Jerry Coyne’s Witch-Hunting Ways

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If the essence of witch-hunting is in its minute inquiry, condemnation, and eventual throttling of what is feared as supernatural, then there’s a witch-hunt going on today in the most unlikely of places: among atheists in academia.

The self-appointed magistrate in charge of this beady-eyed hunt for bewitchery is Dr. Jerry Coyne, professor of biology at the University of Chicago. Last April on his “Why Evolution Is True” blog he exposed an Honors course being taught by Dr. Eric Hedin at Ball State University on “Inquiries in Physical Sciences.”

(I didn’t comment on this matter at the time, but a related issue has come up recently that prompts me to speak up now. I’ll come back to that in a moment.)

The horror Dr. Coyne uncovered in Dr. Hedin’s course description was this: that certain features of the physical world and human existence would be examined as to whether they “may lie outside the naturalistic boundaries of science.” Worse yet, the course description goes on to say, “These will then be considered for their implications relating to the significance and value of human life, and as possible indications of the nature and existence of God.”

One agnostic student describes Dr. Hedin’s approach as purely “discussion-based,” with no hint of any professorial enchantments being laid upon unsuspecting students. He adds,

The professor poses an unbiased question for us students to debate, intelligently, I might add, and thus we further our understandings of the possibilities of the universe. The only time the professor even delves into the students’ debates is to refute any arguments that are just blatantly incorrect, do not consider all of the possibilities, or seem derogatory and opinionated in nature.

Jerry Coyne’s Witch-Hunting Ways

Nevertheless, like a judge in Salem the magistrate pounced. Though it was in a university far from his own, in a course covering sciences outside his own field, Dr. Coyne had found someone raising the possibility of the existence of the supernatural, and he sprang into action to cut it off. He mounted a blog campaign that resulted not only in this course being cancelled but a pronouncement being made by Ball State’s president, Jo Ann M. Gora, that no instructor in any science course could so much as broach the questions Dr. Hedin had raised.

That evil witch Eric Hedin had been exposed and executed: metaphorically, of course, yet disastrously enough for his reputation.

But the magistrate had not finished casting his eyes about for the next eruption of witchly deeds. “A few minutes of Googling” led Dr. Coyne to questions about a seminar at the University of Iowa, led by Dr. Ned Bowden, that “mixes science with God.” He doesn’t seem quite ready to call for fires to be lit around a stake, saying, “This whole thing smells fishy—fishy enough that I’ll try to get more information.” In the same blog post, however, and obviously before obtaining that additional information, he pronounces summary judgment that “Bowden is an embarrassment to his department and to the University of Iowa.”

If there are supernaturalists out there, they must be exposed for the embarrassment they are: and there’s no need to wait for more information to come in. So says the magistrate.

The Magistrate’s Character

A word about Dr. Coyne in his self-chosen adjudicatory role is in order here. Note that a man’s character tends to be consistent in matters great and small. His campaign against Dr. Hedin was a big deal, with significant and wide-ranging effects not just on a professor but also the students who found the course valuable, and on an entire university’s academic freedom. What I’m about to describe is very small stuff by comparison, yet it is telling.

There was a time when I left a comment on his blog with my iPhone, which unhelpfully “corrected” his name to “Cony.” His response was, “It’s “Coyne”, Gilson. You can’t even get my damn name right. You hurtin’ for trafffic?” I wrote back (details here) explaining how the misspelling happened, and he blocked my answer from appearing, leaving his own inaccurate opinion as the last word.

One who pronounces judgment without admitting all evidence is not qualified to judge at all.

In another discussion a Coyne-friendly commenter challenged me, “please present the best argument for creationism.” Dr. Coyne blocked my answer from appearing, but did allow a later commenter to demand that I “Put your God where your mouth is.” That commenter could not have known that I had indeed done so, and that Dr. Coyne had muzzled my answer. (Details may be found here.)

One who does not allow the other side’s viewpoint into evidence is unqualified to be a judge.

The Magistrate’s Motivations

And though it’s almost too obvious to mention, I think it’s worth pointing out Coyne’s deepest disqualifier: he has his own chosen side in this matter. He’s biased. No, not just biased: he has staked out a position of absolute non-accommodation (meaning: there can be no possible accommodation, rapprochement, or even discussion between religion and science), and he’s completely committed to utterly vanquishing all opposing viewpoints.

For the sake of good writing style I may have overused the superlative modifiers there (absolute, completely, utterly), but for the sake of describing the situation I have used them appropriately. This is who Dr. Jerry Coyne is.

And finally, I have to wonder what it is about Dr. Hedin’s and Dr. Bowden’s openness to asking questions in university seminars that perturbs Dr. Coyne so much. There is anger there, undoubtedly. I suspect there is fear as well. What you won’t find there is any sense of inviting true inquiry. In fact with respect to these kinds of issues, the only inquiry he seems open to is the kind that seeks to smell out anyone asking questions about naturalistic evolution—so that he can inquire, convict, and condemn.

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159 Responses to “ Jerry Coyne’s Witch-Hunting Ways ”

  1. I can quite understand a course discussing God in the department of theology or a course in the philosophy of science given in the science department. But a course which has as its objective to investigate ‘the indications of the nature and existence of God’ , given in the science department??? Such a course is as relevant to science education as a course of homeopathy in the medical department, astrology in the astronomy or flat earth in the geology department. And this has nothing to do with intellectual diversity. Intellectual diversity would be diminished if theology would be abolished, but this is here not the case. It is more a case of intellectual quality. An attempt to smuggle non-rational supernatural ideas in a curriculum that should be based on fact, rational reasoning and experiment. Luckily the times when the supernatural was mixed with science, the Middle Ages, are far behind us. And Coynes character or motivations whatever they may be, are beside the point.

  2. Dirkvg, kudos to you for knocking down the straw-men you set up, such as any discussion of Dr. Hedin’s point (certain features of the physical world and human existence would be examined as to whether they ‘may lie outside the naturalistic boundaries of science.’) is somehow automatically free of rationality, facts, or observation. You continue this type of rhetoric by mentioning “the Middle Ages” in an attempt to belittle and ridicule those who inquire about what they observe and experience today.
    Examining features of the physical world and discussing what is observed is the very essence of science and science academics, whether you like some of the possible answers or not.
    I find it interesting that in an attempt to keep the field of science pure and free from all things you consider unscientific, you stray from science and bring into the discussion non-physical things like the importance intellectual diversity, intellectual quality, smuggling irrational ideas, how we should use facts and reasoning to base our ideas, and the relevance of character or motive – none of which can be proven to exist by any means of science.
    We all agree that facts and reasoning should be employed, but where do we get such an idea? Does science tell us this?
    You cannot talk of preserving scientific integrity without an appeal to the metaphysical.

  3. A clarification, Dirk – did you just say a class which covers the philosophy of science is out of bounds for the science department?

  4. Andrew W:

    Of course Dirkvg is correct: the objects of study of the natural sciences are real (extra-mental) things, i.e., material objects and physical phenomena undergoing sensory-accessible change.

    The philosophy of science focuses upon methodological epistemology as it reflects upon the data provided by the natural sciences. “Methodological epistemology ” is NOT an object of study of the natural sciences because (for among other reasons) there is absolutely nothing sensory-accessible about “methodological epistemology.” (E.g., you cannot, no matter how hard you try, put a “scientific method” on the table for anyone to examine by means of the five external senses, and hence you cannot measure its physical properties… because it has no physical properties.) It’s the same reason biology does NOT study life: biology studies living things. “Life” as an object of study is not sensory-accessible; living things are sensory accessible. You can’t put “life” on the table… you can only put a “living thing” on the table.

    (By the way, this is at the base of Plantinga’s error: he decries methodological naturalism because (i.e., the upshot being) (a) it is allegedly “too narrow”–either criticizing those who disagree as allegedly being “reductionist” in their reasoning, or (b) trying to impose an expansion, i.e., to have methodological naturalism should “open its doors” to investigating and explaining sensory-inaccessible things. That’s why Plantinga, reluctantly, agrees descent with modification is an actual phenomena, but then notes that the cause (he uses the terms “guidance” or “providence”) must be Divine because, supposedly, descent with modification must be “guided.” So God is now reduce to a “guider” because “design” has fallen out of vogue… sheesh!)

    One should not smuggle into a biology classroom either (a) attempts to “see” God = interpreting in a particular way sensory-accessible findings of biology to pseudo-philosophically infer God… of which ID is an example, or (b) DarwinISM as a pseudo-philosophical example of those sneaking in attempts to “disprove” God by means of biology.

    The ONLY possible argument by which one can argue to the Existence of God is a metaphysical one that begins with sensory-accessible import from the natural sciences (or general observations) but then argues from those to higher verities. There is absolutely no way to argue directly through the natural sciences to God… for, among other reasons, it would reduce God to a powerful artificer who causes things to happen in the world the same way contingent beings cause things in the world. God is not a sensory-accessible cause among causes or being among beings.

  5. There is absolutely no way to argue directly through the natural sciences to God… for, among other reasons, it would reduce God to a powerful artificer who causes things to happen in the world the same way contingent beings cause things in the world.

    Psalm 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”

  6. bigbird:

    This is why atheists have a hard time accepting what Christians say: quoting Scripture as a non-thinking response to a serious issue. And, that’s not to mention the underlying equivocation animating your response reduces God to Plato’s Demiurge. Heck, why do science when Scripture explains everything… right? Congratulations.

  7. Holopupenko, you may think there is absolutely no way to argue directly through the natural sciences to God because of your theological or metaphysical commitments.

    Meanwhile, many of us who disagree with you will happily keep doing so, successfully in many instances.

    It seems rather ironic to me that the only people who share your particular viewpoint are those who already believe God exists.

  8. This is why atheists have a hard time accepting what Christians say: quoting Scripture as a non-thinking response to a serious issue.

    I did assume that you aren’t an atheist and I also assumed that you are familiar with Scripture.

    If those assumptions are accurate, then I fail to see why quoting an appropriate verse of Scripture (that quite clearly describes how observation of nature points to the existence of God) is a non-thinking response.

    If you were an atheist, I’d agree it probably was.

  9. bigbird:

    No, the ironic thing is your commitment to believing (with no demonstration provided, btw) that God is accessible/knowable/inferable directly through the natural sciences.

    Wow… just wow. I can assure you: your god is not God.

    To any atheists listening in: bigbird has basically handed to you the victory: he’s committed to a belief that God is accessible directly through the natural sciences. So, if I were you, I would rather enjoy asking him to prove God’s existence through the natural sciences.

    The other irony is I’m actually going enjoy watching bigbird try to play by his own rules.

  10. I can assure you: your god is not God.

    I think you are assuming that what I think science can reveal about God is the only way we can know anything about God.

    If I did, it would be fair to say this reduces God to Plato’s Demiurge.

    Since I don’t believe science is the only way to knowledge of God, this isn’t the case. Science can reveal certain aspects of God’s nature, but in a limited way.

    In any case, for many people, the concept of Plato’s Demiurge is a useful starting point that has taken them a long way from atheism. If I can convince an atheist that there must be something like Plato’s Demiurge, then that is a very significant change in their worldview.

