Thursday, June 22, 2006

Is ID science?

Of course not. Science is a method to study the natural world. ID does not study anything scientifically, and science excludes the supernatural. How can anyone honestly claim otherwise?


R0b said...

The term "supernatural" isn't very well defined. If we apply the label to proposed phenomena that are untestable, then scientists couldn't test supernatural hypotheses even if they wanted to.

If, on the other hand, we apply it to proposed phenomena that contradict our current understanding of nature, I submit that scientists test such hypotheses quite often.

Alan Fox said...

The term "supernatural" isn't very well defined.

Hard to define something that is undetectable, unmeasurable, and frankly, not there.

JohnADavison said...

I can't resist responding to this foolishness. The supernatural doesn't have to be there. It only had to have been there. That is the whole thrust of the Prescribed Evoloutionary Hypothesis and can never be denied by any objective mind.

Don't take my word for it:

"However that me be, the existence of internal factors affecting evolution has to accepted by any objective mind..."
Perre Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms, page 109

So much for the objectivity of the atheist, chance-happy Darwinian mind!

God but this is fun!

Who is next?

I think I will force you to ban me Alan. That is so much more gratifying. I love being banned by Darwinian mystics and Fundamentalist Bible-bangers too. They are both full of it right up to their dripping snot filled nostrils.

I love it so!

Txfeminist said...

In the immortal words of Lenny Flank:

One of the most oft-heard complaints from ID/creationists is that science has embraced a "religion of naturalism" and that it unfairly rules out, a priori, any potential supernatural or non-materialistic hypotheses, solely to prop up science's atheistic philosophy. Phillip Johnson, for instance, says, "Science also has become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that the means of creation must not have included any role for God. . . . The reason the theory of evolution is so controversial is that it is the main scientific prop for scientific naturalism." (Johnson, "The Church of Darwin", Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1999). Dembski echoes, "From our vantage, materialism is not a neutral, value-free, minimalist position from which to pursue inquiry. Rather, it is itself an ideology with an agenda." (Dembski, "Dealing with the backlash against intelligent design", 2004)

It can be readily seen, however, that science does not in fact rule out supernatural explanations a priori. Furthermore, even if we allowed the IDers to introduce all the supernatural hypotheses that they wanted to, they still would not be able to follow the scientific method.

The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed.
3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis.
4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions.
5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions.

Nothing in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any "supernatural cause". Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won't (and doesn't) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such "supernatural causes" as the effects of prayer on healing. Other scientific studies have focused on such "non-materialistic" or "non-natural" phenomena as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and "remote viewing". So ID's claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science does require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And here is where ID fails miserably.

To demonstate this, let's pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God -- uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer -- created both but used common features in a common design. (For any IDers who object to this example, please feel free to substitute any other non-naturalistic ID hypothesis that you do like.)

Let's take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is "an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products."

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology's chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID's hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see... ?
IDers, please fill in the blank.
And, to better help us test ID's hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions -- things which, if found, would falsify the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then -- if we find ... (fill in the blank here), then the "common design" hypothesis would have to be rejected.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3.

Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

Take note here -- contrary to the IDers whining about the "unfair exclusion of supernatural causes", there are in fact no limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine -- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God -- er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer -- did like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

Let's assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let's therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything's fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke all of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis "genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design", or indeed any other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

And that is where ID "theory" falls flat on its face. It is not any presupposition of "philosophical naturalism" on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks -- it is the simple inability of ID "theory" to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design "theory" still can't follow the scientific method.

Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is not that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID's proposed "supernaturalistic explanations" be tested according to the scientific method, just like every other hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its "explanations", but it wants to modify science so it doesn't HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic "hypothesis" to have a privileged position -- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science without being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their "science" is correct. And that is what their entire argument over "materialism" (or "naturalism" or "atheism" or "sciencism" or "darwinism" or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone else's hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their "hypothesis" through the same scientific method that everyone else has to, then they have no claim to be "science". Period.

Txfeminist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
R0b said...

Keep it up, John, for the benefit of those who doubt that you're a sociopath.

Alan Fox said...

The supernatural doesn't have to be there. It only had to have been there.

Bloody hell, John, that doesn't seem very scientific. How do you know (apart from Grassé telling you) that something which is scientifically unobservable anyway was there once but is not there anymore.

And you call my post "foolishness"!

Alan Fox said...

PS John

I won't ban you, and I will only delete obscenity.

jtownsend said...

Hi Alan,

You wrote,

>>The term "supernatural" isn't very well defined.

Hard to define something that is undetectable, unmeasurable, and frankly, not there.<<

Unmeasurable? I might agree with you there. From an objective view, however, are you prepared to conclude that the supernatural is "frankly, not there." After all, we have lived far less than a mere 100 years, which is a microsecond compared to the some 13+ billion years the detectable universe has existed. Not only that, but consider how limited our observation is from this speck of planet we call earth. In essense we know very little.


Alan Fox said...

To me, the issue is simple. If you can detect, observe or measure an effect, directly or indirectly, then that effect is natural and capable of scientific study.

Anything that is unobservable, undetectable, unmeasurable is outside the realm of science. One can debate philosophically about the supernatural, one can believe that it is there, or not there, but it is not science. It is simply a matter of definition.

I do speculate on the unknown, I may believe or not believe what might be out there, and sure, what we don't know, well we don't know.

