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The capriciousness of intelligent agency makes it challenging to call ID science


It would be an interesting debate as to whether legal decisions by juries are considered science. Does anybody really care whether a jury verdict is called science or non-science? Was the verdict against Jodi Arias for killing Travis Alexander science? Or how about the conviction of Bernie Madoff, is that science? Isn’t it more important that the verdicts delivered are correct and faithful to the facts? Whether the inferences and verdicts can be labeled science or not seems to be extremely irrelevant in the scheme of things.

In similar fashion, that has been my view about the debate whether ID is science. A case can be made either way, and if we let something as flimsy as Darwinism and multiverses pass as science, why not question of ID and God pass as science. Even a leading atheist said:

You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.

Richard Dawkins

But let me contrast ID with some classic theories of science. I do this not because I’m against ID, but to inform our readers about the challenges in declaring ID science. The fundamental problem in claiming ID is science is the non-predictability of how an intelligent agent will behave.

One of the most basic disciplines in physics is geometric optics. If you build a lens or mirror a certain way, light will be channeled a certain way. That is to say, under given conditions, we can expect a given outcome. There is no ambiguity as to predicted behavior. Much of physics and chemistry is framed in this way. Even things that have a random component can be said to have predictable outcomes in terms of expectation values like 500 fair coins having an expectation of 50% heads when subjected to a random process.

By way of contrast, intelligent agencies, particularly those intelligent agencies which we presume have free will, cannot be counted upon to behave in predictable manners in certain domains. Even presuming some intelligent agencies (say machine “intelligence”) are deterministic, they can be an unpredictable black box to outside observers. This makes it difficult to make direct experimental confirmation of certain ID inferences.

Now if I claim, “God made life from lifeless dust”, even though I believe this claim, I wouldn’t expect God to cooperate with an experiment where I try to show that God can make life out of sand in a sandbox of my choice. The inference that “God made life from lifeless dust” might be a correct inference, but we won’t be able to make a direct experimental demonstration to prove it. Like a jury verdict, the inference is circumstantial.

This may seem obvious to some, but I still cringe when I see ID proponents trying to argue that ID is science. Well, lets say ID is science, it certainly isn’t the sort of science amenable to direct lab confirmation like geometric optics or most of the major scientific theories that make modern technology work. If you insist ID is science, you can expect critics to offer a far less polite treatment of that claim than I have done in this essay. I prefer to say, the question of whether ID is science pales in comparison to the question whether ID is true.

The root of the challenge for claim ID is science is not that ID is faulty in its claims, the root of the challenge is in the unpredictable behavior of an intelligent agency, especially if the agency has free will.


1. As an aside, this raises the philosophical question, “If God is the designer, why has he chosen to not be as obvious to humans as humans are to each other. Surely it seems incongruous that so great a God is hidden from our eyes.”

I respond by saying, “that is an objection I can sympathize with, but aren’t some of the greatest truths the least accessible?” And there is Proverb 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of Kings is to search out a matter.”

And 1 Cor 1:26

not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being[ might boast in the presence of God.

Maybe the Designer is priming the stage for a gigantic prank against atheists like Richard Dawkins who are among the wise of this world. Maybe he’ll take pleasure in humiliating his critics on judgment day, and his invisibility in the present day is part of Him setting up the humiliation of his critics on judgment day. [Just a speculation, on my part.]

I have found it incongruous that so Great a God as described in the Bible seems so invisible, but neither can I deny the ubiquitous circumstantial evidence that a Mind far beyond human comprehension has designed life and put us on a Privileged Planet in a privileged location at a privileged time, as if to say, “The Fingers of God are Pointing at You.”

I think the answer to this incongruity is that Jesus himself said his communications are in parables so as to allow the willfully blind to remain blind. So it is with the invisibility of God to our immediate experience, the hidden nature of truth is by design, but the hidden truth is not forever hidden to those willing to investigate and follow the evidence where it leads.

2. I view the capriciousness of intelligent agencies as also the reason paranormal and miraculous events seem to escape laboratory controlled conditions while at the same time there is seemingly credible in at least a few cases. If the root of paranormal or miraculous events are capricious intelligent agencies desiring to elude easy detection (but willing to be detected by the persistent), then this may explain the incongruity between the demands of skeptic organizations like James Randi foundation and other skeptics like John Mack of Harvard and other researchers who claim credible evidence of the paranormal in addition to the abundant accounts throughout history of miraculous events affecting peoples lives.