    In fact in whatever way people initially approach knowing God, they approach him as far less than what he is – as a comforter, a healer, a designer, or whatever they think he is. Does that really matter?

  11. In fact, bigbird, it matters a VERY great deal: you’re confusing pastoral concerns and witness with theological and metaphysical reflections. The two are not the same: your anti-transcendence view of God is wrong… and so your pastoral concerns and witnessing will only end up serving your anthropomorphized god. Good luck with that. The gulf between the Demiurge and God is without limit. Transcendence… what a concept, eh?

    In any event, you’ve said it flat out: irrespective of whether God is knowable “in other ways,” for you, your god is reducible to access directly through the natural sciences.

    God help us all.

  12. so your pastoral concerns and witnessing will only end up serving your anthropomorphized god.

    We all have an anthropomorphized view of God don’t we? Isn’t God as a father an anthropomorphization?

    The gulf between the Demiurge and God is without limit. Transcendence… what a concept, eh?

    It’s true there is a gulf, but I see a far greater gulf between atheism and belief in a designer. In any case, the Demiurge is simply a starting point.

    I suspect that for many people, a discussion about the possibility of a Demiurge is far more helpful than discussing a transcendent, omniscient, omnipotent being that they don’t believe exists.

    In any event, you’ve said it flat out: irrespective of whether God is knowable “in other ways,” for you, your god is reducible to access directly through the natural sciences.

    No, I never said God is reducible to access directly through the natural sciences.

    What I did say is that we can argue directly through the natural sciences to show that God exists.

    That is an entirely different claim.

  13. No, I never said God is reducible to access directly through the natural sciences.

    What I did say is that we can argue directly through the natural sciences to show that God exists.

    meh…

  14. 1. Psalm 19:1 is either true or false, and if true, as I think you must think it is, Holopupenko, it is either relevant or irrelevant to the case at hand. Which is it and why?

    2. I find it really hard to see why a discussion of what might lie outside the boundaries of science entails an over-reliance on science in the pursuit of metaphysical truth.

    3. Though you are highly convinced of your position, there are Thomists and classical theists who disagree; it would be nice to see you showing some awareness that there is some room for difference of opinion even among people who generally share your view of God and philosophy.

    4. You committed a non sequitur when you suggested that bigbird’s belief that God is “accessible” through the natural sciences entails that bigbird be able to prove God through the sciences.

  15. Further, Holopupenko: do you think Jerry Coyne is on a healthy track as he tries to take discussions like these out of business in their respective universities?

  16. … the only inquiry he seems open to is the kind that seeks to smell out anyone asking questions about naturalistic evolution—so that he can inquire, convict, and condemn.

    I suggest that the term “inquiry” be replaced with “inquisition” in this context. Grand Inquisitor Coyne to the rescue.

  17. The reason such a discussion shouldn’t be in a science classroom is that science tests and explains natural events.

    Supernatural events do not make any sense based on a scientific understanding of reality, even attempting to present the ideas beside one another from a position of authority lends credence to thinking that natural events and supernatural events are coherent and not mutually exclusive, which from a scientific viewpoint simply is not the case.

    Debating on the philosophy of science is not suitable in science class, because doing science while thinking some answers are unknowable and thinking that supernatural events can lead to natural events could easily result in faith-based and irrational science.

    Scientific educators do not want this because doing science while thinking that in some cases it doesn’t work is silly, and there is strong evidence that science can answer pretty much any hypothesis that makes predictions about the nature of reality. If no predictions about how the world is are made, then the claim is unscientific, though of course it may be philosophical.

  18. Way to appeal to philosophy to denounce its worth in a science class, Oisin. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that there are questions that science can not answer or to propose that scientific advances will generate questions that are not themselves obviously scientific in nature. If you don’t agree with my words then such a philosophical discussion in such a class is precisely what should be encouraged. Scientists knowingly or unknowingly engage in philosophy all the time.

    This aside, from my limited understanding of quantum mechanics it seems that philosophical reasoning comes had in hand with the science.

  19. Debating on the philosophy of science is not suitable in science class

    In my opinion, someone should not be able to get a degree in science without at least a basic understanding of the nature and limitations of the scientific method – which is philosophy of science.

    there is strong evidence that science can answer pretty much any hypothesis that makes predictions about the nature of reality.

    What evidence might that be?

  20. @Holopupenko:

    I have to say I am with Tom on this one (sort of), and you overstate the case; there are methods of proof and there are methods of proof, each appropriate to their subject matter. A proof in metaphysics is not the same as a proof in mathematics, and both are very different from a proof in the empirical sciences.

    (what follows an edited version of a couple of comments I made at Dangerous Idea)

    To put some perspective allow me to make a small detour. Since you mentioned ID, let me start by saying that I have no great interest in defending ID’ers (some of the flack they get is deserved, some is just rank, shallow ideological bias), but there is an incomensurate difference between Evolution theory and other theories, such as say, QM. There are two main components to Evolution theory: a properly scientific one, e.g. the study of the causal paths leading to variation of genotype, and a set of Historical claims. Historical claims are claims about concrete particulars, not universals. History is not a science in the broader Aristotelian sense, precisely because it deals with particulars, not with the natures of substances, their powers and dispositions. The usual methods of proof in the empirical sciences (induction, testing of hypothesis by making predictions, etc.) have little to no relevance to historical claims. And the historical component of Evolution theory is not even History properly speaking, for History relies on written records, and all we have is the pile of debris that the whimsical demiurges Time and Death have chosen to preserve.

    An ID-like claim is an historical claim (e.g., such and such are the products of intelligence as opposed to the regular workings of nature). Whether ID’ers acknowledge that or not, I do not know (and do not care). To relabel an historical claim as a scientific claim is an error betraying a confusion between the different levels of human knowledge and their proper objects.

    Against this general background, there are, as far as I can understand, two subtly, but crucially different general lines of argumentation that get labeled as ID. The salvageable one takes the general following form:

    (a1) natural causal processes c1, c2, … cannot account for phenomena p1, p2, …

    (a2) the operations of Intelligence can account for p1, p2, …

    (a3) barring any superior defeater, it is reasonable to conclude that p1, p2, … are the products of Intelligence.

    The argument is sound, but it also has some obvious problems. (a1) is difficult to pull off (but I might add, establishing it *is* proper scientific work) and (a2) is not very informative. More seriously, and germane to the current topic is (1) there is a considerable gap hidden behind the “it is reasonable” and (2) even if successful, it proves very little as (a2) is, as already mentioned, not very informative and only posits an Intelligence. These are inherent limitations to this type of arguments, and cannot be done away with.

    So what are we to make of them? For one, there are some very substantial pitfalls associated. They can be mistaken for the “real deal”; not only they are weak in their probative force, its defenders have a tendency to conflate the being whose existence it is proved with God, which amounts to denying God’s utter transcendency, not only a serious metaphysical and theological error, but it actually amounts to denying Him. There are some other dangerous pitfalls (e.g. the conflation between artifacts and natural substances), but one may ask, quite reasonably, if these arguments do not prove Him, are we not just equivocating?

    I do not think so, although, in the interests of fairness, I can see why someone (e.g. you) would disagree. As long as the caveats are kept clear, this type arguments have their place. Pastoral concerns are not spurious, so if by deploying this type of arguments one can grab the attention of the audience, it seems to me they have their usefulness, maybe inside a wider, cumulative argument. The most general form of atheism today is of the naturalist sort, and this type of arguments raises the dialectical bar in maintaining naturalism on its *own* terms, which can be a powerful rhetorical weapon (once again, the Pastoral concern). And what to me is the more important feature (I am not very good at Pastoring…): every successful argument tells us something about reality, and insofar as they are informative, they are successful.

    note: I am not in the mood to waste my time commenting on the idiocies (and even the much more dangerous *moral* idiocies) of the Jerry Coyne’s of this world.

  21. An interesting quote from Antony Flew, a well known atheist philosopher who converted to deism a few years before his death:

    “I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine source.

    Why do I believe this given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science. Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God”.

    This is a clear statement from an accomplished philosopher testifying to how science led him to believe in this infinite Intelligence.

    True, this leaves him believing in Plato’s Demiurge rather than God. But I would argue that his shift from atheism to deism was hugely significant, and who knows where he took things from there. He allowed a dialogue with N.T.Wright on the evidence for Jesus to be included in his book, and so he was extremely sympathetic towards Christianity. Perhaps ultimately he came to Christian belief. His book has certainly been an influential one.

  22. Tom:

    You seriously misunderstood why and what it was that I pursued bigbird (witness: #4@18, which, frankly, amazes me… and that you limit your question to Oisin @24 to the philosophy of science without any regard to the philosophy of nature)–most of which was laid out in @7. (I expected better than your Coyne questions to me, Tom… as if I was even addressing Coyne’s nonsense.)

    (1) If you mean by accessible, “measurable” or in some way observable, then we immediately part ways.

    (2) If you mean by accessible “start from effects” and continue to argue through the MES, then we immediately part ways.

    (3) If you mean by accessible, “start from effects” and then argue through philosophy, then we might be able to talk. Yet, if it is the latter, the ID project must end now, for it would essentially be an admission that ID is trying to sneak in more than science into the biology classroom… just like Coyne and other Darwinists are trying to sneak in a pseudo-philosophical agenda.

    Please leave the natural sciences alone. Do not abuse them by importing something in or misappropriate them for a job to which they’re not suited or imposing on biology classrooms your interpretations of their findings. Oisin is correct: the material [logically said] objects of the natural sciences are “natural events [things]”. If you and bigbird (and Plantinga) want to address expanding the bounds of the natural sciences, then you must buttress your position on philosophical grounds.

    I have nothing further to add… except to ask specifically to which Thomists you’re referring who (implied from your words) believe God is “accessible” through–as opposed to from the MES.

  23. Don’t worry, Tom, I have a few more bones to pick. I just wanted to point out that you were representing “atheists in academia” (no qualifications) by a non-random sample. 🙂

    But the main issue is that, while you do link to Coyne’s post on Bowden, it certainly seems to me that you materially misrepresent it here, with very selective quotes.

    For example, it’s odd that “Please note that I am not calling for him to be fired, or for his course to be eliminated.” didn’t make the cut. And it’s not the course that Coyne says makes Bowden an “embarassment” – it’s Bowden’s claims that there are “holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through.” and “When talking about evolution it’s 10 percent science and 90 percent creative writing.”

    As Coyne sums up: “I just want to know what he’s teaching impressionable Iowa students, and I’d like him to either point out what those “gaping holes” are in evolutionary theory, or stop implying that the field is mostly creative writing, promulgated by biologists who lie about their field.” Given those statements of Bowden’s, it does seem reasonable to wonder how fairly the topic of evolution is presented in his course.

    (BTW, I’ve had a similar experience with being put on moderation – at the Patheos blog Get Religion. I think being put in the ‘moderated’ queue was unfair, but the fact that many of my replies weren’t approved after that seemed more to do with the queue itself not getting a lot of attention – (frustrating) neglect, particularly after a day or so, but not deliberate suppression.)

