The Nature of Science and the ID Debate
Guest Contributor

20 January 2006

posted by Peter Godfrey-Smith

The question "what is science?" always becomes more pressing when debates about evolution and creationism are going on. Even though the question is actually a bit of a mess, it suddenly becomes tempting to try to offer a short, concise description of science that can be used to guide decisions about what should and should not go onto high school curricula. Often, the first thing people draw on is Karl Popper's account of science, based on the idea of falsifiability. For Popper, a hypothesis is scientific only if it has the potential to be refuted by some possible observation. There are serious problems with this formula, and hardly any philosophers would accept anything as simple as this. It is a fantasy to think that big theoretical ideas in science are set up in such a way that they can be knocked out, with logical certainty, if some single crucial observation is found. For example, all scientific ideas, especially the big theoretical ones, only make predictions about observations when assumptions are made about many other matters (for example, the experimental apparatus and the circumstances of observation). But no one has come up with a reasonably simple alternative formula to Popper's one that does much better. So is it hopeless to try to say something simple and general about how science differs from other kinds of inquiry? What should philosophers say when judges in court cases (like the recent one in Pennsylvania) are looking for a way of deciding whether a controversial idea counts as genuine science?

To me, Popper was onto the right general idea, but he simplified the story too much. He also tried to express his test for science in terms of a test applied to the content of scientific hypotheses themselves. I think it is better to start from the idea that there is a distinctively scientific way of handling ideas and hypotheses.

Most ideas, especially big ones like evolution and divine creation, can, in principle, be handled both scientifically and unscientifically. The scientific way of handling a theoretical idea is to look for ways to expose it to observation. This does not mean that the idea has to be formulated so that a single observation could knock it out. Often, what it means is that scientists start with a very simple version of the idea, and look for ways to modify, develop, and extend it in response to what is observed. Crucially, when one version of the idea turns out to be inconsistent with what we seem to be seeing, and a modification is needed, the next move is to a version of the idea that can be "exposed" to observation in the same sort of way. With an idea as big as biological evolution, this tends to lead to the development of a whole range of specialized research programs, each looking at the role of evolution in some specific context. Some people look at evolutionary processes in model organisms (like bacteria and fruit flies) in the lab, others look at the patterns in the fossil record, and so on.

At each stage in the process, there will be unanswered questions and puzzles. At each stage there are "gaps," as the anti-evolutionists like to say. Of course there are gaps! The whole point of the process is to push the idea into new areas, and get it to make contact with more and more phenomena of the kind we can observe. If the theoretical idea is no good, this process will grind to a halt before long; it will be found impossible to develop it and hang onto it without continually insulating it from observation, as opposed to exposing it.

So for me, it is important to look not just at single hypotheses, but at the development and modification of ideas over time. Really big ideas like biological evolution, that atomic theory of matter, the Marxist theory of history, the Freudian struggle in the unconscious, and an intelligent designer of the universe all have the potential to be handled scientifically. Some of them are, and some of them aren't. The most important objection to the Intelligent Design movement is not that the very idea of intelligent design is linked to supernatural causes in a way that makes it intrinsically unscientific. The problem is that the idea has in fact been handled in a way that gets less and less scientific as time passes.

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a philosopher of science at Harvard and Australian National University. He'll be our guest on Tuesday's upcoming show, "What is Science?"

Comments (22)


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Saturday, January 21, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Actually, the Intelligent Design people have raise

