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Questions for Critics of Methodological Naturalism

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The question of whether methodological naturalism is an idea worth holding onto in science has been one that the ID camp, as a whole, is not unified on. Some think that methodological naturalism is a perfectly valid way to define science, and that ID fits nicely within that scope. Others think that methodological naturalism is just philosophical baggage hitching a free ride and should be discarded.

To those who are critics of methodological naturalism, Dr. Joshua Swamidass, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, offers a defense of methodological naturalism as well as a series of questions for those who are critical of methodological naturalism to consider (update – my answers to these questions are here and here).

Since the launch of the Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism conference, Dr. Swamidass and I have been discussing methodological naturalism’s role in science, and we were both interested in how the ID community would respond to his questions. I will give my own responses in another post, but thought that this would be a good forum for thoughtful discussion from the community. Please read Dr. Swamidass’s article before commenting.

UPDATE – For those following this thread, I posted a followup story on my questions for the proponents of Methodological Naturalism.

58 Replies to “Questions for Critics of Methodological Naturalism

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    JB:

    Here is my basic concern, in the form of a markup of a notorious remark by Lewontin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    You will readily see why I have serious cause for concern, as on observation this problem is really quite common.

    And, I find no comfort when I consider the likely ideological loading riding piggyback on Swamidass’:

    Mainstream science seeks “our best explanation of the world, without considering God.” This limiting clause,”without considering God,” is the rule of Methodological Naturalism (MN).

    Currently, science does not search for all sorts of Truth. Rather, science is limited effort to explain the world on its own terms, without invoking God, His action, or intelligent design. There is a “line in the sand” in science, where consideration of God is explicitly disallowed by MN . . .

    And no, for cause — cf above — I simply do not buy the next statement he makes: “Far from denying God’s existence, this way of doing science is strongly motivated by theism.”

    KF

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: If you want more, here is the Board of the US Science Teacher’s Association in a formal declaration, July 2000:

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

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

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

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

  3. 3
    jdk says:

    Since kf posted stuff that he posted on another thread, I’ll repost the 2006 KS HS Science Standards on the Nature of Science.

    Note especially the bold sentence in the first paragraph.

    FYI/FTR: Following up on 153, and in keeping with the topic of “what is science”, I offer some parts of the Kansas Science Standards of 2006, of which I was a member, concerning the nature of science

    The Introduction says,

    Nature of Science: Science is a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. Throughout history people from many cultures have used the methods of science to contribute to scientific knowledge and technological innovations, making science a worldwide enterprise. Scientists test explanations against the natural world, logically integrating observations and tested hypotheses with accepted explanations to gradually build more reliable and accurate understandings of nature. Scientific explanations must be testable and repeatable, and findings must be confirmed through additional observation and experimentation.

    Here is the section on the nature of science for grade 8-12.

    You might note 1.5: the student,

    5. understands there are many issues which involve morals, ethics, values or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain, but for which solid scientific literacy is useful.

    which is meant to make it clear that scientific knowledge and beliefs are not the only types of knowledge and belief that there are.

    STANDARD 7: HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE Grades 8-12

    STANDARD 7: HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE – The student will develop understanding of science as a human endeavor, the nature of scientific knowledge, and historical perspectives.

    Benchmark 1: The student will develop an understanding that science is a human endeavor that uses models to describe and explain the physical universe.

    1. demonstrates an understanding of science as both vocation and avocation.

    2. explains how science uses peer review, replication of methods, and norms of honesty. Scientific knowledge is made public through presentations at professional meetings and publications in scientific journals.

    3. recognizes the universality of basic science concepts and the influence of personal and cultural beliefs that embed science in society.

    4. recognizes that society helps create the ways of thinking (mindsets) required for scientific advances, both toward training scientists and educating a populace to utilize benefits of science (e.g., standards of hygiene, attitudes toward forces of nature, etc.).

    5. understands there are many issues which involve morals, ethics, values or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain, but for which solid scientific literacy is useful.

    6. recognizes society’s role in supporting topics of research and determining institutions where research is conducted.

    Benchmark 2: The student will develop an understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge.

    1. understands scientific knowledge describes and explains the physical world in terms of matter, energy, and forces. Scientific knowledge is provisional and is subject to change as new evidence becomes available.

    a. Additional evidence can lead to further confirmation, revision and refinement, or rejection of previously accepted explanations.

    b. The core theories of science have a high degree of reliability within the limits to which they have been tested and their scope of applicability.

    c. The open-endedness of science is its greatest strength and allows for constant refining and improvement of our explanations.

    2. understands scientific knowledge begins with empirical observations, which are the data (also called facts or evidence) upon which further scientific knowledge is built.

    a. The breadth and depth of sensory observations are enhanced by technological instruments such as microscopes, telescopes, and oscilloscopes.

    b. Observations often include measurements, to varying degrees of accuracy and precision, so they can be described and analyzed with mathematics.

    c. Observational data is gathered in a number of ways, including controlled experiments, field studies, and the systematic observation of natural phenomena.

    3. understands scientific knowledge consists of hypotheses, inferences, laws, and theories.

    a. A hypothesis is a testable statement that is subject to further investigation and potential confirmation

    b. An inference is a testable conclusion, based on previously established knowledge, observed evidence, and logic.

    c. A law is a thoroughly tested descriptive generalization of a highly regular phenomenon, usually expressed in mathematical form.

    d. A theory is a broad explanation that integrates a wide range of observations and tested hypotheses, inferences, and laws (when applicable) into a meaningful and coherent whole.

    e. Well established and widely accepted explanations have explanatory and predictive power and are fruitful as guides for further research.

    4. understands a testable hypothesis or inference must be subject to confirmation by empirical evidence

    a. A valid hypothesis or inference must be potentially falsifiable.

    b. A hypothesis or inference is tested by making logical predictions about what observational data one would expect to exist, given the hypothesis, and then comparing actual observed data to the predicted data, which will either support or not support the hypothesis.

    Benchmark 3: The student will understand science from historical perspectives.

    1. demonstrates an understanding of the history of science.

    a. Modern science has been a successful enterprise that contributes to dramatic improvements in the human condition.

    b. Science progresses by incremental advances of scientists or teams of scientists.

    c. Some advances that are fundamental and long-lasting include: Copernican revolution, Newtonian physics, relativity, geological time scale, plate tectonics, atomic theory, nuclear physics, biological evolution, germ theory, industrial revolution, molecular biology, quantum theory, and medical and health technology.

    2. demonstrates a knowledge that scientific method historically proceeded from an inductive approach rather than a deductive approach.

    a. With the deductive method, scientists start with axioms – simple true statements about the way the world works. Galileo and his contemporaries realized that, for science, the problem was that it was enormously difficult to begin with “simple true statements about the way the world works”. In fact, they realized that the simple true statement should be the goal of science, not the starting place. Since the 1600s to the mid 1900s, the inductive method has been incredibly successful in investigating nature.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, the oh I ignore once then say it was posted already, fails. Lewontin’s statement of evolutionary materialistic scientism is a classic reference. The NSTA’s declaration is a major statement by an official body. The import of both is sobering, and needs to be seriously addressed, whether by Swamidass or you or any other party advocating evolutionary materialist scientism or acting as a fellow traveller. Until we are sure ideological imposition on science and science education has been decisively and whole-heartedly abandoned, it must be pointed out that turning science into a lab coat for an ideology undermines its credibility as an institutionalised investigation into the truth of our world brought out through empirical investigation. Which, is something our civilisation simply cannot afford. The time for rhetorical dodge-ball games is over, what is on the table now is utterly sobering. KF

  5. 5
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    evolutionary materialist scientism

    The document I posted clearly says,

    5. understands there are many issues which involve morals, ethics, values or spiritual beliefs that go beyond what science can explain, but for which solid scientific literacy is useful.