  24. And yet the man was fired and his course was eliminated, Ray, seemingly in no small part to Coyne’s involvement. That Coyne said he didn’t intend for this outcome is rather besides the point.

    The lesson is as follows: “heterodox views will be shut down”.

  25. G. Rodrigues:

    Good clarifications… but I disagree. Consider your list:

    (a1) natural causal processes c1, c2, … cannot account for phenomena p1, p2, …

    (a2) the operations of Intelligence can account for p1, p2, …

    (a3) barring any superior defeater, it is reasonable to conclude that p1, p2, … are the products of Intelligence.

    I’m assuming (please correct me if it’s not the case) that when you refer to the “phenomena” which cannot be accounted for, you mean objects of consideration like “design” or “order” or “intelligence,” etc., etc. What exactly is “observable” about “order” or “intelligence”? Don’t you mean one has to first observe (through the senses, i.e., from the natural sciences) reality and only then conclude through philosophical reflection that order “exists”? It’s kind of like the problem physicists encounter in trying to explain entropy: entropy is not “about” order, order is not “measureable.” The primary analogate for physicists should be a measure of the unavailability of a system’s energy to do useful work–NOT order. That things are (genrally) “ordered” at lower entropy only follows a reflection upon the sensory accessible. That’s another way of saying the “order” is not an object of investigation of physics… similar to why “life” is not an object of investigation of biology.

    And then there’s the whole “inference” game that’s played by the IDers:
         (1) sensory data (–> inference –>) existence of sensory-accessible being
         (2) sensory data (–> inference –>) existence of sensory-inaccessible being
         (3) sensory data (–> inference –>) Existence Itself (Ipsum Esse Subsistens)

    Do you see the problem? It lies in understanding exactly the character of the kinds of inferences used and properly distinguishing the objects considered/concluded to. The IDers (for all intents and purposes) reduce inference to one kind of inference.

    Apart from that, your point on the “pastoral concerns” is well-taken… except my point was to separate in one’s mind the two to understand them well in order to then bring them together in practice. The problem is: how does one bring together a bigbird Demiurge vision of God with pastoral/witnessing concerns, i.e., is a person to witness to a Demiurge-type of God… even as a first step? Consider me nervous on that…

  26. G. Rodrigues:

    BTW, to pick on [nasty qualifier de jure] secularists, among many others, one of my huge beefs with them is their a priori pessimistic and largely-unstated assumption that human reason is not efficacious enough to reason beyond the sensory-accessible (even as they depend on such things by appealing to them all the time)… which betrays their scientism. At least the IDers are–well, kinda–expansive. Secularists are intentionally closed within their world view of “validation only through the natural sciences”… and Coyne is one of the poster boys for that nonsense.

  27. “I suggest that the term “inquiry” be replaced with “inquisition” in this context. Grand Inquisitor Coyne to the rescue.”

    Nah, the Inquisition used to try people before condemning them.

  28. Oisin @ 21:

    “Scientific educators do not want this because doing science while thinking that in some cases it doesn’t work is silly,”

    So doing good science requires believing that the scientific method is omnicompetent? That would come as a surprise to the vast majority of scientists throughout history.

  29. Billy Squibs – Are you confusing Dr. Eric Hedin with Dr. Ned Bowden? I referred to Coyne’s commentary on Bowden (by name) and I can find no evidence that Bowden has been fired, or his course eliminated.

  30. @ Ray

    Yes, it appears that there are a couple of large errors in my post. Firstly, I was indeed confusing the two cases. Secondly, it appears that Hedin wasn’t fired, but was subject to an investigation.

  31. (3) If you mean by accessible, “start from effects” and then argue through philosophy, then we might be able to talk. Yet, if it is the latter, the ID project must end now, for it would essentially be an admission that ID is trying to sneak in more than science into the biology classroom

    Not trying to speak for Tom here, but I have some honest questions.

    Isn’t the hard line of demarcation somewhat flexible and arbitrary?

    I mean, don’t scientists already argue through philosophy when they observe numerous particular cause/effect relationships and then expand upon that relationship to make philosophical conclusions about universals?

    It seems to me that this is what we see done in scientific peer review papers (and it’s still called science), so I don’t understand the principled reason why you are objecting.

    For today’s MES’s, the line of demarcation may be drawn closer to the materialistic side than ever before (perhaps because some wish to wall off Psalm 19 even further), but it wasn’t always this way and I see no reason why it cannot be redrawn. It’s a philosophical issue, right?

  32. Hi SteveK:

    Good, honest questions. I’ll reproduce part of my response to G. Rodrigues… but this time provide examples:

    INFERENCE (in the context of demarcation)

         (1) sensory data (–> inference –>) existence of sensory-accessible being
         Example: inferring, from sensory-accessible data (which includes the use of instruments to enhance our senses) to the existence of the Higgs Boson. The objects from which and the object to which the inference is made are real extra-mental, sensory-accessible beings.

         (2) sensory data (–> inference –>) existence of sensory-inaccessible being
         Example: the objects from which an inference is made are real extra-mental, sensory-accessible beings. The objects to which the inference is made are not. So, consider the object called “brittleness”. Exactly “where” is it? It’s a concept in the mind of a knower by which that knower understands a characteristic of a particular, extra-mental, sensory-accessible thing, say, glass. Can you measure “brittleness”? No, for it’s a derived property: one can measure force, deformation, etc… but not directly brittleness. Now, consider the concept called “causality” (and this is, by the way, where Hume utterly crashed and burned in a very embarrassing way): exactly “where” is “causality”? What is observable about it, what can be sensed and measured about it? Nothing, of course. But that doesn’t mean “causality” doesn’t exist or is reducible to Hume’s silly “habit” or “tradition”. (Notice, btw, how destructive Hume is to science: if things aren’t caused, then science–knowledge through causes–is out the window. Period.) The issue (and question) becomes, what does it mean for “causality” to exist? Well, that question can NOT be answered by the natural sciences for they presuppose it… and hence any attempt on their part to explain it would be viciously circular. You need another science to study “causality,” and that science is called metaphysics. Metaphysics studies ALL of reality to obtain the broadest understanding of causality, and hence (among other things) to put the particular sciences (say, physics) on firm footing wrt to their presupposition of causality.

         (3) sensory data (–> inference –>) Existence Itself (Ipsum Esse Subsistens)
         Well, one does start in and argue from sensory EFFECTS of God’s work in the world, but the “object” to which we infer in this case can’t even properly be called an “object” because “it” transcends any limited term applied to “it”. Such an argument does not–nor can it–argue to God’s existence because God doesn’t “exist” like other “existents”. He is Existence Itself. God “is” the Ultimate Cause far, far out-transcending any possible term that tries to capture Him. He is Perfection Itself: there is nothing lacking in Him, there is no potency. Every human term, however, is based to some level in imperfection (understood in the sense of fullness of actuality). If you can’t argue to sensory-accessible beings directly through the MESs as noted in the examples just above, then how is one to argue to the “existence” of Ipsum Esse Subsistens? (This bears repeating over and over and over again: God “is” Ultimate, Transcendent BEING/CAUSE NECESSARY for all contingent beings… He is NOT a cause among causes or a being among being.) Yet, that is what ID claims it can do directly through the natural sciences. What you need is a metaphysical argument that doesn’t “prove” God’s existence but that “proves” the inescapable conclusion of an Uncaused Cause, and Unmoved Mover, etc. One irony is this has been done… while IDers are trying to do it through some weird combination of (1) and (2) above.

    Concluding Point One (repeating from an earlier comment): [The issue] lies in understanding exactly the character of the kinds of inferences used and properly distinguishing the objects considered/concluded to.

    Concluding Point Two: IDers don’t have a proper understanding of the demarcation issue in the first place… and I hold Plantinga significantly responsible for this… with Meyer, Behe, and Demsbki following suit. (Craig, because of his openly avowed accession to the huge error of the univocity of being, is also muddying things.)

    Concluding Point Three (for context): in good philosophy it’s understood that humans, to wrap their minds around such things, separate in their minds things that are inseparable in reality… which is okay as long as it isn’t forgotten. (There is a realm of knowing and there is a realm of being; things that are less general and closer to perception are prior relative to us; things that are more general and further from perception are prior by nature.) For example: the formal and material cause of an artifact or a natural thing are separated in our minds to obtain understanding. But in real things, they are inseparable: try to remove the form “David” from the marble [artifact]; try to remove “tigerness” from a tiger; and try to remove the soul (the formal cause of a human) from the human. The latter is a special case in that, indeed, the form (soul) can exist separate from the body… BUT the soul is NOT the human being.

    Hope that helps.

  33. @Holopupenko:

    I’m assuming (please correct me if it’s not the case) that when you refer to the “phenomena” which cannot be accounted for, you mean objects of consideration like “design” or “order” or “intelligence,” etc., etc.

    I mean the usual phenomena enjoined to prop up the outlined argument schema, say fine-tuning, the existence of living things, etc. To illustrate, pick the former. The empirical sciences tell us that such and such free parameters of the theories (Planck’s constant, the gravitational constant, etc.) have such and such values; it also tells us that if these constants were just a wee bit different, living things as we know them could not have come into existence. So there is a puzzle here; it smells like the Universe is a put up job. The naturalist comes along and proposes c1, c2, … as an explanation. Suppose that the ID’er can successfully shoot down c1, c2, …; then, we are rationally justified (not compelled; the nature of the argument so dictates) in holding (a3) and accepting the conclusion. What is the value of such an argument schema? See below.

    Do you see the problem? It lies in understanding exactly the character of the kinds of inferences used and properly distinguishing the objects considered/concluded to. The IDers (for all intents and purposes) reduce inference to one kind of inference.

    I have not read a single ID’er; ID is a typically American phenomenon, so I suppose I have the luxury of looking at it with more equanimity. As a general point, if they do in fact make such errors, they are to be denounced. Being “on our side of the barricade” is no excuse for error.

    On the other hand, I find puzzling the over-eagerness of some Christians to distance themselves from ID’ers. If there is a puzzle, and the puzzle *is* genuine, it is to be discussed, not hushed up with the counterfeit excuse that Darwinism (or whatever) is the only game in town. It is a Sent. Certa. (have to double check this as I am not certain) teaching of the Catholic Church that every rational soul is created directly and ex-nihilo by God; so, in a sense, God does a lot of “monkeying” around in our world, so why not one more instance? And as you know, there are Thomists who do argue that in some instances (e.g. life), of metaphysical necessity, a special creative act of God was needed. Whether they are correct or not is a vexing problem and for my point here, it matters not, as I am not saying either yes or no to any specific instance; it is also neither here nor there, the fact that the arguments are metaphysical. My only point is that the over-eagerness just strikes me as odd and that one should not, in the name of combating the error of debasing Him to the level of a mere demiurge, go to the opposite extreme of forbidding Him of creatively intervening in the actual world.