It may be by design that combatants in spiritual warfare are choosing to elude direct laboratory confirmation for now. It may be a chilling thought that rather than we humans putting intelligent spiritual beings to the test in the lab, that rather we are the ones being observed and subject to study. The Bible teaches that it is God putting us to the test, not us putting Him to the test. We are the ones under scrutiny, not the Intelligent Designer.

3. Because claims of the miraculous and paranormal can be criticized on grounds that they were fabricated to win converts, I unfortunately have to refer to some unpleasant accounts to make the case for non-material intelligent agencies that are beyond the reach of laboratory controlled conditions. Because these accounts are damaging to the reputations and livelihood of the witness, I consider them to have more credibility, even though the accounts escape lab controlled conditions. I’ve argued the phenomenon described by John Mack is evidence of a sinister spiritual intelligence. I let the reader make a verdict on the credibility of John Mack (a Professor at Harvard Medical School).

PBS NOVA Interview with John Mack, Harvard Psychiatrist

Interview with John Mack
Psychiatrist, Harvard University
NOVA: Let’s talk about your own personal evolution from perhaps skepticism to belief …

MACK: When I first encountered this phenomenon, or particularly even before I had actually seen the people themselves, I had very little place in my mind to take this seriously. I, like most of us, were raised to believe that if we were going to discover other intelligence, we’d do it through radio waves or through signals or something of that kind.

Quote: I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery

The idea that we could be reached by some other kind of being, creature, intelligence that could actually enter our world and have physical effects as well as emotional effects, was simply not part of the world view that I had been raised in. So that I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery. In other words, that I—I did everything I could to rule out other sources, or sexual abuse. Some of these people are abused. But they’re able to tell, distinguish clearly the abduction trauma from other forms of abuse. Some forms of psychosis or people making up stories—I could reject that on the basis that there was no gain in this for the vast majority of these people.

…. I’ve now worked with over a hundred experiencers intensively. Which involves an initial two-hour or so screening interview before I do anything else. And in case after case after case, I’ve been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of feelings connected with this, the self-doubt—all the appropriate responses that these people have to their experiences.

NOVA: So tell us, please, how literally you intend people to take this? Are you suggesting people are really being snatched from their beds by aliens and experiments on board a spaceship?

MACK: Just how literally to take this, is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of this. And I want to walk through that as clearly as I can. There are aspects of this which I believe we are justified in taking quite literally. That is, UFOs are in fact observed, filmed on camera at the same time that people are having their abduction experiences.

People, in fact, have been observed to be missing at the time that they are reporting their abduction experiences. They return from their experiences with cuts, ulcers on their bodies, triangular lesions, which follow the distribution of the experiences that they recover, of what was done to them in the craft by the surgical-like activity of these beings.

All of that has a literal physical aspect and is experienced and reported with appropriate feeling, by the abductees, with or without hypnosis or a relaxation exercise.

….There is a—I believe, a gradation of experiences and that go from the most literal physical kinds of hurts, wounds, person removed, spacecraft that can be photographed, to experiences which are more psychological, spiritual, involve the extension of consciousness. The difficulty for our society and for our mentality is, we have a kind of either/or mentality. It’s either, literally physical; or it’s in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for—or we have lost the place for—are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world.

So the simple answer would be: Yes, it’s both. It’s both literally, physically happening to a degree; and it’s also some kind of psychological, spiritual experience occurring and originating perhaps in another dimension. And so the phenomenon stretches us, or it asks us to stretch to open to realities that are not simply the literal physical world, but to extend to the possibility that there are other unseen realities from which our consciousness, our, if you will, learning processes over the past several hundred years have closed us off.

NOVA: I wonder, if in that vein, you can speak to what you think this experience is about?

MACK: ….There are several effects that these experiences have for those who undergo alien abduction encounters. First is the most familiar aspect or fit, which is a traumatic event in which a blue light or some kind of energy paralyzes the person, whether they’re in their home or they’re driving a car. They can’t move.

They feel themselves being removed from wherever they were. They floated through a wall or out a car, carried up on this beam of light into a craft and there subjected to a number of now familiar procedures which involve the beings staring at them; involves probing of their body, their body orifices; and a complex process whereby they sense in the case of men, sperm removed; in the women, eggs removed; some sort of hybrid offspring created which they’re brought back to see in later abductions. That’s the sort of literal experience.

Now, the effect of that is—or what seems to be going on there, in a number of abductees—not just people I see, but the ones Budd Hopkins and other people see—is to produce some kind of new species to bring us together to produce a hybrid species which—the abductees are sometimes told—will populate the earth or will be there to carry evolution forward, after the human race has completed what it is now doing, namely the destruction of the earth as a living system. So it’s a kind of later form. It’s an awkward coming together of a less embodied species than we are, and us, for this evolutionary purpose.

