26 December 2005

More follow-up on naturalism versus supernaturalism

It would appear that I've wound up in an open and vigorous exchange of views with Krauze on the topic of supernaturalism as it relates to Judge Jones' decision on the Intelligent Design issue.

Here's the sequence of posts, if anyone wants to review earlier events:
I started with a post about misrepresentation of the decision by ID proponents.
Krauze pointed out that I had failed to discuss the judge's comments on the supernatural nature of ID.
I attempted to clarify my position on supernaturalism.
Krauze has responded to my response.
The remainder of this post constitutes my response to his response to my response to his response to my initial post. We're a very responsible pair. (Bonus points to anyone outside my immediate family who figures out what movie I'm watching right now.)

Actually, I think these chains of responses can be good, and not just because they let me toss out incredibly weak pop-culture references. For starters, they let you see where the differences of opinion really sit, and where the differences really seem to be more the result of people just talking at cross-purposes to one another. In this case, I think we might be talking past each other more than anything else.

Krauze writes:
TQA raises an interesting point. You see, the reaction he describes as stubborn and unpragmatic [discarding a specific positively tested ID hypothesis because it is supernaturalistic] is actually the one that Judge Jones’ ruling would have us choose. Remember that any one of the items on Jones’ laundry list was by itself sufficient to declare intelligent design unscientific. So in the hypothetical situation that TQA describes, Judge Jones would still demand that we label intelligent design as an unscientific conjecture, “pragmatic grounds” be damned.

Let me see if I can be a bit clearer in response to this than I was last time. 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. To the best of our knowledge, based on a long history of scientific investigation, it is quite simply not possible to scientifically test for supernatural causation.

For the moment, I think that the supernatural nature of ID represents perfectly reasonable grounds for ruling it unscientific. It's a fairly quick test to apply, it doesn't seem to yield ambiguous results, and it has very worked well so far. However, things can change, if only in theory. I do not believe that any of the ID proponents will be able to devise a positive test for Intelligent Design. If a positive test is devised, I think that a reasonable argument could be made that ID is no longer a supernatural explanation. But if a positive test is devised for design and if design is still felt by most to be a supernatural explanation, then (and only then) I think it would be reasonable to revisit the question of whether or not supernatural explanations should be excluded from science.

Krauze either misunderstood me the first time, or he thinks that this indicates that I have reservations about the decision:
What is interesting is that the Dover ruling has been touted as a huge victory for reason and science, and less than a week after, we find TQA - a scientist by his own testimony - having to distance himself from the logic of the court’s findings.
I am not in any way distancing myself from the logic in the decision. I merely acknowledge that there is a possibility - a very slim possibility - that at some point in time in the future the ID proponents might be able to come up with a discovery that would invalidate some of the reasoning. Of course, a great deal would have to happen before that point is reached. Not least, the ID folks need to do science.


Anonymous said...

If scientists were to encounter almost any of the classic supernatural boojums, these days we could scan, measure, and debrief it within an inch of it's life, let alone if we decided to dissect it! Any such encounter would surely have dramatic effects on our science and technology -- unfortunately, there don't seem to be any such critters hanging around for us to examine. Werewolves and vampires have yielded to porphyriacs, demonic possessions to mental illness, elementals to chaos theory and earth science. Not all the boojums are really accounted for yet, but so far, naturalism's been scoring all the goals here....

Anonymous said...

Manual trackback:

"Intelligent design and science (this time, with feeling)" on Telic Thoughts