    The problem is: how does one bring together a bigbird Demiurge vision of God with pastoral/witnessing concerns, i.e., is a person to witness to a Demiurge-type of God… even as a first step? Consider me nervous on that…

    If you put matters on those terms, I would also be nervous. Very nervous… There are a couple of ways in which such argument schemas can be valuable; here is how I would put it — and in fact, it *is* how I do put it, so this is something of my personal experience. To me, the real clincher argument for the existence of God is the Fifth Way. But the Fifth Way is a metaphysical argument, poised at a very abstract level; it is notoriously difficult to explain it in the current cultural milieu and encounters all sorts of bad objections, usually maskeraded as appeals to Science ™. In order to clear the rubble, how I usually start is to take the battle to the naturalist’s own camp and pick up the fine-tuning or even the Kalam (which I rate higher than the other arguments, but still far short than the Five Ways) or some similar type of consideration — similar, in that what they prove if successful is pretty much the same. In the dialectical process of explaining the argument, including why the objections tend to put the responder in an even greater pickle, I hope to convey *what* exactly is God supposed to be the explanation of (not of this or that contingent feature of the universe, like its finite past), *how* we go about proving it (not with Science ™, but with philosophy), and *why* shrugging off ultimate explanations is a brain-dead self-defeating move.

    View it as preambles, suggestive preambles, to the preambles of the faith.

  34. Thanks, Holo. While I generally agree with everything you said, I don’t see your comments resolving the underlying debate.

    I don’t think anyone is asking for your #3 sensory data (–> inference –>) Existence Itself to be categorized as science so we can set that aside permanently. You are right.

    I think what’s going on is that people are arguing that your #2 should apply to god (but not God) just as it applies to brittleness.

    Working under #2, what is your principled reason for not allowing god, or ID as some would call it, as a scientific inference from sensory data while allowing brittleness to fall into that category?

  35. G. Rodrigues:

    … teaching of the Catholic Church that every rational soul is created directly and ex-nihilo by God; so, in a sense, God does a lot of “monkeying” around in our world, so why not one more instance?

    Because “creation” is not a type of change because of the ex nihilo component, whereas “making” is something “coming from” (changing) from something else. The “monkeying” around to which you refer must have some kind of character: creation is totally outside the MESs, “making” is not.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am sensitive to and have thought a lot about (coming to no formal conclusion) on how witnessing is most effectively carried out. In other words, I sympathize with bigbird, but I fear the slight deviation of the arrow at the beginning will miss the mark by a lot. I guess it’s the perfectionist in me.

    Here’s my current take (with appropriate self-deprecation applied for good measure): I do not consider myself a good witness because of my irascibility. To me, that’s where witnessing and pastoral concerns/cares really matter. It is very rare indeed that one “convinces” a non-believer through scientific or philosophical arguments. A conversion is a–literally–changing of the heart toward a good perceived on the human level. Science doesn’t change hearts, but it may blow a little dust of the hinges. The “turning” of conversion is a turning toward Someone, not to the veracity of an argument’s conclusion. (Hence, why I have a guarded sympathy to some of the largely-misinterpreted things Pope Francis has said…)

    Other than that, I agree with much of what you say… except for Kalām.

    😉

  36. SteveK:

    Sorry for any lack of clarity: I DO permit under #2 (if it can be done) an inference to “god” because, no matter what, the lower case “god” is just another being among beings, albeit perhaps vastly more powerful than us. But “vastly” is not “unboundedly”. Moreover, I permit (if it can be done) the inference under #2 to “god” in the same way that I permit inference to SETI signal makers or forensic crime conclusions to an intelligent/rational agent as criminal. But that inference is NOT purely/wholly in the realm of the natural sciences. Finally, so what? What’s the best you can get under #2? A demiurge… and that’s the stealthy bit of dishonesty I sense on the part of IDers: they claim to argue to a designer, but they want THE “Designer”… they ARE using the ID project to argue to the existence not just of ‘god’ but God. Dembski gives it away in the title of his flagship book (not to speak of a certain offending chapter in that book), which people often miss: Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology Theology?!? Give me a break…

  37. Moreover, I permit (if it can be done) the inference under #2 to “god” in the same way that I permit inference to SETI signal makers or forensic crime conclusions to an intelligent/rational agent as criminal.

    I’m a bit confused now. These are the types of things IDists point to as a means of arguing that ID should be science and I’ve always thought you objected to this line of reasoning because *as a matter of principle* the inference CANNOT be made. Can you clarify?

    If it’s *possible* for a valid rational inference to be made (and Psalm 19 appears to say that it can) then ID should be classified as science under your #2. Am I wrong?

    But that inference is NOT purely/wholly in the realm of the natural sciences.

    That doesn’t bother me because science embraces these inferences already.

    Finally, so what? What’s the best you can get under #2? A demiurge

    The “so what” is clarity and an advancement toward the truth. That’s huge.

  38. SteveK:

    It’s in the character of the object considered or argued to. I’m not sure how to make that distinction any clearer. Moreover, no: moving toward a demiurge is neither clarity nor advancement… see G. Rodrigues’ point above.

  39. Holopupenko –

    Example: inferring, from sensory-accessible data (which includes the use of instruments to enhance our senses) to the existence of the Higgs Boson. The objects from which and the object to which the inference is made are real extra-mental, sensory-accessible beings.

    Could you tell bigbird that? He doesn’t think the Higgs Boson is ‘sensory-accessible’.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂

    Can you measure “brittleness”? No, for it’s a derived property: one can measure force, deformation, etc… but not directly brittleness.

    Would ‘speed’ be a ‘derived property’ in that sense? How about ‘acceleration’? What about ‘force’? I mean, engineers seem to think they can measure a material’s brittleness.

    (I’m not being snide, BTW. That’s an honest question.)

  40. Ray:

    No need to be snarky with bigbird… that’s my department.

    😉

    Of course speed and acceleration are derived properties: e.g., to quantify speed, one measures the change in position for a given time period for that change. That engineers “say” they measure a material’s e.g., brittleness is just being a little careless with the term “measure.” Do we need to lambast engineers? No, it works for them just fine. But, if an engineers talks about WHAT speed is, they can only do so in a narrow sense that cannot define the whole. One final word on “position”: “space” and “position” are modern terms related to Aristotle’s “place” and “location.” For Aristotle, the latter two were always wrt real extra-mental things; for us moderns, we replace (for the convenience of providing mathematical support to the natural sciences) real, extra-mental things with abstract things, i.e., frames of reference. So, instead of measuring location wrt to a body, we measure position wrt to the zero of a frame of reference. The primary analogate remains Aristotle’s notion of this accident (as well as for time), which supports the secondary analogates we moderns use. THAT is why Aristotle is important: he set up the basis for the modern sciences to stand on firm philosophical principles… and, making mistakes like thinking air is pushed from in front of an arrow around to its back to continue to push it along in flight (i.e., he didn’t understand the modern conception of momentum) does nothing to detract from his philosophical principles.

  41. Steve K

    I criticised the Course based on a quote straight out of the explicit objectives of the course, so no straw man there.
    Mentioning the mixture of theology and science in the Middle Ages is not belittling, it is a fact.

    I find it interesting that in an attempt to keep the field of science pure and free from all things you consider unscientific, you stray from science and bring into the discussion non-physical things like the importance intellectual diversity, intellectual quality, smuggling irrational ideas, how we should use facts and reasoning to base our ideas, and the relevance of character or motive – none of which can be proven to exist by any means of science.
    We all agree that facts and reasoning should be employed, but where do we get such an idea? Does science tell us this?
    You cannot talk of preserving scientific integrity without an appeal to the metaphysical.

    Not at all. All things you quote are most likely in a physical way part of the workings of our brain. More and more of what was once seen as belonging to the mental realm is shown to be an effect of the physical brain, while on the other hand no proofs are found for souls and other metaphysical entities.

  42. Andrew W

    A clarification, Dirk – did you just say a class which covers the philosophy of science is out of bounds for the science department?

    I think every science department should have a philosophy of science course. Scientists and engineers usually consider their craft as a ‘given’ and think too little about the foundations of what they are doing. But in no way is philosphy of science = theology.

  43. bigbird

    Psalm 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”

    All of these are perfectly explainable by natural means, so no indication of God.

  44. @Ray

    Could you tell bigbird that? He doesn’t think the Higgs Boson is ‘sensory-accessible’.

    The Higgs Boson is unobservable, and you would have to be a scientific realist to claim that the Higgs Boson is a real particle, yes.

    Actually, not even a realist would say the Higgs Boson definitely exists at this point, surely. It’s still rather tentative as I understand it.

  45. holopupenko

    God “is” Ultimate, Transcendent BEING/CAUSE NECESSARY for all contingent beings… He is NOT a cause among causes or a being among being.

    Strong statement but there is nothing to show that this is a strongly justified statement.

  46. @50: The Higgs Boson is “unobservable”?!? Oh my. Tell me, bigbird, can you observe a magnitude 17 star? By your “logic,” that star is not a “real star.” Hmmm. Have you ever heard of optical telescopes or the Large Hadron Collider as instruments that enhance our senses? I kid you not, I sat in on a graduate-level course on the Ancient Greeks last year. There was a student, who came from an excellent undergraduate Catholic program, who asserted that atoms don’t exist because we don’t see them. (Neither I nor the instructor wanted to pursue that car wreck.) Did you know that Ernst Mach–driven by his positivism–asserted the same thing, opposing Boltzmann’s theory of atoms? Did you know that positivism even affects certain Scriptural interpretations–for example, ones that reject Biblical allegories? Do you really want to be in that camp?

    @51: Only if you limit “strongly justified” to validation exclusively by the modern empirical sciences. Tell me, Dirkvg, by your own rules of the game what is “strongly justified” about your assertion “there is nothing to show that this is a strongly justified statement”? Is there something–some sensory-accessible property about your statement qua statement? You need to engage in some serious, long-term philosophical reflection.

  47. Holopupenko

    With strongly justified I mean arguments based on what has been shown to be the best way to get at true knowledge: logic, facts and experiment.
    Since all other ways to arrive at knowledge, intuition, mystical insight, authority figures, … have proven to be way more unreliable. So, until now I have not encountered a strong justified argument for God and a lot against.
    Besides you know almost nothing about me so your last statement is without ground. Unless you think this way about all those who disagree with you, but then it’s a predjudice.

  48. Holo,

    Because “creation” is not a type of change because of the ex nihilo component, whereas “making” is something “coming from” (changing) from something else. The “monkeying” around to which you refer must have some kind of character: creation is totally outside the MESs, “making” is not.

    Scripturally God is presented as both a creator and a maker. Our doctrine of creation should not only include creation ex nihilo but also the divine making and the new creation still to be consummated. Whether ID gets you to God as “divine maker” I’m not sure.

  49. @53:
    I mean arguments based on what has been shown to be the best way to get at true knowledge: logic, facts and experiment.

    What “logic, facts and experiment” support the veracity of that assertion? What “logic, facts and experiment” validate the scientific methods… or maybe you hold they are valid simply because they work? If you have thought about these things seriously, you know you are being intentionally–albeit fairly–baited based on your comments here… which further means the empirical evidence of @51 and @53 sustain my alleged “prejudice.” Indeed, I am prejudiced against your kind of ideas… in a manner similar to why doctor’s are prejudiced against cancer or why healthy thinkers are prejudiced against racism.