However, that might not be literally true. It might be that that this is a communication to us. That perhaps we need to change our ways. It may not be that these are literally our babies. It may be a kind of expression of images of babies; or it may be that these hybrids we’re told is what will have to be. It’s a kind of insurance policy if the earth continues to be subjected to the exploitation of its living environment to the point where it can’t sustain human and other life as it’s now occurring. But it may not be literally what is going to happen. So that’s one area.

Another area is the whole visual environmental and informational aspect of this in which people are shown on television screens a huge variety of scenes of environmental destruction of the earth polluted; of a kind of post-apocalyptic scene in which even the spirits have been routed from their environment because they live in the same physical and spiritual environment that we do; and canyons are shown with trees destroyed; pieces of the earth are seen as breaking away—portions of the East Coast or West Coast.

NOVA: …..Alien hybrid. What does that mean?

MACK: Sometimes along the way, as you go deeper and deeper into the person’s consciousness, into their experience, they will discover….what is called a dual identity. In other words, that they are both human—in one dimension; but they also are themselves, have an alien identity. That they are participatory in this reproductive hybrid program, as if they were altogether part of it. And that they may, in fact, even experience themselves as aliens.

One of the men in my book actually was an active participant in taking a woman from Texas up into the ship and being, and acting the reproductive function of the alien being, and felt he was himself alien. And often the abductees will feel that their job, developmentally, is to integrate these two dimensions or these two aspects of themselves: the human and the alien. And that the alien dimension is a part of ourselves, our souls, if you will even, from which we were or have been cut off over the centuries of human beings living on this earth in this densely embodied form.

NOVA: You and others have said that there is no other psychological explanation. But that there is some reality to it. What do you think of the work of people like Michael Persinger and Robert Baker who have these complicated theories about neurology or they charge that hypnogogic hallucinations being at the root of these perceived—these experiences?

MACK: These experiences often occur in literal consciousness. Not in a hypnogogic or dreamlike state. The person may be in their bedroom quite wide awake. The beings show up. And there they are and the experience begins. That they’re not occurring in any dreamlike state. Now sometimes they do occur when a person is dozing off or in a hypnogogic state. But very frequently not.

Also, any theory that is going to look upon this as a purely endogenous phenomenon, by which I mean generated purely from the psyche of the person themselves. Which is a kind of arrogance too, really. Because it means that we just can’t accept the notion there could be another intelligence at work here. Which is a much more economical explanation. But if we must find a theory within ourselves, then we should keep in mind that any theory that’s going to even begin to address this, has to take into account five factors:

Number one, the extreme consistency of the stories from person after person. Which you would not get simply by stimulating the temporal lobes. You would get very variable idiosyncratic responses that would differ a great deal from person to person.

Number two, you would have to deal with the fact that there is no ordinary experiential basis for this. In other words, there’s nothing in their life experience that could have given rise to this, other than what they say. In other words, there’s no mental condition that could explain it.

Third, you have to account for the physical aspects: the cuts and the other lesions on their bodies, which do not follow any psychodynamic distribution, like the stigmata associated with the identification with the agony of Christ.

Fourth, the tight association with UFOs, which are often observed in the community, by the media, independent of the person having the abduction experience, who may not have seen the UFO at all, but reads or sees on the television the next day that a UFO passed near where they were when they had an abduction experience.

And finally, the phenomenon occurs in children as young as two, two and a half, three years old. And any theory that simply attributes this to the activity of the brain, does not take into account at least three of those five fundamental dimensions…

NOVA: Aren’t you really at risk of losing quite a bit, personally and professionally, because of …criticism?

MACK: I think that, in some ways, I’ve gained more than I’ve lost in terms of inviting people into this mystery, having a dialogue with all kinds of very wonderful, open, intelligent, brilliant people from many different fields. It’s been quite exciting. I mean I’ve been attacked, but the attacks have not been really nearly as serious to me as the openness that I’ve found among many people throughout the culture and internationally, who are saying: Yeah, I always suspected something like this was going on, and I’m glad you were willing to come forward and report about it.

……It’s often said that I’m a believer and sort of have gone and lost my objectivity. I really object to that. Because this is not about believing anything. I didn’t believe anything when I started, I don’t really believe anything now. I’m come to where I’ve come to clinically. In other words, I worked with people over hundred and hundreds of hours and have done as careful a job as I could to listen, to sift out, to consider alternative explanations. And none have come forward. No one has found an alternative explanation in a single abduction case.

NOVA: Many say that this is just really a function of cultural images.