    The document advocates neither materialism nor scientism.

  6. 6
    bFast says:

    I believe that methodological naturalism, if done correctly, is an idea worth holding onto in science. That said, I find it very hard to find any scientist who does it the right way. If the scientific community is to hold to MN, then it must also strictly hold to an agnostic view of all that is not yet known. As soon as the community says that the unknown, such as the source of first life, is of course “naturalistic”, then the community has stepped far outside of MN and into the realm of philosophical naturalism.

    In general I agree with the non-ID community when they accuse the ID community of simply making a negative case. With very few exceptions, ID’s case is “this does not fit the theory”. Such a case is an extremely valid case. If data doesn’t fit the theory, and there is much that very strongly doesn’t, then the current theory should be held with a strong assumption that it is at least incomplete. However, whenever it is recognized that the current theory is incomplete the MN response must be that if intelligence is required, a satisfactory explanation will never be found within the realm of MN.

    The “science did it” trap is not a trap that catches the honest MN. The “science did it” trap is catching scientists, and science philosophers all over the place. They are not MN, they are philosophical naturalists.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    2. Religious Texts.

    Methodological naturalism has no principle according to which religious texts ought to be excluded. If anything, it holds to a principle that all texts ought to be treated equally.

    So I deny Dr. Swamidass’s underlying premise.

    Of course, the idea that all texts are created equal is absurd on it’s face, but then, we are talking about methodological naturalism so what do you expect.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    3. Excluding Atheism from Science.

    Again I think the underlying premise is false. So the questions raised are ill-considered. It is simply not true that science never considers God. It is even less true that science never considers agency.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    4. The Resurrection.

    Again, I deny the premise. I see a disturbing pattern, and it is either with me or with Dr. Swamidass’s approach to ID.

    There is no principle of methodological natural that makes it impossible to examine claims thought to involve a miracle.

    If you see me in Dallas at 1:00pm and another person claims to see me in Moscow one minute later, there’s no reason science cannot consider that claim.

    3 strikes against Dr. Swamidass.

  10. 10
    jdk says:

    I agree with a lot that bfast wrote in 6, FWIW.

  11. 11

    A lot of the answers – as a critic of the Methodological Naturalism – can be found on the youtube presentation below titled: “The Methodological Naturalism – and its Creation Story” presentation made at the AM-NAT conference in April 2016:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBtmOpPSYk0

  12. 12

    Why MN is an Erroneous Methodology for doing Science?

    Any good discussion may start well if some definitions are clarified.

    Conservapedia defines Methodological Naturalism (MN) as follows:

    Methodological Naturalism is a strategy for studying the world, by which scientists choose
    not to consider supernatural causes – even as a remote possibility.

    Methodological Naturalism is founded on the Materialist philosophy. Materialist (M) philosophy is well
    summarized by Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary:

    A theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes
    and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.

    * Argument 1: Exclusion of supernatural causes is an arbitrary exclusion, not scientifically
    justified. It is a metaphysical – based exclusion motivated by an a-priori atheistic world view.

    For example, an equally arbitrary exclusion might be:

    Methodotoxical Naturalism is a strategy for studying the world, by which scientists choose
    not to consider electromagnetic force – even as a remote possibility.

    If electromagnetic force or the supernatural happens to be an actual element of reality (world) then why should exclude them? This is potentially self-inflicted BLINDNESS – with expected consequences upon the quality of scientific results.

  13. 13
    bill cole says:

    The second option is hard for the ID movement because, it seems, they want the label “science” for the design inference. Why is this so necessary? Why is science so trusted and desirable? Science is just the human effort to study nature, with strict and idiosyncratic rules, and does not (currently) consider God. Why do we need science for theology?

    As long as evolution is going to live under inference to the best competing hypothesis umbrella and make untested claims, ID is the only competing hypothesis. I have been following evolutionary theory for 18 months and it is currently a mess. There is no credible mechanism to tie it together so based on Josh’s rules it should pulled out of the scientific curriculum. Universal Common Descent is an inference based of similar biochemistry but it fails the first test of the prokaryotic to eukaryotic transition.

    I don’t think MN gets in the way of the design inference. I think the main problem is that from a science stand point the how questions are not answered i.e. I infer design from the data…how was it designed?????

  14. 14
    aap says:

    In his defense of MN Dr. Swamidass states: “Mainstream science seeks our best explanation of the world, ‘without considering God’. This limiting clause, ‘without considering God’, is the rule of Methodological Naturalism (MN).”
    Indeed, it is a very limiting clause. Because of their belief and commitments to mainstream MN science what Joshua and other atheistic and theistic evolutionists refuse to acknowledge is that mainstream’s MN science best explanation of our world and life is a huge failure apart from a few technological marvels that they use like trinkets to impress the gullible masses. Contrary to the false worship that many give to science in our generation science is neither humanities creator nor savior. MN fails terribly as an explanation for our universe and world as it has no explanation for the reality of the sophisticated information creating irreducibly complex physical, chemical, biological systems and spiritual beings. The universe, world and every kind or form of life is so finely tuned, so precise, so irreducibly complex that MN doesn’t have any reasonable hope of ever explaining it on the basis of material, time and chance alone. The best mainstream MN scientific explanation of the cosmos only offers a big bang theory that is missing 95% of the universe. The best mainstream MN scientific explanation of life involves evolutionary assumptions and imaginary stories but no real observable or experimental evidence. Because MN refuses to consider God as a possible explanation for the incredible design of our universe and life it is left with nothing more than chance. Mainstream’s MN science best explanation for the world is chance. That is why for many of us MN science just doesn’t cut it. It has no real explanation just the conclusion that it has to be materialistically based. That is it. Their best explanation is their starting assumption.
    It follows for those who believe in MN mainstream science, including theists, that they have to believe in the whole ball of wax of evolutionary biology. They cannot look at any of the data regarding the information content in living cells or the fine tuning of the universe from the perspective other than material and chance. They have to believe that people descended from apes, which evolved from other mutant creatures, which developed out of single cells, which popped out of chemicals, and all of this has to be explained by pure chance. They do not have any choice but to believe and teach this if they want to be doing mainstream science and keep their prestigious positions. They have made themselves slaves to material and chance. It would not matter a wit to them if GOD’S signature was coded in the galaxies or cells, it would have to be explained on the basis of chance and material. The information contained in every cell and indeed every aspect of life and our universe is the signature of the eternal omniscient and omnipotent GOD, but they could never accept that as a possible explanation. The MN explanation of our universe and world is filled with so many holes and imaginary explanations that any unbiased logically thinking individual would recognize it as nothing more than a philosophy, and not a very good one. They are not making logical deductions on the basis of the data or evidence, but rather on their philosophical definition of science. MN mainstream science has defined itself into nonsense, believing and teaching that everything that exists can be explained on the basis of material and chance: that everything came out of nothing all by itself. Material brought itself into existence: that is the MN explanation.
    Dr. Swamidass does acknowledge that MN science has its limitations, but he doesn’t seem to comprehend just how limited it actually is. MN science is a severely limited source of knowledge gained through experimentation and observation of present material realities. Even in terms of present material realities there are more questions than answers. When MN is applied to either the future or the past it becomes increasingly less reliable the further it goes into the future or the past since it cannot know what the actual conditions will be or were, but can only base their guesses on what they assume the conditions will be or were. A good recent illustration of this is the many false predictions made by the global warming alarmist mainstream scientific community. I haven’t done any serious study of the issue but as an observer I am not aware of any of their alarmist predictions that have come true up to this point. MN isn’t a very reliable source upon which to come to conclusions about material origins or future developments, for the simple reason that they do not and cannot know all of the conditions that existed or will exist.
    MN is also limited to material reality and has no understanding or explanation for the spiritual reality of life, or of the interconnection between the spiritual and the physical. Everyone experiences the realities of happiness, peace, sorrow, spiritual or emotional agony, patience, kindness, evil, etc. None of these are real according to a strictly MN explanation of our world and life as many of the discussions on UD have highlighted. MN doesn’t just eliminate God from their explanation of our world, but all spiritual reality. Chemicals do not experience spiritual realities, and MN has no explanation for them except for chance. Since the spiritual is as real as the material aspect of life and since the two are certainly interconnected in our life in this world, any explanation that cannot account for the spiritual is not a very good explanation of life in our world.
    The mainstream scientific community’s MN explanation for our universe, world, and human life is a good illustration of Romans 1: 18-23. It demonstrates the extreme limitations of human knowledge and understanding, and the foolishness of trusting in the princes of this fallen world.