  50. Holo,

    Do you mind explaining more fully what you mean by artificer and why you think God never makes something new out of what He has already made?

  51. The Higgs Boson is “unobservable”?!? Oh my.

    Yes. You can’t observe the Higgs Boson. You can postulate its existence and infer its existence from what you can observe. But it remains a theoretical entity.

    Tell me, bigbird, can you observe a magnitude 17 star? By your “logic,” that star is not a “real star.” Hmmm. Have you ever heard of optical telescopes or the Large Hadron Collider as instruments that enhance our senses?

    This is just the scientific realism debate, and it is common for scientists to be scientific realists. But once you examine the arguments against scientific realism, it isn’t nearly as obvious as you seem to think it is. For example, many of the unobservable entities scientists used to think existed, such as the caloric and the ether, we no longer believe exist. 100 years from now, will we still think the Higgs Boson exists? Who knows.

  52. Holopupenko

    I suspected you were ‘baiting’ me. : ) Did it give you a superior feeling? Never mind.

    As long as the discussion stays reasonable and fair, let’s discuss. I like meeting other ways of thinking about things.

    Yes, a way of knowing if ones image of reality has a certain correspondence
    with reality is testing if it works. Not all ideas can be tested of course in interaction with reality.
    The interaction with reality gives rise to ways of thinking that are shown to be true or false, and so we build thinking instruments (logic) that can validate also those ideas we cannot test against reality. So as for instance the argument from evil. And because it can test, it can grow.
    To show that this way of knowing is lacking, you have to show that your way, is better. And what way is that? How do you arrive at all those strong statements about God? And what certainties it is based on?

  53. I sympathize with bigbird, but I fear the slight deviation of the arrow at the beginning will miss the mark by a lot. I guess it’s the perfectionist in me ….. It is very rare indeed that one “convinces” a non-believer through scientific or philosophical arguments. A conversion is a–literally–changing of the heart toward a good perceived on the human level. Science doesn’t change hearts, but it may blow a little dust of the hinges.

    I do agree that a non-believer is rarely totally convinced via philosophical or scientific arguments, but in my view they do have a part to play, particularly scientific arguments. Few people are interested in philosophical arguments in my experience, but scientific arguments seem to make a significant difference to many people.

    My creation science friends in Answers in Genesis and CMI have countless stories of people who have found their arguments to be pivotal in their conversion story. Their seminars are always packed with people eager to hear their message. Scorned they may be, but they are being true to the most straightforward interpretation of Genesis, and I respect them for it.

    The concerns about the Demiurge are valid, but when such arguments are only a part of someone’s conversion story, I don’t see it is a problem. In any case, no matter what we say, we can’t truly represent God adequately to a non-believer, and ultimately it is up to God to reveal himself to those who are seeking after him.

  54. Holopupenko and bigbird

    ultimately it is up to God to reveal himself to those who are seeking after him.

    Revelation is just one of those very unreliable ways of knowing. How many people throughout history thought they had a revelation that proved to be false. Even a superficial knowledge of psychology is sufficient to realise the mind has many tricks and people are masters at deluding themselves.

    And for those who even so believe in revelation: how can you know that the God you believe in is in reality not an evil God? You have no way of knowing. All you believe in can be explained just as well by an evil God.

  55. dirkvg,

    With all due respect, what I see you doing here is parroting a lot of pop philosophy.

    I am about to enumerate fourteen questions and/or points of information relevant to your prior comments here. I do not expect you to answer them all. It’s up to you whether you answer any of them at all. My purpose in raising these questions is not to elicit your answers but to encourage you to slow down a bit and recognize where you stand with relation to these kinds of questions.

    The reason I’m doing this is because I’m seeing you express considerable confidence in your philosophy, without seeing you express comparable background knowledge.

    Now again, the reason I’m pointing this out is not to put you down, but to encourage you to slow down a bit and recognize where you stand with relation to these kinds of questions.

    If I were you, I would see this as the kind of moment wherein I realize that I don’t know as much as I thought I knew. There’s nothing wrong with that, in itself. I have had many such moments in my writing life, especially on this blog. Where it goes wrong is if you or I act as if we know what we do not know. This is what I’d like to encourage you to reflect on carefully.

    So with that as introduction:

    Let me suggest you (1) spend some time just on this blog searching for “evil god” and my response on that to Stephen Law, or better yet, do an Internet search for “Edward Feser Stephen Law evil god.”

    As for rationality, mentioned in your first comment here, I have an ebook to recommend. You can (2) look at the excerpt there for a good running start on what the book is about.

    Coyne’s motivations could hardly be beside the point, when you consider that what he’s doing is bullying other people out of their positions and/or courses.

    I have no idea what you mean by the supernatural being mixed with the natural in medieval sciences; I doubt you know yourself. Do you know about the (3) Condemnations of 1277? Do you know (4) how the Church “de-animized” nature, as Stanley Jaki put it?

    You say,

    More and more of what was once seen as belonging to the mental realm is shown to be an effect of the physical brain, while on the other hand no proofs are found for souls and other metaphysical entities.

    Why is it that you (5) require “proof” for souls and other metaphysical entities while accepting mere vague and loose correlation as showing that the mental can be reduced to the physical? For that’s all neuroscience has going for it in that realm; and believe me, it’s not enough either scientifically or philosophically to demonstrate what you claim. There are huge philosophical problems with identifying mental events with physical events. I’m not saying they’re disconnected, but clearly the mental cannot be just an effect of the physical brain, for multiple reasons we’ve discussed multiple times here.

    So I am in fact curious as to whether you are familiar with the (6) aboutness (intentionality) problem and the (7) problem of rational inference with respect to mental phenomena.

    You say that all natural phenomena are explainable by scientific means. Can you say that specifically with respect to (8) the origin of the universe? The (9) rational order of the universe? The (10) fine-tuning of the universe for chemical complexity such as is entailed by any conceivable form of life?

    You say that the best way to get at knowledge is through logic, fact, experiment, rather than (for example) authority. Is that (11) how you know what you had for breakfast? (Note that simply saying “fact” in response would either be circular or tautological, depending on how you said it.) Is that (12) how you personally know that the earth has a molten metal core, or that the cause of HIV/AIDS is a virus?

    Are you (13) aware that the unreliability of human psychology has little philosophical connection to the reliability of revelation? Are you (14) aware that this is a much-discussed topic, even on this blog?

  56. Holopupenko, as usual you are giving me things to think about. I’m sure I did misunderstand you earlier. Today was my final day of editing on the revised True Reason, and I rushed through some things, like my comments earlier, in my hurry to get to that project. Now I’m going to just wait until tomorrow when I’m fresh before I try to catch up with it.

    I still wish you would approach these discussions as matters to think about together rather than as things to jump upon and to pronounce the truth as you understand it. All of us would learn better that way.

  57. Tom @63: It’s not “my” truth nor does that truth have anything to do with how I “understand it.” To parrot this blog’s byline: I don’t “possess” it.

    Melissa @57: Summa Theologiae Ia q.105. a.5: “Whether God works in every agent?” Read it carefully–it’s nuanced. There is a fundamental distinction between natural things and artifacts, for which I refer you to Aristotle’s Physics II (192b 13-14, etc.) One of the most important differences is: artifacts are made from existing material with the form imposed externally, i.e., their “capacities” or “powers” actually depend on the artificer (external rational agent) which itself is a contingent being. Natures, which God creates, have power or capacities immanent to them. Artifacts (which are accidental unities) do not have natures in the full sense–only analogously. This points to another problem with ID: God must intervene as a mere artificer at a reduced causal level to “make” or “guide” (per Plantinga) evolution happen. ID strips God of His transcendence and His much closer “involvement” (per Augustine) by creating natures and maintaining all things in existence while contingent beings actualize their natures.

    bigbird @58: Regarding the Higgs Boson (and magnitude 17 stars), you’re not being serious… and you might as well demand that people who wear glasses and use hearing aids declare what they can’t sense per their privated senses as “theoretical entities.” In fact, it’s more than simply not being serious: you’re being silly. Regarding the scientific realism issue you bring up, have you ever heard of the adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”? If you had read carefully just the opening paragraph of the SEP entry, you would have noticed an explicit reference to the philosophy of science within the context of epistemology. It is abundantly clear you not only missed the second paragraph of @7, but have little or no understanding of ontological considerations, and in particular the philosophy of nature.

    dirkvg @59 & @61: I will not take your scientistically-loaded bait, and Tom addressed your problems very well in @62.

  58. Regarding the Higgs Boson (and magnitude 17 stars), you’re not being serious… and you might as well demand that people who wear glasses and use hearing aids declare what they can’t sense per their privated senses as “theoretical entities.” In fact, it’s more than simply not being serious: you’re being silly.

    Scientific realism/anti-realism is one of the most important issues in the philosophy of science, and this is the main concern – whether we should believe that unobservable entities really exist. Feel free to think that’s silly – it’s not an uncommon view amongst many scientists. I suggest you read a bit further than the first paragraph if you are unfamiliar with the arguments of anti-realism.

    If you had read carefully just the opening paragraph of the SEP entry, you would have noticed an explicit reference to the philosophy of science within the context of epistemology.

    Well, yeah. Why is it surprising that an article on scientific realism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes an explicit reference to the philosophy of science? It’s one of the philosophy of science’s central concerns.

  59. @65:
    You intentionally neglected the point about ontology and the philosophy of nature, didn’t you? Intentionally. No need to waste any more time on ignorance…

    Dirkvg:
    I’m sorry. On this point, I sympathize with you. Please be assured far, far from all Christians say such things.

  60. Holopupenko

    Thanks, I’ve had worse.

    Altough I wonder why you wouldn’t accept my invitation to discuss.

  61. Tom,

    Don’t have much time todat, will probably return to the blog tomorrow

    As for now, some remarks:

    If you will be reasonable and decent, so will I.
    I welcome a good discussion.
    I will check up on the Law reference
    If you refer to things written in your blog, give me a precise reference. I don’t have all day to search the blog.
    I am aware of most of the points you mention.
    I also see that in a number of points you, probably unwillngly, want to lead me in a number of philosophical swamps.
    I others you seem to want to drag me into ssome sort of sceptical view on knowledge and reality. That’s weak.
    I also notice that you put questions to me but don’t enter into the questions I raised, such as Holo’s definition of God and the argument from evil.
    On Coyne, I suppose you are aware of argumentum ad hominem. I limit myself to his argument, not his character.
    To end, for now, I am aware of the limits of science and rational knowledge, but I don’t fill these up with a god of the gaps.
    Take care

  62. Your are aware of all the limits of science and rational knowledge. Impressive!

    Is there such a thing as irrational knowledge? (Not a trick question, btw)

  63. Holo,

    So is the issue that ID argues that this or that physical attribute could not arise naturally and requires an intelligent agent to put it together (so to speak) or otherwise intervene to get the required physical components together. I agree this leads to an arificer – or there’s always the possibility that evolution is wrong.

    What about God transforming one thing into another or would you argue that the potential to become every created thing we know now was already in the nature of the first created thing?

