Intelligent Design

Methodological naturalism: Science enabler or science stopper? A response to Dr. Elizabeth Liddle.

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In a recent thread which has attracted a lot of lively comment, Dr. Elizabeth Liddle (a highly respected critic of Intelligent Design who surely needs no introduction here) mounted a vigorous defense of methodological naturalism (“MN”). She began by developing her view of the way science works, in a post on the thread:

[T]he idea that any scientific theory stops science is completely false. Science never stops, and a successfully supported hypothesis is a trigger for more research, not less.

In a subsequent post, Dr. Liddle then proceeded to explain why her view of science necessitates the adoption of methodological naturalism:

Yes, rejection of “MN” is religious, for a very simple reason.

It is not possible to investigate a non-material cause. With “methodological naturalism” we keep on investigating. With “methodological non-naturalism” you may reach a place you have to stop, because you’ve met the “non-material” part.

That stoppage is the religious rejection of “MN”.

I’ll repeat what I just posted elsewhere: “MN” is not a limitation on science. It is quite the opposite. It’s what leads us to keep searching. Rejecting “MN” is what poses limitations on investigation, not the acceptance of MN.

Dr. Liddle elaborated her views in another post on the same thread:

At the point at which you say: “this is not a material cause” you stop investigating. That’s all methodological non-materialism is – it’s stopping when you get to a bit you can’t explain by a material mechanism, and saying “something non-material did this bit”. Methodological materialism is not stopping…

I’d like to make a few comments at this point:

The Contingency Of The Ongoing Success Of Science

It is a contingent matter that we live in a universe where science is possible at all, even if we adopt a fairly minimal definition of “science,” such as: “the systematic tabulation [by intelligent beings] of observed correlations between various kinds of events, in a way that can be described mathematically.” The word “mathematical” is of critical importance here. The observation that the seasons go round in an annual cycle is not science. Nor is the observation that an animal will die if you slash its jugular vein. Both of these observed regularities have been of great practical use to human beings; and indeed, humans could not survive in a world without natural regularities which they could rely on. However, human beings could certainly survive quite well in a world in which they were aware of natural regularities, but were unable to describe them in mathematical language. In fact, for most of human history, that is precisely how we have lived.

I can make the same point in another way. Imagine an alternative world in which there were natural regularities, but in which no natural phenomena could be described by simple equations such as v = u + at (the first equation for uniform accelerated motion), or T^2 = K.(r^3) (Kepler’s third law). The mathematics required to describe natural phenomena in such a world might be too complex for the beings of limited intelligence who happened to live in it; hence science would forever elude them, although their technology might be quite good.

It is also a contingent matter that we live in a universe in which scientific enterprise can go on and on, with no end in sight. One can certainly imagine ways in which science might fizzle out. If we lived in a world of very limited variety, we might be able to fully describe its workings after only 100 years of scientific observations – and after that, we’d have to do something else to keep ourselves amused. Or we might hit a brick wall in scientific research for financial reasons: increased spending on scientific research might yield sharply diminishing scientific returns, so that after discovering the first few scientific laws, we found that the discovery of further laws rapidly became increasingly unaffordable.

So when Dr. Liddle writes that “Science never stops, and a successfully supported hypothesis is a trigger for more research, not less,” my reply is: “Does it have to be that way? I think not.” In 1997, John Horgan wrote a best-selling book titled, The End of Science, in which he addressed the questions: Have all the big questions been answered? Has all the knowledge worth pursuing become known? Interestingly, some of the scientists he interviewed were inclined to answer these questions in the affirmative.

Science, then, may well have an end, whether we like it or not.

All Scientific Explanations Have To Stop Somewhere

The next point to consider is that all scientific explanations have to stop somewhere – otherwise we get an infinite regress of explanations, which doesn’t explain anything. Of course, Intelligent Design critics are perfectly aware of this point, which is why they often raise the objection: “Who designed the Designer?”

So even if Dr. Liddle is correct in maintaining that a non-material cause is a science-stopper, we have to ask ourselves: “Is there a better place at which we should stop asking scientific questions than the point where the Immaterial Designer supposedly makes contact with Nature?” And my answer to that question is: “If you think there’s a better point at which to stop the process of scientific enquiry, then prove it’s better, by demonstrating to me that going beyond that point is scientifically more productive than simply taking the Designer’s alleged point of interface with Nature as a ‘given.’ After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Jefferson’s Deity And The Cosmos As A Simulation: How Dr. Liddle Confuses “Non-Material” With “Non-Natural”

Dr. Liddle writes that “It is not possible to investigate a non-material cause.” But even if the Designer of Nature were a material cause, the material processes underlying His acts of design would still elude scientific investigation, simply because He is outside Nature, which means that the workings of His body will forever elude us.

President Thomas Jefferson firmly believed in a Designer of the laws of the universe, even though he believed that the universe had always existed. As he wrote in his letter to John Adams, of April 11, 1823:

… I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it’s parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it’s composition…We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it’s course and order…Some early Christians indeed have believed in the coeternal pre-existence of both the Creator and the world, without changing their relation of cause and effect.

At the same time, Jefferson regarded the notion of an immaterial Deity as utterly nonsensical. He explained his theological position in a letter to John Adams, dated August 15, 1820:

When once we quit the basis of sensation, all is in the wind. To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart.

Thus Jefferson envisaged the Deity as an embodied Being, eternally maintaining the universe in its law-governed order. If we let “Physics A” refer to the laws of our cosmos, and “Physics B” denote the laws governing the body of Jefferson’s Deity, which exists outside our cosmos, then it follows that since God is independent of the cosmos, our scientists will never be able to investigate Physics B, and hence will never understand the material processes underlying the Designer of Nature.

Or we can put it another way, and imagine that the entire cosmos – by which I mean everything in reality (inside or outside the visible universe) which is subject to the laws of Nature uncovered by our scientists – is part of a giant simulation, which was created as a science experiment by intelligent beings who are not subject to these laws that they have set up for the simulation. In that case, once again, the Designers of Nature would be material beings, but their materiality would be of a different sort to our own, as they would be subject to completely different laws, which are unobservable to our scientists, as they have no way of accessing the world outside the simulation.

What this tells us, then, is that Dr. Liddle is badly confused when she argues that an immaterial Designer would be a science-stopper. The problem here is not the immateriality of the Designer, but His existing outside the natural order which He has created i.e. the Designer’s transcendence, rather than His immateriality.

Rejection Of Methodological Naturalism Is Not Religious

Even if the rejection of methodological naturalism should prove to be a “science-stopper,” as Dr. Liddle argues, it still would not follow that “rejection of ‘MN’ is religious,” as she claims. In order to show that, one would have to show that rejection of methodological naturalism entails the existence of a Designer Who is also a suitable object of worship. Dr. Liddle has not supplied any argument to this effect. Her use of the term “religious” is pejorative; it demeans the serious philosophical arguments put forward by those thinkers whose vision of science is different from her own.

A Designer Of Nature Can Always Explain More Than Methodological Naturalism

In any case, the scope of phenomena that can be explained by postulating an Intelligent Designer of Nature will always be larger than the scope of phenomena that can be explained within the framework of methodological naturalism. The reason is simple: scientific explanations which accept the constraints of methodological naturalism are bound to take the laws of Nature for granted; whereas scientific explanations which go beyond the constraints imposed by methodological naturalism are capable in principle of explaining the laws of Nature.

The Failure Of Pythagoreanism

I might add that since the laws of Nature are immaterial abstractions, the current practice of halting our scientific explanations when we arrive at the ultimate laws of Nature is tantamount to stopping one’s demand for explanations at something immaterial.

Laws are abstractions. They are even less like material entities than an incorporeal Designer. It is odd that Dr. Liddle has no objection to the enterprise of explaining the world in terms of abstract mathematics, but objects vigorously to explaining the world as the product of a Designer Who wanted to make a cosmos fit for intelligent life. So I would like to ask Dr. Liddle, “Why do you consider an explanation of the cosmos as the product of an immaterial Intelligent Agent to be even worse than an explanation of the cosmos as the product of abstract mathematical entitles like numbers and forms, as Pythagoras thought it was? Surely an immaterial Intelligent Agent can do a better job of generating the cosmos than the number 4.”

Could A Designer of Nature Be Used To Explain Anything And Everything?

A hint as to why Dr. Liddle finds Intelligent Design explanations so unconvincing can be found in a lengthy but interesting comment she made on the same thread, in which she argued that the notion of an immaterial Designer is scientifically vicious, because it could be used to explain anything and everything, and that an explanation of that sort really explains nothing:

OK, let me try this a different way:

If you postulate an invisible intelligent power who can do anything, without leaving any trace of the tools of his/her trade, nor presence, apart from the artefacts s/he leaves behind, there is nothing you can’t explain. Giraffe recurrent laryngeal nerve? No problem, designer wanted it that way. Human female pelvis? Who are we to judge the designer? Hyena reproduction? Well perhaps the designer hated hyenas. Parasites that kill children? Well, perhaps the designer likes parasites more than children. Nested hierarchies? Well, s/he just liked designing that way. No bird lungs for mammals? Well, why shouldn’t s/he try something different, and why shouldn’t s/he keep those bird lungs strictly for the animals that look as though they descended in a particular lineage. In fact, why shouldn’t the designer make the world look as though it evolved?

That’s why a non-material, uncharacterised designer is not an explanation. An explanation that explains everything explains nothing.

However, if you were to postulate an actual material designer, that would be something else – we could actually draw some conclusions about the designer – his/her enthusiasms, his/her strengths, his/her weaknesses, his/her assembly techniques, his/her testing protocols etc.

Then we might have an actual explanation from the ID postulate.

But to do this work, IDists would have to postulate a material designer. Without doing so, none of this work is possible.

That’s the sense in which commitment to non-material causes stops science. Scientists don’t have to believe there are no non-material causes to do science. It’s just that the tools of science can’t investigate them. They are matters of faith, not science.

Immaterial Does Not Mean Inscrutable

Dr. Liddle appears to be setting up a straw man here. There have been theists who have laid great emphasis on what they call the sovereign will of God, to such an extent that they maintain it is not restricted by anything at all. God, they say, can will literally anything. I agree with Dr. Liddle that such a Deity would indeed be utterly capricious, able to explain everything and nothing. If there is a science-friendly Designer, He must be a Being Who is only able to will what is rational.

In her post, Dr. Liddle contends that “An explanation that explains everything explains nothing.” That’s a good argument against “a non-material, uncharacterised designer” but not against a Designer Whose objective is to create sentient and sapient beings, and Who uses His Intellect to accomplish this end in the wisest way possible. What kind of design flaws would we expect such a Designer to tolerate? I would answer: those flaws that cannot be avoided, because they arise as a result of conflicting biological constraints. A Designer would have no choice but to tolerate these.

The Perils Of Picture Thinking

I should point out that the mere fact that we can imagine a better design for an organism does not make it possible in reality. In a previous post of mine, entitled, Of Pegasus and Pangloss: Two Recurring Fallacies of Skeptics, I warned against the dangers of using picture thinking as a guide to possibility, when alleging instances of bad design:

…[T]he problem with this line of thinking is that it conflates two distinct notions: picturability and conceivability. Only the latter can tell us what is possible. Picture thinking cannot….

And that brings me to Pegasus, the winged horse. Is Pegasus possible? Certainly he’s picturable, as the image on the left at the beginning of this post clearly proves. But is he conceivable? Surely not. Just ask yourself a simple question: how does he fly? According to the laws of aerodynamics which obtain in our universe, this should be impossible. Picturability, then, is not a reliable guide to possibility. To argue that a better world is possible simply because we can picture it is to engage in childish thinking.

“Pegasus-thinking”, as I shall call it, is a besetting sin of Darwinists – by which I mean, advocates of an unguided evolutionary process whose principal mechanism is natural selection winnowing random variation. For instance, Professor Jerry Coyne argues in his book, Why Evolution is True (Viking Adult Press, 2009) that the male prostate gland is badly designed because the urethra runs through it, making men liable to enlargement and infection in later life. Aside from the fact that Coyne’s argument open to question on empirical grounds – creationist Jonathan Sarfati asserts that the risk of enlargement appears to be largely diet-related in his 2008 article, The Prostate Gland – is it “badly designed”? – Coyne is essentially arguing that because we can imagine a better design, therefore one is possible; and since we don’t find it in Nature, it follows that Nature is not the work of an Intelligent Creator. The question-begging underlying this argument should be readily apparent.

What About All Those Instances Of Bad Design?

Let’s start with Dr. Liddle’s example of bird lungs. Bird lungs originally evolved in order to enable the ancestors of birds to cope with very low oxygen levels, which were prevalent between 175 and 275 million years ago (see here). The reader might be asking: why don’t mammals have lungs like this? That’s a very good question. The (scientifically falsifiable) prediction I would make is that mammals would incur a severe fitness cost if they did. It should be easy enough for scientists to test this prediction by manipulating the genes of developing mammals to give them avian lungs, and then seeing how this impacted on their fitness. I am highly skeptical of the Darwinist “explanation” that evolution just happened to find a better solution for birds than for mammals. To me, that account explains nothing at all. It’s what I’d call a real science stopper.

But what about that most comical of anatomical imperfections, the laryngeal nerve of the giraffe, cited by Dr. Richard Dawkins as excellent evidence for Darwinian evolution? Now, if the laryngeal nerve were just involved in controlling the larynx, then Dawkins might have a good point. The laryngeal nerve comes down from the brain and loops around the arteries near the heart and then goes back up to the larynx. In the giraffe, this seems like particularly bad design. However, the laryngeal nerve actually has several branches all along its length that go to the heart, esophagus, trachea, and thyroid gland. Thus it is involved in a whole system of control of various related organs. It would be very unintelligent to have a single nerve, controlling only the larynx. It would be more intelligent to have it control a lot of related systems all along its length (see this article.) Hence the laryngeal nerve, far from being a problem for intelligent design, actually vindicates it.
Creationist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati makes the same point in a recent article entitled, Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve, and adds that its position may have something to do with the development of the animal as an embryo:

Dawkins considers only its main destination, the larynx. In reality, the nerve also has a role in supplying parts of the heart, windpipe muscles and mucous membranes, and the esophagus, which could explain its route.
Even apart from this function, there are features that are the result of embryonic development – not because of evolution, but because the embryo develops from a single cell in a certain order. For example, the embryo needs a functioning simple heart early on; this later descends to its position in the chest, dragging the nerve bundle with it.

This is a fruitful Intelligent Design hypothesis, and a falsifiable one. If it is wrong, we should know soon enough.
Finally, a recent article by Dr. Jerry Bergman, entitled Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Is Not Evidence of Poor Design, in Acts & Facts 39 (8): 12-14, concludes:

The left recurrent laryngeal nerve is not poorly designed, but rather is clear evidence of intelligent design:

  • Much evidence exists that the present design results from developmental constraints.
  • There are indications that this design serves to fine-tune laryngeal functions.
  • The nerve serves to innervate other organs after it branches from the vagus on its way to the larynx.
  • The design provides backup innervation to the larynx in case another nerve is damaged.
  • No evidence exists that the design causes any disadvantage.

The arguments presented by evolutionists are both incorrect and have discouraged research into the specific reasons for the existing design.

What about the female human pelvis? We now know that Homo erectus females had large, wide pelvises in order to deliver large-brained babies, which meant that Homo erectus infants became independent far more quickly than modern human infants. However, the average brain size of Homo erectus was considerably smaller than that of Homo sapiens, and further evolutionary widening of the pelvis to accommodate larger-brained Homo sapiens infants may have severely hampered women’s mobility while walking. What happened instead was that Homo sapiens infants were born immature, which in turn meant that they required an extended period of parental care. Once again, we see trade-offs being made because of conflicting biological constraints. Blaming the Designer for this is like blaming Him for not being able to make a square circle. It’s simply childish.