MACK: …I have been looking at this phenomenon as it manifests in indigenous people, in Native Americans—the Cherokee, the Hopi, who know these beings as the star people. We’ve looked at this in South Africa, particularly in interviewing in depth a leading South African sangoma, or medicine man, who calls these beings “mandingdas”.

We’ve investigated it in Brazil with a farmer in—outside Belo Horizante who had identical abduction experiences to what have been reported in this country. I’m getting recent—I received a letter about abduction experiences from a person in Malaysia today. In other words, this is—as far as we can tell—a worldwide phenomenon. This is not restricted, as some people have thought, to Western or particularly American culture.

….I found that the higher or the greater the stake that a person has in this society, in their position or their job, the more reluctant they are to admit that they’ve had abduction experiences……When abductees went on television with me during the spring of 1994, during my book tours, and wanted to communicate and educate about it, a number of them received threats to their jobs. Some of them lost them….we have one man in management consultation, lost an important contract. A woman that worked for the federal government, who was an abductee, was threatened with loss of her job. In other words, this is not something that is regarded as acceptable.

I’ve interviewed airline pilots who have had sighting—close up sightings of UFOs. They will not report it, because they will be removed from their work. Even if they’ve had abduction experience, they will not talk about it. And 25 to 30 percent of airline pilots, according to a survey that one of the people I’ve talked with did, have had close up sightings, but will not discuss it.

This simply is not something that is accepted as OK to talk about or—And that may be changing. I recently saw a Harvard Divinity School student, and I asked him these questions. I said: Do you talk about this among your fellow students? And he said: ‘Oh, yes.’ And it turned out several of them had also had abduction experiences. And even the ones that had not, were fascinated, interested, didn’t ridicule ’em. So maybe the climate is changing.

3. See: Boldly Going Where No Man has gone before to see the creationist viewpoint on sinister spiritual intelligence and how to be protected from such agencies.

4. It’s apparent to me now that many UD readers are closet sympathizers of the notion of spiritual forces since some of them have had personal encounters. Yes indeed, we don’t like to talk about these matters, but the issues are quite real to some.

5. The capriciousness of intelligent agency finally explains why ID by non-material intelligent agents seems so elusive to laboratory controlled conditions, but yet we have credible circumstantial evidence that such an intelligence agency exists. Unfortunately, some of the most believable evidence isn’t the most pleasant to read about.

I accept that there are beautiful accounts of good miracles in the present day, but it is hard to sort the real from the fabricated. My favorite story, which I find credible, is Astronaut Charles Duke who prayed for a blind girl and the girl had her sight restored within minutes.

There are probably many accounts like this, but because they escape lab conditions, some skeptics will refuse to believe. It may be that the capricious Intelligence that brings good miracles of healings is wanting to conceal His existence except to those who are willing to see but hide Himself from those who are willfully blind:

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search out a matter.

Proverbs 25:2

Searching out the hidden matter of ID is a glorious enterprise indeed.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