  64. Dirkvg:

    I didn’t mean it in a nasty way that I was not taking the scientism bait, and I apologize for that impression. It’s just I’ve been around that issue with the presuppositions you’re bringing in over and over again… that I’m just tired.

  65. Revelation is just one of those very unreliable ways of knowing. How many people throughout history thought they had a revelation that proved to be false.

    Do you have any idea how many entirely mundane claims throughout history ‘proved to be false’? Heck, the entire history of science itself is one long list of theories that not only turned out to be false, but were at one point hailed as obviously true.

    Even a superficial knowledge of psychology is sufficient to realise the mind has many tricks and people are masters at deluding themselves.

    Taken at its face, that’s a route to some radical skepticism. Qualified in a way that would remove the radical skepticism, it doesn’t affect what you want or need it to affect.

    And for those who even so believe in revelation: how can you know that the God you believe in is in reality not an evil God? You have no way of knowing. All you believe in can be explained just as well by an evil God.

    Not ‘just as well’, no. Especially not once we start getting metaphysics and philosophy thrown into the mix. I think Tom’s already given some good replies on that front.

    But I’d also add – for someone who does believe it’s ‘just as well’ – and I’ve said this to Law himself (and he had pretty much zero reply to it) – it only exacerbates the problem for the atheist. The atheist is supposed to be denying all gods, period, across the board. Pointing out that /additional/ gods are in the running weakens the case for atheism immediately.

    It reminds me of a paraphrase of something a friend said once: theists can accept an infinite number of gods along with their God, and their theism can still be true. But an atheist can’t suffer the existence of a single God or god – if one exists, atheism is false.

  66. Also, I’ll mention…

    With strongly justified I mean arguments based on what has been shown to be the best way to get at true knowledge: logic, facts and experiment.
    Since all other ways to arrive at knowledge, intuition, mystical insight, authority figures,

    If you sincerely believed this, your whole case would be dead in the water immediately. How many scientific experiments do you actually do, how many facts do you find out for yourself, versus having them reported to you not only by authority figures, but a chain of authority figures?

  67. Hi Melissa:

    ID argues—even if you neglect the dishonesty regarding it not being a project about God—that it is a natural science that should be taught in the biology classroom. It is not a natural science. It is a cobbling together of scientific findings animated by disparate and poor philosophical assumptions attempting to bring a certain interpretation of scientific findings into the biology classroom. It is also an attempt to manipulate the bounds of the natural sciences (the so-called demarcation problem) in a desperate move to incorporate the study of inaccessible objects (e.g., “design” — a combination of formal and final causality).

    No one—except chowder-heads—deny the existence of design. That’s NOT the issue. The issue is what is meant by “existence” of design, i.e., what kind of an object (presumably of study) is “design”? IDers should be able to place for us on the table the object “design” (to which they’re always referring) so that we can access it through our senses. Otherwise, it’s not a sensory accessible thing, and they should stop the nonsense of attempting to foist their flawed philosophy upon biology classrooms. The take-home lesson for them should be to honestly reformulate their project as a philosophical one. Based on my interactions with IDers and reading their work, that ain’t gonna happen. The same, of course (and ironically) applies to secularists: instead of misappropriating the natural sciences by trying to sneak anti-God or “improbable” God interpretations into science, they should try some good old-fashioned non-scientistic, realist philosophy (wake up, bigbird) to argue their case. Think it’s gonna happen? Nope. They’re too wrapped around their scientistic axles to be that honest.

    With regard to God transforming one existing contingent being into another, of course He can do that. But, that’s properly called a miracle, i.e., it’s Him acting directly as well as above-and-beyond the capacities/powers of contingent natures to do what they normally “do” on their own. (That’s why some criticize ID—correctly, in my opinion—as an exercise in (ironically) attempting to study miracles by means of the natural sciences.) Example: it is not in the nature of a person who has died (i.e., it is not in the nature of a ~150 lb. pile of rotting chemicals) to animate itself to life… because an accidental unity of chemicals known as a “dead” body doesn’t have the power (per its nature) to do so. It requires something external to it with powers above it to do so.

    On the other hand, living biological entities, indeed, have it within their powers (within their natures) to respond to external pressures to evolve. (Again, refer to ST Ia q.105. a.5.) They don’t require God as artificer or puppeteer tinkering in their DNA to “make” evolution proceed. (He’s already “doing” the far, far greater thing of on-going creation, i.e., bringing into being ex nihilo and maintaining in existence as Ultimate, Unchanging, Necessary, Perfect, Ordering Being all contingent beings.) It’s not the individual living thing, at the moment of experiencing external natural pressures, that “evolves”—it’s the progeny that result from the “parents” that survive those external pressures, and it’s the resulting progeny that survive that carry on… So, there is no violation of the Scholastic maxim “No effect can be more perfect than its adequate cause.” An external physical pressure can, indeed, “inform” the genes of the parent to be different: if the resulting progeny are better for it, they survive, if not… oh well. And, that’s not even to mention the ubiquitous confusion over “species” understood as a logical term vs. as a biological term. There are REAL speciation events that occur in one—ONE—generation in some plants!

  68. “So, until now I have not encountered a strong justified argument for God and a lot against.”

    Dirk,

    I know you have a number of conversations going on but if you can, a brief explanation of the above. Do you mean that you have found there to be more strong justified arguments against the existence of God than strong justified arguments for the existence of God. And since you’ve mentioned the argument from evil would that be what you consider a strong justified argument against the existence of God. If so, could you give us a few more that meet that criteria.

  69. You intentionally neglected the point about ontology and the philosophy of nature, didn’t you? Intentionally. No need to waste any more time on ignorance…

    Well, sort of. I don’t even really know how your point relates to what I was discussing, which was scientific realism and anti-realism – which Ray introduced at #45 (not me). Perhaps you can elaborate.

    From your comments about scientific anti-realism being “silly”, I’m a little doubtful that you are familiar with its arguments. Certainly philosophers of science take them very seriously.

  70. It is also an attempt to manipulate the bounds of the natural sciences (the so-called demarcation problem) in a desperate move to incorporate the study of inaccessible objects (e.g., “design” — a combination of formal and final causality).

    The bounds of natural science seem rather flexible. The origin of the universe is not repeatable and is inaccessible, and yet the study of it is apparently entirely appropriate within the bounds of natural science.

    IDers should be able to place for us on the table the object “design” (to which they’re always referring) so that we can access it through our senses. Otherwise, it’s not a sensory accessible thing, and they should stop the nonsense of attempting to foist their flawed philosophy upon biology classrooms.

    Apart from the Big Bang, science studies many sensory inaccessible things by inference from what is accessible.

  71. “Apart from the Big Bang, science studies many sensory inaccessible things by inference from what is accessible.”

    Bigbird,

    Perhaps you could provide some examples so we could understand the basis for your position.

  72. And cosmologists don’t really “study the Big Bang”, do they? Don’t they study the effects of the Big Bang as evidenced by the sensory accessible products of it. And the idea that science “studies” many sensory inaccessible things by inference from what is accessible isn’t what ID does, is it? ID says it can study the sensory inaccessible thing (design) and make inferences from it to another sensory inaccessible thing (the designer).

  73. Perhaps you could provide some examples so we could understand the basis for your position.

    Black holes is one obvious example. They can’t be observed – we infer their existence from the behaviour of orbiting clouds of gas (AFAIK).

    I don’t claim that black holes and the Big Bang are sensorily inaccessible in the same way as “design”, of course. But on the other hand we certainly seem to be able to recognize some forms of design with our senses when we see them.

  74. ID says it can study the sensory inaccessible thing (design) and make inferences from it to another sensory inaccessible thing (the designer).

    Well, no. ID says it can study sensory accessible things and infer design from these.

    This is why Demski called his book “The Design Inference”.

  75. Fair enough on the study of sensory inaccessible things by inference from what is accessible, I guess. However, black holes and the Big Bang are not really the same are they? Black holes are certainly sensory accessible objects. The Big Bang is an event that produced sensory accessible physical objects. ID says look at these sensory accessible objects and “see” design. I think calling that an inference is semantics. After all it is called Intelligent Design. Design is what they are studying. However, I also think I’m a bit over my head here.

  76. Black holes are certainly sensory accessible objects.

    In what way? They can’t be directly observed – we can only infer their existence via their gravitational effects on nearby objects.

    The Big Bang is an event that produced sensory accessible physical objects.

    Like what? The CMB isn’t a direct result of the Big Bang. It was produced 380,000 years after the Big Bang.

    ID says look at these sensory accessible objects and “see” design. I think calling that an inference is semantics.

    Saying it is not an inference is also semantics 🙂

    I’m not claiming it is the same kind of inference – after all (if we are scientific realists) we believe black holes are real entities. “Design” does not have the same ontological status.

  77. “I’m not claiming it is the same kind of inference – after all (if we are scientific realists) we believe black holes are real entities. “Design” does not have the same ontological status.”

    And doesn’t that difference in ontological status make all the difference.

  78. And doesn’t that difference in ontological status make all the difference.

    I don’t really know. If you do know, presumably you have some sort of justification for believing that it does make a difference, and are able to explain why.

  79. As I said, I’m a bit over my head. However, isn’t it the ontological status of design that make it inaccessible to the MESs. You admit there are differences in that between say design and black holes. Your point that it’s an inference to design would mitigate that but I’m not sure it really does. As Holo has explained, design is not accessible as it’s outside of the MESs. ” IDers should be able to place for us on the table the object “design” (to which they’re always referring) so that we can access it through our senses.’ (@74)

  80. BillT,

    IDers should be able to place for us on the table the object “design” (to which they’re always referring) so that we can access it through our senses.’

    I’m sympathetic to your and Holo’s position. Truly. I argue it myself routinely.

    The problem is, your criticisms apply equally well to ‘unguided’, ‘not designed’, etc. And the MESs – and the public representation of them – is absolutely, positively rife with the idea that science not only can detect and demonstrate ‘non-design’, but that it has done so repeatedly. And as long as that remains, I think not just ID, but design-based thinking in general, has picked up a practical right to bill itself as scientific.

  81. BillT

    However, isn’t it the ontological status of design that make it inaccessible to the MESs.

    Apparently it is.

    As Holo has explained, design is not accessible as it’s outside of the MESs.

    He has explained that. My inability to fully understand the explanation is something I want to fix, so I ask questions like the one below.

    ” IDers should be able to place for us on the table the object “design” (to which they’re always referring) so that we can access it through our senses.’

    How is this different than asking if anyone can place a “spinning” on the table (i.e. spinning object vs. designed object)? Science has access to spinning objects, but not designed objects?

    I understand that design necessarily involves intent/teleology, which you can’t perceive via the senses. Is there something similar with “spinning”, or with “random”? Not sure.

  82. And the MESs – and the public representation of them – is absolutely, positively rife with the idea that science not only can detect and demonstrate ‘non-design’, but that it has done so repeatedly.

    I’ve said the same thing before. I see the same double standard.

  83. I said:

    I understand that design necessarily involves intent/teleology, which you can’t perceive via the senses.

    Given Psalm 19, maybe I am wrong here. Me so confused.