  15. 15

    The idea that science operates via a naturalistic methodology is an entirely erroneous, ideological fiction. All mainstream science does is disallow conclusions which imply theism or the supernatural; it doesn’t actually employ a naturalistic methodology,

    As I detailed in another O.P., the methodology of science entirely depends on the assumption of the supernatural validity of free will, teleology, laws and universal constants and forces which can have no natural cause but which are assumed universally prescriptive; assumption of fundamental correlation between what can be known and the human capacity to recognize and comprehend it; and the universal, binding nature of the abstract upon reality (logic).

    None of that can be extracted from nor presumed as aspects of a naturalistic perspective. Therefore, to have a methodology guided by naturalism, the entire scientific process would have to be fundamentally altered. You’d have to throw out logic and occam’s razor as relevant or binding upon the process. Everyone’s concept of what science is and what is valid or not valid would have to be admitted since all such notions would necessarily be equally, subjectively generated by haphazardly interacting organic chemistries. Since teleology and free will are illusions under naturalism, it is an erroneous, absurd idea that we could “deliberately” set up an experiment for some purpose of finding some true statement that would, by force of it being conceptually understood, alter our organic brain chemistry in a top-down fashion to be in line with this supposed fact or truth.

    The methodology of science is entirely non-naturalistic; all atheists and materialists do is demand that the conclusions conform to their preconceived ideological and terminological constraints. It is no different than a religion imposing constraints on the conclusions of science – IOW, “your conclusions may not contradict naturalist dogma nor use terms that imply the supernatural or theism”.

    That’s not methodological naturalism, that’s enforcing an ideological constraint on the conclusions and implications of scientific investigation even when that very investigation necessarily utilizes supernatural/theistic assumptions in its methodology.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    JDK, again, kindly examine what Lewontin and the NSTA Board inadvertently revealed about the nature of evolutionary materialistic SCIENTISM, notice, on “demons” for example? KF

    PS: Rational Wiki on Methodological Naturalism, again letting the cat out of the bag in the voice of another leading atheistical site, here:

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

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: I suggest a sounder, far more historically and logically justified approach to science:

    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.

    (On the errors of Kansas etc, cf here for starters: http://iose-gen.blogspot.com/2.....#ks_tn_edu noting the 2001 ideologically loaded radical re-definition of science that was imposed and is only slightly reviesed in later re-impositions: “Science is the human activity of seeking natural [–> translation i/l/o context, natural-ISTIC i.e. evolutionary materialistic] explanations of the world around us.” )

  18. 18
    johnnyb says:

    I am going to post a full response later, but I wanted to mention a few things. bfast’s approach is interesting, but I think it requires a lot out of scientists that it might not be reasonable to ask of them. For one thing, if I am a scientist, and am investigating phenomena X, what happens when the evidence points to a non-naturalistic conclusion (we will note this as Conclusion A)? Am I forced to stop investigating? Does this mean that I can’t talk about it in a science journal? If not, then how will other people know the results of my efforts? Also, let’s say that someone who is not as smart comes along, and they have a really bad, but naturalistic, theory of phenomena X (we will call this Conclusion B). This can be published in the science journal, but mine cannot. Therefore, if someone says, “well, Conclusion B is scientific but Conclusion A is not” they would be correct under MN. The fact that the scientist coming up with Conclusion B is both wrong and misguided is irrelevant. Conclusion A cannot be considered in science, but Conclusion B can. How then can you avoid the claim, “the science is settled, X is caused by B, and anyone who tells you differently is being unscientific”?

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    bFast, I suggest that an induction on empirically tested reliable sign to its only actually observed cause thence conclusion per inference to best current explanation is not a negative argument or an argument from ignorance. The design inference is based on observed phenomena such as functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, fine tuning for function, irreducibly complex organisation to achieve function, etc. These are consistently seen to be produced through design processes and are not seen to result from blind chance and/or mechanical necessity. (Notice, the restricted, but key role of a particular negative argument per the vera causa principle of explaining on proved adequate causes. There are very good search challenge reasons why chance and necessity fail for say FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity in a cosmos of 13.8 BY and ~ 10^80 atoms.) This supports the conclusion that such are reliable signs of design as critical causal process. As to methods and techniques of design, it is known that such can be quite varied. However such may leave clues. A common point is, designers cause design processes, directly or indirectly and have knowledge, creativity and skills as well as purposes. Identifying candidates and concluding the most likely designer seems per forensics, to be very circumstantially specific. We also know that it is not reasonable to unduly constrict the list of candidate designers to ourselves. KF

  20. 20
    Bob O'H says:

    johnnyb – I think scientists do honestly want to get to the best explanation, so if the evidence were pointing towards a non-material explanation (and here I would take that to mean positive evidence, e.g. a religious text unambiguously predicting the lottery numbers). Quite how to report this is difficult – I could imagine attempts to test at naturalistic explanations could be published, and these would presumably mention the non-naturalistic explanation. How this would pan out I’ve no idea.

  21. 21
    johnnyb says:

    “I think scientists do honestly want to get to the best explanation”

    But, according to the article linked, this would be banned by the nature of science. You might be right about individual scientists, but it cannot happen if MN is the rule!

    “here I would take that to mean positive evidence, e.g. a religious text unambiguously predicting the lottery numbers”

    I would like to stay outside of “religious texts” because I think it confuses the issue. I like to focus on free will, consciousness, and creativity, because they are all supernatural things that we deal with all the time. There is plenty of evidence for them, but very little in science tries to deal with them in any other way than as materialistic epiphenomena.