There are parasites which are dedicated to attacking people: the malaria parasite, for instance. But what we continually need to remind ourselves is that we don’t know all the facts about the original condition of these seemingly malevolent organisms, as well as their subsequent development. Until we do, we are in no position to sit in judgment on the Designer.

For instance, according to a recent press release by the National Science Foundation, modern malaria parasites began to spread to various mammals, birds and reptiles about 16 million years ago. Malaria parasites may jump to new, unrelated hosts at any time, decoupling their evolution from that of their hosts. The ancestors of humans acquired the parasite 2.5 million years ago – very close to the time when humans first appeared. However, according to Dr. Robert Ricklefs, one of the biologists who conducted the recent research into the origin of the malaria parasite, “Malaria parasites undoubtedly were relatively benign for most of that history, becoming a major disease only after the origins of agriculture and dense human populations.”

An Alternative Intelligent Design Hypothesis?

In the post I quoted above from Dr. Liddle, she remarked:

…[I]f you were to postulate an actual material designer, that would be something else – we could actually draw some conclusions about the designer – his/her enthusiasms, his/her strengths, his/her weaknesses, his/her assembly techniques, his/her testing protocols etc.

Then we might have an actual explanation from the ID postulate.

So here’s my invitation to Dr. Liddle: if you really find the notion of a pure spirit philosophically incoherent, why not postulate a Jeffersonian Designer, who is subject to material as well as logical constraints? After all, materialistic Deism is a perfectly respectable worldview, with a long history. Look at the fossil record, examine the imperfections in living things, and tell me what you can deduce about the physical limitations of your Designer. The Intelligent Design movement is a very broad tent, and you’re more than welcome to conduct research along these lines. For the fact is that scientific arguments alone cannot rule out the existence of a Jeffersonian Designer. Only metaphysical arguments could do that. However, Intelligent Design proponents are not tied to any particular metaphysical view, as ID is a scientific program.

Over to you, Dr. Liddle.

133 Replies to “Methodological naturalism: Science enabler or science stopper? A response to Dr. Elizabeth Liddle.

  1. 1
    Peter Griffin says:

    Bird lungs originally evolved in order to enable the ancestors of birds to cope with very low oxygen levels, which were prevalent between 175 and 275 million years ago (see here).

    And yet I’m having a conversation right now, here, with somebody who denies that bird lungs evolved at all.

    So which is it?

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Dr. Torley, I put this on the other thread, but to insure that you will see it I’m reposting it here:

    This boy rivals, or surpasses, Nikola Tesla as an example of innovative ideas coming fully formed to the mind:

    Bluejay: The Mind of a Child Prodigy – video
    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7186319n

  3. 3
    champignon says:

    My response to Elizabeth from the other thread:

    Elizabeth,

    Yes, rejection of “MN” is religious, for a very simple reason.

    It is not possible to investigate a non-material cause.

    I have to disagree. Rejection of methodological naturalism, per se, is not religious. I can say this with conviction because I personally am not a methodological naturalist; however, my motives are clearly not religious either since I am a philosophical naturalist who doesn’t expect to find any evidence for the supernatural.

    I think that science is quite capable of handling claims about the supernatural, provided that they are testable and falsifiable. If someone tells me that anyone who prays a certain prayer to Zeus gets a Templeton grant the next day, I can test this (admittedly bizarre) hypothesis. That this hypothesis concerns the supernatural and is in fact a religious claim is not a problem as long as the hypothesis itself is testable and falsifiable.

    You may wonder: if a rejection of MN isn’t necessarily religious, why did I criticize Dembski in comment 3 of this thread? It’s not because he rejects MN; I think that’s fine. It’s because he says that unless we reject MN, ID is doomed:

    So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, intelligent design has no chance of success. Phillip Johnson makes this point eloquently. So does Alvin Plantinga. In his discussion of methodological naturalism Plantinga notes that if one accepts methodological naturalism then naturalistic evolution is the only game in town.

    In saying that, he is affirming that ID is a religious hypothesis. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be investigated scientifically; it can, as long as the claims it makes are testable and falsifiable. However, it does contradict Dembski’s later claims that ID is not religious.

    ID proponents should grit their teeth and admit it: ID is religious to the core.

  4. 4
    Gregory says:

    From the thread cited in this thread:

    4.1.2.1.5
    Gregory
    January 18, 2012 at 9:40 am

    “It is not possible to investigate a non-material cause.” – Elizabeth Liddle

    Only if you cannot imagine anything other than material causes. By denying non-material causes, one conveniently avoids their reality.

    In Aristotle’s philosophy, there are 4 causes, including formal, final, and efficient, to go along with material. Of course, Aristotle has been updated by some also, and the IDM has already written about its position on his 4 causes.

    But why the silence from *everyone* here about Paul de Vries? [This now includes VJTorley]

    Is it because almost everyone here has bought into his rudimentary philosophy of science (PoS), presuming that MN is an acceptable term to use. To those who have studied PoS outside of the Anglo-American context (and even a few inside of it, e.g. Steve Fuller), insisting on the MN term simply reveals a low calibre of thought.

    The issue is not whether or not to ‘dump MN,’ but rather, to understand what is hidden behind it and why people like Elizabeth feel they need use this crutch to defend the legitimacy of their ‘natural’ science in the face of other legitimate scholarly realms.

    Many who resort to MN language display a kind of philosophy-envy, showing that even though they may be versed in a natural-physical science(s), they lack wisdom and integration of knowledge, which is the domain of philosophy.

    Elizabeth writes: “It is not possible to investigate a non-material cause. With “methodological naturalism” we keep on investigating. With “methodological non-naturalism” you may reach a place you have to stop, because you’ve met the “non-material” part. / That stoppage is the religious rejection of “MN”.”

    Notice her linguistic pattern: non-material, MN, non-naturalism, non-material -> religious. She makes no argument or connection, yet just jumps to religion haphazardly. This is sloppy thinking, perhaps fine for a neuro-science lab, but not for sustainable philosophy or holistic understand of life.

  5. 5

    Ah, but then we get bogged down by what “supernatural” means.

    If “methodological naturalism” means that we can’t test hypotheses about things called gods, then I’m not a methodological naturalist either.

    But I don’t think that’s what the word means.

    For instance, let’s say I test the efficacy of prayers to Zeus (or, more reasonably, for “psi” effects). And I find a statistically significant effect.

    Do I conclude that “there is evidence for the supernatural”? Or do I, rather, conclude that we have evidence for a previously unknown force that is a perfectly natural part of our universe?

    And if one, rather than the other, why?

    For instance, magnetism probably seemed “supernatural” to those who first observed it, but precisely because it was possible to find replicable effects, it eventually joined the ranks of the “natural”.

    vjtorley: That is quite a piece! It will take me a while to respond, but I hope to do so within the next couple of days.

  6. 6

    “Sloppy thinking” is NOT “fine for a neuro-science lab.

    But I agree that we need clear definitions.

  7. 7
    Gregory says:

    Elizabeth’s 4.1 cited in this thread by VJTorley:

    “Yes, the rejection of methodological naturalism is religious. / What would a non-religious rejection of methodological naturalism be?” – Dr. E. Liddle

    Would VJTorley respond to my initial probe that prompted Liddle’s comment or not?

    There in 4.0 I asked: What if someone had an ‘alternative to ID’ vision before they had even heard of ID? Would the IDM seek to ‘expel’ that idea from circulation if/when confronted with it? Or would they invite it to be shared, allowing even themselves to ‘follow the evidence where it leads’?

    Liddle’s claim that rejecting MN simply (in her neurosphere) ‘is/must be religious’ is far less important to this Blog than VJTorley confronting the possibility of an ‘alternative to ID’ based on evidence.

    What would VJTorley say about an ‘alternative to ID’ outside of MN?

  8. 8
    Neil Rickert says:

    It is a contingent matter that we live in a universe where science is possible at all, even if we adopt a fairly minimal definition of “science,” such as: “the systematic tabulation [by intelligent beings] of observed correlations between various kinds of events, in a way that can be described mathematically.” The word “mathematical” is of critical importance here.

    I disagree with that as a definition of science. In particular, I disagree with the comments about “mathematical.” That mathematics is often used in science is a choice of the scientists, and not an essential component of it being science.

    I am puzzled that people (and not just ID proponents) have such confused ideas about the role of mathematics in science.

    The next point to consider is that all scientific explanations have to stop somewhere – otherwise we get an infinite regress of explanations, which doesn’t explain anything. Of course, Intelligent Design critics are perfectly aware of this point, which is why they often raise the objection: “Who designed the Designer?”

    This is also a misunderstanding. The objection “who designed the designer” is raised as a reductio ad absurdum of a common apologetics argument that claims to prove the need for a designer.

    Having disagreed on a couple of points, let me now express my agreement with you on the main point. I do not see any need to assume methodological naturalism. What science depends on is evidence, not any a priori commitment.

    If you somebody can come up with strong solid reliable evidence that involves a supernatural cause, then I’ll consider that evidence. Of course, I might decide that it was actually a natural cause, and I might extend what I mean by “natural” to include that cause. But I have no a priori commitment to reject causes that are of a kind that has not previously been considered to be natural.

  9. 9
    champignon says:

    If “methodological naturalism” means that we can’t test hypotheses about things called gods, then I’m not a methodological naturalist either.

    Good, but that appears to contradict your claim that “it is not possible to investigate a non-material cause.”

  10. 10
    Gregory says:

    Please then convince me you can provide ‘clear definitions’ and do tell, Elizabeth, how you got from A to B.

    Why do you conclude ‘religious’ when previously only ‘non-material’ and ‘non-natural’ were involved? What in your mind constitutes the justified basis for such a jump? Do you see no other alternative to ‘natural’ than ‘supernatural’?

    Very short, short, medium, tall, super-tall. But you seem to be saying that there is only one alternative to ‘natural’ – dialectically = ‘supernatural’?

    Expose your rationale to us please.

  11. 11

    While I compose a substantial response to the OP, let me clarify a few things:

    Firstly, the words “non-material” and “supernatural” really need careful definition.

    Are they interchangeable? I suggest yes, unless by “supernatural” we include things that we don’t yet have good mathematical descriptions of, like psi effects, but try to, at which point they won’t be “supernatural” any more.

    So let’s stick with “non-material”.

    Now, by “non-material” I’m assuming people don’t include, say energy, or abstractions. Clearly energy exists, as does love, and justice, and intelligence, or beauty, or music. So I’m using “material” to mean “of this universe”, if you like.

    If someone has a better definition, please suggest it, and if my claim (IMO) does not holds for that definition, then I am happy to say so.

    By “methodological naturalism” therefore, I am referring to scientific methodology, which is predicated on the notion that we can predict the world (probabilistically at least). In other words, that the world contains regularities, for which we can make predictive models, including the mathematical equations of physics.

    If the behaviour of Zeus, or psi, or the ID of ID can be described using predictive equations, then they are “material” in the sense that I am using the world.

    And so, when I said that rejection of methodological materialism was religious, it was simply definitional. Rejecting the methodology by which we make predictive models of the world is tantamount to saying: there are phenomena in the world that science cannot ever explain and so we must stop attempting to explain them. In other words: some events in this universe are caused by something outside this universe, namely a non-material agent/force/factor which we call God and therefore will not attempt to understand or delineate.

    Conversely, accepting methodological naturalism is saying: “whether or not some events in this universe that we will never be able to understand, we will not cease to attempt to understand them, on the principle that we cannot know where explanations stop, we can only know when they do not”.

    Note, that on that reading, methodological naturalism does NOT rule out the possiblity of “non-material” causes; it is merely a methodological discipline that ensures that we continue to probe the universe for explanations.

    That’s why I say that rejecting it is “religious”: it is an arbitrary decision to cease probing further on religious (“heere bee Godde”) grounds.

    And let me also say: I’m all for ID continuing to do research into the nature of the putative designer. I don’t reject Intelligent Design as a possible cause of living things. Indeed, in some senses I embrace it. What I do reject is the idea that finding faults in current explanations is “ID research”. It isn’t. In my view you cannot infer an Intelligent Designer from lack of an alternative explanation. You can hypothesise one, of course, but then you have to go out and look for it.

    Otherwise you are not researching Intelligent Design.

    OK, this is longer than I meant, but I will work on a specific response to the OP. However, I hope that has clarified things a little pro tem.

  12. 12
    champignon says:

    So I’m using “material” to mean “of this universe”, if you like…

    If the behaviour of Zeus, or psi, or the ID of ID can be described using predictive equations, then they are “material” in the sense that I am using the world.

    Using the word ‘material’ that way will create nothing but confusion. It’s tantamount to saying that ‘material’ equals ‘anything that is predictable’. People just don’t use the word that way.

  13. 13

    I have attempted to so below.

    However, no “definition” is absolute. What I have done is attempted to define the terms as I am using them.

    If you and others are using different ones, that may be the source of the confusion.

    We may even find that we agree, once we have sorted out what each of us is actually trying to say.

  14. 14

    In that case, what do people mean by “material”?

    I certainly don’t think that everything in the universe is “matter”, and I don’t think people use the word that way either (although I did once come across someone who claimed that “materialists didn’t believe in energy”).

    Seriously – what do you mean by the word? What other coherent meaning is there?

  15. 15

    OK, it seems to me we are seriously talking past each other here. I will postpone my response to the OP until there has been some discussion about these key terms, namely:

    Material (and non-material)
    Natural (and supernatural)

    And can I ask (Gregory, I’m looking at you) that rather than psycholanalyse my use of language, and critique my intellectural shortcomings, we simply (each of us) attempt to define our own usage of these terms?

    Then perhaps we can make some progress 🙂

  16. 16
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    But even if the Designer of Nature were a material cause, the material processes underlying His acts of design would still elude scientific investigation, simply because He is outside Nature, which means that the workings of His body will forever elude us.

    I agree with this, but for religious reasons. This seems like a step away from establishing ID as science and separating it from religion.

    Setting aside my religious beliefs to look only at what may be examined scientifically, must the designer of life be the designer of nature? On what basis could we conclude that a designer of nature and of life would be unable to expose the reality outside of it to those inside of it, even partially?

    I don’t see the conflict between MN and ID. The subjects of ID are one and all material. Intelligence is not supernatural. And to say that anything is beyond the reach of scientific observation is religious, not scientific. Science knows (or should) that it may observe tomorrow what it can’t observe today. And if it completely ignores what it can’t observe today, what’s wrong with that? What is the alternative.

    None of this conflicts with the determination that an observable, material thing is the probable result of design, even of an unknown designer. Intelligence isn’t supernatural, and logic dictates that we cannot call the unknown “immaterial.”

  17. 17

    I agree absolutely, Scott (I think we’ve agreed on this before!)

    I don’t see a conflict between MN and ID either, both on methodological grounds (I don’t see why an intelligent agent can’t be investigated using MN) and on theological grounds, oddly enough.

    The one theological idea that makes sense to me is that God is neither outside nor inside the universe but “the ground of its being”. If so, no scientific method is going to be able to detect God, because scientific methods involve detecting the difference between what happens when something is present and when it is absent.

    If God is present in every action of the universe, then no amount of scientific methodology, natural or otherwise (if there is an otherwise, which I dispute) is going to reveal God. Either God is right there in front of you, around you, and within you, staring you in the face, as it were, or s/he is not (IMO) much of a god.

    As my favorite theologian, Herbert McCabe says:

    Again, it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power, but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If god is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference ot the universe; I mean by this that we do not apeal specifically to God to explain why the unviverse is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me,be no feature of the universe whichindicates it is god-mad. WhatGod accounts for is theat the univese is there instead of nothing.