Actually, the Intelligent Design people have raised an excellent general question, which evolution theorists have not as yet fully answered for every instance. Broadly speaking, the question is this: If a living system is extremely complex; if we are proposing that RANDOM MUTATION and NATURAL SELECTION are the ONLY mechanisms by which that living system could possibly have come into being; and if we assume that this process occurred over millions of years, in small incremental steps -- Don't we have to assume that every single one of those small incremental steps, TAKEN BY ITSELF, had "survival value?" Have we really proven such a thing yet? Or is this still something that scientists are "working on" proving? I'll comment that if any of the small incremental changes did not have survival value, it would also have had fairly low chances of staying around very long--therefore, fairly low chances of being "built upon" by the next step in the sequence.
To get specific--We now know that there is considerable chemical complexity in the structure of living things. For example, proteins, the main structural component of living cells, are, in essence, polymers of up to SEVERAL HUNDRED amino acids, which have to be arranged in an EXACT SEQUENCE in order to give the protein molecule the shape it needs to fulfill its function. In a complex living thing, we have not only to account for the appearance of individual types of protein molecules, but also account for the fact that in some cases, a whole series of very specific enzymes (proteins) must work in a very specific order in order to accomplish a function--such as metabolizing sugar, clotting mammalian blood, etc.
For those who believe that an omnipotent and personal God is possible, it likewise seems plausibly possible that action of such a God may have supplemented random mutation and natural selection as a force guiding evolution. I will admit that this possibility would not be easy to prove or disprove scientifically. But I think it would be a shame to absolutely forbid ever mentioning this (as a "logical possibility") in a high school biology class--along with, of course, teaching the kids standard evolution theory.
By the way--the comment on the show implying that if we allow the teaching of Intelligent Design, we increase the risk of dying of bird flu is totally bogus. Almost all advocates of Intelligent Design (as opposed to the discredited "Creation Science") are asking that this theory be presented IN ADDITION TO, not INSTEAD OF standard evolutionary theory. And they recognize the modern-day recorded instances of "evolution" within species, such as development of microbial resistance to antibiotics, development of mutant virus strains, etc.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

It has certainly long been recognized that science

It has certainly long been recognized that science is best defined by its method for the handling of ideas rather than by their content, and I agree that this is an important distinction to keep in mind - especially when we consider how science is promoted to the lay public and how it is taught in the schools.
But this does not preclude the existence of characteristics of scientific content that might be inferred from the nature of the scientific method. Popper's criterion of falsifiability is one such - with which you take issue. But I think you do Popper a disservice by insisting that he means falsifiability by some "single crucial observation" (with the implication that such an observation would be in some sense simply structured). The concept of an atomic observation would be hard to define, and once we accept compound observations then any combination of observations itself counts as an observation. With this understanding, Popper's test is valid. A statement that is not falsifiable by observation is not scientific.
But of course the converse of Popper's thesis is neither claimed nor true, so it is not a test for establishing statements as statements of science but rather as statements of non-science, and to prove that something *is* science requires, as you point out, an analysis of the process and attitude with which it is handled by its advocates.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

In response to the comment by Lois Herring I would

In response to the comment by Lois Herring I would say that if any *one* of the incremental changes she refers to can be shown not to have been (or been genetically linked to) a survival advantage, then indeed the theory of evolution as currently understood "goes down" (or at least "back to the shop for a redesign"). But "can be shown not to" is not the same as "has not been shown to", so lack of explanation does not falsify the theory.
With regard to the introduction of other "logical possibilities", there are infinitely many that we could mention if we wanted to. But the *scientific* process involves seeking the *minimal* set of assumptions needed to explain the observations, and the theory of evolution by natural selection basically says that none are needed beyond those of fundamental physics. The time for introducing an intelligent designer or other additional concepts will come when a step is found which is inconsistent with the predictions of current theory, but as yet that has not happened and so we "have no need of that hypothesis".

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Sunday, January 22, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Thanks for kicking off a stimulating discussion, P