Matt 11:25

EA @ 26 Thanks Optimus
Paleysghost, Welcome to UD and thank you for reaching out to us. I wish you the best in your endeavor. I don't think I should serve as admin, but I hope you find someone. I hope however to visit on occasion. Sal scordova
Scordova (et al) -- we are currently looking for to add a 3rd strong Admin. to our facebook discussion forum "Intelligent Design: Official Page". We are 99.9% strictly a scientific forum with strong support for ID (mostly PhysOrg and Nature articles being posted and discussed from an ID perspective, without any philosophical or religious overtones). If you (or anyone you know) might be interested in this position, we are basically looking for an active ID proponent willing t post and comment a few times a week (at their convenience). Thanks. https://www.facebook.com/groups/IDOfficialPage/ Paleysghost
Commenters, Thank you all for your criticisms, but you might have a very different perspective when you are trying to equip university students who face hostile professors and peers. I don't want them getting abused by red herring stunts by Darwinists, and the claim of "ID is science" is not a good thing for them to argue. I'm actively preparing to make several presentations to university students, and I'm sorry, some of the quality of what is said in the ID community, though well meaning, I don't think serves the audience I'm trying to equip and teach. "ID is science" I consider a needless claim. scordova
Optimus @15: I missed your comment earlier in the thread the other day. Extremely well said. There is definitely an aspect of angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin with some of Sal's recent posts. As much as I generally respect his knowledge and views, it seems there has been a lot of that lately. Eric Anderson
Now you’re putting me in the unenviable position of an IDist having to defend the idea that Darwinism is science so that I can claim ID is science. :-)
Not a problem. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and I think we need to be consistent. Meyer does the best job of anyone (in my opinion), laying this out in Signature in the Cell. The theory that mutations plus natural selection, for example, can produce X is an objective statement, subject to scientific investigation. If it turns out to be falsified, then, fine, the theory fails, but that doesn't mean it wasn't "science." It is true that there are some things that get shoehorned under the heading of "science", like a priori metaphysical assertions about everything happening without plan or purpose, the assertion that evolution "proves" there is no God, and the like. Also, the regular anti-ID/pro-evolution arguments about things like evil in the world, bad design, "God wouldn't have done it this way," and so on, are metaphysical assertions -- religious/philosophical statements -- and not part of science. Further, much of what comes under the heading of evolution is so vague as to be "not even wrong." How organism A evolved into organism B; how mutations gave rise to this or that new organ; and on and on. It is a little tougher to call those kinds of speculations "science", but I wouldn't necessarily say they aren't science, rather that they are extremely preliminary propositions -- as yet unproven, undemonstrated, and with plenty of contrary evidence -- that have yet to be worked out. But I think, in fairness, they are specific claims that can be investigated, albeit given our current understanding only in a rudimentary way, and deserve to be treated as scientific proposals. The general proposition of evolution -- the idea that particles can bump into each other for a long time and eventually turn into Mozart -- is a statement about an objective reality that can be investigated, and either determined to be true or false. Upon investigation, the idea turns out to be absurd, outrageous, preposterous, spectacularly wrong. But that doesn't mean the idea isn't scientific. Eric Anderson
The topic of D theories contrasted with ID theories being scientific is continued here https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/philosophy/the-d-of-id-is-science-lessons-from-our-dealings-with-nick-matzke/ I did this since I think I want to split out some of the topics in the OP like John Mack's work, etc. Thanks all for comments and criticisms. scordova
Oh no Sal- If Darwinism is science and ID is anti-Darwinism, that means ID is anti-science. And Behe, Minnich, Axe, Gauger et al., are anti-scientists. :) Oh wait, that's not funny, that is reality. If Darwinism is considered science I would proudly wear the badge of being anti-science. Joe
Darwinism/ nde can’t be tested so it can’t be science.
But Joe, if Darwinism is science, then ID is science. Now you're putting me in the unenviable position of an IDist having to defend the idea that Darwinism is science so that I can claim ID is science. :-) scordova
Sal @14: Thanks for your detailed response.
I didn’t say ID is not science, I was pointing out it isn’t in the same class of science involving repeatable experiments.
Thank you for clarifying. The very title of the OP says that it is “challenging to call ID science.” You also delve into whether a jury conviction is “science,” you have also asked on more than one occasion when discussing ID whether things can be true and still not “science.” I certainly agree with you that not everything that is true is science, but you’ll forgive me if it sounded like you might be saying ID is not science.”
It is “ID”, where we have merged theories of design with theories of intelligence that things get challenging.
I’m not sure I know what that means. What do you have in mind by “theories of intelligence” (or what do you think Bill has in mind)? Are you referring to questions like: (i) how and when the intelligence came about, (ii) whether the intelligence is “supernatural”, (iii) what the intelligence is like or its specific characteristics, etc.? Or did you have something else in mind? If you are referring to those kinds of things, then it is incorrect to say that ID has “merged” theories of design with theories of intelligence. It would be more correct (as Bill seems to be saying) that they are separate questions. We don’t have to know how or when the intelligence came about, we don’t have to talk about whether the intelligence is supernatural, we don’t even need to get into hyper-technical definitions of what “intelligence” means in order to have a fruitful scientific inquiry regarding intelligent design. That seems to be what Bill’s quote is saying (though I have not looked at the whole context of his discussion). That would be in direct contradiction to your statement that we are “merging” theories of design and intelligence. No. Quite the opposite. We are keeping them carefully separate.