    (God Matters, p 6)

  18. 18

    I agree absolutely, Scott (I think we’ve agreed on this before!)

    I don’t see a conflict between MN and ID either, both on methodological grounds (I don’t see why an intelligent agent can’t be investigated using MN) and on theological grounds, oddly enough.

    The one theological idea that makes sense to me is that God is neither outside nor inside the universe but “the ground of its being”. If so, no scientific method is going to be able to detect God, because scientific methods involve detecting the difference between what happens when something is present and when it is absent.

    If God is present in every action of the universe, then no amount of scientific methodology, natural or otherwise (if there is an otherwise, which I dispute) is going to reveal God. Either God is right there in front of you, around you, and within you, staring you in the face, as it were, or s/he is not (IMO) much of a god.

    As my favorite theologian, Herbert McCabe says:

    Again, it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power, but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If god is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference ot the universe; I mean by this that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me,be no feature of the universe which indicates it is God-made. What God accounts for is that the univese is there instead of nothing.

    (God Matters, p 6)

  19. 19

    Excuse double post! I tried to retrieve a non-proof-read one. My copy typing isn’t what it was!

  20. 20
    champignon says:

    In this context, most people use the word synonymously with ‘physical’, which would include matter and energy but exclude gods, angels, demons, souls, etc.

    I think you and I take the same prescriptive stance: anything that can be investigated using the methods of science is fair game for science.

    Where we differ is in the description of this stance. I would say that science is not limited to investigating material (or physical) causes, and therefore MN is unnecessarily strict. It is, however, limited to investigating testable and falsifiable hypotheses, so “the designer did it that way” doesn’t qualify.

    You would say that science is limited to investigating material causes, but then you define ‘material’ in a way that includes anything that behaves in a testable, predictable fashion — even gods. But if you claim that God is material, most theists will think you simply need to bone up on your theology. The conversation will get derailed at the start.

  21. 21
    champignon says:

    I accidentally posted my reply at comment 12 instead of here.

  22. 22
    champignon says:

    This was a reply to Elizabeth at 8.1.

  23. 23

    Fair comment, and it seems it already has 🙂

    Well, if all we differ in is the words, I am happy to change the words.

    Although I do think that words can be traps, and I think that is partly what McCabe was getting at.

    McCabe again: “It is not possible that God and universe should add up to make two.”

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note:

    Jake: Math prodigy proud of his autism – 60 Minutes – CBS News – video
    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/w.....e1.channel

    Quote of note at the 12:00 minute mark of the video;
    ‘The whole randomness thing, that’s like completely against all of physics’
    Jake Barnett – Math Prodigy

  25. 25

    Well, let me rephrase: if an investigation into a putative non-material cause turns out to be fruitful, then the putative non-material cause is not, in fact, non-material.

    This is true in a very straightforward way (see my quote from McCabe): if something has an effect on a material object, then it is a force. This is true whether it’s my fingers landing on the keys, or a rain drop landing on the earth. So to me “non-material force” (or, if you prefer, “non-physical force”) is an oxymoron.

    So I think there are only two coherent ways of thinking about “non-material” causes. One is to say they can’t exist; the other is to take the McCabe line and say that all forces in the universe are the actions of a non-material agent.

  26. 26
    champignon says:

    Well, let me rephrase: if an investigation into a putative non-material cause turns out to be fruitful, then the putative non-material cause is not, in fact, non-material.

    But again, this will create confusion with theists who won’t understand why you keep claiming that their God, if he exists at all, must be material.

  27. 27
    mike1962 says:

    Dr Liddle: Yes, rejection of “MN” is religious, for a very simple reason. It is not possible to investigate a non-material cause.

    This is ridiculous. I investigate my own states of consciousness without assuming it is material or non-material. Religion has nothing to do with it.

    Moreover, it’s difficult to nail down what “material” is in the first place. Science deals with regularities. Whether they are “material” or “non-material” (whatever that means) is beside the question. Do electrons and photons have “materiality?” I don’t know, but the question is irrelevant. What matters is their regularities that we can assess.

  28. 28
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    Good question. vjtorley seems to say both that (a) humans evolved from Homo erectus, and this explains why our babies just barely fit through the female birth canal, and (b) that the YEC publication Acts & Facts is a reliable resource.

    As for this:

    What about the female human pelvis? We now know that Homo erectus females had large, wide pelvises in order to deliver large-brained babies, which meant that Homo erectus infants became independent far more quickly than modern human infants. However, the average brain size of Homo erectus was considerably smaller than that of Homo sapiens, and further evolutionary widening of the pelvis to accommodate larger-brained Homo sapiens infants may have severely hampered women’s mobility while walking. What happened instead was that Homo sapiens infants were born immature, which in turn meant that they required an extended period of parental care. Once again, we see trade-offs being made because of conflicting biological constraints. Blaming the Designer for this is like blaming Him for not being able to make a square circle. It’s simply childish.

    Wait, what? The Designer didn’t have to square a circle, he just had to put the freakin’ birth canal somewhere other than right through a tiny hole in the pelvis. Why put it through the skeleton at all? A portal a few inches higher up in the lower belly would do nicely. No tearing and incontinence, no jamming the baby’s head through the pelvis, no problem with breach births, etc. etc.

  29. 29
    Bantay says:

    Seems a bit underhanded that ID theorists who determine design from chance based on effects intelligent agents leave behind are derided for being religious (even if they are agnostic), while forensic scientists (who may be openly religious) determine design from chance based on the effects intelligent agents leave behind all the time and their religious views never become an issue.

  30. 30
    champignon says:

    Forensic scientists don’t chafe at the limits imposed by methodological naturalism. Can you imagine a forensic scientist writing this, a la Dembski?

    So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, forensic science has no chance of success.

  31. 31
    tjguy says:

    Dr. Matzke,

    You are not going to try and discredit everything that is written in the Acts & Facts publication simply because it is a creationist publication are you? It doesn’t work like that. Show us where this particular article is wrong – don’t just try and totally discredit it because it is a creationist publication. That is foolish and unscholarly.

    Besides, when it comes the the human pelvis, it may very well be that the original design of the pelvis was changed when God judged Adam and Eve for their sin. God’s original world was perfect, but was cursed along with God’s judgment on Adam. Plus, thanks to mutations and devolution(evolution in the wrong direction), many design issues probably have creeped into the world of living creatures.

    “The Designer didn’t have to square a circle, he just had to put the freakin’ birth canal somewhere other than right through a tiny hole in the pelvis. Why put it through the skeleton at all? A portal a few inches higher up in the lower belly would do nicely. No tearing and incontinence, no jamming the baby’s head through the pelvis, no problem with breach births, etc. etc.”

    OK, Dr. Matzke, why don’t you go ahead and design a human the way you are saying and see how well it goes for you, if you think it is so easy. Saying it is possible and showing us it is possible is a very different thing. We don’t know but perhaps there is very good reason for the current design. However, my take on the issue is more along the lines of a punishment for sin, like Genesis says.

  32. 32
    DrREC says:

    ” it may very well be that the original design of the pelvis was changed when God judged Adam and Eve for their sin. God’s original world was perfect, but was cursed along with God’s judgment on Adam.”

    And you wonder why folks who might not share this exact religious belief get nervous when “intelligent design” gets introduced into the classroom as a SCIENCE.

  33. 33
    DrREC says:

    I don’t recall a forensic scientist invoking angels or demons in a case.
    I think forensic science operates quite within the bounds of mn.

    Are you arguing the act of a human agent is SUPERnatural?

  34. 34
    Bruce David says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I know you have a lot on your plate at the moment, what with the length of the OP and all, but I must point this out.

    Imagine for a moment that the folowing three propositions are true:

    1. Organisms appear to be designed because they actually are designed,

    2. Scientific inquiry can detect and confirm this, but

    3. Science can go no further, ie., scientific methodology is unable to discover the nature of the designer(s) nor his, her, or their methods.

    In that case, given that science above all else is supposed to be a disinterested search for truth, shouldn’t science affirm that living organisms have in fact been designed, and then “stop”? Why wouldn’t this be the appropriate stance for science to take?

    In other words, it seems to me that your insistence that science should follow MN because “Methodological materialism is not stopping…” implicitly places a higher priority on the methodology than it does on discovering the truth, whatever that truth may be.

  35. 35
    peter gutman says:

    my first post here, and sorry English isn’t my first language.

    for me:
    matter = particles
    nature = matter + energy + laws(or information)

    some people define “matter”=”being” as in philosophy, but i disagree with them.

    I believe MN has it’s limitation, just as Newtonian Physics has limitation, so we need relative theory etc. may be MN can partly explain some micro evolution phenomena, but t can’t explain every thing in biology. ID is more broader than MN. so for me ID is better science.

  36. 36
    Grunty says:

    Ladies, you can read it here courtesy of tjguy. You are the way you are because you are being punished. By God. And tjguy thinks this is science?

  37. 37

    I am not saying (and did not say) that it is religious to entertain the possibility that a phenomenon might have a non-material cause.

    I said it was religous to reject methodological naturalism. Not naturalism. Methodological naturalism.

    In other words, to reject the method of science that is grounded on the assumption (not the conclusion, nor even necessarily the belief) that material (aka physical) effects have material (aka physical) causes is to stop investigating when one would otherwise go on.

    That is what I am saying is religious. Why else would one so tie one’s hands?

  38. 38
    Chas D says:

    if an investigation into a putative non-material cause turns out to be fruitful, then the putative non-material cause is not, in fact, non-material.

    I think the issue of where the cause comes from is perhaps secondary to its capacity for investigation. I think the emphasis should be on the “methodological”, not on the “naturalism”. An experiment is an attempt to create an instance of an assumed general phenomenon in a controlled environment. If one can do this, one can publish materials and methods and offer the opportunity for others to create their own instance of the phenomenon. Everything that we can detect has somehow started a chain of cause-and-effect within the material world, whatever its origin (and the quite mysterious coupling that one must assume if there is anything outside the material).

    If the phenomenon involved a ghost entering the lab and switching all the test tubes round while you weren’t looking, you would not have a repeatable phenomenon. But the same would apply if it was a rogue lab assistant.

    Of course, you weren’t investigating ghosts, but if you were, you would be looking for some kind of regularity and repeatability in their interaction with the experiment. If ghosts never act the same way twice, and you can never actually detect them directly, methodological investigation is hampered.

  39. 39

    Nicely argued, Bruce, but I think flawed, nonetheless 🙂

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I know you have a lot on your plate at the moment, what with the length of the OP and all, but I must point this out.

    Imagine for a moment that the folowing three propositions are true:

    1. Organisms appear to be designed because they actually are designed,

    2. Scientific inquiry can detect and confirm this, but

    3. Science can go no further, ie., scientific methodology is unable to discover the nature of the designer(s) nor his, her, or their methods.

    There is a subtle problem with your three conditions, in that the assume different vantage points. Let me put two alternative (and matching) sets of conditions:

    Set One:

    1.1. Organisms actually were designed, in other words, “in fact” something external to organisms designed organisms.

    1.2. It is possible to discover this fact using scientific methods.

    1.3. It is not possible to discover the nature or methods of the designer.

    Set Two:

    2.1. Organisms appear to be designed.

    2.2. Scientific inquiry suggests that an external designer is the only plausible explanation

    2.3. Scientists remain frustrated in all in their efforts discover the nature of the designer(s) nor his, her, or their methods.

    The difference between these sets are that the first set are statements from the point of view of an “authorial eye” as it were. We can suppose that these things are true. However, they invite the question: if these things are true (namely that organisms were externally designed, that this fact is discoverable, but the designer is undiscoverable), what would we see from our limited vantage point?

    The second set, on the other hand, are statements from our own point of view, and raise the question: if these are what we observe (appearance of design; definitive evidence that design is the only explanation; no further progress in identifying the nature of the designer), what can we conclude

    And I think we have to do one thought experiment or the other (or both, serially) – mixing the two kinds of hypothetical can only confuse us. So my response to the first is: if these facts are true, then they are not verifiable by us. All we are capable of doing is trying to falsify them (this is the real point of Popper’s criterion). There is nothing we can discover that could justify us in saying: now we know these facts are true, so there is no point in continuing our falsification attempts. In other words there is nothing in science that could justify the rejection of methodological naturalism. However, we could still reject it (i.e. decide to ceases falsification attempts) on religious grounds: we could say “clearly we are up a gum tree here; let’s call it God and go for a beer”. And that was the point I was trying to make

    Turning to the second: these are your conditions as seen from our own vantage point, i.e. a position of ignorance as to the “true facts” and reliance solely on observation. In other words, these are what we might see if Set One was true; but, equally, they are what we might see if 1.3 were false. Therefore we cannot, on the basis of our observations, rule out the possibility that 1.3 is false. In other words, having concluded, emphatically, that something had an external designer, the only grounds for concluding that that designer is undiscoverable have to be religious i.e. the conviction that the designer was non-material, because, again, this hypothesis is only falsifiable, it is not verifiable.

    Therefore, it is on straightforward Popperian grounds that I say that rejection of methodological naturalism is religious; in other words that the only grounds for ceasing enquiry into the nature of an external designer can be the belief that that designer is non-material, which is what I am calling “religious” belief. There are no scientific grounds for ceasing that enquiry. Well, apart from funding I guess, but we can probably all agree that we are not talking about pragmatics here 🙂

    In that case, given that science above all else is supposed to be a disinterested search for truth, shouldn’t science affirm that living organisms have in fact been designed, and then “stop”? Why wouldn’t this be the appropriate stance for science to take?

    Well, firstly because of what I have said above. The only reason for stopping could be the belief that the designer is non-material, in other words, religious belief. I don’t think science should stop because of religion. But secondly (and not the topic of this thread, but I’ll mention it anyway) it would be an insupportable conclusion in the absence of any information about the designer – this is the point those on “our” side keep making to no avail: that a “design inference” simply cannot be made in the absence of any information about the design and implementation process, and if we have those, then we are talking about material forces. But let’s leave Stonehenge and Black Monoliths for another thread!)

    In other words, it seems to me that your insistence that science should follow MN because “Methodological materialism is not stopping…” implicitly places a higher priority on the methodology than it does on discovering the truth, whatever that truth may be.

    No, and I think I have shown why not. The answer lies (for once) in principle of falsification. Non-material explanations can only (by definition) be falsified, not verified. Therefore, to arbitrarily cease the falsfication process is to cease the search for truth that despite lack of verification, we are already in possession of it. Now, that is perfectly valid as a religious position (and, let me make it clear, by saying that rejection of methodological naturalism is religious, I wasn’t knocking religion, I was simply stating what I think is a logical corollary), but accepting a claim as a truth without verification is not “discovering” the truth; it is believing it through faith. Which is fine, but it is also religious!

    Do you see what I mean?

    In short, the scientific and religious positions are not symmetrical (contra those who insist that “Darwinism” is a religion). Nor are they contradictory. As a scientist I hold to methodological naturalism (by definition, I would argue) because non-material causes are unfalsifiable. As a person, I can believe, by faith, that some phenomena have non-material causes (the Resurrection, for instance). But qua scientist, I cannot regard them as verified truths. I can, at best, give the provisional answer that they remain “unfalsified”.

    There’s a third way, of course, which is McCabe’s: to regard “God” as the answer to the question “why is there anything, rather than nothing?” at which case the design inference becomes IMO, both irrelevant, and heretical! Because it supposes that there are two kinds of thing: designed; and non-designed. If God is the reason there is anything rather than nothing, then that is a false distinction, and there can be no feature of anything that indicates it is, as McCabe says “God-made” as opposed to not-God-made.

