Culture Engineering Intelligent Design Naturalism

Science buffs, take heed: “Rigor is in many ways the enemy of design.”

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That’ll be dogma as post-modernism sinks in.

Yesterday, we were discussing an extraordinary declaration of war on measurement from a dean of “engineering education”. Lawyer and impresario Edward Sisson offers some thoughts:

Engineering is, of course, intelligent design grounded on accurate knowledge of the material world.

First, for example, regarding the journal that published the paper, Riley states that “the Journal of Education Engineering [the Journal New Criterion said had published this] pre-emptively passed on publishing this work because it is not an empirical study.”

As to the focus of her paper, “rigor,” she says “rigor in this context seems to refer to formal research questions, theoretical grounding, appropriate methodology (narrowly empirical and too often viewed as exclusively quantitative). In engineering disciplines rigor is most closely associated with mathematical content; the ‘higher’ the math, the more rigorous the approach.” After providing some provocative phallic imagery to describe what “rigor” is, she then points out that focus on rigor may result in the exclusion of concepts that are not rigorous, such as “creativity, flexibility, imagination, innovation, and play … key characteristics of engineering design that may be unwittingly drummed out of engineering disciplines by rigor gatekeepers. Rigor is in many ways the enemy of design.” [the three dots in her original].

Here was the first of many points in the paper in which I asked myself, “But does it work?” Nowhere in the paper does Riley address the fact that we, the society, the end-users, want a product that works. Engineering that does what we buy it for. Society has no use for engineers who have a rewarding emotional experience imagining new designs, when the designs do not work.

“[R]igor also connotes adherence to the protocols of a particular discipline, especially in methods and epistemology. Work is critiqued for lacking rigor if questions are not framed in particular ways, if certain tools are not employed, certain processes not followed, and certain modes of interpretation not applied. Rigor restricts us to certain ways of knowing, specific to a particular discipline.”

Riley goes on to assert that rigor creates an educational environment that makes it unnecessarily unpleasant for many women and racial minorities to remain in the field of engineering. This strikes me as being akin to complaints that the science education establishment makes it unnecessarily unpleasant for many religious persons to remain in the field of science.

Keep in mind the the public wants science that is accurate and designs that work. In making arguments that the science community should be less hostile to persons who hold a religious commitment, always make sure to address the issue that Riley overlooks: that accommodating the criticism will not result in any decline in the reliability of the output.

He adds, on a personal note,

If I may presume to speak for “society in general” it seems to me that society has made a practical decision to support a group of individuals who are absolutely convinced that there is a materialist explanation for everything. These people will relentlessly search for a materialist explanation for any problem or question that arises. If a materialist explanation can be found, we humans will be able to work with it, engineering new products and techniques that make our lives better.

Individuals who recognize that there is something we vaguely understand as intelligence that is operating in the world will not be as relentless. They may stop looking too early, having concluded that a particular question must be attributed to that intelligence, such that we humans cannot master and engineer and work with it.

Thus, for the human race to search-out and find all possible material explanations, we must have some people who think that everything has a material explanation — even if that belief is wrong.

But these individuals will produce errors when they assert materialist explanations for those phenomena that are in fact the result of intelligence. This will result in bad “outputs.”

And there is the profoundly degrading effect on our own conception of ourselves, in which we are reduced merely to be meat with an appetite. We fall back into the inhuman condition of the pre-Christians. I recall watching some episodes of the not-very-good HBO TV series “Rome,” dealing with he time of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, and how vicious the people all were to each other, and how some went to their various religious centers, merely to ask godly vengeance on other people. They did not have the teaching and vision of Christ to give them a humane world to live within. The same is true of the immensely popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones, which is nothing but vicious sadism intermixed with soft-core pornography, and in which all but about 2 of the characters are only slightly more intelligent than the horses they ride. I never watched it in “real time,” but HBO recently ran it all on its free channel, and I watched some episodes, to see what it was that has become so popular. The Game of Thrones characters also live in a pre-Christian world of greed, selfishness, and hopelessness.

Society’s decision to empower the materialists is resulting in a world in which we have more and more machines the work, to serve creatures that less and less deserve to have them. Who can possibly care that the members of a gang of murderers have cell-phones that work and GPS systems that enable them to get more quickly and accurately to the scenes of their crimes?

So the main story seems to be that the discipline’s rag didn’t actually publish the paper. But why is Purdue sponsoring a pseudodiscipline like “Engineering Education”? It’s pretty easily confused with “Engineering School,” where people, male and female, go if they want to learn how to build bridges and spacecraft.

Will we soon have Medicine Education instead of Medicine (= MD)?

One hesitates to ask. Someone might write and tell us it’s here already, with big public bucks.

See also: The rigor mortis of science: The war on measurement itself has commenced

One Reply to “Science buffs, take heed: “Rigor is in many ways the enemy of design.”

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    “Individuals who recognize that there is something we vaguely understand as intelligence that is operating in the world will not be as relentless.”

    Well, no, this is backwards. People who are willing to consider EXTRA alternatives beyond fashionable science are generally MORE thorough and less blinkered. I noticed a good example of this in a pair of observations about “lifelike” objects seen by the Mars rover. The strict materialist ignored life as an explanation, while the less-strict scientist left the question open.


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