29 December 2005

Another round with Krauze

Krauze has replied to my last post in our continuing discussion of some of the finer points of the definition of science used by Judge Jones in the Dover decision. If you haven't been following the discussion so far, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out what's going on. If you want to go back and look at the earlier posts, I linked to all of them in my previous reply.

The series of posts has gotten to be a bit on the long side, and I don't think we've covered too much ground, mostly (I think) because we're talking past each other just a bit. I'll try again to clear up where I think the biggest areas of confusion lie.

Let's start with the passage from the decision that's at the center of our little debate:
We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. (Decision, p.64)

I think it's reasonable to say that the core of the original dispute stems from the difference between Krauze's opinion that it is unreasonable to exclude the supernatural from science versus my own belief that the judge acted entirely reasonably. The most recent posts in this debate center, at least for me, around the reasons for the exclusion of the supernatural from science.

Before I get into that in more detail, I'm going to address a criticism Krauze raises in his latest reply. Krauze points out that the designer is not necessarily supernatural, but could be some sort of extraterrestrial being. That's certainly a point worth raising. After all, if ID doesn't actually require a supernatural designer, then the whole question might be moot. The judge considered, and discarded, that possibility. I think he made the right call:
Although proponents of the IDM occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants’ expert witnesses. (20:102-03 (Behe)). In fact, an explicit concession that the intelligent designer works outside the laws of nature and science and a direct reference to religion is Pandas’ rhetorical statement, “what kind of intelligent agent was it [the designer]” and answer: “On its own science cannot answer this question. It must leave it to religion and philosophy.” (P-11 at 7; 9:13-14 (Haught)). (Decision, pp.25-6)
It's also hard to avoid the conclusion that ID requires a supernatural explanation, particularly for the judge, when all three of the defense expert witnesses said that it does:
Defendants’ expert witness ID proponents confirmed that the existence of a supernatural designer is a hallmark of ID. First, Professor Behe has written that by ID he means “not designed by the laws of nature,” and that it is “implausible that the designer is a natural entity.” (P-647 at 193; P-718 at 696, 700). Second, Professor Minnich testified that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered. (38:97 (Minnich)). Third, Professor Steven William Fuller testified that it is ID’s project to change the ground rules of science to include the supernatural. (Trial Tr. vol. 28, Fuller Test., 20-24, Oct. 24, 2005). Decision, pp.29-30


Moving on, Krauze seems to misunderstand one of the main points that I was trying to make last post:
For TQA, Jones was simply concerned about testability, and supernatural concepts are characterized by a lack of testability.
I do not think that the supernatural is arbitrarily excluded from science. I believe that supernatural explanations are excluded from science primarily because they are not testable. [...].
At this point, however, I sense that TQA is simply substituting his own view of things for that of Judge Jones. Consider the text of the ruling:
We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; [...]As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.
Does anyone reading this come away with the conclusion that the last part of the “additionally important” factiods is really the justification for item number one on Judge Jones’ laundry list of “levels”? Indeed, how can supernaturalness by itself be “sufficient” to rule that intelligent design is unscientific, independent of the criterion that supposedly provides its justification?
([...] indicates material I've trimmed from the quotes due to length concerns.)

When I raised those points about testability and the supernatural, I was not trying to substitute my own reasoning for that of the judge. I was attempting to explain why there is a "centuries-old ground rule" against invoking the supernatural in science. To put it as plainly and simply as possible, nobody has been able to conduct an empirical test for the hypothesis that "God did it," nobody has been able to design an empirical test for the hypothesis that "God did it," and nobody has been able to conceive of an empirical test for the hypothesis that "God did it."

This line of reasoning was available to the judge when he wrote his opinion. Two different experts testified on this during the plaintiff's case. You can find it in Ken Miller's testimony and in Robert Pennock's testimony.

Noting as an "additionally important" fact the lack of positive tests of ID is also relevant. This does not simply restate the untestable nature of supernatural causes; it also provides a strong indication that ID proponents have not been successful in their attempts at overcoming this limitation. To put it another way, in the absence of a method of positively testing for a supernatural cause, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to reassess the "centuries-old ground rules of science."

In an attempt to move the discussion into more pragmatic grounds, Krauze presents me with a hypothetical:
Let’s say that Dr. Smith has formulated a hypothesis about intelligent design that causes him to form some quite specific expectations, and which he now intends to test. To get his experiment funded, he sends an application to the National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency that funds a considerable amount of research. Imagine, then, the reply:

“Your proposal sounds interesting, and we would like to fund your research. However, you cannot make the link to intelligent design explicit when you publish the results. The NSF only supports scientific research, and as a judge in Dover recently found, intelligent design is inherently unscientific.”

I tried to put a little effort into answering this, but, to put it bluntly, I don't find it to be either interesting or realistic. Yes, I think that such a demand from the NSF would be unreasonable, and I think that a scientist in such a situation should strenuously object. I also think that I'll carry an open umbrella with me at all times outdoors if pigs learn how to fly. In both cases, there's something really, really big between the hypothetical that has been posed and current reality.

If you want me to seriously question whether excluding the supernatural is a good ground rule, you are going to need to give me a real reason to reconsider the situation. Come up with a remotely reasonable test, and I'll get interested quick. Until you have that, all of these complaints about how unfair it is to exclude these things are nothing more than sour grapes.
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