    So, as I said, I reject ID on theological as well as methodological grounds.

    Also on empirical grounds – I think things are intelligently designed, but that is because I think they emerge from an intelligent process. But that’s for yet another thread!

  40. 40
    Eugene S says:

    What is supernatural, Dr Rec? Your definition of science I already saw 🙂 Who decides what can or cannot happen?

  41. 41

    I am never sure what is meant by “supernatural”, Eugene. What is your own definition?

    Or, if you don’t use the word, what word do you use for “non-material” or “non-natural”, and how do you define it?

  42. 42
    gpuccio says:

    Elizabeth:

    If I can give my personal idea:

    a) “natural” and “supernatural” are completely meaningless concepts. Worse, they are dangerous concepts. “Natural” presuppose a detaile philosophical definition of what nature is, and there are a lot of contrasting possibilities. That’s why all the debate about methodological naturalism is simply confounding: it is only a way for debaters to assume their personal philosophy as the basis for science. Science is not abou “nature” (whatever it is). It is about reality. I am all for “methodological realism”. Indeed, for simple realism.

    b) “Material” and “non material” are ambiguous too. We have no definite definition for matter, and usually those whoi use those terms include things that are not “matter”, like enerjy, forces, and so on. So, unless we use “natter” for “something having mass”, which would be very restrictive, “material” can only mean “what can be explained accordimg to current paradigms of physics”. That is again a very dangerous concept, cutting out for instance, at least at present, dark energy (whatever it is) and conscious experiences (whatever they are). Again, realism and good science have to take those things into consideration, because they are real (or at least, the facts we refer to, conscious experiences and the observations that lead to the dark energy problem, are real).

    IOWs, realism is the only guiding principle of science: science is about how things are.

  43. 43
    Eugene S says:

    While I agree with GP, I can say that positing that everything is at least potentially formalisable is a philosophical position. I believe that not all reality can be formalised.

  44. 44

    gpuccio, I absolutely agree 😀

    Utterly and wholeheartedly. Cool.

    a) “natural” and “supernatural” are completely meaningless concepts. Worse, they are dangerous concepts. “Natural” presuppose a detaile philosophical definition of what nature is, and there are a lot of contrasting possibilities. That’s why all the debate about methodological naturalism is simply confounding: it is only a way for debaters to assume their personal philosophy as the basis for science. Science is not abou “nature” (whatever it is). It is about reality. I am all for “methodological realism”. Indeed, for simple realism.

    b) “Material” and “non material” are ambiguous too. We have no definite definition for matter, and usually those whoi use those terms include things that are not “matter”, like enerjy, forces, and so on. So, unless we use “natter” for “something having mass”, which would be very restrictive, “material” can only mean “what can be explained accordimg to current paradigms of physics”. That is again a very dangerous concept, cutting out for instance, at least at present, dark energy (whatever it is) and conscious experiences (whatever they are). Again, realism and good science have to take those things into consideration, because they are real (or at least, the facts we refer to, conscious experiences and the observations that lead to the dark energy problem, are real).

    IOWs, realism is the only guiding principle of science: science is about how things are.

    And I am more than happy to agree to the term “methodological realism”. As you define it, it is how I have been interpreting “methodological naturalism”.

    Very nicely put. Case solved!

    Thanks!

  45. 45
    mk says:

    nick:

    humans evolved from Homo erectus, and this explains why our babies just barely fit through the female birth canal, and

    not realy. the gorila and chimpanzee have a 100 copies of ervs called pterv1, but no a single one in human genome.

    the fixation time to one erv is about 800000 years:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26836/

    When a new neutral mutation occurs in a constant population of size N that is undergoing random mating, the probability that it will ultimately become fixed is approximately 1/2N. For those mutations that do become fixed, the average time to fixation is approximately 4N generations

    so it will take about 80 milion years. but according to the theory it take only 6 milion since the last speciation.

    secondly, the homo erectus can be human and not an ape.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    What does YOUR position have as a testable explanation?

  47. 47
    Joe says:

    Bird lungs can evolve. There is not any evidence that they evolved from non-bird lungs via stochastic processes.

  48. 48
    dmullenix says:

    I’m a philosophical naturalist. I don’t believe there is anything supernatural out there.

    I believe that methodological naturalism means that you only observe and measure what can be observed and measured – which pretty much rules out holy books, visions reported by visionaries, etc. You can observe a holy book and confirm that it’s really a book or that a visionary reports a vision, but you can’t check the stories in the book or the vision that the visionary tells you about. On the rare occasions where you can check such things out through material investigation, they invariably disappoint. At least so far, but I don’t expect that to change.

    “Well, let me rephrase: if an investigation into a putative non-material cause turns out to be fruitful, then the putative non-material cause is not, in fact, non-material.”

    I don’t think you can make that claim. It implies that you know that the material world is the only world. It’s permissible to THINK that, but you never completely know.

    I also think it’s possible to investigate something supernatural IF it influences something material that we can investigate.

    As an example, if I was sitting in my living room and suddenly a disembodied land wrote the letters, “Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin” on my wall, I would consider that significant. I’d investigate for trickery, etc., but if things like that happened often I’d start to seriously consider the existence of a supernatural world that I couldn’t detect.

    But that never seems to happen except in highly unreliable holy books or in stories told by unreliable witnesses. It never happens where you can see it.

  49. 49

    OK, dmullenix: whether or not we actually agree or disagree depends on how we are defining various terms.

    What do you mean by the word “supernatural”?

    Because the way you are using it doesn’t to me seem to distinguish “supernatural” from “natural”, it just seems to distinguish “observed regularities that we don’t have good predictive models for yet” from “observed regularities that we do have good predictive models for”.

    BTW I think gpuccio is bang on in 14.1.1.1.2.

    Which is a kind of cool inversion of the normal state of the world 🙂

  50. 50
    gpuccio says:

    Elizabeth:

    I am happy we agree 🙂

    Think, in one day I succeeded in agreeing with Mark (although only on a political issue) and with you (om issues of more substance).

    That certainly made my day!

  51. 51
    gpuccio says:

    Eugene:

    I agree with you that probably nopt all reality is formalisable, and therefore accessible to knowledge through reason. Well, let’s drop the probably, we are among friends 🙂

    But still, we can IMO formalize that there is some part of reality that is not formalisable, and understand why. That would anyway be a very satisfying and complete map of reality.

    And what cannot be formalised could still be cognizable, although in different ways. Reason is not the only congnitive tool.

    And I also believe that formalisable (rational) cognition cannot be exhausted. It can become infinitely deeper, and never reach an end.

  52. 52
    Eugene S says:

    “We are among friends”.

    I am sure we are, GPuccio. I read your posts with great interest and intellectual satisfaction.

  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: if PG means me by that [though due to his misbehaviour there is now only correction for record . . . ] — and he cannot mean Joe as he holds UCD; in fact my challenge is that as a test case for Darwinists seeking to warrant their theory for macroevo the origin of lungs needs to be explained on empirically (observationally) warranted chance variation and natural selection or the like, and so far we have had much evasion and a few Creationist strawmen, but no cogent answer.

    Apparently PG is unaware ( by refusing to heed easily accessible information) that design theory is consistent with common descent, even, universal common descent, as say Behe — should be familiar! — holds.

    If he means me above, I quite literally have no firm view on universal common descent as such (just as I have no firm views on much of the scheme of dating of the earth [too many circularities, too much consensus thinking . . . ], but a much higher respect for the dating of major features of the observed cosmos [try the HR diagram for clusters, for instance in light of H-ball models for stars] . . . ), save that the FSCO/I in the world of life on best empirically warranted explanation points to design. This I know, for certainty, we were not there to observe the remote past of origins, we have no generally accepted record of it, and we are forced to reconstruct a model past on evidence and inference from the present. So, we are looking at inference to best — abductive — explanation, and no serious option should be ruled out by ideological a prioris.

    That design is a patently serious option is seen by how Dawkins has had to concede that the world of life, as studied by biologists, strongly gives the appearance of design. So, one should not a priori lock out that possibility on the sort of flimsy excuses in the OP and elsewhere. Ever since Plato, it has been known that the issue is not “natural vs supernatural,” but instead chance and necessity vs art. And each of these has characteristic observable signs.

    The problem for materialists, is that the world of life — as the very co-founder of the theory of evolution pointed out — is full, chock full of that an unbiased mind would unhesitatingly see as strong signs of clever design in any other context. Lo and behold, when we look in this context, we see that the reason for the difference is an a priori imposition, cf here on.

    In short, we have a smoking gun, in a hand standing above the victim lying on the ground.

    If we do in fact have universal common descent, on the implications of FSCO/I it is of a variety that was programmed, ab initio or at various points or even both; such makes but little difference to the material issue.

    And BTW, there is a strawman game at work on the initial post. The crucial issue of methodological naturalism is its imposition of an a priori philosophical, question begging constraint that blocks science from inferring to the empirically demonstrable best explanation for FSCO/I: ART, not chance + blind necessity.

    My key concern on the imposition of Meth Nat in the world of life is that a mechanism that is patently inadequate has been allowed, by imposition of ideological, question begging a priori materialism, to lock science into a box of censorship, instead of leaving it to pursue the truth about the remote past on warrant.

    Science held captive to materialist ideology is not genuinely scientific.

    Period.

    KF

  54. 54
    gpuccio says:

    Eugene:

    Thank you 🙂

    By the way, I have almost finished my posts abou NS in the old thread (maybe one more).

    And I think you could be interested in my exchange with Peter Griffin here, about another important problem:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-415940

    The discussion is about dFSCI, and it is rather long, but I believe my last posts offer some new perspective.

  55. 55
    Bruce David says:

    Well, Elizabeth, I basically agree with everything you have written until the very end, which I’ll address below. Congratulations on a very well thought out response! If you allow design as a legitimate conclusion that scientific inquiry can draw (which most methodololgical naturalists will not), then your metaphysical (I use this term to include religion, other forms of theism, and materialism on an equal footing) position once that conclusion has been reached may very well determine whether or not you stop scientific inquiry into the origin of the phenomenon in question at that point.

    Another possibility is that the conclusion of design in certain cases may lead one to re-evaluate their metaphysical position, as happened with of Antony Flew, who abandoned his life long commitment to atheism in favor of deism (his word), based on what he saw as overwhelming evidence for design in the fine tuning of the constants and the origin of life.

    Regarding this:

    There’s a third way, of course, which is McCabe’s: to regard “God” as the answer to the question “why is there anything, rather than nothing?” at which case the design inference becomes IMO, both irrelevant, and heretical! Because it supposes that there are two kinds of thing: designed; and non-designed. If God is the reason there is anything rather than nothing, then that is a false distinction, and there can be no feature of anything that indicates it is, as McCabe says “God-made” as opposed to not-God-made.

    Here I disagree. I believe that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. However, clearly God set up rules by which that universe normally operates (ie., natural law) which are discoverable by scientific inquiry. Newton believed that his work revealed the workings of the mind of God (and so do I), that this is a legitimate intellectual endeavor, and in fact can significantly increase one’s sense of awe and wonder regarding the creation. Furthermore, it is perfectly legitimate to inquire into the structure and function of natural objects and systems, such as living things, the interior of stars, the weather, or indeed the entire known universe. If in the course of that work one finds that the origin certain types of phenomena can only be attributed to the work of intelligence and not by the working of natural law alone, then that is simply more information about how our universe is constructed. There is nothing heretical about such a conclusion. (Personally, I don’t believe in heresy anyway. That is, in my theology, God does not impose any restrictions on what is ok or not ok to think.)

  56. 56
    Bruce David says:

    Dammit, Elizabeth, I clicked the wrong “reply” button. I wish this blog had an “undo” button. Anyway, my response is in #16, below.

  57. 57

    Thanks for your gracious comments, Bruce!

    And I should have put scarequotes round “heresy” – I don’t believe in it either 🙂

    The reason we disagree on the rest of that last part is probably that we disagree about the nature of intelligence (I don’t think intelligence is non-material).

    But reduced the distance between us by a long way, I think, so let’s enjoy the view 🙂

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  58. 58
    vjtorley says:

    Dr. Matzke,

    I have to say I laughed when I read your response – and I don’t do that often. Your reply is a perfect example of the Pegasus thinking I warned against in my essay: “if you can picture it, then it’s possible.” You wrote:

    The Designer didn’t have to square a circle, he just had to put the freakin’ birth canal somewhere other than right through a tiny hole in the pelvis. Why put it through the skeleton at all? A portal a few inches higher up in the lower belly would do nicely. No tearing and incontinence, no jamming the baby’s head through the pelvis, no problem with breach births, etc.

    That’s not a demonstration of possibility. To do that, you have to find the genes responsible for building the birth canal, show how they could be re-programmed to build a portal through the lower belly, and show that doing so would not render the animal less viable. I don’t know of any animals that give birth in the way you describe, so I’m highly skeptical that the arrangement would even work.

    Evolution doesn’t just occur at the macro level, as you are well aware. Showing how a design could be improved on isn’t enough; you have to show how the code for it would have to be re-written.

  59. 59
    vjtorley says:

    Gregory,

    I only have time for a very quick response right now. I don’t know much about Paul de Vries. You’re right to say that the term “methodological naturalism” is relatively new. The concept is older, but not as old as the NCSE would have us believe. It does not go back to the Middle Ages, as was alleged at Dover, but to the early nineteenth century. It only became generally accepted by scientists in the late nineteenth century. That’s all for now.

  60. 60

    Exactly, but this is Nick’s point. Clearly organism design (or “design”) was achieved by incremental adjustments to existing code, just as evolutionary theory says. This is quite unlike human design, which can, if necessary, “go back to the drawing board” and produce a Dyson vacuum cleaner, or a rotary engine, or a ball-point pen.

  61. 61
    vjtorley says:

    Gregory,

    Thank you for your post. The ID movement would not expel someone with an alternative view: ID is a big tent, as I stated above, and we believe in exploring new possibilities. All those who believe that design is empirically detectable are welcome in that tent.

  62. 62
    Maus says:

    Not in the slightest. Nick’s point was an Anselm ontological proof for [insert whatever]. Where Anselm ‘proved’ God existed because we could envision no bigger/greater being than God. Nick’s ontological proof about the non-existence of engineers is that if *we personally* can dream up something better, then there was no engineer.

    And don’t you know that I recite Nick’s argument every time I need to set the clock on the Blue-ray player. Which also happens to be an incremental set of improvements going back to the original laser-discs. The clock, or course, is further proof of this incremental evolutionary advance. That damn thing hasn’t changed since I last had a VHS player. And thus proves it in the same manner as mosquitoes.

  63. 63
    Maus says:

    Elizabeth, you have delivered the most brutal beating of a strawman that I have ever witnessed. When given hypotheticals, for the sake of argument, one reasons with what one is given or one rejects the hypotheticals as patent nonsense. Bruce’s argument is directly equivalent to Atomism under the Greeks. There was no other way they could sort it out, but they couldn’t test it.

    And so they stopped until they could.

    These things have repeatedly occurred, and in your noting Popper, he also noted this himself. His solution, natch, being that a philosophical framework is science if scientists believe in it. An oligarchic democracy of the rabbinical class, as it were. All of Popper’s protestations that he was not a positivist were defenestrated with that defense of unfalsifiable philosophies. And so, by which, Bruce is correct that it should then be ‘affirmed’ by science; at least if a reasonable portion of Science Rabbis also affirm it.

    Despite your ostensibly ‘matching’ sets of hypotheticals they most certainly are not. They both stand is violation of Bruce’s second hypothetical and then you use this lack of similarity to argue against his conclusion. That’s not how it works.

