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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Standing Up For What You Don't Believe

Steve Fuller in TPM Online
I agreed to serve as an expert “rebuttal” witness in the first US trial to test ID [Intelligent Design] as fit for public science instruction, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). In other words, my testimony addressed the arguments of those who thought ID had no place in science classes.

--Terrence Berres


  1. The author laments that those promoting Darwinian evolution gave rather weak counters to Intelligent Design, largely along the basis of consensus and the prevailing paradigm's right to interpret evidence.

    Here is what I would consider a stronger counter to Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. First, the basic ID argument is that some phenomena or other are inadequately explained by chance occurrence, therefore there must be some creator who did it. The most common of these is the "irreducable complexity", where many things would have to evolve simultaneously. This boggles the imagination, therefore, there must have been intelligent design.

    A statement that a we lack a satisfactory explanation to a particular event within the current paradigm is a confession of ignorance. We assert that we have discovered something beyond the boundaries of our knowledge. This, in and of itself, is not a scientific theory. It is a confession of ignorance. It may be that we don't understand the current paradigm well enough. It may be that there are some new insights waiting to be gained within the current paradigm. It may be that the entire paradigm needs to be scrapped. A confession of ignorance does not make a scientific theory.

    The second essential element needed to make a scientific theory is for those who claim the current paradigm does not explain certain events is to propose a testable hypothesis of what would explain the event. Instead, ID proposes an untestable hypothesis.

    I can observe bacteria evolving new traits consistent with the claims of Darwinian evolution. Unless God has a bias toward antibiotic resistant microbes, I can't observe intelligent design in progress.

    ID is not a scientific theory, not because it shows some problems with current understanding, but because it proposes only an untestable hypothesis in its place.

    Finally, I would ask the ID'ers: If they are correct, what could we do with the information? Can we use ID to design new medicines, understand genetic diseases or combat the spread of medicine resistant bacteria? ID doesn't help us do any of these things - because it is an untestable hypothesis, it is also a hypothesis without applications - useless knowlege.

    ...Useless unless you want to please a God who will invite you to live with Him in the afterlife provided you believe.

  2. On a separate note, much of the problems I see in theology is that many theological propositions are little more than statements of ignorance. Some examples:

    "immaterial" tells us what something is not, not what it is. Assertions of immateriality are essentially confessions of ignorance, not explanations.

    "Cosmological proof" tells us that there must be a God to avoid the problem of infinite regress. In other words, we can't understand causality and put God in as the stop gap. This is essentially a confession of our ignorance, not an explanation.

    "infinite" - not limited. Everything we know of has limits. We posit something that doesn't have these. Something different from everything we know. This is a statement of our ignorance. If a theological proposition requires an infinite entity for it to hang together, this is essentially stating that we are still ignorant about the issue.

    Theologians have invented infinite, uncreated, immaterial, incorporeal, uncaused, immortal entities to make their assertions hold together. The use of so many in-, un- and im- descriptors is a sign that these are cleverly disguised statements of ignorance.