Thanks for kicking off a stimulating discussion, Peter. While the scientific approach to a hypothesis is to ?expose it to observation?, very often what we see is not the thing hypothesized, but some secondary effect. For instance, absent a time machine, the big bang will remain forever unobserved, nevertheless we presently see the predicted afterglow and the expansion of the universe to support the theory. Black holes, by their very blackness defy detection, but we can witness the intense escape of radiation as stars are engulfed by the hypothesized phenomenon.
So, from what is observable, we may infer the existence of something that may never be seen. This seems to be the position of those promoting a designing intelligence behind the natural order, that the apparent design we observe in nature is more consistent with the products of intelligence, rather than the blind forces of nature that shape mountains and the patterns of snowflakes. Daniel Dennett?s use of the words ?clever? and ?brilliant? to describe the fruits of natural selection, betrays the difficulty in explaining the intricate design in nature without smuggling intelligence in through the back door. Whatever the contributions of a life affirming intelligence in the past, there can be little doubt that a life threatening intelligence is having an enormous impact in reshaping the earth today. Intelligent?Design is all too terribly true.
There may be more in common between science and religion than is usually realized. Science has its metaphysical side, with ideas such as string theory and multi-verse notions that appear plausible, but remain beyond empirical confirmation. At the same time, spirituality poses testable notions such as forgiveness and suspending judgment that can be tried in the laboratory of living experience. In each domain, faith and reason play important roles. Science becomes pernicious when its assumptions (i.e. faith) go unseen and unquestioned. Likewise, religion errs when it makes truth claims about the world that cannot be squared with the data. And often there are questions, such as ?when is a fetus a human being??, that seem easily answerable one way or the other by belief , but do not submit as easily to experiment and observation.
One of the questionable popular notions of science as expounded by Judge Jones is the contention that science seeks natural causes for observed phenomena. This begs the question as to what is natural? Is global warming a natural or unnatural phenomenon? When the agency of intelligence enters the picture, something beyond the play of purely natural forces becomes a force of causation. For instance, physics is sufficient to explain the motion of balls from a masterful shot by Minnesota Fats, but the intention which directed the cue ball is not something presently explained by physical law. While it is true that we often superimpose the notion of design where random forces are in play, the reverse may also be true, where we invest mindless processes with a ?cleverness? and ?brilliance? that they cannot possess.
Looking at this another way, does it seem plausible that anything beyond the bounds of time and space can have an impact on the physical world? Some believe that mathematics hails from a Platonic heaven, and one could argue that had the world lacked ?prophets? to divine the secrets of that heaven, then our planet would be a very different place from what it is today. And then there are just plain facts, whose discovery remakes the world. The ?thing? which Einstein envisioned, of the relationship between matter and energy, caused the harnessing and loosing of atomic energy by humans. But, if that ?thing?, which seems to be an eternal nothing without shape or substance, had not been found, history certainly would have unfolded differently in the last century. It is arguable whether intelligence can be construed as a property separate from matter and energy. Nevertheless, substance devoid of intelligence behaves one way, while substance possessed of it behaves another.
A final reason to question the prohibition on entertaining causes which transcend the temporal realm, is that to do so presupposes the nature of reality and serves to force data into an interpretation that may stem from a false premise. The ?scientific way of handling ideas? need not be bound to a materialistic philosophy of reality, but can serve equally well to make rigorous any philosophical disposition that lends itself to reason and experiment.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Both Lois Herring's and Alan Cooper's comments res

Both Lois Herring's and Alan Cooper's comments rest on a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Even Darwin didn't think that natural selection was the only mechanism of evolution. Contemporary evolutionary theory includes such mechanisms as migration, mutation (seen not just as fodder for selection, but as an agent for change in its own right), and random genetic drift.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Roberta Millstein's comment above appears (perhaps

Roberta Millstein's comment above appears (perhaps unintentionally) to be positing variation as an alternative to selection. But selection and variation are not alternative methods of evolution. Rather selection works *with* variation (which itself may indeed have many sources) to result in an evolving population.
Nonetheless, on first reading of Roberta's comment I was inclined to agree that, at least with regard to genetic drift, I may have overlooked something.
Of course over the short term it is possible to confuse a random fluctuation with an actual drift, which would not require any explanation in terms of survival advantage. But I take Roberta's suggestion as something more substantial.
I was led to wonder whether the random variation of a genome might lead to an actual trend in the characteristics of a population that is not tied to any survival advantage for the population, and in fact I can see that that is indeed conceivable. For example, some chemical afinity between genetic components might lead to a trend in the genome towards bringing those components into more frequent proximity - which might then result in some visible consequence for the population.
But, on thinking further about that particular example, I can imagine that adapting to the chemistry involved does correspond to a survival advantage - perhaps not for the organism but rather for the genome itself.
There may be other mechanisms for drift that cannot be interpreted as resulting from selection at any level but I would be surprised to hear of them (since you can see from the above "stretch" that I am prepared to be quite liberal with regard to what I might describe as a process of selection by survival advantage).
But if my personal understanding of evolutionary theory has to go "back to the shop for a re-design", then so far as I am concerned, so much the better!
So, thank you Roberta for the challenge.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Sorry, my post was a bit brief. Let me see if I c