    This shows most clearly when you argue that the rejection of Methodological Naturalism is a Popperian violation. Qua Bruce’s second hypothetical it is necessary that the ‘agency’ determined would necessarily have been material, and thus within bounds. That said, if we ignore Popper’s Postivist backslide then it remains that Evolution — as it stands today — is a rejection of Methodological Naturalism and thus, under your definition, religious.

    This is strictly true as the experiments, their replication and verification, are strictly absent at this time. And observations that are non-repeatable are themselves not verifiable. (I’ll come back to this.)

    If we do not give charity to Popper and fully acknowledge his frou-frou descent into Postivism then Popper himself disavows Methodological Naturalism. And thus, by your own conclusions, the entire process of modern science is once again a religious institution. Disagree with this as you like and then tell me about Virtual Photons in physics. Where we have completely untestable bit popping in and out of material existence from the Quantum Vacuum with no material cause.

    Your desired conclusion, as you would like it, relies not on Methodological Naturalism, but on the content of the philosophies and theories that are allowed the status of being ‘rabbinically approved’ philosophies. Which is all properly Popper and brings us back to observations.

    If the observations are regular, predictable future occurrences, then there are no possible issues. Haley’s comet is a perfect example of this as are the issues involving Kepler, Gallileo, et al. In all of these cases they were observations that could not be repeated as causal cases on the lab table. They were, however, all instances of Psychic Friends Network prognostications that had rigid — and cyclical — dates of expiration.

    If, however, we choose to define “makes predictions” as the idea that you will make a future prediction that humans will be digging in past dirt? Then Evolution is entirely justified as a full Scientific Philosophy. So is Christianity for the very reason that there are all manner of folks crawling up and down Ararat and other places to observe Noah’s Ark and other issues of Biblical Archaeology.

    These two are directly and entirely synonymous. If you accept the full Popper then Christianity is a Scientific Philosophy without regard to Bruce’s ignored hypotheticals; aside obvious issues of democracy of belief amongst a given subset of scientific employees. In the strawman you’ve created Evolution is a religion as it rejects Methodological Naturalism under Popper as we talk about him in polite company.

    All of your objections come down to observation. Accept Evolution, Christianity, and reject Methodological Naturalism as ‘proper’ science. Or keep Methodological Naturalism, reject Evolution, Christianity, and the farcical idea that a Cabal of Wise-Men can dispense Truth about the universe by taking a vote amongst themselves.

  64. 64
    Gregory says:

    Yes, there is a significant gap in our communication on this topic, Elizabeth.

    I don’t have time to define material, natural and their ‘opposites’ (notice already non- and super- are used in your case, though not by others).

    Linguistic analysis is not necessarily psychoanalysis, a difference which I’m sure you can appreciate.

    Let me ask you though, Elizabeth, are the terms ‘cultural,’ ‘political,’ ‘social,’ religious,’ ‘economical’ and/or ‘linguistic’ best called ‘natural’ in your approach? Iow, would these terms count as ‘non-natural’ the way you perceive of ‘knowledge’ and/or ‘application’?

    Today heading to an exhibition of the great scientist and polymath Mikhail Lomonosov, whom some (in this country) say shares a similar status in terms of ‘contribution’ to world science and human knowledge as history’s few greatest.

  65. 65
    peter gutman says:

    what is material? Some materialism philosopher define material=being, and says matter is everything that exist. they argue in circle by saying: all existence=all existence.

    To avoid argue in circle we need distinguish “matter” and “being”, i believe the commonsense will define material=”physic particles”. And God created those particles, that’s why He is non-material.

    take a look at the multi universe Theory, how do we know other universe are all material? we can’t know. So is multi universe theory supernatural? it depend how you define it.

    If the source of the nature process life and intelligence, then God is true, but if the source of the nature are cold dead materials only, then materialism is true.

    ID is the science to investigate this, and methodological naturalism avoid this investigation. That why i believe ID is better science.

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    NR:

    Thanks for a quite constructive comment.

    You are right that mathematics is not always involved in scientific analyses and explanatory modelling, though it is highly preferable if it can be so involved. That is because such modelling then brings to bear the “unreasonable effectiveness” of one of the most powerful tools in our kit.

    In particular, mathematics joins quantification — broadly considered — to objective measurement and the logic of necessary connexion, such that if A is credibly real in mathematical respects X, Y, Z, then certain other consequences that may well be observable and measurable, say I, J, K MUST follow on the model, and can then be observed in reality if that is actual. So, it is key to empirical reliability, testing and prediction/retrodiction, which validates the model (inherently, provisionally).

    So, while mathematics is not a necessary part of science, it is a highly preferred part.

    (The broader field that is a requirement of science is logic. And, it can be argued that mathematics is effectively a grown up sucker of the banana plant of logic.)

    However, I must disagree with your assessment of the “who designed the designer” objection. The reason it is a claimed reductio, is that it points to an impossible infinite regress. But, all that the design argument is pointing to is that, on a wide base of investigation and testing there are reliable signs of intelligent action, which may also be shown analytically to be operationally beyond the reach of the other known and reasonable candidate mechanisms, blind chance and/or equally blind lawlike mechanical necessity; on the gamut of the observed cosmos or the like.

    But in fact, there is nothing more than a sufficiently advanced molecular nanotech lab that would be adequate to explain life on earth, if that is our focus. My prediction is that across this century, we will achieve that much, or pretty near that much.

    Of course, that raises the issue that somewhere else there must be intelligent life. Our existence proves the possibility, so if we now see reliable signs pointing that way, no problem. Save, perhaps, to our pride.

    Now, if that life in turn is embodied and cell based or the substantially equivalent, it too will not be original, as the cosmos in which we live is not original; i.e. it is credibly a contingent being. That which begins has a cause, and the cause must be adequate to explain the effect. (Notice, the key distinction I am making, this is where the infinite regress of Dawkins falls into error.)

    I of course am pointing to cosmological evidence of design, and to the logic of contingent vs necessary beings.

    For the former, I start where Hoyle did, let us look at the way our cosmos is set up to put up H, He, O, C, N, as in effect the first four or five elements. H + O gives us water, an astonishing piece of elegance and subtlety. He gives us the base for chemistry, in the gravity-well fusion furnaces of the cosmos. (Let me plunk for Bussard electrostatic well polywell fusion or the like as a hoped for breakthrough.) O and C are at resonances that are finetuned and that is the point that led Hoyle to his monkeying with the cosmos remarks. C, H and O of course give us the hard core of organic chemistry, and N gets us to proteins.

    And, what is the physics of the cosmos set up to do? Deliver these five as the first five in effect!

    We can go on to other things, by the dozen, but that is enough for us to understand that the physics of our observed cosmos was finely tuned in a way that points to intentional, complex arrangement of parts towards a purpose. That is, systems design. It looks uncommonly like someone set up our cosmos for life.

    Next, logic: in addition to contingent beings, there is the possibility of necessary beings, beings that cannot not-be, i.e. they have no external necessary causal factor that has to be “turned on” for them to exist. (That is what is implied by having a beginning, e.g. a fire needs heat, fuel and oxidiser to be present in the correct balance or, no go.)

    A common example is necessarily true propositions like the truth asserted in our symbolic expression 2 + 3 = 5. There is no coherent, possible world in which that truth will not be, it ad no beginning, it is not dependent for its reality on the action of anything as such — as opposed to having logical relations to other things — and it will never cease from being.

    But propositions have no external “physicodynamic effects” in themselves. They are physically inert, they are not acting causes as such, though physical facts and events will per logical necessity conform to them. (Hence “the unreasonable effectiveness” and analytical power of mathematics!)

    Atomic matter or the like can have the sort of physicodynamic effects we mentioned, but are contingent, so they are not original.

    We need a non-physical, immaterial, necessary being with ability to create/cause a cosmos in accordance with intentions. A beginningless, powerful being that has no possibility of ending, and whose existence is implied — even through a multiverse — by a contingent cosmos.

    The best candidate?

    God.

    (Who is not built up from parts that can be put together and taken apart, which is BTW, a requisite for being a necessary being. No composite being that originates in a combination of a core cluster of parts, can be without cause. Which is as opposed to the possibility of a being that is inherently of complex unity. Such a being is at once complex and simple [bearing in mind that the unity and the complexity speak to different facets of the being . . . ], which is obviously able to explain a cosmos that is at once unified and complex.)

    Which is why there is an edge to the now generation-old joke about how the astrophysicists, general physicists and astronomers were rushing across to their campus chapels in lunch hour to listen to Sir Fred’s meditation on the Monkeyer with physics, and then lining up to get baptised into the First Church of God, the Big Bang-er.

    So, patently, the inference to design is NOT an inference to the supernatural — as has been pointed out over, and over and over and over ad nauseum and as has been willfully ignored just as consistently — but instead an inductive inference to art acting by design, on empirically warranted signs. But, if the willful objectors can plant the notion that the inference proper is a disguised inference to the supernatural, they can toss a monkey wrench into the works of clear thinking on the matter. Which is exactly what has been done.

    Inference to design on cell based, aqueous medium life and its body plans, is NOT an inference to the supernatural, but an inference to intelligent design. Just as it openly says. And from the very first technical ID book in 1984, that has been explicitly declared. There is no excuse for those who have willfully set up a rhetorically convenient strawman and have set out to use it to poison discussion. (Barbara Forrest,et al, this means YOU.)

    There is a different level of design inference that points beyond our contingent world, but it is not the biological one, strictly. It is the cosmological design inference in light of the logic of contingent vs necessary beings. It appeals to a different world of evidence, and has an astonishingly powerful appeal. So much so that objectors are reduced to the absurdity of inferring to something from nothing [where that term SHOULD imply non-being . . . ] and/or an insistence on an unobserved, probably unobservable quasi-infinite multiverse. Which ends up simply postponing the finetuning issue one level!

    The H,He, O, C, N bridge to the living cell then connects the two domains.

    But that means that the inferential basis for drawing the conclusion that life is rooted in the designer of the cosmos, is much broader than that which is usually used in biology. Biology gets you to design. Cosmology gets you to a designer of a cosmos set up for life.

    Various worldviews are compatible with that, once they are amenable to design. That is a big tent indeed.

    It is only materialistic views that are not, and those are long since in deep trouble anyway, starting with undermining he basis for thinking reasonably and deciding purposefully and in accordance with real intentions. A priori, imposed evolutionary materialism dressed in the holy lab coat is irretrievably dead, analytically, but for the moment lives on ideologically, bleeding out before our eyes.

    Oh yes, before closing off, here is my extended offer of a “definition” of what science should be like (but may fail to be), from IOSE:

    science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:

    a: collecting, recording, indexing, collating and reporting accurate, reliable (and where feasible, repeatable) empirical — real-world, on the ground — observations and measurements,

    b: inference to best current — thus, always provisional — abductive explanation of the observed facts,

    c: thus producing hypotheses, laws, theories and models, using logical-mathematical analysis, intuition and creative, rational imagination [[including Einstein’s favourite gedankenexperiment, i.e thought experiments],

    d: continual empirical testing through further experiments, observations and measurement; and,

    e: uncensored but mutually respectful discussion on the merits of fact, alternative assumptions and logic among the informed. (And, especially in wide-ranging areas that cut across traditional dividing lines between fields of study, or on controversial subjects, “the informed” is not to be confused with the eminent members of the guild of scholars and their publicists or popularisers who dominate a particular field at any given time.)

    As a result, science enables us to ever more effectively (albeit provisionally) describe, explain, understand, predict and influence or control objects, phenomena and processes in our world.

    GEM of TKI

  67. 67
    Eugene S says:

    I guess there will be some people on the Judgement Day who will say to God: “But how come! You don’t exist.”

  68. 68
    Chas D says:

    so it will take about 80 milion years.

    You assume that each erv must be fixed before the next one can arise.

    These are all copies of the same erv – they spread laterally in the genome as well as through vertical inheritance. What is being fixed is a particular ancestor with that erv in a particular position. A population could become infested with thousands of erv’s, all in different positions in different members, out of which a sample of 100 becomes fixed in a future population, and the rest lost.

  69. 69

    Exactly.

    Guys, if you want ID treated at science, leave the theology out, right? Or at least, leave theology out of the science part. Giving a theological answer to a scientific question (why is the human female pelvis so unsuited for delivery of human babies?) is exactly the way to get ID rejected as science. It’s a perfectly good question, and Darwinian evolution has an excellent answer (we evolved from ancestors with smaller brains and longer tails). ID, qua science, doesn’t have one at all. It only has one qua theology.

    If you are happy to have ID regarded primarily as theology, fine, but then don’t expect it to be treated as science.

    But you can’t have your cake and eat it. Certainly not in the US, and not even in the UK – if it’s science it gets taught in Science, and if it’s theology, it gets taught in RE.

  70. 70

    What on earth is the theological problem raised by Darwinian theory?

    I just don’t get it.

  71. 71

    I agree that something not working properly isn’t proof that engineers don’t exist.

    But it is certainly evidence that the engineers who made the something were not omnipotent or omniscient.

    If the evidence implies an incompetent engineer, what are the theological implications?

    And if you think the evidence is for an omnicompetent engineer, then surely Nick’s point holds?

  72. 72

    What do you mean by “stochastic processes” Joe?

  73. 73

    You banned Peter Griffin?

    That’s a shame. Why?

  74. 74
    Chas D says:

    I guess there will be some people on the Judgement Day who will say to God: “But how come! You don’t exist.”

    Nope. I will be saying “Judge away, mate”. I might also ask “What was the point of all that cryptic stuff?”.

  75. 75

    Maus, I’m sorry, I’m really not at all sure what you are saying here.

    I can’t make sense of it.

    If I have defeated a straw man, fine. That’s it dealt with.

    My position can be very simply stated:

    There are no scientific grounds for stopping investigation, only theological ones.

    If you agree, that’s fine. If you don’t, can you say why?

  76. 76
    kairosfocus says:

    Nope, if you followed the thread in question [in which you intervened to suggest, wrongly, that there was not adequate documentation for a key cite] and were inclined to recall that I have no power to ban, you would realise that I will simply correct for record, until he makes amends for some pretty snide remarks made in the teeth of abundantly accessible evidence. KF

  77. 77

    Oh, good. Because he was having a very interesting discussion with gpuccio, and I’d like to see it continue.

    Thanks!

  78. 78
    Chas D says:

    That’s a shame.

    +1. I may be biased, but I found his contributions lively and well-argued, with a nice touch of wry humour. He was robust, but then so are many.

  79. 79

    and “So you are the guy responsible for the female pelvis?”

  80. 80
    Chas D says:

    Oh. Posted before clarification. Sorry.

  81. 81
    dmullenix says:

    For the purposes of this blog, I define supernatural as anything like the God of Moses. I don’t care to get into the quagmire of natural/supernatural demarcation when it’s not absolutely necessary.

    I strongly suggest that the good doctor and everybody else on this blog, especially bornagain77 and anybody else who thinks that quantum mechanics somehow destroys materialism, go to Wikipedia and look up “materialism” and “physicalism”. When most people say “materialism”, they really mean “physicalism”. I’m a physicalist.

  82. 82

    Me too.

    Whatever that means 🙂

  83. 83

    I’d prefer “naturalist” I think, if it didn’t mean David Attenborough.

  84. 84
    gpuccio says:

    Elizabeth:

    I would like very much to go on with the discussion too. Peter, where are you?

    However, Elizabeth, your comments would be welcome too (and also to the old discussion about modelling, obviously) 🙂

  85. 85
    Eugene S says:

    1.1.1.3.2 Chas D

    I seriously doubt you will, Chas D.