  22. 22
    Axel says:

    Do you see what I mean now about the materialists being parasites in physics from now on ? Once the intrusion of photon non-locality into the reductionist, natural world’ occurs, according to the methodological naturalists, science properly so-called ceases to be conducted. It’s at best a hybrid of Science with a capital C and unicorns ‘n’ stuff. We scientists, today, deal only in cold, hard evidence.’

    I wonder if Einstein’s musing about a man sliding down a sunbeam and such would count as science. ‘Sorry, Albert …. Go to the back of the class. Science is not a nursery for primitives and simpletons.’

  23. 23
    Axel says:

    In his post #15, William J nails it again.

    ‘As I detailed in another O.P., the methodology of science entirely depends on the assumption of the supernatural validity of free will, teleology, laws and universal constants and forces which can have no natural cause but which are assumed universally prescriptive; assumption of fundamental correlation between what can be known and the human capacity to recognize and comprehend it; and the universal, binding nature of the abstract upon reality (logic).’

    What strikes me as being so sensational about William’s above insight is that it’s always been staring us in the face, but it’s a truth that is so banal, commonplace, and really universally understood, since the hegemony of the Entenebrement/Ensombrement/Obscurement, that they have been able to dismiss it as trite twaddle, when the metaphysical truth of it simply cannot be challenged. William is restoring lost lustre to the most primordial metaphysics of our understanding of science.

  24. 24
    mike1962 says:

    C.S. Lewis treats this subject in his book Miracles. WJM has done an excellent job of boiling the essence down in a clear and concise manner.

    Lewis’s conclusion was basically that human minds actually have the capacity to “see truths” or else all knowledge is an illusion and can never be more than merely utilitarian. If the former, science has the impossible task of showing how this could have come about from a-telic processes. If the latter, what we glean from scientific investigation may yield useful knowledge, but grand sweeping inferences (e.g, the material universe is all there is) are entirely out of court.

  25. 25
    johnnyb says:

    By the way, if anyone wants to know what it looks like, mathematically, for humans to “see truths” and conquer the problem of induction, you should really take a look at Eric Holloway’s “Imagination Sampling” video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS1vTcQrMoU

  26. 26

    Methodological Naturalism (MN) eliminates the Supernatural from Science

    The Question is: Is the supernatural part of reality, part of our world?


    If the supernatural is part of reality, part of everyday life, if supernatural can be touched, sensed and observed directly by anyone of us then MN proposing doing science without even considering supernatural is an erroneous, failed manner of conducting science.

    Trying to answer the above question here are the reasoning steps from the “Methodological Naturalism and its Creation Story” presentation – that hopefully will lead us to a clear, unequivocal answer.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBtmOpPSYk0

    • Some of the most interesting entities for scientific study are life – in general – living organisms (LOs), the Homo Sapiens (the human) species and human brain, mind and conscientiousness.

    • In order to understand the nature and characters of the Living Organisms (LOs) a systematic comparison is made between Man-Made Machines (MMMs) and Living Organism Machines (LOMs) from diverse points of view.

    • The comparison as well as the general capability of LOMs to self-replicate/self-reproduce, their unmatched autonomy and self-sufficiency, the amazing complexity of the organization of their bodies and the intricacy of their inner workings led to the unmistakable conclusions that LOMs are genuine Super, Super Machines.

    • Considering that science studied life, living organisms for centuries and is still far away from comprehending life and living organisms we conclude that Living Organisms are not only super, super machines but genuine Scientific Miracles.
    • Do we expect science to say in 10, 20, 30 years: “yes, we know what is life, we understand from the whole system level to the lowest molecule what a bird or a whale is and how a bird or a whale develops and function?” Maybe not.

    • Will the human brain and human mind remain a scientific mystery 10, 20, 30 years from now? Will the computer and robotics engineers be able to put artificial intelligence in their machines to match the natural intelligence in the human mind?

    • Given that the “technology” in living organisms, in human brain, mind and conscientiousness is much, much beyond what best scientists, engineers and technologists can accomplish or even comprehend today, isn’t fair and justified to state that we see, we witness the transcendental, we sense, we can even “touch” the supernatural present in so many ways and forms in our day-to-day life?

    The above argumentation hopefully persuaded some that the supernatural is very markedly present in our lives and in our world.

    Then the MN doctrine that advices scientist to not even consider the supernatural is just a ridiculous invitation for the scientist to ignore and be absolutely BLIND to the Most Interesting parts of the world and of our environment and existence.


    The MN agenda is genuinely anti-knowledge, anti-science.

    Some related thoughts.


    We are surrounded by genuine scientific miracles.

    The transcendental and the supernatural is here, to touch, to probe, to investigate and to wonder.

    In a scientific era where the single standing scientific theory is intelligent creation the absurdity and the anti realism of Methodological Naturalism is abundantly clear

    Before the first successful biological self-replication there was the Idea of self-replication.

    The Idea of Self-Replication is transcendental. The idea of a seed is transcendental. The Idea of Life is transcendental.

    The methodological naturalism inspired science can eliminate the supernatural as a starting hypothesis but cannot eliminate the supernatural as a scientific conclusion.

    Materialism pretends that Matter has superlative, supernatural creative powers no lower than those traditionally attributed to the Divine.

  27. 27
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass:
    MN decidedly does not rule out intelligence as a causal factor in mainstream science.1 For example, both sexual selection and artificial selection are important mechanisms of change that (1) invoke animal or human intelligence and (2) are entirely accepted in evolutionary theory. Likewise, SETI and fraud detection are accepted domains of scientific inquiry, and look to detect the action of hypothetical and known (respectively) intelligence.

    In contrast with these other areas, ID seems to require a God-like being (i.e. God) to be the designer. This is why ID is held, by most scientists, to be ruled out from consideration with in science by MN.

    So, rather than ruling out intelligence in general, MN rules out divine intelligence as a causal factor.

    Many ID proponents point out that, within science, they are only trying to recognize “design,” without explicitly considering the designer. The results of “intelligence” without considering any mind in particular. Various reasons are given for this distinction. However, I cannot think of any cases where science considers “design” or “intelligence” while sharply avoiding talk of the nature of the designer or mind behind it.

    Why do you want ID to talk about the designer(s) of the bacterial flagellum? All we have to offer are wild speculations. The designer(s) could be the teleological force as proposed by Prof. Nagel, the All Powerful God of the Bible, aliens, time-traveling future scientists or combinations of them. Clearly, these speculations are not within science.
    You say that science is limited, it “does not seek all Truth” as you stated, so why don’t you accept this limit?

    Swamidass:
    This is for pragmatic reasons. Science recognizes design by modeling the mind that produced it.

    So, Stonehenge is recognized as design by modeling the mind that produced it? Reference please.

    Swamidass:
    And the ID limitation on considering the designer seems arbitrary and is without a parallel in modern science.

    Above you define SETI as an accepted domain of scientific inquiry. Did it offer a model of the alien mind?

    Swamidass:
    Mainstream science only considers design with very careful attention to that which the proposed designer is and is not capable.

    Nonsense. That’s not how it works. Design always comes first. How do we know what a proposed designer can do? By looking at the artifacts.
    You don’t first model the mind of the designer and only then consider design.

    Swamidass:
    This provides guiding limits to inquiry, so the design hypothesis is falsifiable and mechanistic.

    Reference please. You seem to say that science can decide that the antikythera mechanism was NOT designed, because according to its model of the proposed designer(s) it is beyond her/his/its capabilities.

  28. 28

    Hello thanks for engaging the questions. I cannot respond to everyone but I will try a few.