Sorry, my post was a bit brief. Let me see if I can explain myself a little more thoroughly.
I agree, Alan, that you can see mutation as that which produces the variation upon which selection acts. However, contemporary population genetics also views mutation as an evolutionary cause in its own right. Think of it this way: when you introduce a mutation in the population, you have changed the gene frequencies in the population. And since population genetics theory usually defines evolution as change in gene frequencies, mutation itself becomes a cause of evolution (albeit a very weak cause).
The other thing I regretted after my post was not to mention to all the other possible ways that nonadaptive (meaning "neutral") evolution could occur. However, probably the best thing I could do here is to point to Gould and Lewontin's well-read (if controversial) essay:
http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/history/spandrel.shtml - section 5 is the relevant section to this discussion.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Thanks Roberta. I think I've seen a review of tha

Thanks Roberta.
I think I've seen a review of that article somewhere but hadn't ever had the opportunity to read it through before. It does, to some extent re-adjust, if not totally re-design, my so-called "understanding" of evolution (though I would plead "not guilty" to the charge of having ever been a totally feature-by-feature adaptationist, and I might be inclined to find a selection-based explanation for what Gould and Lewontin identify as "adaptation without selection").
I also should acknowledge that, in my response to Lois Herring, I neglected to make clear that the changes I intended to appeal to selection for were only those not explained by random effects such as mutation and sample frequency fluctuation.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

I'm going to try to get back to the core question

I'm going to try to get back to the core question of whether Intelligent design should be taught in schools.
I think that an often overlooked, or perhaps avoided, question of where ID should be taught in schools is really at the heart of the matter. Presupposing that we've concluded that ID can claim the same academic value as all the of the classic components of a modern education and as such should be taught to our children; should it then be taught in the science classroom or a different academic arena? We then get to the matter of wether or not ID is in fact science. I would hope that the answer to that is the readily apparent "no."
In order to qualify as science, ID's assertions must be provable or disprovable through measurable, repeatable, empirical observation. In this area it simply falls short. It is not a matter of wether or not you believe the assertions that ID makes, but rather it is the fact that you cannot prove or disprove them that rules ID out as science. ID asserts that since structures in nature look so fantastic that they could only have been created by some kind of "intelligence" requires you to be able to prove or disprove the existence of that "intelligence." One can see how that could prove... problematic.
ID is not science. However, I will go so far to agree that the questions raised by Intelligent Design do have academic merit, and as such do have a place in schools. I personally think that ID belongs in a theology class or perhaps (since ID proponents would protest, claiming that ID is not creationism) in a philosophy class. Perhaps a "where do we come from?" class. That ID proponents are unwilling to concede the fact that ID, in it's present day incarnation, is not science, but that it could still find a home in schools outside the science classroom raises a question of motive. If they so staunchly believe that it is science, they should follow the rules of science and conduct research, publish in peer review journals, and submit their arguments and evidence to the scrutiny of the scientific community. Science is settled in the lab not in the courtroom.
I'm going to editorialize a little more here.
As a scientist, I find the common argument against evolution and for ID repugnant. It is commonly argued that evolution is not a "fact" but is JUST a "theory." ID then is simply an opposing "theory" which, they argue should be taught as an alternative. The problem I have with this is the manipulation of words in a clear attempt to persuade the lay. In common vernacular, the use of the word 'theory' denotes a supposition, a guess, an idea; no evidence required. In the scientific vernacular however, theory is used to denote a hypothesis that has been tested and validated by the scientific method. We must remember that in scientific terms, what the lay man would call a theory, is actually a hypothesis. However proponents of ID will mix words and twist meaning in order to make the theory of evolution seem to be little more than a guess, when in fact it has been so rigorously tested that it is the lay equivalent of fact. The fact that the argument for ID in the science classroom often comes down to this kind of semantic jousting is absurd and points to clear political maneuvering instead of rigorous science.