  84. @BillT

    However, isn’t it the ontological status of design that make it inaccessible to the MESs.

    Well, that’s the claim here, sure. Why it is the case is something I’ve not seen clearly explained.

    @SteveK

    Given Psalm 19, maybe I am wrong here. Me so confused.

    I find myself in pretty much the same position.

  85. I’ve got nothing. I can hope Holo comes back and explains it further (and for me, very slowly using very small words).

  86. BillT: Sorry, while I have a great desire to pursue this, I can’t… teaching commitments will soon ramp up again… and I have little sympathy and no patience for bigbird: @85 “I really don’t know.” Indeed! Yet, that’s not the problem: it’s the arrogance of holding tenaciously on to the limited and few things he only kinda knows.

    SteveK: “spinning” is of the accident called “quality” (like temperature is of the accident called “quality”). “Spinning”–like all particular examples of any accident, does exist… but only in the sense that it inheres in a more fundamental general being: substance. (You can predicate spinning of a top; you can’t predicate top of spinning.) Design is something altogether different: a combination of formal and final causality. Causes are principles of being–explanations of why things exist (if you will), while quality is a kind of being ontologically below substance but above beings of reason. Sorry I can’t pursue this further right now…

  87. Holo,

    Design is something altogether different: a combination of formal and final causality. Causes are principles of being–explanations of why things exist (if you will), while quality is a kind of being ontologically below substance but above beings of reason.

    Thanks for taking the time.

    This helps somewhat except it doesn’t address the Psalm 19 issue and how it fits into what you are saying about different ontologies being inaccessable.

    For IF the human mind can rational infer God by observation per Psalm 19, and IF everyone (except chowderheads :)) can rationally infer “beingness” or “design” or “final causality” by observation (comment #74), then it seems to me that there must be something *particularly unique about the observation* that informs the mind.

    And if there is something unique about the observation then it must be distinguishable to the senses in some meaningful way – otherwise it wouldn’t inform the mind as it does.

    You know me well enough to know I’m not a reductionist or anything close to it. I’m struggling here.

  88. I have little sympathy and no patience for bigbird: @85 “I really don’t know.”

    Holopupenko, you’re the one making the claim here about different ontologies being inaccessible, not me. Given you’ve not sufficiently explained yourself other than expressing your very strong opinion, I reserve my opinion and say I don’t know.

    it’s the arrogance of holding tenaciously on to the limited and few things he only kinda knows.

    Please, learn some basic politeness. It goes a long way.

    In passing, I note that you’ve failed to explain your comments re scientific realism/anti-realism, merely pointing to an irrelevant earlier comment of yours and vaguely referring to “philosophy of nature”. If you are going to make accusations of sillyness, please back them up.

  89. SteveK:

    Revisit @7: the distinction on how one reasons to ontologically different kinds of things is important. Do you think, even on a quick, superficial level, one reasons to the existence of “design” the same way one reasons to the existence of a Higgs Boson? The latter has observable, measurable properties, the former does not. So, “design” must “exist” in a different way than physical properties. (PLEASE don’t listen to WL Craig’s univocal nonsense where he holds a carbon atom exists–or has the same “claim” to existence–as the number two: see page 189 of his textbook with Moreland.)

    Here’s an example I’ve provided before: If you arrive at a crime scene, do you “see” an injustice committed in the same way you “see” the tears on the face of the victim? Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God… Well, what is the precise character of the “declaration”? Are the heavens declaring by means of sound waves (which have measurable properties)? What about Romans 1:20: … God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Do you really think St. Paul had in mind “seeing” in the sense we “see” bacterial flagella? Just how does one “see” qualities that are invisible (which is another way of saying sensory inaccessible)? One reasons philosophically FROM sensory import; it is impossible to reason scientifically from sensory import to “invisible qualities.” If one reasons philosophically well, then, lo and behold, one usually says “I see!”

    Please don’t buy into bigbird’s nonsensical claims that atoms don’t exist (or that they’re “theoretical”) because they are not immediately accessible to our sensory powers. He knows a little about part of something, latches emotionally onto it, and starts asserting “interesting” things. Then bigbird attempts to turn the tables by demanding we show him why ontology is important… when the onus is, in fact, on him: HE made the assertion that atoms are “theoretical” (or whatever), and then points to cherry-picked articles that seemingly support his position without providing a shred of sound argumentation. Simply saying there’s a debate raging between epistemic realists and anti-realists is evading responsibility for one’s assertions.

  90. Holo,

    He knows a little about part of something, latches emotionally onto it, and starts asserting “interesting” things. Then bigbird attempts to turn the tables by demanding we show him why ontology is important… when the onus is, in fact, on him: HE made the assertion that atoms are “theoretical” (or whatever), and then points to cherry-picked articles that seemingly support his position without providing a shred of sound argumentation. Simply saying there’s a debate raging between epistemic realists and anti-realists is evading responsibility for one’s assertions.

    In defense of bigbird, Holo – who I disagree with more often than not – the standard I usually go by is, the one who asserts should argue. So if bigbird says that atoms are theoretical, he has a burden to back up his view. But if you say they are not theoretical, that seems like something that should be backed up as well. I mean, I’m coming into this late, but I’m just giving my two cents.

    That said, I think perhaps the realism/anti-realism discussion is irrelevant to the point you’re making. No matter what view one takes, arguably ID arguments are different in kind from arguments about atoms. I don’t think it’s quite as clear cut, but I think that case can be made.

    Let me ask you: is psychology a science? Sociology? Is “political science” absurd? Is economics a science?

  91. Please don’t buy into bigbird’s nonsensical claims that atoms don’t exist (or that they’re “theoretical”) because they are not immediately accessible to our sensory powers. He knows a little about part of something, latches emotionally onto it, and starts asserting “interesting” things.

    With every post you are showing that you don’t appear to understand the debate about scientific realism. Anti-realism doesn’t claim atoms don’t exist – it claims we don’t have a strong warrant for claiming that they do. The predictive success of a theory does not entail all the entities postulated by that theory are real. Reasons for this include under-determination of scientific theories, and examples from the history of science where 1) references such as ‘electron’, while preserved, refer to entirely different entities than what they once did and 2) other entities such as the ether and the caloric we now agree don’t exist at all.

    I only posted on scientific realism in this thread because it was raised by Ray who directly referred to me in #45.

    Then bigbird attempts to turn the tables by demanding we show him why ontology is important… when the onus is, in fact, on him: HE made the assertion that atoms are “theoretical” (or whatever), and then points to cherry-picked articles that seemingly support his position without providing a shred of sound argumentation.

    Cherrypicked articles? Have you read any of the literature on this topic at all? This is a mainstream debate in the philosophy of science, covered in detail in every textbook out there. And in case you didn’t notice, the last link I posted was an argument for a form of scientific realism.

    Anyway, I’m not even sure how relevant scientific realism is here. As I said, I didn’t raise it with regard to this topic. I suppose it is the contrast that surprises me a little – you seem so sure that design can’t be inferred from science, and yet you are sure that we can infer that the unobservable entities of science really exist – despite some significant arguments to the contrary.

  92. Bigbird,

    Would it matter all that much to you if it turn out the design you were inferring was being done via philosophy or reason other than scientific reasoning? I mean, would that automatically make you regard the inference as suspect or invalid?

  93. @98: all of the above, as well as philosophy and theology.

    @99: Oh, brother. Nothing left to do here. Engaging jet pack…

  94. @ 100 No, because then ID could not be imposed on a biology classroom, and the whole thing falls apart (like it needed help, right?). RIP… and good riddance.

  95. Holopupenko, it may have been wiser to engage that jet pack prior to making uninformed comments on scientific realism. Better late than never I suppose.

  96. Tom,
    I’ll try to reply on your comment today , on this thread. I hope it doesn’t drown in the comments made by Holo, bigbird and Crude : )

  97. Would it matter all that much to you if it turn out the design you were inferring was being done via philosophy or reason other than scientific reasoning? I mean, would that automatically make you regard the inference as suspect or invalid?

    No, we should make use of whatever persuasive arguments we can. But science does have an undeniably superior status in society compared to philosophy (in part due to many scientists disparaging philosophy), and so if scientific reasoning can be used to infer design, then we should certainly make use of it.

    Many people have found ID’s scientific arguments to be powerful, including, as I quoted earlier in the thread, Antony Flew, who I’m sure we all know of.

    Given this, I would need some substantial reasons not to use these arguments.

    By the way I am aware that many of ID’s arguments for design rely on those same unobservable entities to make their inferences to design. Given that only philosophers of science tend to be anti-realists (and only some of course) I’m not sure if that really matters.

  98. bigbird,

    No, we should make use of whatever persuasive arguments we can. But science does have an undeniably superior status in society compared to philosophy (in part due to many scientists disparaging philosophy), and so if scientific reasoning can be used to infer design, then we should certainly make use of it.

    Alright. But that seems to mean that the bulk of the arguing over ID’s status as science is a red herring. This isn’t going to satisfy Holo – his arguments run deeper than over whether ID is merely considered science or not. Thomists tend not to like ID regardless of its scientific status.

    As for me? I think the status of science needs to be reduced, and the status of reason in general – and philosophy in particular – needs to be increased. And I think there’s a lot more potential progress to be made there, than with – let’s face it – trying to convince a cadre of academics that the idea they find not just intellectually intimidating but politically repugnant not only has merit, but that they should recognize as much.

    But hey, that’s me. And I’ve interrupted an argument here.

  99. I have to confess I find the ongoing discussion puzzling, confused and confusing. Here are a couple of random remarks.

    It is confused and confusing to say that electrons, say, are “theoretical entities”. I suppose I *could* say that the computer in front of me is a theoretical entity posited to explain my sensory experiences, but what is gained by such a circumlocution is beyond me. If you have poured over photographs of the paths traced by electrons in a bubble chamber, or have rehearsed Millikan’s experiment to measure the electrical charge of the electron, or heard the clicks of Geiger-type detectors (which are very sensitive), the difference is one of degree not of kind which is the point behind Holopupenko’s words.

    Electrons, black holes, quarks, whatever, are material bodies; they are localized in space-time, interact with other material bodies, and those interactions can be measured in all sorts of ways. And the modern empirical sciences *just* are the study of the metrical, measurable properties of material bodies in motion, so obviously enough, they are competent to make inferences to their existence. Harping about scientific realism is a red herring. Compare: QCD is able to show that quarks exist, even if due to asymptotic confinement, they cannot be observed free. But QCD is *not* competent to say that the Hilbert state space associated to a quantum system has any extra-mental existence; maybe it is an artifact of the theory, whose usefulness is to be justified by the place it occupies in the theory, or maybe it really is an extra-mental object, floating out there in Platonic heaven. Whatever the answer, it is clear that QCD is mute on the question, precisely because the sort of thing a Hilbert space is.

    The same about design. Whatever we take design to be, it is not the sort of object that has interactions that can be measured; it is not the sort of thing that is accessible to the senses, not even in principle. The inference to design cannot be a scientific inference, if science is taken to mean the modern empirical sciences.