    But first, I should remind you that I do not make the rules in science. I’m not looking for an argument here, but to understand you better and to be understood. I am just offering my best explanation of why science includes MN and why this excludes ID.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    Prof Swamidass, any rule that handicaps science from seeking the empirically warranted truth; without ideological blinkers . . . needs to go. Methodological naturalism should never have been let in, and needs to go out. KF

  30. 30

    @24 and @15

    ‘As I detailed in another O.P., the methodology of science entirely depends on the assumption of the supernatural validity of free will, teleology, laws and universal constants and forces which can have no natural cause but which are assumed universally prescriptive; assumption of fundamental correlation between what can be known and the human capacity to recognize and comprehend it; and the universal, binding nature of the abstract upon reality (logic).’

    I agree. Science is very well motivated by theism. This is one reason I am a very comfortable theist in science.

    I hope you get a chance to read the article I linked to. I think MN has a very strong basis in theism too. As the philosopher, physicist and Christian at Princeton explains…

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.ed.....etnat3.pdf

    So ID often appears to science for the purpose of demonstrating design. I do things in the opposite manner. I do science because God designed it. We have the same beliefs, in many ways, I just order them differently than you.

    To be clear, MN does not force naturalistic conclusions. It’s actually opposite. Because of MN, any naturalistic conclusions in science come with a big asterix (*). To take naturalism as science’s conclusion is to beg the question with obviously circular logic.

  31. 31

    @28 Does SETI offer a model of the alien mind?

    Yes, it is continually offering models of alien biology, technology, and minds. This is what enables SETI to make scientifically testable hypotheses. Even they have zero positive detection, in many cases they appear to following a strategy that is recognizable to us as science.

    For example, there are the recent dyson swarm and dyson galaxy models…

    http://www.scientificamerican......-galaxies/

    http://www.seti.org/seti-insti.....range-star

    And of course, there are models of alien biology that are used to define biosignatures in exoplanet atomspheres…

    http://seagerexoplanets.mit.edu/research.htm

    The effort does not (as is sometimes portrayed by ID) simply look for deviations from natural laws as evidence of ETI. If that was the case, than the search for new particles in particle accelerators (which are deviations from known physical laws too) would be SETI too. Of course, that is absurd. We are looking for ETI on other planets, here on earth tinkering with high energy particles (because why would an alien care to do that?).

    In fact, it is impossible to imagine a true SETI detection independent of some explicit or implicit model of what aliens are. Of course, if the evidence was very obvious (e.g. a flying saucer landing at the Whitehouse) it the modeling would not be very important (and therefore implicit).

    I think this could be a model for ID. Instead of just focusing on the insufficiency of natural mechanisms (which leaves you vulnerable to “design of the gaps”), what if you started proposing specific (hopefully quantitative) models of HOW we are design?

    The ID as a whole has show little interest in this, this is a possibility that might be understood more in the scientific community. Walter ReMine tries this in the Biotic Message. Even though his theory is ultimately falsified by the data, at least was a specific claim Similar things are happening the YEC camp with barimology. And Hugh Ross’s Reasons to Believe group (I hear) is working on a model too. These models are valuable, even if they are falsified, because they offer a positive explanation for why life is the way it is.

    Of course, I am not an ID advocate, so it is not for me to make these models. I do hope, however, that you give it a shot. I would find that interesting. Maybe you would even be right.

  32. 32

    @27 is the supernatural part of our world?

    I am a Christian. So of course, I think the answer is “yes” to the extent that I believe that God is supernatural (and He seems to be).

    It turns out, thought, that science is not concerned with understanding all truths, just some truths. Understanding God is not the purpose of science.

  33. 33

    @14

    I agree with a lot that you write.

    Science is very limited. MN makes that clear. Science cannot give us a complete view of the world.

  34. 34

    @28

    Why do you want ID to talk about the designer(s) of the bacterial flagellum? All we have to offer are wild speculations. The designer(s) could be the teleological force as proposed by Prof. Nagel, the All Powerful God of the Bible, aliens, time-traveling future scientists or combinations of them. Clearly, these speculations are not within science.
    You say that science is limited, it “does not seek all Truth” as you stated, so why don’t you accept this limit?

    As far as I know there is no case in science were we recognize design without then immediately (if we have not already) turn to scientifically considering the designer. This is important, because science is very concerned with the HOW, and by considering the designer we can start to answer this question.

    So if you do not want to consider the designer, that is without precedence in science. If not MN, what is your basis for making this arbitrary stopping point? If not MN, what is the rule you propose?

    I’m asking this because I’m really curious if you can come up with something that can consistently define science here. Maybe you can. I’d like to know.

  35. 35

    Professor, please please learn something about the things you talk about. You seam to be as clueless about SETI and you are about ID.

  36. 36
    johnnyb says:

    Dr. Swamidass –

    I don’t think the issue is that there is a *rule* that prevents you from investigating the designer, but rather we don’t have the data that is needed to investigate the details.

    For instance, if we find a heat bubble somewhere, we know that something must have generated that heat. This is true even if that mechanism has left no evidence. If we got to a heat bubble, and there was nothing around to produce it, we wouldn’t say, “the energy just happened to appear there”. Instead, we would say that “we can identify a heat bubble here, but we don’t currently have a way to determine how it got here.”

    Likewise, evidence for design *may* lead us to a designer. However, the evidence for design is not lessened because we don’t have evidence for a specific designer any more than the absence of a source of heat would lead us to believe that it happened spontaneously. We would presume a source even if one weren’t identified.

    It is certainly within science to *look* for such a cause, however, the point is that the method does not depend on finding the specific cause at work, any more than finding a heat bubble and identifying it as such requires knowing the source of it.

  37. 37
    Seversky says:

    If we return to the example of Paley’s watch, the nineteenth century walker on the heath would recognize it as designed for two reasons, even if he had never seen a watch before. First, it is not something that has ever been observed to occur naturally and, second, the materials and the component parts – the brass case, glass lens, cogs and springs – strongly resemble devices designed by human beings.

    A counter-example I have used before is that of the “data-crystal”, a futuristic data storage device used in the TV science-fiction series Babylon 5. If the walker on the heath found one lying in the grass, he might think it was a naturally-occurring crystal or even a piece of costume jewelery but never a data storage device from several hundred years in the future.

    The point, obviously, is that we recognize design that looks like things we design, now or in the past. But we have absolutely no idea what alien design might look like. We have no way of knowing what might be the common properties of all designed things which could be used to reliably distinguish the designed from the not-designed under any conditions.

    If life on Earth was designed some 3.8 billion years ago, it was not by us. It must have been by an intelligence possessed of a science and technology far beyond anything available to 21st century humanity. So why should we expect structures in living organisms to look like things we design today? Isn’t it more likely that pattern-matching “software” in our brains is getting false hits?

  38. 38
    jdk says:

    Thanks for the response, gpuccio.

    First, I’m aware others have speculated about a quantum interface as part of consciousness. However, I think you summarized the idea well, and I appreciated especially the remark about this not violating any laws of causality.

    However, its useful for people to clarify both commonalities and differences, so I’ll say that my view (which is really just a speculative intuition) is that a conscious designer does not lie on the other side of the quantum curtain, but rather an impersonal creative impetus that pushes the world to innovate, so to speak.