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Monday, February 20, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

First of all I would like to say that I do not bel

First of all I would like to say that I do not believe that most people that argue against Intelligent Design really know what the theory entails. Any reference or appearance of the word creationism or creation science should be forbidden in this argument. Intelligent Design is not even close to creationism. Michael Behe and William Dembski have written books on intelligent design that show the complex mathematical and dare I say scientific intricacies of the theory. Also I would like to know what evidence would count against darwinian evolution? Scientific theories are supposed to be able to be confirmed or disconfirmed. Even if nothing has disconfirmed it what could? I believe that supporters would take any evidence and fit it in somewhere as a step to another organism. Also what has confirmed darwinian evolution? The fossil record? Fruit flies? I am not quite sure how iron clad that confirmation is.
Even Darwin's finches were a hoax. Anyway I am not saying that dawinism is flat out false I just think that it is lacking with it's mechanisms. I do not believe
for a second that chance mutation and natural selection
have dictated every living organism in the world.
There is a problem with that. Intelligent design
mathematically and scientifically attempts to fill in those gaps and I believe they do a good job doing
so.
With all that said do I think that ID should be taught in science classrooms? Not really. Not yet at least.
I think even more problematic is how Darwinism is taught dogmatically. I do not think it is fair to present that theory as if it were true. Say what you like about what a theory is or what it should be the fact is that darwinism is not necessarily true. In that light I believe that fact should be made undoubtedly clear.
I do think however that ID has a little ways to go until
it could be taught in a science class, in philosophy,
or a special topics elective or something maybe but
I do believe they will get there. The final statement I will make is that I do not think that darwinism is an example of rigorous science itself so maybe ID should get some leeway from scientists who dogmatically cling to Darwinism.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

I'd like to add a P.S. to what Corey mentions abov

I'd like to add a P.S. to what Corey mentions above. Corey is absolutely correct to say that ID can never be considered science because it cannot be empirically verified. The physical and biological sciences are inherently and exclusively empirical. Science looks for naturalistic explanations of phenomena, "naturalistic" being defined as that which occurs by virtue of "normal" causes that repeat themselves when the same conditions apply. If you throw a ball 50 feet into the air, it always comes back down. You can test it, measure it, repeat it, and account for it with theories associated with classical physics. If you know things like its mass, velocity, and direction, you can predict where it will land every time (unless a strong wind is blowing!).
By definition, ID cannot be accounted for empirically. ID posits a force that is external to naturalistic causes, i.e., some "intelligent" force (or forces) that have power over natural phenomena and yet is not a natural phenomenon itself. ID is the watchmaker that knows how to put the pieces together and can do for the pieces what the pieces could never do for themselves.
The problem with science is that all it can see are the pieces. The watchmaker is invisible to the eyes of science. Even if science cannot figure out how the pieces got together (the so-called "gaps" in evolution), it could never posit the watchmaker. Science would have to say that it can't figure out how the pieces got together YET, but it's going to keep on working on the problem. Maybe it will find the solution and maybe it won't.
However, the eyes of faith or conjecture can see the watchmaker or ID. Further, ID is not unreasonable, though it can't be proven by "reason." It's just not scientific. If someone doesn't think science's account of how the world and universe got here makes sense (i.e., the Big Bang, evolution, etc.), then it's reasonable to posit the watchmaker. But just because it's "reasonable," it doesn't make it "scientific."
Part of the problem is the incredible and seemingly unending success of science over the past 300 years or so. Being "scientific" is desireable because it seems to make one's conclusions certain. But science is a fairly limited domain. It may be able to inform things like ethics, epistemology, ontology, etc., but it hardly has the final say here. For most of the really important things in life (friendship, love, meaning, and college football), science is fairly impotent and takes a back seat to theology, philosophy, etc.
The bottom line is that science and faith (a BELIEF in ID is ultimately a faith system) should be tucked into their own separate beds at night, and we shouldn't allow science to steal the covers off of faith's bed.

