Culture Intelligent Design Science

Sociologist: ID will become part of mainstream science inquiry

Spread the love

Fuller in New York by Babich British sociologist Steve Fuller, author of Dissent over Descent, offers some thoughts on the anniversary of the U.S. Dover decision. Fuller has studied the controversy with a view to finding out what is going on, rather than advancing a position in a culture war. Here at Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

20 December 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of the judicial verdict of Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, a landmark U.S. case which can be reasonably seen as having stopped the advance of non-Darwinian approaches to biology in state-supported high school classrooms and textbooks.

I have no doubt that such approaches continue to be taught in various guises in various pedagogical contexts. But all these efforts travel under the juridical radar, no longer seeking formal recognition.

One finds it hard to resist (okay, we didn’t try very hard) pointing out that the Royal Society is currently trying to get past Darwin too, and they are not in Judge Jones’s jurisdiction, it turns out. Only 1/3 of Pennsylvania state is, apparently, not that one would know that from the world coverage. Fuller notes,

It also didn’t help that the Discovery Institute pulled out its expert witnesses before the trial started, once it learned that the school board members saw intelligent design as a way to get creationism into the science classes. (Nevertheless, two Discovery Institute fellows testified on their own accord: Michael Behe and Scott Minnich.)

By then I had been on this beat for about four years, and certainly remember how flummoxed they all were. My take is, the DI guys were hostages to someone else’s agenda, and in the end just couldn’t play along. Behe, as it happened, lived in the area, so it made sense for him to say something on his own anyway.*

Fuller believes,

Intelligent design is alive and well, but it has begun the sort of process that normally happens to radical ideas that eventually become assimilated into mainstream inquiry. … While I don’t predict that “intelligent design” will ever name a distinct academic discipline, I’m confident that it will inform many of them – even in the life sciences.

He’s likely right. The alternative would be to claim that information can come into existence randomly and that Darwinian evolution is saving us from a plague of disembodied space brains and other stuff appearing from nowhere.

Integrating information with matter and energy seems like a more science-based approach. Fuller adds,

As for the future: while intelligent design theorists will need to drop their “conservative” pose to consolidate their position with intellectual fellow-travellers, Darwinists will be reaping the whirlwind of atheism as they try to establish a positive world-view.More.

Hard to see how the ID folk’ll get much time for a “conservative pose,” as things stand.

Now, re the whirlwind, see Dawkins walks out on flying horse? But … how did this all get started anyway?

* Behe can’t have expected the “astrology” fark, exploiting the ignorance of the bimbos of legacy media. But it was still early days in their massive decline as sources of information, as opposed to glitz powder-approved opinion.

See also: Dover is over

and

The Dover case, John West, and intelligent design

Follow UD News at Twitter!

31 Replies to “Sociologist: ID will become part of mainstream science inquiry

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Fuller gets things wrong.
    It was not non darwinian that was banned. It was onkly religious conclusions that were banned. ID was simply JUDGED to be religious conclusions. Not scientific ones.
    That means ID is judged to be based on theology methodology.
    WELL> Is this true? NO! Its absurd to say ID thinkers use theology to make their claims. ITs all science and obvious.
    In fact this Judge made clear it REALLY was the conclusions that proved it was religious methodology BECAUSE only such method could reach such conclusion.
    NONSENSE all round.
    Rejecting science conclusions is not proof of rejecting science methodology in drawing a different conclusion.

    ID/YEC have a great chance to use crackpot judgements like this to go to the top of public awareness on not not just getting ID/YEC into the classroom but overthrowing the whole concept of starte censorship in academia
    Maybe court cases is NOW whar ID/TEC should aim at.??
    I think so and also return America’s gift of freedom that ID/YEC has used in most of society.
    These clowns are due for a drubbing and one that makes historical comment.
    .

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    Fuller has studied the controversy with a view to finding out what is going on, rather than advancing a position in a culture war.