Observation? Observation of a non-observed Intelligent Designer? You can make the inference (and one I would agree with), but I certainly wouldn’t call that an observation on par with physical experiments.
I agree that we need to be careful here. We can and do observe intelligence in action generally. We can and do observe design taking place all the time. However, in regards to the origin or history of life on Earth, we definitely are not observing it. Indeed, the whole point of the design inference is to be able to identify design in those cases in which we can’t observe it contemporaneously. So the principles of intelligent design are known and can be contemporaneously observed on a regular basis; but the particular act of intelligence we are interested in (with regards to things like OOL, for example) is not observable and is an inference.
But “I” in the ID of life is not observationally accessible nor have we ever seen any examples of sufficient “I” for life. We accept it as true via inference.
You are quite right that it is not on par with physical experiments. It is a historical inference. The leading ID proponents, particularly Meyer, have been very clear on this point, so I’m a little confused why you would even think it is necessary to go over the ground again, but OK.
Some will take issue if an unobserved “I” can still allow ID to count as science.
Then they don’t know what they are talking about, don’t understand the difference between bench science and historical science, and are throwing out much of what comes under the heading of “science” with the bathwater. I would prefer to spend energy trying to educate such individuals, rather than kowtowing to their ignorance and worrying that they might “take issue.”
So according to Bill we can have a scientific inquiry without assuming whether even the Designer really exists, but we just postulate the unseen Designer as working hypothesis. I guess we can live with that, and by that standard ID is science, but I don’t say so with the same conviction that I would for geometric optics where I can observe the mechanism in question.
Fine. ID is an inference. It always has been. It has never claimed to be in the same category as your geometric optics. But it is in the same category as lots of other areas in science that deal with unseen or historical causes, based on (i) looking at our current understanding of cause and effect, (ii) looking at the artifact in question, and (iii) drawing reasonable inferences about the probable cause of the artifact in question. ID is science in this area just as much as many other areas, including Darwinian evolution. ----- Sal, I’m not sure I disagree with much of the substance of what you've said, given the clarifications. I don't know if you're just trying to stir the pot a bit, but perhaps next time when you write a post with a title using words like it is “challenging to call ID science” you might instead ask something like “is ID the same as bench science” or “is a historical science different from observational science”. That would avoid a lot of confusion. And after hearing your clarifications, would even seem to be a more faithful representation of your own views on the matter. Thanks, Eric Anderson
Yes and design the "D" part has only one causal explanation, intelligence the "I" part. The "I" part is just so people don't get confused with what the "D" part actually means. As Dembski said it is just to differentiate between apparent design ("designoids") on one side and optimal design on the other. The "I" is just a descriptor. Joe
we can repeat experiments that demonstrate a system is IC or not.
Yes, that is science, Design the "D" part of ID is science. scordova
As for the observation part of the UD FAQ- that refers to observing the design. If we could observe the designer then design would be a given and we wouldn't need science. PS no one has observed body plan making mutations in action. Joe
I didn’t say ID is not science, I was pointing out it isn’t in the same class of science involving repeatable experiments.
Yet we can repeat experiments that demonstrate a system is IC or not. And again design is NOT just the negation of necessity and chance. If we negate necessity and chance and there isn't any specif9ication then we say "we don't know". Sal:
In the case of archaeological artifacts, we have at least seen a sufficient “I” (human designers) to make such artifacts, therefore the ID inference is easy to accept, and some will not even have any problem saying ID is science in the case of human designs.
Very good, Sal. So when humans could not have been present we infer it was some other agency. Mother nature doesn't miraculously get designing powers just because we weren't there. And mother nature could not have produced itself. Natural processes only exist in natire and therefor cannot account for its origins, which science says it had. And BTW how do we know that humans of thousands of years ago were capable of building Stonehenge? Hint- we don't. Joe
So according to Bill we can have a scientific inquiry without assuming whether even the Designer really exists, but we just postulate the unseen Designer as working hypothesis. I guess we can live with that, and by that standard ID is science, but I don’t say so with the same conviction that I would for geometric optics where I can observe the mechanism in question.
There are historical sciences, such as paleontology or ID, and there are non-historical sciences, such as physics or chemistry. Each approach has its own methods.
Observation? Observation of a non-observed Intelligent Designer?
No. Observation of the effects of a non-observed intelligent agent. You appear to be going out of your way to find problems that do not exist.
You can make the inference (and one I would agree with), but I certainly wouldn’t call that an observation on par with physical experiments.
Hidden in the words "on par with" is the assumption that the non-historical sciences are superior to the historical sciences. ID is a science of past causes. Why would you expect to find past causes in a laboratory experiment? Meanwhile, it would help if you could state your position: What is science? What is the rationale for your definition? What is your position on the demarcation issue? Until you answer these questions, your critique of ID as science is premature. StephenB