    1.1.1.3.1 Elizabeth Liddle

    It’s the wrong thread for it. So in a few words. It’s been extensively discussed not only on this blog but also in the science-philosophical literature. Some of the honest materialist scientists openly acknolwedge that they need to believe in what ‘appears to be nonsense’ such as the nonsensical multiverse or other rubbish like that with the sole purpose not to allow the Divine foot in the door of science.

    Some other scientists pretend not to be able to see this whole theological problem.

  86. 86
    Chas D says:

    1.1.1.3.2 Chas D

    I seriously doubt you will, Chas D.

    Doubt away, mate! I am entirely at peace with the way I have conducted myself in life. If that is not good enough for some judgemental entity, then … tough.

  87. 87
    dmullenix says:

    “This is true in a very straightforward way (see my quote from McCabe): if something has an effect on a material object, then it is a force. This is true whether it’s my fingers landing on the keys, or a rain drop landing on the earth. So to me “non-material force” (or, if you prefer, “non-physical force”) is an oxymoron.”

    Think of a computer game where you manipulate a ball with a joystick. Think of all the joystick manipulations as being forces. Now imagine the game is playing in a multi-tasking environment and a higher level user just pokes a different number into the memory slot that denotes the ball’s position. You would suddenly see the ball move, yet no joystick “force” would have moved it.

    It seems to me that religion claims that this universe can be manipulated from the outside without using any kind of force and I don’t see any way to gainsay that except to note that it never seems to happen where it can be properly observed.

  88. 88

    But in that case all we are doing is proposing that our own universe is merely a sub-universe in a larger universe.

    But if that larger universe actually impacts on our own, then it isn’t separate from it – all we need to do is to enlarge our concept of the universe.

    It still, it seems to me, makes God a denizen of his own universe, and thus a discoverable, and perfectly “natural” agent.

  89. 89
    William J Murray says:

    Invoking the hegemony of “methodological naturalism” when humans can only have a finite and incomplete understanding of what “naturalism” entails to manufacture a de facto exclusion of some theory or hypothesis based on preconceived bias that it is “science-stopping” is nothing but ideological bias.

    A finding of sufficient cause by an intelligent agency puts no more an end to scientific investigation than a finding of sufficient cause by physical regularity (law) or chance – unless one just wishes or assumes it to be so. Science’s job is to put the sufficient cause on what is most likely the cause, not on what satisfies other ideological concerns.

    Refusing to put the cause on what is most likely because one believes such a cause cannot be scientifically investigated is the equivalent of claiming to know the entirety of what “naturalism” can entail. Unless one knows for a fact that god, non-embodied consciousness, ghosts, psi events, angels, the afterlife, etc. are immune to science (and how would one know that?), then there it cannot be any less scientific to propose any of those things as sufficient cause, or as explanations, or as valid theories than it is to refer to superstrings, chance, gravity, dark matter, dark energy, singularities, etc.

    Great O.P., by the way.

  90. 90

    William, can you give the definition of “methodological naturalism” that you are using?

    Because that seems to be at issue.

  91. 91
    William J Murray says:

    What difference does it make how it is particularly defined, unless one is just attempting to exclude certain things from science via definitional fiat?

    Using observation, experiment, and logic, we can establish patterns and sufficient causes of behavior of phenomena that is both observable and implied (behavior of rocks rolling down a hill, and the force acting on them – gravity, inertia, random collisions, etc.).

    Science can also come to conclusions using logic, empirical observation and experimentation to find the best characterization of a sufficient cause for an effect – chance, the physical regularities we call “natural laws” like gravity, theoretical phenomena like superstrings or dark energy, or intelligent causation.

    Such conclusions are exactly what science pursues; they do not represent any “end” to science or abandonment of it.

  92. 92
    William J Murray says:

    I suggest that this ongoing effort to define “what is science” and “what is not science” in particular ways beyond the logical examination and extrapolation of empirical observation and experiment is motivated by nothing more than the desire brand certain concepts as “non-scientific” and thus de-legitimize them in the eyes of the general population.

    A logical conclusion based on a scientific examination of the evidence that it is more likely than not that a deliberate intelligence generated the universe is as scientific a conclusion as a fire investigator reaching the conclusion that a fire was probably caused by an arsonist.

    All arguments to the contrary, IMO, are ideologically motivated attempts to exclude unwanted conclusions via definitional fiat.

  93. 93

    What difference does it make how it is particularly defined, unless one is just attempting to exclude certain things from science via definitional fiat?

    It matters if people are rejecting it. I want to know what they are rejecting.

  94. 94
    kairosfocus says:

    Kindly show us a case of a design theorist, working in a scientific context, and inferring on empirical signs in an observed natural, world of life phenomenon, to demons or angels as the cause, on that alone. I think I smell a burning loaded strawman here. KF

  95. 95
    kairosfocus says:

    Peter Gutman,

    Welcome aboard.

    Would you care to try expanding your ideas?

    KF

  96. 96
    kairosfocus says:

    Good further thoughts . . . never mind language struggles, well worth putting down.

  97. 97
    Peter Griffin says:

    Thanks 🙂 My schedule is all over the place at the moment, I’ll post as and when it allows! Things are a bit calmer at the moment so I should be able to address all outstanding posts soon.

  98. 98
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your post. One major difference between living things and vacuum cleaners is that the former build themselves using a developmental program which makes the body parts and controls how they develop. The fact that I can look at an organism and imagine a more “efficient” final arrangement of its body parts does not (of itself) guarantee that a program capable of reliably producing that arrangement of parts can be written – even by an omniscient Deity. For one thing, the outcome may be unachievable in practice, because it is contingent upon too many things falling into place (i.e. very unlikely). For another thing, the intermediate developmental stages may be biologically non-viable, so that the organism dies before it matures.

    Likewise, the fact that I can look and an organism and imagine new parts that would make it even fitter than it is now does not automatically imply that a program capable of constructing those parts can be written, even by an omnicompetent Designer. For even if it can be shown that the new parts would not disadvantage the organism, that a reliable mechanism for producing the parts exists, and that intermediate developmental stages are viable, it still needs to be shown that the code required to produce these new parts has no harmful side-effects that would otherwise disadvantage the organism.

    The upshot of all this is that critics using alleged instances of maldesign in order to attack the hypothesis of Intelligent Design have to do a lot more homework, if they want to prove their point. Imagining a better design simply isn’t good enough. One has to be able to look at the organism’s developmental program and understand how it works.

  99. 99

    One major difference between living things and vacuum cleaners is that the former build themselves using a developmental program which makes the body parts and controls how they develop.

    Exactly! Which is also the major difference between human artefacts and biological organisms!

    Which in turn is why we cannot extrapolate from human design to biological design.

    So I’m glad you agree 🙂

    Biological design, is, as you say, constrained by what is possible through a developmental program. And is why the argument for common descent is so strong (leaving aside the question as to whether evolution (in the weak sense) is guided or not.

    So while I agree with you, your point seems to undermine one of the most common arguments for Intelligent Design – organisms look like machines, and machines are by intelligent humans.

    Organisms don’t really look like machines. They look like, well, organisms – self-building things that assemble themselves according to a developmental time-table, and at some point reproduce themselves by outputing another organism that goes through the same developmental process.

  100. 100
    Eugene S says:

    Chas,

    Don’t read me wrong. I don’t wish anyone a bad answer at that point. What I mean is I doubt you will be able to say then what you are saying now, the way you put it. Take care.

  101. 101
    Bruce David says:

    Yes, Lizzie, I agree. This conversation with you has been a pleasure. I look forward to more in the future.

    Bruce

  102. 102
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77,

    Thanks very much for the videos. I finally got round to watching them. Very interesting! These two individuals have both been given an extraordinary gift. I do hope they change the world with their gifts, when they get older. It would be great to hear the mature compositions of a new Mozart. And I’m really looking forward to see if Jake Barnett can change our understanding of physics – including randomness. Thank you once again.

  103. 103
    Eugene S says:

    And on what grounds. Some scientists as soon as certain topics are discussed, reject certain hypotheses. When you ask those people why they do so, you can hear very interesting answers indeed, occasionally quite honest.

  104. 104
    Peter Griffin says:

    Can someone give me a specific example of something that they would like to examine, but cannot because of definitional fiat?

  105. 105
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    You raised a very interesting point in your last post (1.1.3.1.4) regarding Intelligent Design and its alleged equation of organisms with machines. A few quick points in reply:

    1. I’m an ID proponent, and I certainly don’t equate organisms with machines. There is one point of similarity though: machines work, and so do living things. Both have a function, or ergon. Living things (unlike machines) can also be said to have a good of their own, or telos, as shown by the fact that their parts and sub-parts (all the way down to the bottom level) exhibit dedicated functionality, and sub-serve the good of the whole.

    2. Although living things are not machines, and cells are not machines, I would be happy to describe a component of a cell as a machine, in the case where each of the component’s parts has a well-defined function, and we can explain the parts’ workings in a similar way to the way in which we explain the workings of the parts of a machine.

    3. If someone asked me what my main reason for believing ID was, at a gut level, I wouldn’t cite the fact that organisms look like machines, or the argument from irreducible complexity, or the astronomical improbability of life originating as a result of non-foresighted processes, or for that matter abductive inference (intelligent agency is the best explanation we have for the cell). I’d go for something I call S.T.O.M.P.S. (Smarter Than Our Most Promising Scientists) – which, incidentally, will be the subject of a future post of mine. The idea is this. If you see an object which has some sort of function, and discover that the way it works is so elegant and efficient that it blows your mind, that’s a pretty good sign that it was designed. If it not only blows your mind, but the minds of our most promising scientists, who find themselves saying things like, “Wow, I would never have thought of that solution to that problem,” when they look at the way the object works, I’d say it’s rational to believe that the object was designed. Coming up with elegant solutions to problems relating to making things work is a hallmark of intelligent agency. Dr. Matzke can scoff at the design of the female pelvis all he likes, but at the level of the cell and its components, we find a breath-taking degree of beauty, elegance and complexity, as these videos show (thanks, bornagain77):

    Powering the Cell: Mitochondria (2:09; no voiceover)
    Molecular Biology Animations – Demo Reel (1:43; no voiceover)
    The ATP Synthase Enzyme – exquisite motor necessary for first life (86 seconds; voiceover)
    Programming of Life – Protein Synthesis (2:51; voiceover)
    DNA Molecular Biology Visualizations – Wrapping And DNA Replication (3:07; voiceover)
    Astonishing Molecular Machines – Drew Berry (6:04, TED talk)
    Bacterial Flagellum (7:36; voiceover)

    It isn’t just the design of cells’ parts that suggests intelligent agency. If we go down one layer further and look at the code that produces all these parts, we also find signs of intelligence. A few years ago I read a paper called Astonishing Complexity of DNA Demolishes Neo-Darwinism by the Australian botanist Alex Williams. Williams is a young-earth creationist, but I don’t let that bother me. It was what he had to say about DNA that got me curious. Parts of the paper are a little dated now, but these facts stood out:

    * There is no ‘beads on a string’ linear arrangement of genes, but rather an interleaved structure of overlapping segments, with typically five, seven or more transcripts coming from just one segment of code.
    * Not just one strand, but both strands (sense and antisense) of the DNA are fully transcribed.
    * Transcription proceeds not just one way but both backwards and forwards.
    * The same DNA molecules are used for multiple functions. The overlap of functionally important sequence motifs must be resolved in time and space for this organization to work properly.

    Pretty nifty, huh? Would you have thought of that? And even if you had, could you have implemented it? I was a programmer for ten years, and when I read this, it fairly blew my mind.

    I’ll start taking the arguments of the neo-Darwinians seriously when they can design a molecule that transcribes information more cleverly than DNA, or that is better at replicating and evolving than DNA.

  106. 106
    Gregory says:

    “we cannot extrapolate from human design to biological design.” – Elizabeth Liddle

    I support Elizabeth’s point on this and fail to see how vjtorley has addressed it.

    The ID argument that ‘organisms’ are/display (molecular) ‘machines’ has been suspect from the start, just as is the ‘natural’ scientific dependence on ‘artifice’ to qualify itself is wanting (i.e. Darwin & Wallace’s ‘natural selection’ compared with ‘artificial selection’).

    I’ve met enough engineers with sociology-envy to recognise an over-simplistic argument! ; )

    We usually know that artefacts are designed, by definition; yet to claim ‘design’ as a formal cause (i.e. not efficient or material cause) ‘in nature’ is lacking demonstration in what vjtorley has written so far.

    How is vjtorley (or for that matter, Stephen Meyer) not in fact ‘extrapolating from human design to biological design’ in his approach?

  107. 107
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    You wrote:

    …if something has an effect on a material object, then it is a force. This is true whether it’s my fingers landing on the keys, or a rain drop landing on the earth. So to me “non-material force” (or, if you prefer, “non-physical force”) is an oxymoron.

    In reply: your argument implicitly assumes that whatever has an effect on a material object must itself be a material object.

    You also wrote above in 3.1.1.9, in response to dmullenix’s joystick analogy:

    But if that larger universe actually impacts on our own, then it isn’t separate from it – all we need to do is to enlarge our concept of the universe.

    I think I see what the problem is here. You seem to be reasoning as follows.

    1. Physical (or if you prefer, material) objects have physical properties, and no other properties.

    2. The behavior of physical objects can be completely described by the set of laws they behave in accordance with. These laws can only make reference to physical parameters (see 1 above).

    3. Consequently anything which acts on a physical object and manages to alter its behavior, does so by acting according to some law.

    4. Any action which is performed according to some law is by definition physical (or “material” if you like).

    5. Consequently anything which is capable of moving a physical object must itself be physical.

    6. A force can be defined as that which changes the velocity of a physical object possessing a mass – i.e. changes its speed or direction.

    7. Hence “non-material force” is a contradiction.

    The real problem with the argument is premise 1. If you believe in God, you have to believe that even material things have some non-physical properties – in particular, the preperty of being responsive to God’s non-material acts of will.

    God’s acts of will are not law-governed. That is, they do not conform to some mathematical equation. Hence these acts cannot be described as physical acts. They are immaterial acts.

    The notion of an object responding to someone’s act of will may at first sound unintelligible. But instead of worrying about how an act of will could impact upon the motion of an object, it might be more profitable to ask: what would objects have to be like, for God to be able to move them at will? What sort of ontology would I have to adopt, for that notion to make sense? Try proceeding that way, and you’ll find it very helpful.

    You mentioned McCabe. He is not quite right in saying that all forces in the universe are the actions of a non-material agent. When agents act in their normal manner, their action is their own, but there is also a parallel, concurrent action of God’s, without whose constant co-operation the natural agent would be unable to cause the slightest effect. In addition to that, God maintains the natural agent in being. Hence there is a two-fold agency of God: conserving natural agents in being, and co-operating with them when they act on other agents.

    As you may have guessed, I’m a concurrentist. (McCabe is not; he’s a conservationist, or what Alfred Freddoso used to call a weak deist. See section 1 of this paper of his, for a short and handy explanation of concurrentism:

    http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/chance.htm )

  108. 108
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Definitions, definitions . . .

    ISCID, Enc:

    Methodological Naturalism

    A methodological principle that some scientists think ought to guide science. Methodological naturalism requires that scientists limit themselves to naturalistic or materialistic explanations when they seek to explain natural phenomena, objects, or processes. On this understanding of how science ought to work, explanations that invoke intelligent causes or the actions of intelligent agents do not qualify as scientific.

    Plantinga, at ARN, in Methodological naturalism?:

    The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as “scientific,” it cannot refer to God’s creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, “give us no purchase” on theological propositions–even if the latter are true–and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct. However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim . . . .

    According to an idea widely popular since the Enlightenment, science (at least when properly pursued) is a cool, reasoned, wholly dispassionate1 attempt to figure out the truth about ourselves and the world, entirely independent of ideology, or moral convictions, or religious or theological commitments. Of course this picture has lately developed some cracks. It is worth noting that 16 centuries ago, St. Augustine provided the materials for seeing that this common conception can’t really be correct. It would be excessively naïve to think that contemporary science is religiously and theologically neutral. Perhaps parts of science are like that. The size and shape of the earth and its distance from the sun, the periodic table of the elements, the proof of the Pythagorean Theorem–these are all in a reasonable sense religiously neutral. But many other areas of science are very different. They are obviously and deeply involved in a clash between opposed religious world views. There is no neat recipe for telling which parts of science are neutral with respect to this contest and which are not; what we have is a continuum rather than a simple distinction. But here is a rough rule of thumb: the relevance of a bit of science to this contest depends upon how closely that bit is involved in the attempt to come to understand ourselves as human beings . . . .

    Consider the Grand Evolutionary Myth (GEM). According to this story, organic life somehow arose from non-living matter by way of purely natural means and by virtue of the workings of the fundamental regularities of physics and chemistry. Once life began, all the vast profusion of contemporary flora and fauna arose from those early ancestors by way of common descent. The enormous contemporary variety of life arose, basically, through natural selection operating on such sources of genetic variability as random genetic mutation, genetic drift and the like. I call this story a myth not because I do not believe it (although I do not believe it) but because it plays a certain kind of quasi-religious role in contemporary culture. It is a shared way of understanding ourselves at the deep level of religion, a deep interpretation of ourselves to ourselves, a way of telling us why we are here, where we come from, and where we are going.

    Now it is certainly possible–epistemically possible,7 anyway–that GEM is true; it certainly seems that God could have done things in this way. Certain parts of this story, however, are, to say the least, epistemically shaky. For example, we hardly have so much as decent hints as to how life could have arisen from inorganic matter just by way of the regularities known to physics and chemistry.8 (Darwin found this question deeply troubling;9 at present the problem is enormously more difficult than it was in Darwin’s day, now that some of the stunning complexity of even the simplest forms of life has been revealed).10 No doubt God could have done things that way if he had chosen to; but at present it looks as if he didn’t choose to.

    So suppose we separate off this thesis about the origin of life. Suppose we use the term ‘evolution’ to denote the much weaker claim that all contemporary forms of life are genealogically related. According to this claim, you and the flowers in your garden share common ancestors, though we may have to go back quite a ways to find them. Many contemporary experts and spokespersons–Francisco Ayala, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Gould, William Provine, and Philip Spieth, for example–unite in declaring that evolution is no mere theory, but established fact. According to them, this story is not just a virtual certainty, but a real certainty.11 Now why do they think so? Given the spotty character of the evidence–for example, a fossil record displaying sudden appearance and subsequent stasis and few if any genuine examples of macroevolution, no satisfactory account of a mechanism by which the whole process could have happened, and the like12–these claims of certainty seem at best wildly excessive. The answer can be seen, I think, when we realize that what you properly think about these claims of certainty depends in part on how you think about theism. If you reject theism in favor of naturalism, this evolutionary story is the only game in town, the only visible answer to the question: Where did all this enormous variety of flora and fauna come from? How did it all get here? Even if the fossil record is at best spotty and at worst disconfirming, this story is the only answer on offer (from a naturalistic perspective) to these questions.

    From a theistic or Christian perspective, however, things are much less frantic. The theist knows that God created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain; she knows, therefore, that in one way or another God has created all the vast diversity of contemporary plant and animal life. But of course she isn’t thereby committed to any particular way in which God did this. He could have done it by broadly evolutionary means; but on the other hand he could have done it in some totally different way. For example, he could have done it by directly creating certain kinds of creatures–human beings, or bacteria, or for that matter sparrows13 and houseflies–as many Christians over the centuries have thought. Alternatively, he could have done it the way Augustine suggests: by implanting seeds, potentialities of various kinds in the world, so that the various kinds of creatures would later arise, although not by way of genealogical interrelatedness. Both of these suggestions are incompatible with the evolutionary story.

    A Christian therefore has a certain freedom denied her naturalist counterpart: she can follow the evidence14 where it leads . . .

    I think this pair of clips allows us to focus many of the underlying issues and concerns quite well.

    And so, when, for instance we see the US NSTA saying (scroll down here):

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . . 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 . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [[NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000.]

    . . . we have excellent grounds for saying that this reflects an ideological captivity of science that needs to be broken, and that educators who think like this — this is a statement from the BOARD of the national Science teachers body of the USA — have disqualified themselves from teaching our young people about anything more complex and involved than how to chuck a drill bit.

    The first, obvious rejoinder is that there is a perfectly good, empirically testable and reasonable sense in which we may contrast the natural and the artificial, without loading up on metaphysical commitments, and that we may then proceed to investigate on empirically observable, testable, and reliable signs. That hs been known from the days of Plato in his The laws, Bk X. Something which we cannot excuse the NSTA’s board for being ignorant of. Indeed, had they troubled to move beyond ideological power games and scapegoating strawmen, they would have learned that this is routinely studied in many unquestionably scientific fields, using credible and effective empirical methods, Indeed, some of these have relevance to what happens in courtrooms.

    Philip Johnson’s rebuke to such is all too well warranted:

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

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    The time has more than come to say enough is enough, and that domineering overlordship by a priori materialist ideologues dressed in the holy lab coat must end now.

    GEM of TKI

  109. 109
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    George,

    What theory pertaining to origins does not require an extrapolation? We’ve never observed the origins of anything remotely like biology.

    That doesn’t mean that the comparison to human design is automatically the best one or even a good one. But you’re going to have a tough time finding a better one.

    The extrapolation to biological design leads to a great big unknown. If something designed it, then we can’t presently tell what. That might not sit well. That’s one great big, fantastic unknown. I can understand viewing that with skepticism.

    But how is a logical absurdity such as biological self-organization better? An unknown doesn’t have to be a fairy tale, even if you think the stories people make up about it are fairy tales. But biological self-organization is a fairy tale. It requires confidence in an event that is at best unsupported by anything in documented human experience and at worst contradicted by much of it.

    I’m trying not to be too dogmatic and look for a middle-of-the-road way to express this. How can the inference of an unknown intelligent agent be more fantastic or less rational then the imagination of self-organized living things which is inferred from nothing at all? I don’t see how to shoot down the one and then pick up the other.

  110. 110
    kairosfocus says:

    PG of course — predictably — fails to understand that if science is taken ideological captive to a priori materialism as is notorious, it has sold its birthright of unfettered pursuit of the truth about our world through empirical methods, for a mess of materialist ideological pottage. KF

  111. 111
    Joe says:

    The same thing everyone else means.

    Look I have a dictionary and know the meanings of words.

    Buy one already…

  112. 112
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Elizabeth:

    I’d just like to clear up one thing about Intelligent Design. In identifying a pattern in Nature as the work of an Intelligent Agent, ID does not claim that this agent is the proximate (or immediate) cause of the pattern. The agent might well be an intermediate cause, or even the ultimate cause of the pattern. Hence even if we detect that a pattern is the work of an intelligent agent, on the basis of purely empirical criteria (specified complexity), it is still possible for us to look for unintelligent proximate natural causes that produced that pattern. Intelligent Design in no way interferes with lab work. It is agnostic regarding the level in the causal chain corresponding to the work of an Intelligent Agent, or the way in which the Agent produces these patterns. Front-loading, for instance, is quite compatible with Intelligent Design.

  113. 113
    Gregory says:

    Thank you for confirming with me that MN is ‘relatively new.’

    Yes, I think more work needs to be done by IDists on Paul de Vries. This is, after all, (according to R. Numbers) the source of the terminology, i.e. coinage.

    Why challenge Elizabeth while knowing so little about de Vries? Was it simply one paper he wrote, for a deadline, with nothing ‘ethical’ invested…and yet both you and Elizabeth and most others here take de Vries’ terminology as ‘good PoS’? Didn’t he have to sign a ‘faith statement’ while being employed by Wheaton College, where he was when he authored said paper?

    My view is that MN is junk PoS. It doesn’t hold up under scrutiny by those who are knowledgeable in the field. It is a weak attempt to provide a rationale for justifying NOMA. Yet many IDists have bought-into de Vries’ evangelical logic!

    For example, vjtorley you say ‘the concept is older.’ But ‘the concept-duo’ was coined by de Vries! In fact what you mean is that the ‘percept’ i.e. the act of perceiving *only nature* as a sovereign realm is older. You say NCSE is wrong (re: Middle Ages), while at the same time your message is misleading.

    The ‘conceptualisation’ belongs to de Vries. Why not then seek him out to explain himself further?

    Going deepeer, exactly who do you suggest in ‘the early nineteenth century’ as the ‘first proponent’ of seeing *only nature* as a sovereign realm? A name would be best here please.

    ‘Late nineteenth century’ is also too sloppy and imprecise for rigorous discussion.

    Again, I’m not a USAmerican citizen and neither NCSE nor Dover make much difference in my studies of ‘science’ and society. A more global approach would be appreciated as we are using internet.

  114. 114
    vjtorley says:

    Elizabeth:

    In the passage you cited, McCabe reveals himself to be a conservationist, or what Alfred Freddoso used to call a weak Deist. That’s fine, but conservationism is not the mainstream view of Church theologians down the ages regarding God’s causal interaction with the world. Concurrentism is.

    Conservationists maintain that while God is the immediate cause of the being of creatures (for without Him, they’d be nothing), He is a remote (or ultimate) cause of the effects that creatures bring about in the natural world – i.e. changes. God acts though natural agents but never alongside them.

    Concurrentism by contrast holds that in addition to being the immediate cause of the being of creatures, as well as the ultimate cause of the effects they bring about in the natural world, God also produces natural effects immediately, working concurrently with creatures. In other words, not:

    God->X->Y->Z (where X, Y and Z are natural effects), but:

    God->X
    God + X->Y
    God + Y->Z

    (At the same time, God maintains all agents immediately in being.)

    Without God’s co-operation at each step, effect Z will not occur. It would be wrong however to say that God intervenes. Regular co-operation is not intervention. Occasionally, miracles occur in which God withholds his co-operation. As Freddoso puts it, referring to the miracle of Shadrach:

    … Christians ought not to believe that in performing miracles, God has to overpower or struggle with or overcome His creatures. The occasionalists and concurrentists are convinced that there are certain miracles recorded in Scripture that weak deism cannot construe other than as events God was able to bring about only by overpowering certain creatures.

    Think of Shadrach sitting in the fiery furnace. Here we have real human flesh exposed unprotected to real fire, and yet Shadrach survives unscathed–even though the fire is so hot that it consumes the soldiers who usher him into the furnace. How, on the weak deist view, can God save Shadrach? Only, it seems, by either (i) taking from the fire its power to consume Shadrach, which is inconsistent with the soldiers’ being incinerated but in any case amounts (or so the anti-deists all claim) to destroying the fire and in that sense overpowering it; or (ii) endowing Shadrach’s clothing and flesh with a special power of resistance, in which case God is opposing His creature, the fire; or (iii) placing some impediment (say, an invisible heat-resistant shield) between Shadrach and the flames, in which case God is yet again resisting the power of the fire. By contrast, on the occasionalist and concurrentist models, God accomplishes this miracle simply by withholding His own action. The (real) fire is, as it were, beholden to God’s word; He does not have to struggle with it or overcome it or oppose it. The fire’s natural effect cannot occur without God’s action, and in this case God chooses not to act in the way required. An elegant account, and one that does not in any way give any creature a power that God must oppose.

    Freddoso gives a brief and highly readable account of concurrentism here (see section 1):

    http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/chance.htm

    For more about concurrentism, including replies to common objections, see here:

    http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....l#smoking5

    Aquinas, incidentally, was a concurrentist.

    Aquinas also taught (contrary to McCabe) that physical effects going beyond the power of Nature are the best possible way to demonstrate God’s power and free agency:

    [D]ivine power can sometimes produce an effect, without prejudice to its providence, apart from the order implanted in natural things by God. In fact, He does this at times to manifest His power. For it can be manifested in no better way, that the whole of nature is subject to the divine will, than by the fact that sometimes He does something outside the order of nature. Indeed, this makes it evident that the order of things has proceeded from Him, not by natural necessity, but by free will. (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, chapter 99, paragraph 9.)

    In his Quaestiones Disputatae de Potentia Dei (Disputed Questions on the Power of God) Q. VI article I, Aquinas asks: Can God do anything in creatures that is beyond Nature, against Nature, or contrary to the course of Nature? Here is a very brief excerpt:

    I answer that, without any doubt God can work in creatures independently of created causes … and by working independently of created causes he can produce the same effects and in the same order as he produces them by their means: or even other effects and in a different order: so that he is able to do something contrary to the common and customary course of nature.

    Finally, in his Summa Contra Gentiles Book III, chapter 100, paragraphs 6 and 7, Aquinas argues that nothing God does to Nature can be contrary to Nature, simply because He is Nature’s Creator:

    [6] Furthermore, all creatures are related to God as art products are to an artist, as is clear from the foregoing. Consequently, the whole of nature is like an artifact of the divine artistic mind. But it is not contrary to the essential character of an artist if he should work in a different way on his product, even after he has given it its first form. Neither, then, is it against nature if God does something to natural things in a different way from that to which the course of nature is accustomed.

    [7] Hence, Augustine says: “God, the creator and founder of all natures, does nothing contrary to nature; for what the source of all measure, number and order in nature does, is natural to each thing” [Contra Faustum, XXVI, 3].

    Consequently, I do not agree with McCabe when he writes:

    … [W]e do not apeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe which indicates it is god-made.

    Any feature of the universe which exhibited specified complexity, and which was beyond the power of natural causes to produce (i.e not describable within the framework of any physical law) would be evidence for God’s having produced it.

    As for the universe being this way rather than that: we do need to appeal to the Creator of the cosmos to explain why the finely-tuned and uniquely beautiful laws of Nature are this way rather than that.

  115. 115
    William J Murray says:

    Peter Griffin asks at 19:

    Can someone give me a specific example of something that they would like to examine, but cannot because of definitional fiat?

    The reason definitional fiat is used is to avoid conclusions that seem to contradict some scientists’ ideology. IOW, they would like to not examine the subject in question (ID theory), and they would like to not conclude that the subject in question is the most likely cause.

    It is a reasonable scientific conclusion (provisionally held, as are all scientific conclusions) that intelligent, deliberate agencies were involved in a significant way in the creation of life and in the evolutionary process since then.

    To avoid this, many scientists invoke by fiat that the characterization of such an agency as “intelligent and deliberate” in this particular case is a definitional reference to magic, or “the supernatural”, or some other premise that, in their minds, means “science stops here”, whereas in other cases (such as in forensic investigations) no such definitional fiat is applied to the finding of cause by deliberate agency.

    So, some scientists, because they do not wish to consider as scientific the conclusion that a deliberate agency may generated life (or the universe), use definitional fiat to categorize such a characterization as outside of the normal bounds of science.

    Which is clearly special pleading and definitional fiat.

  116. 116
    Gregory says:

    vjtorley wrote: “The ID movement would not expel someone with an alternative view” and “Thank you for your post.”

    You’re welcome. Let us see if the IDM would or would not ‘expel’ someone with an alternative view to theirs and if they are intererested in ‘following the evidence where it leads’. You say with confidence that they ‘would not’ and yet are now made aware of the proposed situation that an ‘alternative to ID’ is available. Let us await the fruits.

    Elizabeth is surely aware and watching this also, along with others.

