More on testability
In Part 1 of this essay, I noted that testability is an obstacle for many creationists/ID-ists, when they do not accept its profound importance. Some of them reject testability outright. Others mis-define testability by claiming “repeatability is testability.” They are mistaken because repeatability and testability are two separate things. For example, gravity is repeatable, but the theory that “gravity is caused by archangels blowing horns” is not testable. Or, take the theory that Smith did the Denver bank robbery. This example is not repeatable, yet it would be falsified if Smith were seen in Boise or Phoenix at the time. In this case, the explanation is testable, but not repeatable. These examples show that repeatability and testability are separate. These approaches are more typical of the young-earth creationists.
Others mis-define testability into obscurity by defining a “test” as the mere comparison of two alternative theories to see which one is the ‘best’ explanation. This approach is more typical of the ID-ists, but it too is mistaken. For example, Astrology can be compared with Freudian psychology, but that doesn’t mean either one is testable. Testability requires that the theory itself must be empirically risky; there must be a serious possibility of showing the theory is incorrect. If an explanation is compatible with any conceivable observation, then it can scarcely be called a scientific theory.
ID-ists often sound like they embrace testability, but often it plays little role in their actual arguments against evolution or for intelligent design. In practice, testability has little or no value or valuation in their “reasoning to the ‘best’ explanation.”
Evolutionists are nearly unanimous in their endorsement of testability, even in all their court cases. Yet unfortunately many creationists/ID-ists remain confused and dis-united on the issue. This is a leading obstacle for Message Theory to overcome. Message Theory is a testable ID theory; yet many creationists/ID-ists do not hunger for a testable theory.
A comprehensive theory –
The second obstacle for Message Theory is its breadth – its claim to be a comprehensive explanation of life’s major patterns – its claim to rival and surpass Darwinism in giving testable scientific insight into life’s mysteries. That is a good thing; a bounty of riches. But it also involves many evolutionary illusions to unravel, and diverse issues to discuss: from paleontology, embryology, genetics, systematics, and more. This forestalls many people, especially if they are not hungry for testable science, or are overly satisfied with pat ‘religious’ answers. (I wryly include evolutionists also in the previous sentence.)
When evolutionists demand a “paper” establishing Message Theory, they demand a contradiction – their posturing is a tongue-in-cheek mockery – and they know it. They know full well the vast diversity of issues could not fit inside a paper and still be satisfying. When I answer their question about paleontology, they ask about embryology. When I answer about embryology, they ask about biogeography. And so forth to vestigial organs, Junk DNA, classification, biochemistry, and the rest. Around and around, this continues at length. A book is required. Realistically, any plausible alternative to evolutionary theory would require a book – and evolutionists know this before they ask their first question. When evolutionists demand such a paper – as a requirement – (1) They are attempting to belittle Message Theory, and (2) They are attempting to fabricate an excuse for avoiding the challenge posed by Message Theory.
Recall that Darwin never published his theory of common descent in a science journal, and not as a paper. It would have stripped down his ideas to a dozen pages or so, and created a laughable caricature. It would have been counterproductive to Darwin. Given the controversial nature of origins and the strong opposition to Darwin, a mere ‘paper’ would have diminished his theory. It would miscast his theory as less powerful than it was; to friend and foe alike. Instead, Darwin wisely marshaled his various arguments and evidences all together, in one place – as a book. Stephen Jay Gould recognized this was the wise thing for Darwin to do. I followed the same strategy.
Message Theory claims to be a comprehensive testable explanation of life’s major patterns. Unfortunately this places a burden onto readers, because there are so many issues to discuss. Message Theory is blessed and cursed by its comprehensive nature. Therefore be forewarned, the treatment given in my essays here can be only a brief introduction to Message Theory.
Depending on readers’ comments, I hope to be onward soon to discussing Message Theory in the next parts of this essay.
– Walter ReMine
The Biotic Message – the book
[Added Note: The Darwin-Wallace papers to the Linnean Society were on natural selection. The secretary of the Linnean Society, summing up the activities of that year (1858), remarked that it was a bad year and nothing of any real importance had been presented. Darwin’s theory of universal common descent had to wait for his book, whereupon even his theory of natural selection took on an expansive, controversial new meaning. — WJR]
[Added Note: Phrases like “test a graviton” are shorthand for something like “test Smith’s theory of gravity.” Theories must be testable, but not necessarily ‘things’ because in many cases, the ‘thing’ (such as a graviton) is not directly observable. For example, the theory of a Piltdown Hoax is testable, even though the identity of the hoaxer remains unknown and unavailable for observation. (The Hoax theory would be falsified if we found a natural organism having the same characteristics, including those mysterious ‘file marks’ on the teeth!) Scientific laws describe, and theories explain, therefore, all scientific laws are testable; whereas some explanations are testable, some are not. There are many theories of gravity: some are testable; some are not — it depends on whose theory we’re talking about. The Law of Gravity is a fact, even though the various theories of gravity remain very speculative. Confusion is often created by interchanging “the law of gravity” with “the theory of gravity.” — WJR]