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  1. skeptic-err-guy

    Intelligent Design- Is It Scientific?

    I would like to thank Fred, JP and a host of others. My entry is long delayed and that is my fault and I apologise profusely to everyone involved. I haven't yet read JP's entry though I am sure it excellent, so do not expect a specific rebuttal. Also do not expect a cotinuation of the dbte by me honestly the topic is of little interest anymore. Thanks for your time. When addressing the issue of Intelligent Design one must first overcome some preconceptions. There is a notion that ID is merely a thinly veiled attempt to introduce religion (usually of the Christian variety) to schools. This may well be the case but it is essential to remember that any goals, secret or otherwise, of the proponents do not render the notion scientific or unscientific. Indeed the scientific merit of any theory should be judged solely on the theory and not the proponents or detractors. With that caveat noted let us now turn our attention to the subject at hand, namely the question of Intelligent Design as valid scientific theory. At this point it is tempting to jump rashly and headfirst into the problems inherent in the theory yet, this too, would be unwise. A theory may be scientific while still being riddled with problems, examples are boundless but trapaniation will serve for our purposes. Unfortunately the only jumping off point that makes any sense begins with philosophy and is necessarily dull and repetitive to most people interested in this discourse. As plebian as it may be before going any further we must first examine the basic nature of science. Science is simply a philosophy, nothing less and nothing more. Science will not reveal truth, science will not provide meaning for your life, neither will science reveal the ideal morality of life. The most basic tenet of science can be phrased thusly: "The universe is observable and understandable." Which is something that most of simply take for granted. A few have spent some time in deep introspection on this issue and have noted that while it may seem obviously true it is, in fact, just another assumption and completely unprovable. Though it rests, like all philosophies, on unscientific statements science has proved to be one of the most successful philosophies of all time. In short, assumptions be damned, science gets results. Once we have noted that science is a philosophy one would think that it should become much easier to define science. Unfortunately, again like all philosophies, while we can easily paint a picture of science with broad strokes the precise definition is much harder to come by. The Websters definition of a theory certainly leaves ID out in the cold: "A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena." But that is a definition most scientists might reject so a more encompassing definition might be order. Luckily our path is blazed by a group of scientists (who better to define science than the leading practitioners?) who momentarily put aside their quibbles to draw forth a useable definition. The definition is long and terribly over worded (it was used in a court case so the lawyerese is understandable) but the jist of the definition is that science is a methodology that employs theories and testing to explain facts. Constructs, are by definition, not science. To quote: "An explanatory principle that by its nature cannot be tested is outside the realm of science" Inherent in the definition is the notion that science can be wrong. Science is always adapting to new data, and, because of this there are no absolutes. Interestingly enough there seems to be no way to remove the central tenets of ID from the theory. With that definition in mind we can move forward. Now anything that falls outside of this definition is not scientific. Philosophy X may be more useful, may provide a path to the meaning of life or reveal ultimate truths, in fact philosophy X may be superior to science in each and every way but that matters not because if it does not fall within the purview outlined above it is simply not science. Let us run Intelligent Design through out new found definition. It fails the falsifiability test, after all any incongruencies can be chalked up to design. ID also makes no scienctific predictions. Were I to find a spaceship (or a rock that looks precisely like a spaceship) in the Australian desert I might be tempted to assume that it had crashed there and thus use it as evidence for alien visitations. ID will not allow those assumptions to happen, it could simply be that the designer designed it that way for some unkown reason. At this point it must be noted that to the commited atheist the entire argument is futile. All things are a result of natural processes. To put a finer point on it there is no inherent difference from, say, a beaver dam to a computer. Both are the result of animals doing what they will. Hence, for the atheist, saying a tree is a result of purely ntural processes and a 1995 Dodge truck is artificial is a bit disengenious. It is just the naturalistic universe playing out as it will. Now I consider this to be a very powerful argument as it only sheds assumptions and minimizes agents but many find it less than satisfying. Still it is apropos to the design theory which purports to maintain that the designer need not be God. If the designer was the result of natural processes then, of course, everything is a natural process and the designer is no longer needed. to state it another way: Unless the designer is God or is designed at some arbitrary way back time by God then everything is is the result of purely natural proceeses. Here one might try to imagine that aliens were involved or perhaps panseperia. It matters not, unless the chain includes a supernatural being it has been shown that design is essentially an illusion. Those that reject that argument (and I admit it is a difficult notion to fully accept) the answer can only lie in a supreme magical being. Which is enough, the coldly logical among us would say, to doom Intelligent design as wholly unscientific. That much is true but there are other reasons to reject Intelligent Design as a worthy theory. The central tenet of intelligent design is that some things are simply too complex to have evolved per the evolutionary theory. This notion fails on two levels the most egregious being that just because evolutionary theory may not be right then ID is (false dichotomy) and the second failing is that fallible humans are somehow able to judge what is necessarily designed. Currently Idists will talk of molecular relationships and such, topics hard for the average person to fully grasp, and smugly gloat. They weren't always so afraid to provide examples of design. One of the first was the classic mousetrap design, the kind that cartoon cats are forever finding slapping down on their paws. A mousetrap Behe argued, was a example of design, remove any part and the trap would fail. Therefore there was no possible way a mousetrap could evolve. Now Dr. Behe is a fine person and an admirable scholar but he is the classic example that you can alwayslearn something new when he was throughly schooled on the mousetrap theory. So then it became the flagellum and again Idists take the long yellow bus. To provide a more concreat example if Behe were to examine my computer he would rightly note the necessary interrealationships between the processor, the hard drive and the cd drive. Then he might assume that since each component was neccessart for the computer to function (though the CD drive and hard disk could be considered redundant like two kidneys) that there ws no possible way the computer could have evolved. Yet, at one time, computers I have owned required neither a hard disk nor a CD drive to operate. In the olden days the system was in the ROM and while not as capable as modern machines the computer actually functioned. So what is regarded by ID ists as impossible is more a reflection on their level of cleverness than any inherent failure of of scientific theories. That the universe must be limited by the imagination of humans is an utterly untenable proposition. In the end the matter will be decided, as it always is, by the marketplace of ideas. If someone can come up with a legitimate way to quantify design, if design design provides a useful model and if there can be a falsification (at this point there is no conceivable data that would contradict design) then it could be scientific. As it stands ID is just s weak attempt to make a wholly different philosophy sound scientific.

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