    Really? This is what Fuller wrote in the article (in the section titled “Why did I get involved?”: I’ve removed some justifications & explanations for brevity):

    My critics cannot seem to get their heads around the idea that I might have had my own agenda in entering the fray. My agenda, such as it was, boiled down to four interrelated claims which I tried to get across in my testimony:

    1. Whatever is taken seriously in the seminar room should be taken seriously in the court room. So if scholars quite happily admit that some sort of intelligent design theory was responsible for the rise of modern science, then that should count for something when deciding whether there is any scientific basis for intelligent design theory. To think otherwise is to relegate scholarship to a parlour game, as far as public policy is concerned. …
    2. Historians, philosophers and sociologists of science are actually better placed than professional scientists to define what science is. …
    3. Given the social structure of science, it is unlikely that a radical challenger like intelligent design theory will be taken seriously unless “affirmative action” is applied to it – in other words, that it is given more air time than its current epistemic standing merits, so that it can attract followers. …
    4. Philosophers of science distinguish contexts of discovery and justification: what enabled a truth to be discovered is not necessarily what makes the discovery true. Nevertheless, from a pedagogical standpoint, if intelligent design theory – including its theological assumptions – has led to science that is upheld even by atheists, then isn’t the right conclusion to draw that intelligent design leads to good science, and hence should be taught?

    That looks pretty much like his agenda was part of a culture war, albeit not the one the Disco Institute was involved in.

  3. 3
    CLAVDIVS says:

    I suspect Fuller may be right.

    But IMO if ID is to make progress in academia proponents should focus on researching telic forces free of metaphysical commitments – for example, make common cause with the approx 50% of scientists and philosophers who are philosophical materialists in seeking the forces or laws responsible for CSI.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Claudius, the design inference on tested empirically reliable signs is an inductive exercise not a metaphysical imposition. It is opposed and often locked out based on de facto establishment of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism. KF

  5. 5
    CLAVDIVS says:

    kairosfocus –

    A majority of scientists believe in God or a higher spirit or power.

    A majority of professional philosophers explicitly reject naturalism.

    Accordingly, it is not reasonable to think that the design inference will be locked out by all academics forever … especially if it be cast in terms compatible with both materialism and non-materialism.

  6. 6
    johnnyb says:

    Fuller is largely correct. I have a feeling that this will be like the Big Bang theory. People hated it because of its strong theistic implications. Eventually, it became standard.

    However, unlike Fuller, I think that ID can go forward as a named discipline, provided a few criteria are met. The main one being that it needs a textbook – like, a real textbook, boring and with problems and answers and a teacher guide. Right now, ID books focus on the vague parts of ID, and treat it as more of an “new idea” than as an actual discipline. I think that if someone takes the time to write a textbook on the *discipline* of ID, that will go a long way to its establishment in mainstream academia.

  7. 7
    Bob O'H says:

    Oh, just noticed this:

    British sociologist Steve Fuller,

    Although Fuller lives and works in the UK, he was born in the US, and his wikipedia page calls him American.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    johnnyb, well said.

  9. 9
    hrun0815 says:

    I think that ID can go forward as a named discipline, provided a few criteria are met. The main one being that it needs a textbook – like, a real textbook, boring and with problems and answers and a teacher guide. Right now, ID books focus on the vague parts of ID, and treat it as more of an “new idea” than as an actual discipline. I think that if someone takes the time to write a textbook on the *discipline* of ID, that will go a long way to its establishment in mainstream academia.

    Yeah. That… and do some actual research. If both get done, then you are absolutely right. Of course, neither will actually happen, so that would make you (and Fuller) largely incorrect.

  10. 10
    johnnyb says:

    hrun0815 –

    Actually, there is quite a bit of research done. The problem is that no one knows about it because no one has written a textbook distilling it! For instance, we have:

    Dembski’s original CSI
    Dembski/Marks’ Active Information
    Durston’s Functional Bits
    Algorithmic CSI
    Irreducible Complexity
    My own reformulation of irreducible complexity using computability theory

    These are all distinct, but related, concepts, much like in physics the core equation is F=ma, but numerous other related concepts are derived from them, such as momentum and impulse.

    You could actually study all of them without even touching biology if you wanted to. I like to write textbooks myself, and have thought about tackling the job, but the problem is I don’t have a feel yet for what kind of prerequisite information I would need to include ahead-of-time. It requires some knowledge of probability theory, and some knowledge of Shannon information concepts, and some knowledge of fundamental ideas about randomness. Knowing how much to include of these topics is fairly tricky.