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Monday, March 6, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

To Ian: You ask what would be able to disprove

To Ian:
You ask what would be able to disprove Darwinian evolution? A lot, and a lot has. One of the attributes of science is that it evolves when new and better explanations for the theory present itself. The theory we today have of evolution is not in every way the theory that Darwin proposed. An example that comes to mind is the idea of "punctuated equilibrium" proposed by Stephen J. Gould in 1972. It basically states that evolution occurs quickly within small populations followed by a period of stasis. This was in direct conflict with Darwin's theory of gradualism which states that evolution happens continuously over long periods of time. Punctuated equilibrium explains why there would be "gaps" in the evolutionary record.
Now, you may ask, "Well, what can disprove this new and improved theory of evolution?" And I would answer, probably nothing short of God himself coming down and explaining to us how he did it (Why doesn't he do this anymore? He use to do it all the time according to the bible.) It's like the theory of gravity. Until someone can show that everytime they throw a ball off a cliff, it flies upward, or hovers there, instead of downward, the theory of gravity will not be disproven. I hope that you would agree that this would more than likely NEVER happen. But until it does, science, you, me, and everything living on this planet will have to accept gravity as true.
I'm sure people like Behe could, if they so desired, come up with some sort of mathematical proof of how the theory of gravity is lacking. After all "torture the data long enough, and it will confess to anything," however, what one can write on paper and physically show in reality are different things. And anti-evolutionists have millions of years of proofs working against them. No one is saying it can't be done, after all science never claims to have "proof" of anything, but like disproving gravity, disproving evolution is an uphill battle.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

It really amazes me that we even have this debate

It really amazes me that we even have this debate anymore. People dress ID up in mathematical complexities and arcane sounding scientific details to give more sciency appearance. But no matter what you wrap it up in the core of ID is faith not science. Faith that a superior being or beings created life on Earth. Faith is a science stopper: once you take something on faith there is no more need for investigation scientific or otherwise.
As for evidence for evolution, so much of the evidence is so abundant and observable around us that it is easy to forget it's there. We can manipulate and harness the forces that facilitate evolution on both a macroscopic and microscopic scale. On the macroscopic level we have created breeds of dogs through selective breeding, as we have also created new species of crops such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. On the microscopic level we have created vaccines and useful bacteria. We can observe the forces of evolution when they rail against us as with the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria or transspecies drift of bird flu to humans.
The theory of evolution fits these facts about life. It even anticipated the discovery of the mechanisms of genetics and DNA by which it takes place. The postulation of a supreme creator or creators explains little and predicts nothing. It only produces more questions which could only be answered by faith like, why would a supreme creator create such a dynamic system with species drifting in and out of existence when they could have created a static unchanging system of equal or greater perfection and complexity?
Ian Turner asked what proof could disprove Darwinian evolution. Garrett Peters pointed out that the theory of evolution has moved on since Darwin. Mr. Peters said God coming down and telling us personally that he created us would disprove evolutionary theory. I would like to add immortal angels walking through the streets turning homosexuals to pillars of salt, and the discovery "Product of Apha-Centuri Terrestrial Eugenics Corporation" labels on the back of our necks, to the list of possible disproofs of the theory of evolution. You don't need to research obscure academic papers to prove the theory of evolution. You just have to open your eyes and see the observable phenomena around you.
I got a chuckle out of Lois Herrings rationalization that ID is different than creation science because its proponents advocate it as alternative to evolutionary theory not a substitute. Apparently teaching creation science along with evolutionary theory is what makes it ID.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Re: ID Concisely, (in the words of Dennett) "Evol

Re: ID
Concisely, (in the words of Dennett) "Evolutionary biology certainly hasn't explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn't yet tried to explain anything." (and in its current form, never will.)
Consequently, it shouldn't be in a science class. Maybe a class about socio-political propaganda?
Re: The nature of science.
PGS, it seems that you are almost describing the "Lakatosian" model of science; considered by many to be an improvement upon Popper's core notion of falsificationism. If unfamiliar, as I was until recently, check Lakatos at Wiki for a little background.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

"To me, Popper was onto the right general idea, bu

"To me, Popper was onto the right general idea, but he simplified the story too much. He also tried to express his test for science in terms of a test applied to the content of scientific hypotheses themselves. I think it is better to start from the idea that there is a distinctively scientific way of handling ideas and hypotheses."
That is precisely Popper's point. The simplification applied to the logic of falsification but Popper was always aware that falsification in practice is problematic. It is a crude simplification to call Popper's theory "falsificationism" because that simply represents the most obvious difference from the verificationism of the positivists. The point is to adopt the method (or atttitude) of critical appraisal with a view to forming critical preferences that can change in the light of new evidence and new arguments.
This overview may help.
http://www.the-rathouse.com/introrandi.html