Sal @ 14 I have no doubt that you are endeavoring to be a fair-minded critic of ID, but I think you're overanalyzing. IMO, the reason the term "ID" is used is to signify that what we perceive as design is not merely an appearance but genuine design, that is the purposeful output of a rational agent. And you seem to misunderstand the quote from the UD glossary. It's not implying that we have empirical knowledge of the designer. If we had that, what would be the point of theorizing about it? The observation aspect of ID relates to our knowledge of the causal relationship between intelligent agency and FSCO/I. Everyone observes that relationship on a daily basis - it is a fundamental aspect of human experience. Optimus
I didn't say ID is not science, I was pointing out it isn't in the same class of science involving repeatable experiments. "D" as in design, as in rejection of chance and law is definitely science. No question. "D" is in the class of science involving repeatable experiments and falsifiability. It is "ID", where we have merged theories of design with theories of intelligence that things get challenging.
“it is useful to separate design from theories of intelligence and intelligent agency” Bill Dembski Design Inference
I have done that in this discussion, and I believe that is a useful demarcation. Up until that point I'm most definitely in agreement with other IDists. It's when we merge theories of design with theories of intelligence and thus have a theory of ID, then try to assert ID is science (even assuming ID is true) that I stated there are challenges since there is no universal agreement whether every true statement or jury verdict or inference is necessarily science. From the UD FAQ:
ID satisfies all the conditions usually required for scientific inquiry (i.e., observation, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion):
Observation? Observation of a non-observed Intelligent Designer? You can make the inference (and one I would agree with), but I certainly wouldn't call that an observation on par with physical experiments. You can observe the negation of chance and law, and thus Design theories (where design is negation of chance and law) are most definitely science. In that sense the "D" of ID is observable, but the "I" of ID may not be, even though ID is a valid inference just like the jury verdict over Jodi Arias. If you can still in good conscience call ID science even though "I" is not observed, may never have been observed, then fine. I'm just saying, reasonable critics (ID friendly critics like myself) may note this isn't exactly like lab observations of geometric optics where the mechanism in question is directly observed. In the case of archaeological artifacts, we have at least seen a sufficient "I" (human designers) to make such artifacts, therefore the ID inference is easy to accept, and some will not even have any problem saying ID is science in the case of human designs. The problem with life is the "I" for life may never have been observed, we only postulate whatever made life was an unobserved but sufficient "I". I claim "D" of ID is observationally and experimentally confirmable as science. It is both a true claim and a science claim. But "I" in the ID of life is not observationally accessible nor have we ever seen any examples of sufficient "I" for life. We accept it as true via inference. Some will take issue if an unobserved "I" can still allow ID to count as science.
Thus, a scientist may view design and its appeal to a designer as simply a fruitful device for understanding the world, not attaching any significance to questions such as whether a theory of design is in some ultimate sense true or whether the designer actually exists. Bill Dembski NFL
So according to Bill we can have a scientific inquiry without assuming whether even the Designer really exists, but we just postulate the unseen Designer as working hypothesis. I guess we can live with that, and by that standard ID is science, but I don't say so with the same conviction that I would for geometric optics where I can observe the mechanism in question. scordova
Hey one question about ID. Is ID theory compatible with common descent and atavisms showing previous evolutionary history or not. Does the designer guide the processes? I know this question is very vague but I'm not really understanding what ID theorists believe? Jaceli123
Sal @10: OK, so the crux of your argument is as follows: 1. "Intelligent design is the claim that certain features of the universe and life are best explained by an intelligent cause." 2. By definition, the specific causes that caused those "certain features" already occurred -- in the past. 3. Because those causes already occurred (after all, they are in the past, remember), they are not going to be repeated in the lab (because, remember again, by definition they are past causes). 4. Therefore, because a specific cause cannot be witnessed causing a specific effect -- over and over again, right now, today, in the lab -- it is not science. ----- That is an extremely limited view of science, and throws out a lot of baby with the bathwater: forensics, archaeology, geology, astronomy, and so on. It seems like the only substantive thing you are pointing out is that there are certain things that can be subjected to repeatable bench experiments in the lab, and we call those things "science." Fine. But there is plenty of other investigative activity that, appropriately, is called science, as long as we remember it is not bench science. You seem to be falling for the exact same rhetorical trap that so many ID critics and evolution proponents fall for (witness Bill Nye recently): namely, that they don't understand the difference between bench science and historical science. Eric Anderson
Umm, the builders of Stonehenge can't appear in any lab and yet we can safely infer Stonehenge was designed. We have to be able to test design inferences in the absence of a designer. How do we do that? Knowledge of cause an effect relationships. And Sal should know better. IDists do NOT say an artifact is not the product of chance and law and therefore the product of a capricious intelligence- Have you no shame Sal? Eliminate necessity and chance and then some specification has to be met. So yes we argue that is an object is not the product of chance and law and it meets the design criteria it is therefore the product of a capricious intelligence. The design criteria are signs of work, counterflow and what I posted in comment 2 Joe
