Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tired of Bad Arguments

Posted in: Science

I am no expert on ID Theory nor do I pretend to be. As a matter of fact I don't really care for science at all; metaphysics and epistemology are infinitely more interesting in my opinion. So why am I writing on this topic? Well, because I can't stand bad arguments and the debate over ID Theory is full of them. This entry was inspired by an hour of the "Diane Rhem" show on NPR. The show was, overall, fair-minded and represented both sides pretty well (for NPR). What drove me nuts though is the unspoken assumption that evolution is a matter of fact and that modern science depends on it for its very existence. Science would not be science, they claim, if it were not for evolution. This is ridiculous! Modern science was being done long before the theory of evolution came to be the accepted theory and it did just fine. Moreover, there is overwhelming evidence that modern science developed as a direct influence of a theistic worldview. Regardless, the fact is that you can learn to do science, and to do it very effectively, without knowing the first thing about either the theory of evolution or intelligent design; for neither evolution nor ID are, in the strictest sense, science. Why? Simple, you cannot reproduce or verify either through experimentation. These are forensic conclusions based on observed effects and using the evidence available to reason back to their probable cause. What is frustrating is that this criticism is leveled only against the ID position when it in fact it applies to both positions.

Another argument that drives me nuts, but is used all the time, is the claim that there is a difference between "scientific truth" and "religious truth." Nonsense! Truth is truth. Whatever corresponds to reality is true be it science or religion. Granted all truth cannot be arrived at by means of the scientific method (evolution, if it is truth, is included in this category) but the scientific method is not the only means of arriving at truth. You could say that religious truth and scientific truth are arrived at by different means, that is fair, but what the proponents of this argument are really saying is that these two truth exist in entirely separate spheres of knowledge and reality. Does the proponent of evolution really believe that, for the man of faith, the world was actually created by God? Hardly. Can the origins of the world be both evolutionary for the scientist and created for the man of faith? Not unless the laws of logic have suddenly been suspended. Observation should tell any scientist that these opposing ideas cannot both be true; and this is really the core of the issue. However, the question of origins is not one that is open to scientific inquiry. Science is not being defended (or attacked) in either case, what is being debated is the best interpretation of the fact that there are things that exist. What the evolutionists are really defending here is naturalism and materialism over and against supernaturalism and theism (and lets be honest, ID may not support any one religion but it certainly is arguing for theism of some sort), not science; philosophy, not biology.

To close, Let me summarize what is really being said behind the rhetoric: "Look, we evolutionists deal in the real world where we all know that there is nothing supernatural. If it helps you "creationists" to sleep at night to believe in fairies, or demons or God, or any other superstition then we will let you call that "religious truth", which we know is a euphemism for fantasy, and allow you to continue to wallow in your medieval ignorance while we do something useful." It is smug, condescending, and belittling to people who are quite intelligent and have an extremely legitimate argument. It is ideology and not science that is keeping ID Theory from being taken seriously. What we have here is really a battle between worldviews, not scientific methodologies. Science will go on just fine without either evolution or intelligent design, but ID is grounded in good scientific, physical, and mathematic evidence and should be given a fair hearing.

And here is the rest of it.


Blogger Clark Goble said...

" for neither evolution nor ID are, in the strictest sense, science. Why? Simple, you cannot reproduce or verify either through experimentation."

Why do you think that is essential for science? I think you've been taught some erroneous things about the philosophy of science. Also much of evolution can be tested. The only thing thus far not tested is a few claims about morphological macroevolution. But their indirect evidence for those.

There certainly are bad arguments in this debate, by both sides. But typically they come from misunderstanding how scientific investigations proceed. To suggest this is a battle between worldviews and not methodologies seems quite wrong.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Qualiatative said...


Verification via experimentation is the essence of science. Just because the majority of evolutionary biologists accept Darwinism prima facie and extrapolate upon the evidence does not mean that unintelligent evolution is scientific.

11:44 PM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...


I very carefully qualified my statement precisely because of your objection. Evolution and ID are not science in the STRICTEST sense, that is in the direct use of scientific methodology. This is not to say that they are not incredibly important to science or related to it. At best though they are a kind of forensic science and related in a secondary way. As I said, both are looking at results and trying to figure out how these results happened without any recourse to reproducable expreimentation. In this sense they are not science.

I also disagree that evolution has been scientifically proven in any way or that it is even testable. I do not argue that adaption has been proven scientifically, but this is not evolution and certainly not evolution on the level of the ID discussion. The context of that debate is clearly over the macro-evolutionary process. In this matter science, that is the scientific method, is completely helpless to peer in any way into the truth or falsity of evolution. The origins of life and the explanation of the great variety of life on earth are not open to a scientific inquiry. Incidently all experiments that have tried to simulate the "conditions" from which life evolved have failed; not that they would have proven anything anyway since these "conditions" are specualtive and manipulated by intelligence in even creating the experiment. As you said, any evidence is "indirect" and any conclusion from this evidence is deductive and thus not strictly science. There is a great deal of "indirect evidence" for ID as well, but it is not strictly scientific. It may be the application of science to help explain the evidence, but it is not an experiment, but an inference. I am not saying that evolution does not have evidence in its favor or even that it is an unreasonable interpretation of the evidence. I am saying that it does not effect the progress of science or even our ability to do science.