    Let me first say that I am thankful to the IDM, specifically to the DI for supporting my research, which contributed in small part to both my masters and PhD theses. No harm do I wish to the people who supported me and welcomed me openly into seeing their inner workings and plans. Yet I’ve discovered such a gaping hole in their ‘methodology,’ in their ‘approach,’ in their view of the Academy, that I cannot help but now speak out.

    Yes, I am aware that ‘ID is a big tent’ and that it opens and closes its folds at some point and cannot be universal. I have moved beyond ID as a satisfactory ‘new natural-physical science’ position. ‘Design’ is a proper concept in some fields, but is improper in others, which is a suitable topic for discussion.

    Yes, I accept/believe that “design is empirically X-able” (‘detection’ being only one among many possible terms). It is historical, interpretive and empirical as a term in ‘certain sciences.’ But – ah, there’s the rub – *not* in others.

    This is the fine line – the rub – for you to walk, vjtorley, in your assessment.

    Soon I will respond to Timaeus in another thread (http://www.uncommondescent.com...../#comments). Let us see if you would retain your openness to evidence and welcome to me given the possibility of an ‘alternative to ID’ or if you would rather promote censorship in the ‘search for truth’.

    What I offer is to speak truth to power/consensus – I am against universal evolution(ism) and seek an acceptable limitation on (neo-)Darwinism; surely this is something that the anti-Darwinists in the audience will appreciate and be ready to devour!

  117. 117

    In the passage you cited, McCabe reveals himself to be a conservationist, or what Alfred Freddoso used to call a weak Deist. That’s fine, but conservationism is not the mainstream view of Church theologians down the ages regarding God’s causal interaction with the world. Concurrentism is.

    Well, you might like to read more of his work before coming to that conclusion. He was a Dominican theologian, a Thomist scholar, and one of the editors of the English edition of the Summa. He also authored The Teaching of the Catholic Church: A New Catechism of Christian Doctrine.

    So not exactly out of the catholic mainstream, anyway 🙂

    And, as I said, a Thomist scholar. He’s dead, sadly, so you can’t ask him. But I was privileged to hear him preach regularly at Blackfriars Priory, Oxford. (Also Timothy Radcliffe, until recently, Master of the Dominicans – it was an awesome Sunday venue!)

  118. 118
    Gregory says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I’ll be away for a couple of days starting Monday, with perhaps only a quick check-in possible.

    Not wishing to rush you towards an answer to 9.1, but rather to stress the importance of how you respond and that you respond to this question.

    Admitting there are ‘non-natural’ topics/themes/ideas/concepts/categories/fields/etc. that are best not called ‘supernatural’ marks a necessary change in your current position.

    It is not so much a matter of pointing out ‘intellectual shortcomings’ as it is highlighting that the ‘academic tradition’ in which you operate in England historically does not allow you to see certain things (Cf. J.D. Bernal on social history of science). Recognition of this is what I have been studying closely for the past 7-10 years. There is no one ‘in’ the IDM (that I am familiar with) who takes this approach.

    Indeed, there are multiple things on which we agree, especially with regard to ID, but not so far about ‘naturalism.’

  119. 119
    Gregory says:

    Assuming I’ve (once again) been mistaken for ‘George’ (with soon coming the Chinese year of the Dragon!)…

    “We’ve never observed the origins of anything remotely like biology.”

    Actually, without exception the ‘origins’ of *every* ‘scientific’ field of study (biology included) have been ‘observed’ and (more or less) ‘recorded’ by people. It would be absurd to suggest otherwise.

    The ‘analogy’ to ‘human design’ by ‘intelligent design’ as a theory IN ‘natural sciences’ simply weakens its explanatory power. This is not to say that ‘human design’ is weak, but simply that it is ‘other’ to the ‘naturalistic’ approach.

    Embrace your dogmatism ScottAndrews2; everyone is dogmatic in one way or another! Do not be afraid. Why bring shame on inescapable dogma? Dogma is, after all, not a karmic idea!

    “How can the inference of an unknown intelligent agent be more fantastic or less rational then the imagination of self-organized living things which is inferred from nothing at all? I don’t see how to shoot down the one and then pick up the other.”

    Yes, I’m well aware of what you and the IDM don’t see, with their focus on natural-physical sciences at the cost of human casualisation. Known intelligent agents are staring you (Welcome to Victoria!) right in the face.

  120. 120

    Apologies for the delay, Gregory! Thanks for the link.

    Let me ask you though, Elizabeth, are the terms ‘cultural,’ ‘political,’ ‘social,’ religious,’ ‘economical’ and/or ‘linguistic’ best called ‘natural’ in your approach? Iow, would these terms count as ‘non-natural’ the way you perceive of ‘knowledge’ and/or ‘application’?

    I’m not quite understanding your question, Gregory. You have there a list of adjectives, and while I guess I think adjectives are “natural”, I’m sure that isn’t what you want to know! So let’s try turning them into nouns: culture, politics, society, religion, economics, language. Yes, I think these are all “natural” phenomena.

    But I’m sure I haven’t understood your question. Could you clarify?

  121. 121
    Gregory says:

    No, that’s fine how you’ve answered, Elizabeth. Thanks.

    The main issue is whether or not you allow for a sovereign category of ‘human-made’ things, i.e. ‘artefacts’ or whether instead you subsume them under the category of ‘natural,’ which is what you’ve done (also adding the term ‘phenomena’).

    Would it be correct to assume that you also consider ‘technology’ as ‘natural’ (or as ‘natural phenomena’) too?

    There is one more question (in two parts) that I’d like to ask, then, given your answer in 9.1.2:

    Is ‘artificial selection’ also something you consider to be ‘natural’? If so, then why did Charles Darwin distinguish ‘artificial selection’ from ‘natural selection’?

    Thanks in advance for expressing your views on what is ‘natural’ and what is (or could possibly count as) ‘non-natural.’ This helps me to understand what you mean by ‘naturalism’ in your philosophy of science.

  122. 122
    Gregory says:

    Just to clarify, Elizabeth, it looks like you did understand my question. Indeed, that is why I am now asking a follow-up to it. Sometimes being ‘sure’ of something is not the best approach.

    Awaiting your response on supposedly ‘natural’ technology and on ‘artificial selection.’

    Thanks,
    Gr.

  123. 123
    Petrushka says:

    Darwin didn’t draw a strong distinction between natural and artificial selection. He called attention to the similarities.

  124. 124
    Gregory says:

    Well done, Petrushka. Nice hint!

  125. 125

    No, that’s fine how you’ve answered, Elizabeth. Thanks.

    The main issue is whether or not you allow for a sovereign category of ‘human-made’ things, i.e. ‘artefacts’ or whether instead you subsume them under the category of ‘natural,’ which is what you’ve done (also adding the term ‘phenomena’).

    Well, that would depend on context. Or rather, on the level of causality we are talking about. You could legitimately as, and do, whether a man died of “natural” causes or was murdered (“unnatural death”); also distinguish between “natural” and “artificial” selection. So if what you are interested in is whether something is “artificial” or not (the result of “artifice”) you (and I) might well use “natural” as the antonym. But if, to adopt a more distal level of causality, you might also say that it was “natural” for A to kill B, because A killed B in self-defense and self-defense is a “natural” instinct.

    But my position is that all phenomena observed “in nature” i.e. in the world are ultimately “natural” in causation, i.e. have their most distal causes within the world, and that “natural” phenomena include intelligent living things capable of causing, and creating, other things by “artifice”.

    Although let me add a caveat: I think that “causality” as a concept is itself a human artefact! It may be that when faced with very elemental questions like “what is the nature of existence” the notion of “causality” simply falls out of our conceptualisation of “time”, and vanishes if we reconceptualise “time” as a bi-directional dimension like the other familiar three. But leaving that aside (and mostly I don’t think it’s relevant here) I stand by what I say above.

    Would it be correct to assume that you also consider ‘technology’ as ‘natural’ (or as ‘natural phenomena’) too?

    In the above senses, yes.

    There is one more question (in two parts) that I’d like to ask, then, given your answer in 9.1.2:

    Is ‘artificial selection’ also something you consider to be ‘natural’? If so, then why did Charles Darwin distinguish ‘artificial selection’ from ‘natural selection’?

    I hope I have anticipated this question in my answer above 🙂

    Thanks in advance for expressing your views on what is ‘natural’ and what is (or could possibly count as) ‘non-natural.’ This helps me to understand what you mean by ‘naturalism’ in your philosophy of science.

    Let me add one more important caveat: I am most emphatically NOT of the view that because everything is “natural” (in the sense I am attempting to define it) that there is no “meaning” in life. Quite the reverse. Just as I think it is possible to distinguish between the proximally “artificial” and the proximally “natural” even though all are (as I see it) distally “natural”, it is possible to distinguish between proximal purposefulness and distal purposelessness; in other words, to see the universe itself as purposeless, but ourselves as having local, if you like purpose.

    To which, in romantic moments, I might rephrase as: we are part of the universe, and as we have purpose, and are capable of investigating the nature of the universe, it is also true to say that the universe is capable of assigning to itself a purpose and of knowing itself.

    In other words, I don’t see anything nihilist in naturalism!

    I’m hoping this makes some sense. I appreciate your invitation to try to think this through (aloud, as it were), but it comes with associated warts and all 🙂

  126. 126
  127. 127

    Well, do you reject “methodological materialism”? And if so, on what grounds (and by what definition)?

    It’s not a hypothesis btw. Or not as I am interpreting the term. It’s a method.

  128. 128

    A methodological principle that some scientists think ought to guide science. Methodological naturalism requires that scientists limit themselves to naturalistic or materialistic explanations when they seek to explain natural phenomena, objects, or processes. On this understanding of how science ought to work, explanations that invoke intelligent causes or the actions of intelligent agents do not qualify as scientific.

    Well, this definition is just silly. It would rule out all of zoology for a start. And all psychology, and all cognitve science. Archaelogy. Forensic science.

    I unreservedly reject “methodological materialism” as defined like this.

    But it seems to me a useless definition.

  129. 129

    And Plantinga hauls out a canard as well:

    Consider the Grand Evolutionary Myth (GEM). According to this story, organic life somehow arose from non-living matter by way of purely natural means and by virtue of the workings of the fundamental regularities of physics and chemistry.

    No, this is not a “story” and is not “evolutionary”. We simply do not know how organic life arose from non-living matter, although the hypothesis that it did so “by virtue of the workings of the fundamental regularities of physics and chemistry” has the virtue, in principle, of testability. So does the hypothesis, in principle, that it was seeded by a material/physical designer/artesan. However, the hypothesis that it was planted by an immaterial/supernatural/non-physical designer is not testable.

    That’s why “methodological naturalism” is intrinsic to scientific methodology. Only natural hypotheses are testable. Doesn’t mean that all nature is natural, it just means that only natural hypotheses are amenable to scientific investigation.

  130. 130

    From a theistic or Christian perspective, however, things are much less frantic. The theist knows that God created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain; she knows, therefore, that in one way or another God has created all the vast diversity of contemporary plant and animal life. But of course she isn’t thereby committed to any particular way in which God did this. He could have done it by broadly evolutionary means; but on the other hand he could have done it in some totally different way. For example, he could have done it by directly creating certain kinds of creatures–human beings, or bacteria, or for that matter sparrows13 and houseflies–as many Christians over the centuries have thought. Alternatively, he could have done it the way Augustine suggests: by implanting seeds, potentialities of various kinds in the world, so that the various kinds of creatures would later arise, although not by way of genealogical interrelatedness. Both of these suggestions are incompatible with the evolutionary story.

    A Christian therefore has a certain freedom denied her naturalist counterpart: she can follow the evidence14 where it leads . . .

    By “knowing” a priori, that God created everything, a Christian is able to “follow the evidence where it leads”?

    I don’t think so. If you know in advance that God created everything, than no evidence can possibly falsify this. So you can’t follow it “where it leads”.

    What you can do is to ask the evidence how God did it. But that’s to adopt methodological naturalism.

    So at best, the Christian is in no different a position; at worst she has cut off one important potential conclusion by starting with an a priori assumption re a Creator God.

  131. 131
    kairosfocus says:

    Much sounder source:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    >>Physicalism is sometimes known as ‘materialism’; indeed, on one strand to contemporary usage, the terms ‘physicalism’ and ‘materialism’ are interchangeable. But the two terms have very different histories . . . . Some philosophers suggest that ‘physicalism’ is distinct from ‘materialism’ for a reason quite unrelated to the one emphasized by Neurath and Carnap. As the name suggests, materialists historically held that everything was matter — where matter was conceived as “an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist” (Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, par. 9). But physics itself has shown that not everything is matter in this sense; for example, forces such as gravity are physical but it is not clear that they are material in the traditional sense (Lange 1865, Dijksterhuis 1961, Yolton 1983). So it is tempting to use ‘physicalism’ to distance oneself from what seems a historically important but no longer scientifically relevant thesis of materialism, and related to this, to emphasize a connection to physics and the physical sciences. However, while physicalism is certainly unusual among metaphysical doctrines in being associated with a commitment both to the sciences and to a particular branch of science, namely physics, it is not clear that this is a good reason for calling it ‘physicalism’ rather than ‘materialism.’ For one thing, many contemporary physicalists do in fact use the word ‘materialism’ to describe their doctrine (e.g. Smart 1963). Moreover, while ‘physicalism’ is no doubt related to ‘physics’ it is also related to ‘physical object’ and this in turn is very closely connected with ‘material object’, and via that, with ‘matter.’

    In this entry, I will adopt the policy of using both terms interchangeably . . . .

    physicalism is intended as a very general claim about the nature of the world. Nevertheless, by far the most discussion of physicalism in the literature has been in the philosophy of mind. The reason for this is that it is in philosophy of mind that we find the most plausible and compelling arguments that physicalism is false. Indeed, as we will see later on, arguments about qualia and consciousness are usually formulated as arguments for the conclusion that physicalism is false. Thus, a lot of philosophy of mind is devoted to a discussion of physicalism . . . >>

    Of course, at UD, I am known for using the descriptive term evolutionary materialism to describe the view that everything from hydrogen to humans has come about by a process of matter and energy in space-time, interacting though forces of chance and necessity, via cosmological evolution, planetary system evolution, chemical evolution, biological macroevolution, and at length socio-cultural evolution. This is of course the insittutio0nally dominant view in the academy today, and often likes to term itself “science.”

    In fact, as Plato addresses in his The Laws Bk X, it is an ancient, pre-scientific view, latterly dressed up in the holy lab coat.

    I also hold, on warrant that it is self-referentially incoherent, undermines the credibility of the cognitive life, and that it is also inherently amoral, having in it no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.

    In short, I believe, on grounds that can be seen here on, that it is intellectually self-refuting and morally bankrupt.

    GEM of TKI

  132. 132

    Of course, at UD, I am known for using the descriptive term evolutionary materialism to describe the view that everything from hydrogen to humans has come about by a process of matter and energy in space-time, interacting though forces of chance and necessity, via cosmological evolution, planetary system evolution, chemical evolution, biological macroevolution, and at length socio-cultural evolution.

    Well,thanks for explaining, kf, because your usage is certainly idiosyncratic!

    But it still differs from “methodogical materialism” which is well, “methodological”. It’s not the holding of your “evo mat” view. It’s taking the methodological stance that the set of relationships described under you “evo mat” are those amenable to scientific investigation.

    The assumption that there are no other relationships is not required, merely the observation that other relationships do not lend themselves to testable hypotheses.

  133. 133
    GCUGreyArea says:

    In short, I believe, on grounds that can be seen here on, that it is intellectually self-refuting and morally bankrupt.

    When investigating a murder is is morally bankrupt to proceed on the assumption that no Gods or supernatural entities were involved?

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