Here we go again, Sal. You are nothing, if not tenacious.
Actually it was a lead in to a possible explanation for the lack of direct laboratory confirmation. ID is the claim that certain features of the universe and life are best explained by an intelligent cause. As a discipline, it is the search for patterns that signify intelligence. I was trying to give an explanation of why intelligent agencies may not show up for our desired lab demonstrations, and I had to establish that they are capricious and unpredictable especially if they have free will. We can put forward scientific claims about something not being the product or chance or law. I've done so at UD. That is subject to experiment and is science. Example: chance and law will not cause 500 fair coins to be all heads. That is a testable scientific claim. I was extremely careful not to mention the word intelligence.
“it is useful to separate design from theories of intelligence and intelligent agency” Bill Dembski Design Inference
Testing for inability of chance and law to make an artifact is science. But I feel comfortable saying that if we do the following:
separate design from theories of intelligence and intelligent agency Bill Dembski Design Inference
Testing that an artifact is not the product of chance and law, that's science, and a falsifiable claim. That is possible because we separate design (in the sense that design is negation of chance and law) form doctrines of intelligence and intelligent agency. Arguing an artifact is not the product of chance and law and therefore the product of a capricious intelligence that refuses to participate in our experimental laboratory controlled conditions despite our deepest hopes for a direct laboratory controlled observation? Uh....it's science because that's what the UD FAQ says. :-) Ok, are you happy. scordova
Here we go again, Sal. You are nothing, if not tenacious. Before I wade into the question of whether ID is science -- yet again, let me ask you this, just so we are clear on what we are discussing: When you ask whether "ID is science", what do you mean by ID? Please offer your definition of "ID" so that we can ascertain what it is precisely, that you think may not be science. Thanks, Eric Anderson
As it turns out, this issue relates to the very first question that we dealt with when we wrote the latest installment of our FAQ. It seems to me that the best way to approach this problem is for Sal to study our answer and then respond to it. At that point, he can either accept or reject the rationale that we offer (which is fine either way). All serious intellectual inquiries involve doubts. In the meantime, I will just say this. No one can reasonably claim that ID's inference to the best explanation does or does not qualify as “science” until they first provide a formal definition for the operative word and defend it with a rationale argument. Here is our definition of science (as found in the FAQ):“At its best, science is an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) and progressive search for the truth about our world based on reasoned analysis of empirical observations.” It seems to me that ID's paradigms qualify based on that standard. StephenB
On another note TSZ has latched onto this thread and they have no idea what science is. Too funny. Joe
Archaeology is science and guess what it deals with. Forensic science is also science and guess what it deals with. SETI, again guess what it deals with. No one can predict what any given designer will design next. And no one can predict what culled genetic accidents will produce. No one can predict what mutation will occur nor what will be selected for. However we can predict that when intelligent agencies act within nature they will leave traces of their actions behind. Joe
Hi, Sal Your criticism of ID as science seems fundamentally confused, IMO. We're certainly in agreement that intelligent agency possesses a 'capriciousness,' that it defies our ability to make specific predictions about its future activity. But this hardly renders inquiry into intelligent agency unscientific. If this were the case, psychology, sociology, forensics, archaeology, and economics would all be stripped of any scientific standing. Additionally, by focusing on the capriciousness of intelligent agency, you miss the fact that ID is based on the observed, consistent cause-effect relationship between intelligence and FSCO/I. So even if the future action of an intelligent agent isn't predictable, that does nothing to undermine the foundational insight of ID, namely that functional organization and information come from intelligence. Optimus
Darwinism/ nde can't be tested so it can't be science. Joe
As Eric Anderson suggested, we ought to call ID science if we call Darwinism science. But of course, calling Darwinism science is setting the bar pretty low. :-) scordova
Yes Intelligent Design is both testable and potentially falsifiable: ID is based on three premises and the inference that follows (DeWolf et al., Darwinism, Design and Public Education, pg. 92):
1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.
2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.
3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.
4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.
There you have it- to falsify Intelligent Design all one has to do is demonstrate that natural selection can produce irreducibly complex biological systems. As Dr Behe said:
Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable. In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum--or any equally complex system--was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.(1) How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design. Let’s turn the tables and ask, how could one falsify the claim that, say, the bacterial flagellum was produced by Darwinian processes?
The criteria for inferring design in biology is, as Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Leheigh University, puts it in his book Darwin ' s Black Box: "Our ability to be confident of the design of the cilium or intracellular transport rests on the same principles to be confident of the design of anything: the ordering of separate components to achieve an identifiable function that depends sharply on the components.” That is the positive case. For example: Joe
Any given design inference can be tested and potentially falsified. That is all it takes to be considered scientific. Joe

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