    It is clear, I think, from modern science that the world is not completely determined: it is not the billiard ball, clockwork system that was envisioned starting in Newtons time. Spontaneous changes and new novel systems can arise in any part of the world. Our will, to follow this view, can be open to this underlying potential for spontaneous creativity and thus influence our actions such that our actions are not just a deterministic result of the physical world.

    I do agree with you, and think this is important, when you say,

    we do know intuitively many things about consciousness and its ways, simply because we can perceive a lot about that in our own consciousness. So, in a sense, the mystery is not a complete mystery, and can in some way be “touched” by our cognition.

    Each one of us has an experience of consciousness that no one else can share, but we can learn to examine our consciousness somewhat objectively and share our thoughts with others. The Buddhists make two points about this self-examination. First, they encourage people to take a scientific, evidence-based approach to understanding how our consciousness works in relationship to the rest of our bodily biological functioning. That is, don’t attach yourself to theories about consciousness, but do the work to really explore what consciousness is separate from what one’s is consciousness is about: separate the content of consciousness from the presence of consciousness. This is what yoga and meditation are ultimately all about.

    However, they also point out an inescapable dilemma: the “I” that we are trying to examine is the very “I” that is doing the examining, so there may be (in fact, are) limitations in knowing ourself as a self. For this reason, the Buddhists say, one has to go beyond the “I” – realize the illusion of the ego – in order to truly experience consciousness in its pure form.

    On the other hand, you say,

    I believe that the I that perceives, and therefore explains all subjective experiences, including free will, is transcendental.

    I don’t agree with this, I think. The “I” that we identify with is a product of our living in a biological body: it is a construct build up from all the events and influences, internal and external, that we have experienced. We can touch the world of spontaneous creativity, and let it be a part of who we are, but there is no transcendent separate “I”.

    I have written this before, but a statement by Alan Watts about what happens after death best captures my thought. He wrote (I paraphrase): we all contain a spark of the divine, but when we die it’s like throwing a drop of water back into the ocean.

    The “I” is part of this world, not some other world. But it partakes of consciousness, and with that consciousness can tap into spontaneous creativity.

    Stephen Covey, (who was actually very interested in spiritual matters), once wrote, “Between the stimulus and the response there is a pause, and therein lie our freedom.” I like this saying. It resonates with the idea that we can learn to step back from our surface reactionary self and free ourself a bit (or a lot in some cases) from all the built-in habits, perceptions, opinions, etc. of our biological self.

    And, FWIW, yoga has breathing exercises where one learns to “let go” of the ego at the pause between the inhale and the exhale. Letting go of the ego is one of the keys to developing true inner freedom from all the attachments we have built up throughout our life.

    So, in summary, there are interesting questions we can address as we look inside of ourselves and examine our own conscious, as suggested by gpuccio’s quote above, one of which is whether the “I” that we identify with is really our true self.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    Pardon but circular: for Paley, the ORIGIN of the watch (including the Self-replicating watch in Ch 2 that is typically overlooked) is what is at stake.

    So, two parallel questions:

    Q1: Has a “natural” [= blind chance and mechanical necessity] origin of watches (and more particularly the FSCO/I in the watches) been reliably observed?

    Q2: Has a “natural” [= blind chance and mechanical necessity] origin of living cells (and more particularly the FSCO/I in the living cells) been reliably observed?

    The answer to both is the same: no.

    Yes, we observe cells replicating from one generation of cell to the next. That is not the same as observing the origin of cell based life.

    We have good reason to infer that a self-replicating machine (which could include a watch fabricator) is possible and we have made initial practical steps to implement such a kinematic von Neumann self-replicating machine.

    However, there is a key common factor that is intricately involved in the origin of functionality of both, functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information (FSCO/I).

    We routinely observe how this comes to be and routinely, reliably — per a trillion-member base of cases seen — it comes about by the process of intelligently directed configuration, aka design.

    Inductively, we are entitled to accept FSCO/I as a reliable tested sign of design and infer to design for both.

    This is what Paley says in Ch 2, which is, as noted, typically overlooked:

    Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch should after some time discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself — the thing is conceivable; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts — a mold, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, baffles, and other tools — evidently and separately calculated for this purpose . . . .

    The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism by which it was carried on, he would perceive in this new observation nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done — for referring the construction of the watch to design and to supreme art . . . . He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which, was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair — the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use.

    KF

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: A more detailed cite from Paley in Ch 2, during which he anticipated many of the objections commonly thought to be fatal (and yes, for 150 years, people have been tilting at a strawman caricature by focussing on the preliminary not the full form argument Paley made):

    Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch [in a field and stumbled on the stone in Ch 1 just past, where this is 50 years before Darwin in Ch 2 of a work Darwin full well knew about] should after some time discover that, in addition to

    [–> here cf encapsulated, gated, metabolising automaton, and note, “stickiness” of molecules raises a major issue of interfering cross reactions thus very carefully controlled organised reactions are at work in life . . . ]

    all the properties [= specific, organised, information-rich functionality] which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself [–> i.e. self replication, cf here the code using von Neumann kinematic self replicator that is relevant to first cell based life] — the thing is conceivable [= this is a gedankenexperiment, a thought exercise to focus relevant principles and issues]; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts — a mold, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, baffles, and other tools — evidently and separately calculated for this purpose [–> it exhibits functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information; where, in mid-late C19, cell based life was typically thought to be a simple jelly-like affair, something molecular biology has long since taken off the table but few have bothered to pay attention to Paley since Darwin] . . . .

    The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism by which it was carried on, he would perceive in this new observation nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done — for referring the construction of the watch to design and to supreme art

    [–> directly echoes Plato in The Laws Bk X on the ART-ificial (as opposed to the strawman tactic “supernatural”) vs the natural in the sense of blind chance and/or mechanical necessity as serious alternative causal explanatory candidates; where also the only actually observed cause of FSCO/I is intelligently configured configuration, i.e. contrivance or design]

    . . . . He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which, was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair — the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use [–> i.e. design].

    . . . . We might possibly say, but with great latitude of expression, that a stream of water ground corn ; but no latitude of expression would allow us to say, no stretch
    cf conjecture could lead us to think, that the stream of water built the mill, though it were too ancient for us to know who the builder was.
    What the stream of water does in the affair is neither more nor less than this: by the application of an unintelligent impulse to a mechanism previously arranged, arranged independently of it and arranged by intelligence, an effect is produced, namely, the corn is ground. But the effect results from the arrangement. [–> points to intelligently directed configuration as the observed and reasonably inferred source of FSCO/I] The force of the stream cannot be said to be the cause or the author of the effect, still less of the arrangement. Understanding and plan in the formation of the mill were not the less necessary for any share which the water has in grinding the corn; yet is this share the same as that which the watch would have contributed to the production of the new watch . . . .

    Though it be now no longer probable that the individual watch which our observer had found was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design remains as it was.

    Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. We may ask for the cause of the color of a body, of its hardness, of its heat ; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we have remarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question, by telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance, without a contriver; order [–> better, functionally specific organisation], without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind. No one, therefore, can rationally believe that the insensible, inanimate watch, from which the watch before us issued, was the proper cause of the mechanism we so much admire m it — could be truly said to have constructed the instrument, disposed its parts, assigned their office, determined their order, action, and mutual dependency, combined their several motions into one result, and that also a result connected with the utilities of other beings. All these properties, therefore, are as much unaccounted for as they were before.