The Venerable Bede's sparrow story sums it up for me.

Alan Fox said...

@ Mr Farfarfarman

I think you do a great job, too, Steve, but let's test your prediction.

With JAD I am trying the "ignore the bad behaviour" approach. I promised no bans and no deletions, and it would be dishonest to change that now.

JohnADavison said...

Science sure never excluded the supernatural for Albert Einstein or Ernst Mach or Robert Broom or Pierre Grasse etc, etc etc. What an infantile statement from an obviously damaged mind. That's Falan Ox folks. Isn't he a beauty?

I love it so

Alan Fox said...

According to his own words, Einstein's religious views did not seem to conflict with his scientific objectivity. link.

Alan Fox said...

Ernst Mach was almost a contemporary of Darwin. It was the norm for that generation to have a theistic view. Did Mach find his religious views aid him in his scientific research?

Alan Fox said...

From what I can establish, Robert Broom was a dedicated and distinguished paleontologist, who did not bang a drum about his religious views.

jtownsend said...


Science by definition springs from the mind of man: Observation -> hypothesis -> theory. Very simply we are limited by that first step, observation. Our five senses can only take us so far and is folly, I think to presume that we know very much.

Another point: The acceptance and belief that God exists explains why man has spiritual side why man is a sentient being, and an innate sense of write and wrong endowed to us by our Creator.

jtownsend said...


The two finest scientific minds in history, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein both had belief in God.

Newton, in particular, wrote more papers on religion and Bible studies than on science. Some say he wasted his time. I say he didn't.

jtownsend said...


I started a new blog:

Read the rules and see if you don't agree.


Alan Fox said...

@ Johndarius

John, if that suits you then, fine. You must have read Mark Frank's comments about the ritual model of communication (you posted right after him). I would rather have a chaotic but free exchange of ideas.

jtownsend said...


>>Putting aside that Einstein was not a theist: so what? What on Earth does this have to do with the fact that intelligent design is a pseudoscientific sham?<<

Einstein said:

"It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in Nature."


"The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion on an intelligent and powerful Being."

So on what basis do you think both Einstein and Newton saw both intelligence and design as manifested in nature?

Although I am a professional chemist, I have a math degree, and yet I don't think we have to work out mathematically that the systems and designs in nature are there before us. I take it as understood and self-evident, even an axiom. I also think both of the two cited physicists did as well.

jtownsend said...


>>Faulty intuition and/or religious predisposition.<<

Faulty intuition? Intuition is what leads analysts in their investigation. Newton and Einstein possessed two of the finest scientific and analytical minds in all history. You might have an argument if it were not for the countless other scientific minds that would agree with them.

As for “religious predisposition”, I think we have to reject that as well.

Einstein was not a practicing Jew. He was no doubt pessimistic toward his faith as result of the holocaust, and persecution of the Jews in general. After all he could ask, ‘if there is a God, why doesn’t he stop this hatred toward his once chosen people?’ Yet he did not lose his belief in God.

Newton, whose father was a clergyman, was raised in an Orthodox home. Newton went on to reject many of the fundamental doctrines of ‘Orthodox Christianity’. He turned his trained analytical mind to an examination of the Bible, and found that the fundamental teaching of the Church, the Doctrine of the Trinity, to be false. The Fundamentists, and those of the Orthodox persuasion would classify him then and now as a heretic.

Therefore, I think especially these men would not be examples of succumbing to ‘faulty intuition.’ They both swam upstream, both religiously and scientifically, rejecting the norm.

>>Newton died 130 years before Origin of Species. He believed in Biblical literalism and alchemy. Einstein repudiated probabilistic quantum mechanics and fumbled on the cosmological constant. Although titan scientists both, they are hardly omniscient and they are both wrong again here.<<

Of course they weren’t gods and made mistakes as all men do. They were, however, honest scientists not allowing prejudices to persuade them.

I think structure, design, order, and intelligence is manifest in nature and self-evident. Order and structure are the result of directed controlled energy. Just ask any chemist. Try producing synthetic hemoglobin from some mix of amino acids. See if it would come together. Producing synthetic hemoglobin is one on the biggest challenges in biochemistry.

Ask yourself: Why is it we don’t see complex molecular structures synthesizing in nature outside of living organisms, or in the controlled conditions of a laboratory or chemical plant?

jtownsend said...


"Oh Christ, I was hoping for something more substantial than half-assed arguments from authority and ignorance, but if all I get is tired creationist retreads, no thanks. "

Thanks for this well thought out intelligent reply.

JohnADavison said...

morionic is not a word idiot.

I love it so!

Alan Fox said...


blipey said...

@ johndarius:

I wasn't aware that well thought out arguments were in your bag of tricks; why be indignant about what you perceive are our lack of engagement?

Remember when you said:

Although I am a professional chemist, I have a math degree, and yet I don't think we have to work out mathematically that the systems and designs in nature are there before us. I take it as understood and self-evident, even an axiom.
--emphasis mine

Well, I take it to be self-evident that my refrigerator weighs 18 megatons. I don't feel I should be required to test this (Or the structural integrity of my floor). It just is.

If you'd like to be taken seriously as a scientist (or just someone who can think critically), this is plainly an absurd world view.

Unknown said...

Alan I have to question the validity of your claims that niggers are not worth living....I think racial hate should not be envolved with your research