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Monday, July 31, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

POPPER, EINSTEIN AND INCONSISTENT THEORIES Karl

POPPER, EINSTEIN AND INCONSISTENT THEORIES
Karl Popper: "...we can argue that it would be a highly improbable coincidence if a theory like Einstein's could correctly predict very precise measurements not predicted by its predecessors unless there is 'some truth' in it."
Popper should have verified the internal logic of Einstein's theory. If the theory is an INCONSISTENCY, it CAN produce correct predictions. Initially Einstein introduced a false premise (the speed of light is independent of the speed of the light source), then deduced miracles (time dilation, length contraction etc.) from it and accordingly became a miracle-producing divinity but eventually reintroduced the true premise (the speed of light does depend on the speed of the light source) and obtained correct predictions (e.g. the frequency shift factor). The inconsistency is much more dangerous than an ordinary wrong theory since it irreversibly destroys rationality in science. See more in
http://www.wbabin.net/valev/valev7.htm
http://blogs.nature.com/news/blog/2006/02/testing_times_for_einsteins_th...
Pentcho Valev
pvalev@yahoo.com

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Saturday, August 5, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

INCOMMENSURABILITY OF SCIENTIFIC LOGIC AND FORMAL

INCOMMENSURABILITY OF SCIENTIFIC LOGIC AND FORMAL LOGIC
Imagine a theoretician (e.g. Einstein) who has obtained the result Y and is deified for that. He also claims he has deduced Y from the premise X (and possibly other premises) which is some assertion about physical reality (e.g. the speed of light is independent of the speed of the light source). How should fellows theoreticians react? If they are realists (in the philosophical sense), they should try to find out if X is true or false - if it is false, Y should be abandoned. If they are rationalists, they should check the deductive path leading from X to Y - if the deduction is invalid, Y should be abandoned.
Needless to say, the critical attitude described above presupposes some courage. Unfortunately, theoreticians and philosophers of science are not courageous in this way. They believe in the pessimistic induction - since theories in the past have been rejected as false, all theories, both past and future, are false, including the one harboring the deduction of Y from X. They also believe in the thesis of increasing verisimilitude - in the historically generated sequence the theories are increasing in verisimilitude, that is, in the degree to which they are approximately true. Accordingly, since the theory harboring the deduction of Y from X is the last in a sequence, it is relatively the truest one. Then why should theoreticians and philosophers of science care about details such as the truth or falsehood of X or the validity of the deductive path leading from X to Y? Isn't it much more profitable to sing dithyrambs and worship at the portrait of the author of the truest theory?
In so far as logic undoubtedly belongs to the heart of theoretical science, the established tradition based on the abuse or neglect of logic can be named "Postscientism". This tradition was born in 1850 when Clausius INVALIDLY deduced "All heat engines working between the same two temperatures have the same maximal efficiency" from "Heat spontaneously flows from hot to cold". But why have logicians failed to rectify or even notice mistakes in scientific logic?
In formal logic conditionals (inferences, derivations) are tautologies. This implies that the consequent can only be a NEW ATOMIC PROPOSITION (I call NEW ATOMIC PROPOSITION one which does not participate in the formula of the antecedent) if the antecedent is an inconsistency. Examples:
[p,(p->q)]->q ; the consequent q is NOT A NEW ATOMIC PROPOSITION
(p,not-p)->q ; the consequent q is a new atomic proposition but THE ANTECEDENT IS AN INCONSISTENCY
In scientific logic as applied in deductive theories (e.g. relativity, thermodynamics) ALL CONSEQUENTS ARE NEW ATOMIC PROPOSITIONS. That is, all conditionals are of the type (p,q)->r. Therefore there can be no overlapping between the set of conditionals in formal logic and the set of conditionals in scientific logic. See more in
http://www.wbabin.net/valev/valev4.htm
http://www.wbabin.net/valev/valev7.htm
Pentcho Valev
pvalev@yahoo.com