    However, I do think it would be worthwhile to distill all of this down into a textbook that shows the ideas, how they are related to each other, how to compute them (more importantly, how to compute inequalities with them), where their limits are, and how to find an appropriate metric for a given situation.

  11. 11
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    It doesn’t worry you, johnny, that all the “quite a bit of research” has not amounted to anything even close to a textbook? I’m sure that’s one of the first things to do on DI’s list and yet here we are, with nothing. Not only are we short a textbook, but there was, what, one paper published by Bio-complexity this year?
    Mungy, remind me, what is the impact factor of bio-complexity?

  12. 12
    Mung says:

    Alicia Cartelli: Not only are we short a textbook, but there was, what, one paper published by Bio-complexity this year?

    Wow. You can’t even count Alicia. They don’t cover counting in biology class?

  13. 13
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    I guess not mungy, feel free to tell about all the Bio-complexity papers.

  14. 14
    johnnyb says:

    Alicia –

    The reason this doesn’t worry me is that such work requires funding. I have realized that I am an unusual bird, in that I spend time reading, thinking, studying, and writing, but I do it on my own time and my own dime. It often keeps me up until 2AM because I have a day job, but I am quite unusual for that.

    Imagine if, rather than being celebrated for writing a book, you were derided. Imagine if the publication of a new book didn’t mean you got advancement in your career, but guaranteed that you would never work again.

    Imagine if someone collaborating with you meant that the person who collaborated with you ran the real risk of getting fired, and them never being able to work again.

    These are the real conditions that the ID movement is under. They don’t affect me personally, because I don’t work in any field that I do research in. It means I don’t get much sleep most nights, but I haven’t really slept well since 1999.

    I have a friend who started a research group at a small undergraduate college. They hadn’t had a research group before, and it brought in millions of dollars of funding, and even the BBC came to do a show on his research. He had also invented several telemetry devices which, for $30, would do what would previously had cost $1,000. It then came out that he didn’t believe in common descent. He was fired, was never hired anywhere, and had to get a job as a truck driver for the rest of his life.

    In the face of that, we still have people putting out papers, working on journals, and building the theory. It is really slow work when you have to work on it in your spare time, when people refuse to cooperate with you, refuse to share data with you, and you spend a large part of your time even justifying your existence.

    It may be slow, but it is steady. I am hopeful because I have done some of the work myself, and I can see where it is leading. And the revolution isn’t just in biology. I think ID has interesting things to say in biology, but the places where I am most excited about its potential are in economics, cognitive psychology, computer search, and software project management.

    For an example of ID theory applied to macroeconomics, you should read Gilder’s Knowledge and Power. For an example of ID theory applied to entrepreneurship and microeconomics, you should read Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One”.

  15. 15
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    “Imagine if, rather than being celebrated for writing a book, you were derided. Imagine if the publication of a new book didn’t mean you got advancement in your career, but guaranteed that you would never work again.

    Imagine if someone collaborating with you meant that the person who collaborated with you ran the real risk of getting fired, and them never being able to work again.”

    Wow, this sounds like a real paradigm-shifting book. What else can you tell me about this book?!

  16. 16
    Bob O'H says:

    johnnyb @ 10 –

    You could actually study all of them [CSI/FB/AI/IC/ET/AL] without even touching biology if you wanted to.

    Can you see that this is pretty damning for ID? It’s purpose is to explain biological diversity*, but you don’t need to study biology to do this?

    A strongly related issue is that the research you list is all mathematical, there is no attempt to test these ideas on the real world, aside from some toy examples. All of the papers published in BioComplexity this year are theoretical. Where are the papers linking these ideas to data?

    * Yes, I’m ignoring cosmological ID because it’s only a small part of ID, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere ATM.

  17. 17
    skram says:

    johnnyb:

    However, unlike Fuller, I think that ID can go forward as a named discipline, provided a few criteria are met. The main one being that it needs a textbook – like, a real textbook, boring and with problems and answers and a teacher guide. Right now, ID books focus on the vague parts of ID, and treat it as more of an “new idea” than as an actual discipline. I think that if someone takes the time to write a textbook on the *discipline* of ID, that will go a long way to its establishment in mainstream academia.