    Nor is any thing gained by running the difficulty farther back, that is, by supposing the watch before us to have been produced from another watch, that from a former, and so on indefinitely. Our going back ever so far brings us no nearer to the least degree of satisfaction upon the subject. Contrivance is still unaccounted for. We still want a contriver. A designing mind is neither supplied by this supposition nor dispensed with. If the difficulty were diminished the farther we went back, by going back indefinitely we might exhaust it. And this is the only case to which this sort of reasoning applies. “Where there is a tendency, or, as we increase the number of terms, a continual approach towards a limit, there, by supposing the number of terms to be what is called infinite, we may conceive the limit to be attained; but where there is no such tendency or approach, nothing is effected by lengthening the series . . . ,

    And the question which irresistibly presses upon our thoughts is. Whence this contrivance and design ? The thing required is the intending mind, the adapted hand, the intelligence by which that hand was directed. This question, this demand, is not shaken off by increasing a number or succession of substances destitute of these properties; nor the more, by increasing that number to infinity. If it be said, that upon the supposition of one watch being produced from another in the course of that other’s movements, and by means of the mechanism within it, we have a cause for the watch in my hand, namely, the watch from which it proceeded — I deny, that for the design, the contrivance, the suitableness of means to an end, the adaptation of instruments to a use, all of which we discover in the watch, we have any cause whatever. It is in vain, therefore, to assign a series of such causes, or to allege that a series may be carried back to infinity; for I do not admit that we have yet any cause at all for the phenomena, still less any series of causes either finite or infinite. Here is contrivance, but no contriver; proofs of design, but no designer. [Paley, Nat Theol, Ch 2]

  41. 41

    But we have absolutely no idea what alien design might look like.

    Not true.

    We have no way of knowing what might be the common properties of all designed things which could be used to reliably distinguish the designed from the not-designed under any conditions.

    Firstly, why should we expect every designed object to have the same tale-tell sign in common? Who wrote that law? Do we need to know this mysterious universal indicator in order to know that the Space Shuttle was designed? Or how about a Monet? A Monet and a Space Shuttle have virtually nothing in common, yet we know instantly that both were designed. So you have the wrong question. The question is – is there something that we can infer design every time we find it? The answer is — of course there is. Why pretend otherwise?

    If life on Earth was designed some 3.8 billion years ago, it was not by us. It must have been by an intelligence possessed of a science and technology far beyond anything available to 21st century humanity. So why should we expect structures in living organisms to look like things we design today?

    Again, you have the wrong question. We don’t have to expect them to look like things we design, they already look exactly like things we design. In fact, the things we design (like language) and the workings of the genetic information system are both exclusively identifiable by their physical properties, and are the only two places we can find such systems anywhere in the cosmos. Why pretend otherwise?

  42. 42

    Origenes asks Professor Swamidasss:

    Does SETI offer a model of the alien mind?

    The professor answers back:

    Yes, it is continually offering models of alien biology, technology, and minds. This is what enables SETI to make scientifically testable hypotheses. Even they have zero positive detection, in many cases they appear to following a strategy that is recognizable to us as science.

    For example, there are the recent dyson swarm and dyson galaxy models…

    http://www.scientificamerican……-galaxies/

    …and from the professors example:

    Unlike traditional SETI surveys, Wright and his team did not seek messages from the stars. Instead, they looked for the thermodynamic consequences of galactic-scale colonization, based on an idea put forth in 1960 by the physicist Freeman Dyson. Dyson postulated that a growing technological culture would ultimately be limited by access to energy, and that advanced, energy-hungry civilizations would be driven to harvest all the available light from their stars. To do that, they might dismantle a planet or two as feedstock for building star-enveloping swarms of solar collectors. A star’s light would fade as it was encased in such a “Dyson sphere,” but Dyson noted the constructions could be detected by the mid-infrared glow of their radiated waste heat—essentially the same phenomenon that causes your computer to warm up when it’s running. In 1963 the Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev extended these ideas by developing a tripartite classification system for a civilization’s energy use. A “type 1” civilization would harness all the energy of its home planet whereas a type 2 uses all the energy of its star, perhaps by building a Dyson sphere around it. A type 3 civilization would be capable of using all the energy of its galaxy, presumably by encasing all its stars in Dyson spheres.

    Professor, is this your model of an alien mind (which was the question being asked)? Of course it isn’t — its fluff thrown up by you in order to not answer the question. By doing these things, you give yourself room to continue your irrelevant attack on ID while protecting yourself from correction. It’s the kind of lazy rhetoric a professor should not deal in, and is utterly non-scientific. It begs the question, is there any real reason to consider you a serious person on this topic? A serious critic of ID?

  43. 43

    So if you do not want to consider the designer, that is without precedence in science. If not MN, what is your basis for making this arbitrary stopping point? If not MN, what is the rule you propose?

    He already answered your question. The rule is available physical evidence.

  44. 44
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass shows himself to be confused about design detection when he states that “science recognizes design by modeling the mind that produced it”. This nonsensical idea has been debunked on this forum many times. The detection of design comes first, then second-order questions (who, how, why, when) follow.

    Perhaps the following text by Eric Anderson will clear up this and some other misconceptions.

    1. The question of how something was designed is logically separate from, and subsequent to, the question of whether it was designed. ID is not an attempt to answer all questions. It is a limited inquiry into whether something was designed. Questions about who, why, how, when are all interesting second-order questions that can be asked only after an inference to design is drawn. You may want, deeply in your heart of hearts, for ID to answer all of those questions. But that is a failure of your expectations, not ID itself.

    2. Design does not have to answer a “how” in the same way that purely natural explanations need to. That is because we are dealing with two different domains. Design is not a mechanistic theory. It is a theory about choice, about intentionality, about intelligence. You don’t need to know how the ancients built the pyramids or stonehenge, or the precise design and manufacturing process for how a solid state flash drive was built, to know that such things were designed.

    In stark contrast, chance and natural-law-driven processes are all about the mechanism. They are purely mechanistic theories that live or die by identifying a natural physical mechanism.

    Many materialists (because, again, they can’t see past their materialism), want to demand that ID provide some kind of detailed mechanistic explanation for design. That demand is based on a misunderstanding, because ID is not a mechanistic theory. That is not a failure of ID. It is a failure by the materialist to understand the different domains we are dealing with.

  45. 45
    johnnyb says:

    Seversky –

    It is true that there are types of design ID cannot detect. But I find this strange as a criticism, as ID never claimed that it could detect every design. Every single book I’ve read about ID explicitly says that it cannot. The goal is to rigorously describe what we *could* detect.

    Your second criticism is even stranger – that the pattern-detection software in our minds are misfiring. That is the whole point of ID – to make the process of design detection rigorous and based on logical and mathematical principles rather than intuition. This is what every science does – make mathematical models that allow us to calculate rather than guess the result. Our guesses are usually good enough for daily living, but not for scientific or engineering work. That is why we make rigorous models. That is the whole point of the subject.

    If you are arguing that our minds might be deceiving us about the logical relationships within ID, I don’t see how this could not be used as a criticism against all of science. If our brains are totally deceiving us or misfiring such to prevent working out the logical and mathematical details of a theory, for what reason would we believe the work of scientists at all?

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass:

    So ID often appears to science for the purpose of demonstrating design.

