, G will be 0, but in almost all cases there will be anomalies; scientific theories generally live with an explanatory/predictive deficit, g for convenience. This gives meat to the bones of Lakatos’ pithy observation that theories are born, live and die refuted.

    However, when a new theory better explains persistent anomalies and has some significant success with otherwise unexplained phenomena, and this occurs for some time, this allows its champions to advance.

    We then see dominant and perhaps minor schools of thought, with research programmes that coalesce about the key successes. Where also scope of explanation counts, i.e. a theory T1 may have wider scope of generally regarded success, but has its deficit g1 greater than g2, that of a theory T2 of narrower scope.

    Where investigatory methods are more linked by family resemblance than by any global, one size fits all and only Science method.

    This picture instantly means that Popper’s criterion of falsification is very hard to test, as, first, observations are themselves coloured by instrumental issues (including eyeball, mark 1 etc). Second, key theoretical claims of a given theory Tk, are usually not directly predictive/ explanatory of observations, they are associated with a world state model AMk, that is generally far less tightly held than Tk. In Lakatos’ terms, we have an armour-belt that protects the core theory.

    As a consequence, the battlecruisers at Jutland principle applies.

    That is, unless there is a key vulnerability of design or of procedures that allows a lucky shot to detonate the magazines deep in the bowels of the research programme, it has to be battered and reduced to sinking condition — it has to become a “degenerative” research programme in competition with advancing “progressive” ones. Which means that a competitor Tm has to have the resources to initiate and sustain that battering while itself being better protected against the counter-barrage.

    And when a paradigm and research programme is deeply embedded in cultural power circles and their agendas, it can often dominate technical discussion, lock out controversial alternatives and drive them to the margins. That means it is going to be hard for such to hold prestigious scholars and attract graduate students. But, there can arise times of crisis when guerrila, fringe schools can find sanctuaries and perhaps build up enough following that a time of crisis emerges.

    And so, the succession of scientific theories, paradigms and research programmes is seldom smooth, and is plainly deeply intertwined with institutional and general politics, especially where grant-making is an issue.

    This complex, messy picture fits well with the sorts of scientific quarrels that have been a notorious part of the history of modern science. It resonates with the story of Economics over the past century or a bit more, it fits with psychology, it speaks to the ongoing anthropogenic global warming controversy and it speaks straight to the controversies surrounding design thought.

    For, ID is a narrow scope paradigm that addresses key persistent anomalies in the cluster of origins theories that fit under evolutionary materialist scientism. However, the dominant paradigm is institutionally and politically much stronger. So, ID is a marginal, often marginalised and even stereotyped and scapegoated, fairly narrow scope school of thought (at least in terms of the guild of scholars). However, it seems to be targetting key vulnerabilities of method and raises a potentially transforming insight: designing intelligence is real, often acts through directing configurations in ways that are complex, fine-tuned and information-rich, and so can be reliably detected when such traces or signs are present.

    Thus, the inductive challenge posed by ID is that of inference to the best current explanation, on empirically grounded, reliable sign. Backed up, by the analysis of the challenge of search resources for blind solar system or observed cosmos scale search in very large configuration spaces.

    This is a powerful point, and one unanswered; likely, one that cannot be answered on evolutionary materialistic scientism. But that does not prevent institutional power from holding off the threat for a long time.

    However, eventually, there will be a tipping point.

    Which may be nearer than we think.

    Walker and Davies, in a recent article, hint at just how near this may be:

    In physics, particularly in statistical mechanics, we base many of our calculations on the assumption of metric transitivity, which asserts that a system’s trajectory will eventually [–> given “enough time and search resources”] explore the entirety of its state space – thus everything that is phys-ically possible will eventually happen. It should then be trivially true that one could choose an arbitrary “final state” (e.g., a living organism) and “explain” it by evolving the system backwards in time choosing an appropriate state at some ’start’ time t_0 (fine-tuning the initial state). In the case of a chaotic system the initial state must be specified to arbitrarily high precision. But this account amounts to no more than saying that the world is as it is because it was as it was, and our current narrative therefore scarcely constitutes an explanation in the true scientific sense.

    We are left in a bit of a conundrum with respect to the problem of specifying the initial conditions necessary to explain our world. A key point is that if we require specialness in our initial state (such that we observe the current state of the world and not any other state) metric transitivity cannot hold true, as it blurs any dependency on initial conditions – that is, it makes little sense for us to single out any particular state as special by calling it the ’initial’ state. If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions [–> islands . . . ] and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

    [–> or, there may not be “enough” time and/or resources for the relevant exploration, i.e. we see the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold at work vs 10^57 – 10^80 atoms with fast rxn rates at about 10^-13 to 10^-15 s leading to inability to explore more than a vanishingly small fraction on the gamut of Sol system or observed cosmos . . . the only actually, credibly observed cosmos]

    Thus the initial state must be tuned to be in the region of phase space in which we find ourselves [–> notice, fine tuning], and there are regions of the configuration space our physical universe would be excluded from accessing, even if those states may be equally consistent and permissible under the microscopic laws of physics (starting from a different initial state). Thus according to the standard picture, we require special initial conditions to explain the complexity of the world, but also have a sense that we should not be on a particularly special trajectory to get here (or anywhere else) as it would be a sign of fine–tuning of the initial conditions. [ –> notice, the “loading”] Stated most simply, a potential problem with the way we currently formulate physics is that you can’t necessarily get everywhere from anywhere (see Walker [31] for discussion). [“The “Hard Problem” of Life,” June 23, 2016, a discussion by Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies at Arxiv.]

    We live in interesting times.

    KF

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