    Sounds like a cargo cult.

    What’s the point in writing a textbook for a field where everybody has their own private concepts and no coherent framework?

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    Bob O’H:

    Can you see that this is pretty damning for ID?

    No. If you are going to claim that parts of organisms are like artifacts your theory better be able to say something about artifacts.

    Compare this to evolutionary theory, which claims that natural selection gives you design without a designer, without ever explaining how to differentiate design from non-design. But I don’t suppose that bothers you in the least.

    All of the papers published in BioComplexity this year are theoretical. Where are the papers linking these ideas to data?

    All ID papers are not published in Bio-Complexity. Don’t play dumb, Bob.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    skram: What’s the point in writing a textbook for a field where everybody has their own private concepts and no coherent framework?

    Amazingly, the question answers itself. What’s the point indeed.

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    Mung – but the ID work johnnyb cited never goes on to actually look at parts of organisms. It’s remarkably silent on the issue. What empirical work there is in ID pretty much ignores the theory.

    Yes, fair enough that there are ID papers not in BioComplexity, but (a) that’s the flagship journal for ID, and (b) I’m not aware of any papers that actually test these methods to see if they work on real organisms (other than toy problems), and the only one that seems to have been applied to the real world at all is IC, which is about 20 years old already. If you know of any more, please reveal all!

  21. 21
    daveS says:

    How about composing such a textbook, collaboratively, on GitHub?

    Some of the “big guns” and frequent authors of OPs could take charge of maintaining the project. Then everyone, from interested amateurs on up to academics and researchers could contribute via pull requests.

    I bet if someone put together a tentative table of contents, then a decent rough draft could be assembled fairly quickly.

  22. 22
    hrun0815 says:

    The problem is that no one knows about it because no one has written a textbook distilling it!

    Wait, what? Aren’t we always told just how successful these books are? And don’t popular books sell much more copies than textbooks? How would turning these popular books into textbooks all of a sudden ensure that these ideas are better known (and that anybody would actually do research with that knowledge)?

    By the way, the common sequence of events is actually that many people do research on a subject and that at some point somebody distills all the solidified knowledge from that research into a textbooks so that it is easier to teach. Please note that research comes before the textbook… not the other way around.

  23. 23
    johnnyb says:

    Bob –

    Can you see that this is pretty damning for ID? It’s purpose is to explain biological diversity*, but you don’t need to study biology to do this?

    I disagree that ID’s purpose is to explain biological diversity. That is merely its most prominent application area. Dembski’s original book about ID, The Design Inference, doesn’t go into biology at all.

    Think about statistical mechanics. Statistical mechanics is the basis of thermodynamic ideas about entropy, and that is its main application area. Nonetheless, one could write a textbook on statistical mechanics and never mention entropy, because the field is solid all on its own. This fact doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to entropy, it just means that the field itself is solid enough that it doesn’t need entropy to justify its existence.

    A strongly related issue is that the research you list is all mathematical

    I don’t see how this is a problem. Mathematics is what we use to investigate things that we can’t see directly. Perhaps I’m just a math bigot, but I think that findings from mathematics are not inherently suspect.

    All of the papers published in BioComplexity this year are theoretical. Where are the papers linking these ideas to data?

    There actually are some, but most of them don’t use the words “Intelligent Design” because it means that they will be fired. Take Douglas Axe, for instance. He had a laboratory where he gathered lots of data that bolstered the ID movement. Once it was discovered that he was actually sympathetic to ID, they kicked him out.

    This approach of “your laboratory work is in support of ID, you’re fired” followed by “ID isn’t serious because there is no laboratory work behind it” is quite amusing to me (though probably only amusing because it’s not my job).

  24. 24
    johnnyb says:

    hrun –

    Wait, what? Aren’t we always told just how successful these books are? And don’t popular books sell much more copies than textbooks? How would turning these popular books into textbooks all of a sudden ensure that these ideas are better known (and that anybody would actually do research with that knowledge)?

    I think you misunderstand my point. The *way* people think about ID now is in a very touchy-feely manner. I am on an ID-oriented mailing list, and the number of people on it who actually know something about the technical part of ID is rather small.