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Saturday, August 12, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

Garett Peters write: "An example that comes to min

Garett Peters write: "An example that comes to mind is the idea of "punctuated equilibrium" proposed by Stephen J. Gould in 1972"
He didn't.
Niles Eldredge did, as Stephen Gould often acknowledged.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009 -- 4:00 PM

As someone from an IT and industrial systems desig

As someone from an IT and industrial systems design background, I have always found it impossible to believe the theory of evolution. I long ago concluded that life is vastly too complex to have come about by chance mutations and blind natural selection, and that the universe is far too unified to have been organized by chance, luck, or a committee.
Where for the love of me, where would natural selection get the overall broad perspective necessary to evolve a multitude of highly diverse lifeforms, at different rates, at different times, or not at all (stasis), to finally finish up with a fine tuned co-dependent environment and fine tuned eco-systems. Natural selection would need all the attributes of deity. Moreover, why would natural selection preserve and hard wire the "religious" mindset into the vast proportion of humanity, if nothing existed beyond materialism.
Let's face reality, entropy and the 2nd law tells us the Cosmos running down, and therefore dependent, with neither the capacity to wind itself up, or bring itself into being. Thus we have either an infinite dependent regression, forever, or a non-dependent self-existing first cause, call it what you will. All of which makes a self-existing first cause both a philosophical and scientific necessity.
I find the whole discussion as to whether on not ID is scientific bazaar. Firstly, a universe that can be intelligently understood, must of necessity have an underlying intelligence. Indeed, all of science functions on the reality that the universe has an underlying regularity, predictability, and order to the point where mathematics can be effectively applied. Without this foundational principle it is impossible to even do science, and without which the entire foundation of the Empirical & Scientific Method collapses. To expel the ID principle of intelligence is to scuttle science itself.
Secondly, every field of science ultimately has to face the fact that there is no "naturalistic" explanation for any of the broader realities, be it the origin of the universe, or even the origin and existence of natural law itself. To argue that natural law must be the "gatekeeper" to define what is scientific, is to ignore the fact that the gatekeeper itself cannot be explained by natural processes alone. Thus we have something (natural law) that cannot be explained by natural law used to keep out all other real but unexplained criteria out, God included. This would include the origin and existence of the cosmological constants and a multitude of other realities. Including matter, light, and energy which ultimately have no naturalistic answer, and yet these make science work.
So guys, lets face reality. ID is foundational to science, and naturalism and Darwinism just won't do the trick. At least, not for me.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009 -- 5:00 PM

It takes no effort at all to look up the history o

It takes no effort at all to look up the history of "ID" nor does it take any intelligence to see that its simply creationism mk3 and has nothing to offer science. IT IS NOT science and never was intended to be. Simply put these people see science as the mother of all evils and athiest by conspiracy and have set out to control science and education. It is a literalist fundamental quasi religious group that if allowed to succeed will damage education. Anyone that supports or sees any validity in ID is either 1. a creationist 2. lazy.
The minute you allow any such idea any validity you stop science....why spend huge sums on research when you can simply say "ID did it" it explains nothing and doesn't need to its FAITH and the only reference manual you need is a Bible

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Sunday, August 2, 2009 -- 5:00 PM

Making repeated unsustainable assertions about ID

Making repeated unsustainable assertions about ID will not get you anywhere. Protest and scream as you will, the reality is that all of science functions on the reality that we live in a universe that has regularity and order to the point that science can predict results.
The application of reason, logic and intelligence can be applied in science because we live in a universe that clearly manifests regularity and intelligence. Science would come to a standstill if this was not an accepted and established fact.
The concept of intelligent design, namely, that the universe manifests intelligence and causal design, is a foundational scientific reality. What test would you need to apply to prove that the foundational principles on which all of science and technology operates are valid. The very success of science itself testifies that this underlying assumption about the intelligent nature of the universe is an established fact. Stop living in denial.

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Monday, August 2, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

The universe has always existed, it has no beginni

The universe has always existed, it has no beginning or no end, it is pure energy as everything we see irradiates to the space vacuum, making the vacuum not empty as they tell us but full of energy, energy that continues the process of creation.

 

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