    I disagree with this. Design does not need to be demonstrated, it is glaringly obvious, to everyone. It is all around us, every day.

    Even atheists, materialists, and methodological naturalists agree. Don’t make me pull out the quote book and hit you over the head with it professor!

    ID is the realist position against the view that all this design we see is just illusory.

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    Pardon but circular: for Paley, the ORIGIN of the watch (including the Self-replicating watch in Ch 2 that is typically overlooked) is what is at stake.

    Bingo. Over at TSZ petrushka makes the same mistake, apparently thinking that Paley was writing as an answer to Darwinian evolution. Paley came before Darwin, petrushka.

  48. 48
    Mung says:

    As many here have kindly and gently pointed out, Prof. Swamidass is quite confused.

    A couple more examples:

    I am a Christian. So of course, I think the answer is “yes” to the extent that I believe that God is supernatural (and He seems to be).

    The question is not whether God is supernatural, it is whether nature is supernatural. We all know, or should know, that things that must be created and sustained in their existence should hardly be called natural.

    The effort does not (as is sometimes portrayed by ID) simply look for deviations from natural laws as evidence of ETI.

    Grossly misrepresents SETI and ID. Neither are looking for violations of natural law. When we receive signals from our space probes those signals are not violating natural laws.

    Sheesh.

  49. 49
    Rationalitys bane says:

    Mung, “We all know, or should know, that things that must be created and sustained in their existence should hardly be called natural.”

    Yet crystals are created naturally, and sustained naturally.

  50. 50
    bill cole says:

    Mung

    The question is not whether God is supernatural, it is whether nature is supernatural. We all know, or should know, that things that must be created and sustained in their existence should hardly be called natural.

    Great discussion point for a new op.

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung, by over fifty years, Darwin read Paley in uni. KF

  52. 52
    Barry Arrington says:

    I have no problem with methodological naturalism as a heuristic all the way up to the point that it becomes an impediment, rather than a help, in discovering truth.

    Assume merely for the sake of argument that design actually occurred, i.e. it is the truth. If a researcher insists on MN to the point of ruling out design before the investigation even begins, he is doomed to error from the beginning. This is obvious. I don’t see how it could even be controversial.

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    Barry is right. The aim of science is to discover the truth about nature. I would add that Methodological Naturalism is appropriate for discerning how things in nature operate (gravity), but it is totally inappropriate for discerning how things in nature come to be (Big Bang Cosmology, SETI, ID, etc.) . Yet science may legitimately pursue both kinds of questions, from which it follow that MN cannot be a universal rule of science.

  54. 54

    Oh, but if the terrifying Christians install a theocracy and demand the removal of MN from science, won’t it mean a return to Uncle Bob getting cancer as punishment for the way he treated Aunt Jane?

    Several years ago a syndicated program was promoting an upcoming interview with one of America’s gilded anti-ID propagandists (Miller I think), and in the promo the sound bite was him telling the interviewer that “it would be the end of medicine”. Death and disease would rule humanity.

    Apparently, the insult to all the theists who study and work in medicine never occurred to him.

    😐

  55. 55
    Mung says:

    LoL. Imagine those crazy theists looking for answers to diseases in the GAPS in our understanding. *gasp*

  56. 56
    bornagain77 says:

    SB

    “I would add that Methodological Naturalism is appropriate for discerning how things in nature operate (gravity), but it is totally inappropriate for discerning how things in nature come to be (Big Bang Cosmology, SETI, ID, etc.)”

    Actually, there is nothing particularly ‘natural’ about the way gravity operates. Might I suggest that familiarity with gravity has dulled our senses to just how ‘miraculous’ gravity actually is.

    In fact, gravity is actually more ‘miraculous’ than agent causality is

    A Professor’s Journey out of Nihilism: Why I am not an Atheist – University of Wyoming – J. Budziszewski
    Excerpt page12: “There were two great holes in the argument about the irrelevance of God. The first is that in order to attack free will, I supposed that I understood cause and effect; I supposed causation to be less mysterious than volition.
    If anything, it is the other way around. I can perceive a logical connection between premises and valid conclusions. I can perceive at least a rational connection between my willing to do something and my doing it. But between the apple and the earth, I can perceive no connection at all. Why does the apple fall? We don’t know. “But there is gravity,” you say. No, “gravity” is merely the name of the phenomenon, not its explanation. “But there are laws of gravity,” you say. No, the “laws” are not its explanation either; they are merely a more precise description of the thing to be explained, which remains as mysterious as before. For just this reason, philosophers of science are shy of the term “laws”; they prefer “lawlike regularities.” To call the equations of gravity “laws” and speak of the apple as “obeying” them is to speak as though, like the traffic laws, the “laws” of gravity are addressed to rational agents capable of conforming their wills to the command. This is cheating, because it makes mechanical causality (the more opaque of the two phenomena) seem like volition (the less). In my own way of thinking the cheating was even graver, because I attacked the less opaque in the name of the more.
    The other hole in my reasoning was cruder. If my imprisonment in a blind causality made my reasoning so unreliable that I couldn’t trust my beliefs, then by the same token I shouldn’t have trusted my beliefs about imprisonment in a blind causality. But in that case I had no business denying free will in the first place.”
    http://www.undergroundthomist......theist.pdf

    Agent Causality (of Theists) vs. The self refuting Blind Causality (of Atheists) – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1118356054843993/?type=2&theater

    And when the Agent causality of Theists is rightly let ‘back’ into the picture of physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned, (instead of the self refuting ‘blind’ causality of atheists in which atheists themselves become illusions of persons instead of real persons), then a empirically backed unification between Quantum Theory and Relativity is readily achieved by the resurrection of Christ from death:

    Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the Theory of Everything – Centrality Concerns
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uHST2uFPQY&list=PLtAP1KN7ahia8hmDlCYEKifQ8n65oNpQ5&index=4

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks, in a recent OP, I discussed the implications of inductive reasoning, and how it is normal for explanatory frameworks in science to have explanatory gaps. This then raises the issue of an armour-belt protecting core commitments in the theory (and making falsifiability far more difficult than is commonly recognised).

    Clipping:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....s-evo-mat/

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

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

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

    T + AI + AM –> P/E

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

    P/E – (O + AI) –> G = g

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

    However, when a new theory better explains persistent anomalies and has some significant success with otherwise unexplained phenomena, and this occurs for some time, this allows its champions to advance. {Let us insert an infographic:}

    [sci_abduction graphic]

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

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

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

    Methodological naturalism is obviously intended to be a core commitment. It also a priori locks out entire classes of otherwise reasonable and responsible alternatives. Indeed, on FSCO/I as a well substantiated and tested, reliable sign of intelligently directed configuration as key causal factor, it may be ideologically locking out the best current explanation of certain traces of the past of origins for OOL and origin of body plans. And that, by ideological intent.

    On the principle that science should seek as true and fair a view of the world as can be currently empirically warranted, that is a very important — and telling — concern.

    This has been pointed out here at UD and elsewhere for years on end now.

    With very little effect among champions or fellow travellers of the dominant evolutionary materialistic scientism paradigm.

    If that does not trip warning flags, that failure is itself a deeper level of warning.

    It is not for nothing that there is an observation out there that new paradigms often advance one funeral at a time.

    KF

  58. 58
    johnnyb says:

    For those following this thread, I posted a followup story on my questions for the proponents of Methodological Naturalism.

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