    Now, I don’t think that publishing a textbook will instantly transform ID-supporters into mathematical wizards. However, I know from personal experience editing books dealing with ID, that it is really, really hard tracking down and distilling the various technical information sources. And most of them are geared towards defending their propositions, rather than teaching them, which is a much different mode of communication.

    For instance, if I write a paper defending Algorithmic Specified Complexity, the paper doesn’t end with a list of problems to solve and a teacher’s guide to help teachers get students through the material. That’s just not what those types of papers do.

    Therefore, people wanting to get into ID don’t have a good place to start from. There is a good defense of why ID is plausible in general, but the technical parts, which are needed to advance ID, are generally not available to someone who is interested.

    By the way, the common sequence of events is actually that many people do research on a subject and that at some point somebody distills all the solidified knowledge from that research into a textbooks so that it is easier to teach. Please note that research comes before the textbook… not the other way around.

    I agree. My point is that there is now a large enough body of research to do this, and it just needs to be done.

  25. 25
    johnnyb says:

    daveS –

    How about composing such a textbook, collaboratively, on GitHub?

    I’m a big fan of that idea. Maybe later in the year. Right now I am trying to push out the final touches of a JavaScript textbook and finish writing a Calculus textbook, plus I am helping two other people publish their books. That plus teaching class plus being a homeschool dad plus my day job has me pretty maxed out at the moment. I’m also trying to plan for a microscopy lab for a few hundred students in the summer and a homeschool convention. After the summer I will be a little more free.

  26. 26
    daveS says:

    johnnyb,

    Sounds great. Best of luck with the project.

  27. 27
    hrun0815 says:

    I agree. My point is that there is now a large enough body of research to do this, and it just needs to be done.

    Wow. Sure. As daveS said: “Best of luck with the project.”

  28. 28
    skram says:

    johnnyb:

    I don’t see how this is a problem. Mathematics is what we use to investigate things that we can’t see directly. Perhaps I’m just a math bigot, but I think that findings from mathematics are not inherently suspect.

    A field of knowledge that is purely theoretical isn’t a natural science. Some string theorists have tried to argue something along the lines of yours, but it doesn’t look like their arguments have been persuasive.

    See, a theoretical construction can be fully consistent logically and yet be entirely wrong as a theory of the real world. Classical mechanics is logically sound, yet it doesn’t apply to microscopic objects. The reality is different at the nanoscale!

  29. 29
    Mung says:

    johnnyb,

    Have you read The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems

    No doubt it could be improved as a textbook, but it does have chapters on Irreducible Complexity and Specified Complexity.

  30. 30
    johnnyb says:

    skram –

    “A field of knowledge that is purely theoretical isn’t a natural science.”

    Somewhat true, but I never said that ID is itself purely theoretical. What I said was that one could talk about it without hitting biology. Those are not equivalent propositions by any account.

    For instance, one *could* write an entire book on the theoretical side of ID. That doesn’t mean ID is purely theoretical. It just means it has a theoretical component. Likewise, ID doesn’t only apply to biology. The theory has implications in a number of fields (my favorites being cognitive psychology, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and software engineering management). One could talk quite concretely about those fields and never mention biology. Again, Dembski’s “The Design Inference” does this quite a bit. He applies the design inference to several real situations to get concrete answers. They just aren’t biological. The DI’s statement on ID says that there ID deals with “features in the universe that are best explained by intelligence” or something like that. There is nothing specifically biological in that statement.

    Mung – I have not read the book, though it is on my wishlists. I would be hopeful if that book had problems that could be described and solved.

  31. 31
    Bob O'H says:

    johnnyb –

    Mathematics is what we use to investigate things that we can’t see directly. Perhaps I’m just a math bigot, but I think that findings from mathematics are not inherently suspect.

    I know what you mean, but what might be suspect is the way the maths is applied to the real world, as ID has to do if it is to be a science. The problem is that if you do that wrong then the although the findings may not be suspect, they may be irrelevant.

    This is why I think the theoretical side of ID needs to be linked much more strongly to the empirical side. If you find that it’s more useful in new areas (like macroeconomics), then that’s fine. The mathematical tools can be applied in several possible areas. But they should still be applied somewhere if ID theory is to be relevant.

Leave a Reply