Finally, I must ask why this is such a heated debate if it is really a scientific issue. The essence of science is to be objecitve and to be open to re-evaluate your conclusions in the light of contrary evidence. Yet the proponents of evolution have been violently opposed to any such consideration of evidence that might even remotely suggest that evolution is not the case. This is a highly unscientific and even irrational position. They are blindly defending their system not their science. Why? That is the big fat elephant in the room - we all understand what the implications are if ID is in fact correct and those implication have little if nothing to do with science.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Hello people,

For an example of more recent opposition to public support of ID, see Dr. Myers go off here.

Mike Gene has some fun with it all over at Telic Thoughts.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

It is too bad that they got someone from the Southern Baptists to represent the ID point of view. Right off the bat, the placement spells out what the NPR audience generally believes: ID is just a matter for religion, and "fundamentalist" religion at that.

That said, he did a good job, considering his grave limitations (which I share). But then, he also made some obvious errors. For example, the ID was not started by biochemist Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box, a point which unfortunately Nick was able to jump on later. He also seemed to reduce all of ID to irreducible complexity and a thinktank, when that is just one theory, which may very well be very wrong, and one thinktank, which doesn't support ID being taught in schools at the present time. His opponents were prepared and studied (of course, its their job to represent the issues as they did--they make a living off of arguing against intelligent design).

But its at least good that he (that someone) opposed the propoganda regarding suposedly clear demarcation theories parrotted by anti-teleologists, derived from the utterly failed non-overlapping magesteria concept of the late Dr. Gould. "Its critically important that young people understand what is and isn't science." Whatever, as if that issue itself was all sealed up and ready to be explained to our young people as Truth, and not really at the heart of the debate. Hipsley is spot on: it is such condescending nonsense when 'authorities' talk like that, all the more so because they are authorities, but not in philosophy of science (for which Gould's NOMA is relevant). There is peer-reviewed literature for ID; his oft-repeated claim to the contrary is false. I also love it when people have a talking point about how their opposition has...talking points. All in all, I think I might differ with you slightly, Hipsley--this was not a fair debate (even for NPR), though I think we should give them credit for trying (i.e. trying to get a better rep for ID).

8:57 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

What the evolutionists are really defending here is naturalism and materialism over and against supernaturalism and theism (and lets be honest, ID may not support any one religion but it certainly is arguing for theism of some sort), not science; philosophy, not biology.

Just curious--when you say "theism of some sort" do you include poly-, pan-, and panen-, for example? Just interested in what you mean by "of some sort." I don't think ID itself argues well for God on the basis of design in the universe (that would betray its empirical basis), though the teleological argument is convincing in that regard (which uses the conclusion of ID as a premise in its own deductive argument).

9:24 AM  
Blogger M. Hipsley said...


I don't think ID is making an argument for any particular brand of theism nor can it. It is really limited to the position that the evidence favors the existence of some kind of intelligent design which of course implies a designer. Polytheism, Henotheism, and Process Theology would all suffice I think. I am not sure about pantheism since it holds that the material world is God I am not sure how you would work and intelligence into this but I guess the argument could be made.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Yeah, I agree. The designer could be aliens, but most would really only see that as a logical possibility. A silly logical possibility. A silly logical possibility, not taking into account an infinite regress.

Hey, its been there a while, but sweeeet icon. St. Hipsley. You come out of your monastery to give pure milk of dogma to the masses.

St. Hipsley. I hope it doesn't backfire. People might start to think we have some weird self-canonizing cult going on.

(Yeah, I know its Thomas, but I am just jabberring.)

6:55 PM  
Blogger davis said...


I'm not sure how pantheism fits with ID, but I do know that there are buddhist's in the movement. I just read a peer reviewed entry published on ISCID on a quantum mechanical account of consciousness, co-written by a buddhist.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purely by chance I stumbled upon your blog. I found it refreshing, interesting and similar to my own opinion. Are we related, which given the name Hipsley seems probable?

2:10 PM  
Blogger AmericanPascal said...

Regarding the discussion of “indirect evidence” in support of evolution, a more accurate description should be “circumstantial evidence.” Much of this circumstantial evidence may also support ID with the same level of relevance in which it would support evolution. Here again (and this happens all too often), the word “science” is misused and abused when labeling mere “circumstantial evidence” as “scientific evidence.”

If, in fact, we are talking about forensic science, then the term “proof” takes on a different kind of meaning than it would when dealing with “scientific proof.” After all, forensic science typically leads to a “conjecture” and not a proof.

9:22 PM  

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