    Now, there are a couple of moves one could make to circumvent the above. I will just answer Crude’s question with another question: would ID’ers be satisfied to be lumped in with the “soft” sciences? This is a genuine question, not a gotcha one.

  100. Thanks for that, G. Rodrigues,

    I have always understood ID to be a scientific/philosophical research program, in which empirical information is applied as input into philosophical reflections. I would never say that ID is “a science” or that it is “science.” Neither is it pseudoscience. To confuse the matter even further, I would not disagree with someone like, say, Doug Axe, who does ID-related research, saying that he is doing science while he works on ID, and working on ID while he is doing science. Where his work is strictly demarcated as science-and-nothing-but-science, then what he’s doing is producing information that can supply material for philosophical reflection. Without that handoff to philosophy, it wouldn’t be ID at all. But then, to say that he might be doing science-and-nothing-but-science is to speak of that which cannot be: there is no such thing as science sans philosophy.

    The point is that there’s conceptual overlap between the study of nature and what we can philosophically conclude from our reflections on nature.

    Further, and I think this relates to bigbird’s point, there are those who think nature evidences the absence of design. This is silly on multiple levels. Its most believable manifestation is, “it is neither improbable nor implausible that the natural world in its current variety and complexity came about through time and chance and natural law (necessity).” Some (much, actually) ID-related science is focused on refuting that specific proposition; demonstrating that it’s actually improbable/implausible after all that time/chance/necessity accomplished all that. That, I would submit to you, is a branch of ID that is predominantly scientific and that is also philosophically tenable. It’s not saying “science can detect design.” It’s saying, “science can show that unguided processes are unlikely to be able to have done what they are claimed to have done.” I see nothing wrong with that approach.

  101. Rodriguez

    Design is not an object, but an action executed by an actor.
    For the origin of the biological creatures we have a much simpler explanation than design: evolution theory. It has great explanatory power and does not have to call on a designer as a cause. Moreover the designer in question is unproven and the way he would have interacted with reality, supposing he was not natural, is also not explained. So ID’ers use a more complicated explanation and call upon causes that are not explained. The choice between theories seems straightforward.

  102. Rodriguez and Tom

    science can show that unguided processes are unlikely to be able to have done what they are claimed to have done

    Supposing that evolution is just random and unguided is a classic mistake. There is a selection mechanism.

    Apart from that, in the organisms , the way evolution works, is a mechanism that is very well known: the changes in the genes. This mechanism is one of the foundation blocks of modern biology.

  103. there is no such thing as science sans philosophy

    I think I agree with that, Tom – possibly with the addition of some clarifying points.

    However, my Spidey Sense has just told me that upon your clicking of the “Post Comment” button somewhere in the mulitverse Laurence Krauss launched his body into dramatic gesticulations of feigned horror and then hammered the button of his infamous BS buzzer.

  104. For the origin of the biological creatures we have a much simpler explanation than design: evolution theory.

    Evolutionary theory is not an alternative to design. It’s simply another process that itself is just as subject to design possibilities as anything else. And it’s this misrepresentation of science that helps justify ID-as-science pretensions to begin with.

    Moreover the designer in question is unproven and the way he would have interacted with reality, supposing he was not natural, is also not explained. So ID’ers use a more complicated explanation and call upon causes that are not explained.

    This sort of reasoning doesn’t really hold up against ID claims on the surface. First, even ‘natural’ designers are not ‘explained’ at this point. Second, ID doesn’t purport to demonstrate that the designer was ‘natural’ or not – and really, both natural and supernatural are in essence meaningless terms at this point. Third, whether the ID or standard evolutionary explanation is ‘more complicated’ is anything but clear. Saying “it seems extraordinarily unlikely in principle, but oh well, it could have just happened” is simple in one sense. In another sense, anything but.

    Supposing that evolution is just random and unguided is a classic mistake. There is a selection mechanism.

    Tom didn’t suppose that evolution was ‘random and unguided’ in the relevant sense, so no ‘classic mistake’ was made. The only mistake was to suppose that ‘unguided’ meant ‘no selection mechanism’.

  105. Alright. But that seems to mean that the bulk of the arguing over ID’s status as science is a red herring.

    I think the bulk of the arguing over ID’s status as science is because it has legislative implications, particularly in education.

    It’s quite tricky trying to demarcate science though – no matter what your definition it seems you end up excluding things that everyone thinks is real science if you deliberately try to exclude ID.

    As for me? I think the status of science needs to be reduced, and the status of reason in general – and philosophy in particular – needs to be increased.

    I agree with you – which is why I’m interested in the scientific realism debate. Scientists often don’t like anti-realism arguments, because it indirectly lowers the status of science.

  106. @Tom Gilson:

    It’s not saying “science can detect design.” It’s saying, “science can show that unguided processes are unlikely to be able to have done what they are claimed to have done.” I see nothing wrong with that approach.

    No problem with me either; I have said as much in #26, October 16, 2013 at 8:36 am, where I try to articulate a valid schema for ID-type arguments. What one must bear in mind, is what exactly is doing the work in the argument, what they are able to prove, etc.

    Later edit: will say something on the other parts of your post if I have the time.

  107. Crude

    Evolution theory can account for biological creatures on it’s own. It does not need additional causes such as a designer, so, it is the most parsimonious explanation.

    Tom claimed in the sentence I quoted that because it was unguided it was unlikely to have produced those results. That is the classic mistake. I corrected this by pointing out that the selection mechanism does account for that. Just reread the post.

  108. dirkvg@112,

    As Crude has already pointed out, I did not make the mistake you think I did. What I meant was unguided in the sense of not being directed by some kind of purposive/telic agent or cause.

    In fact when you say “selection mechanism” you give it away. It is a mechanism; it is a matter of natural necessity (what we typically call natural law) operating in conjunction with time and chance. There is no “guidance” there. There is only what happens. Natural selection is the survival and reproduction of that which survives and reproduces.

  109. @117:

    Your claim in the first sentence is merely a statement of the problem, as we see it from our perspective. To call it the conclusion is simply to say that you think we’re wrong. Thank you for that reminder of your opinion, but please be aware that it doesn’t advance the discussion very far. We already knew you thought we were wrong.

    One aspect of ID’s research agenda is to test and to question whether natural selection can do what you claimed in 112 and 117. If you think the question has already been answered, then that’s what you think, and you’re welcome to think it.

    If, however, you think that natural selection is a guiding force in any sense, then you have made a classic mistake of your own: anthropomorphizing chance and necessity.

  110. Evolution theory can account for biological creatures on it’s own.

    That’s not a scientific conclusion, sadly. Even given what evolution can account for currently – and it falls short, radically short, of ‘biological creatures’ in total – whether or not the process was guided or not, whether by God or any powerful agent, is left utterly unanswered by the theory.

    It does not need additional causes such as a designer, so, it is the most parsimonious explanation.

    ‘Need’ is irrelevant here. In principle, you don’t need a designer to account for Mount Rushmore – accumulations of convenient natural processes can do the trick. The question you need to answer – whether or not evolution was guided – isn’t determined by need.

    Which is why you’re not going to find any peer reviewed research studying the question of whether or not God (or some other relevant force) guided evolution, either in whole or in part. Parsimony appeals don’t even begin to get off the ground when dealing with a question like this.

    Tom claimed in the sentence I quoted that because it was unguided it was unlikely to have produced those results. That is the classic mistake.

    No, Tom didn’t, and it was pretty easy to understand what he meant in context. The only classic mistake here was yours. Don’t jump the gun and assume you’re dealing with people who haven’t read definitions of natural selection or evolutionary theory before. Chances are, a good number of us here know more about it than you do.

    And before you jump the gun again, I personally accept evolutionary theory and common descent both. They are, in and of themselves, irrelevant to the question of whether or not life was created intentionally. I know, I know – you’ve heard otherwise, particularly from Cult of Gnu style atheists. If so, I’m sad to say you’ve been misled, likely intentionally.

  111. @Tom 119

    No, that’s not what I meant. There is a guiding principle that if you have two theories, you should choose the most simple; In this case it’s evolution theory. For reasons I explained above.

    One should of course choose the more complex theory if there are strong evidential reasons. But in this case there aren’t. Just a lot of unproven hypotheses and talk as in the posts above. Fine if you like that sort of thing but not quite what counts as strong evidence.

    And the mechanisms are tested by the science of biology. That’s what science does. Testing it’s own theories. Unlike other ways of knowing. ID is just trying to add the designer hypothesis.

    And again, no, I am not antropomorphizing. How could you suspect me of that? : ) Natural selection is a blind process.

  112. No, that’s not what I meant. There is a guiding principle that if you have two theories, you should choose the most simple; In this case it’s evolution theory. For reasons I explained above.

    If you’re thinking of Ockham’s Razor – first, that’s not science. Second, it’s not ‘if you have two theories, you should choose the most simple’ – just because a theory is simpler doesn’t automatically make it better, as it may leave plenty of things unexplained or flat out be incorrect at parts, simplicity aside. Third, you don’t even get to employ the heuristic if you’re incapable of analyzing the theories in question in the appropriate way. Scientifically? You don’t even begin to start in on the design question.

    One should of course choose the more complex theory if there are strong evidential reasons. But in this case there aren’t.

    Nah, there’s plenty of strong evidential reasons – everything from empirical considerations, to philosophical, to otherwise. What’s utterly lacking, however, is a reason to embrace the claim that evolution is completely without guidance or purpose. It’s scientifically unsubstantiated, and philosophically so problematic that even the wilder atheists typically shudder and flee rather than attempt to make that case.

    And the mechanisms are tested by the science of biology. That’s what science does. Testing it’s own theories.

    Actually, they’re not. Certainly not to the degree you speak of. Here’s a quote that’s somewhat relevant on this front:

    “In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics. For evolutionary biology is a historical science, laden with history’s inevitable imponderables. We evolutionary biologists cannot generate a Cretaceous Park to observe exactly what killed the dinosaurs; and, unlike “harder” scientists, we usually cannot resolve issues with a simple experiment, such as adding tube A to tube B and noting the color of the mixture.”

    Not exactly an ID proponent pointing that out.

  113. Crude

    There is a broad consensus among biologists that evolution theory and the mechanisms on which it is based, can account for it. And I have seen no proof of the contrary. It’s not a scientific proof, but as far as I know most ID’ers have lost their battles in court, trying to show that they were as scientific as evolution theory.

    You seem to think that it doesn’t account for it. Ok everyone his own opinion.

    It’s probably useless to continue this discussion. I don’t know how you do it, but you seem to miss the point of what I am writing each time slightly.

  114. I need to take off for a bit, but I have a simple and standing challenge for Dirkvg.

    If he claims that science shows that evolution is unguided, then I have a pretty simple request: provide the scientific test for this claim, in the form of a peer-reviewed experiment(s) explicitly testing for exactly what’s under discussion (guidance by God/gods/powerful agents).

    My prediction? He won’t provide such, because not only does this not exist – it would be a joke to tear into pieces if anyone even attempted it. Science is simply incapable of even investigating the claim he’s discussing, much less settling the matter. (And this doesn’t just apply to ‘supernatural’ agents, whatever that means. It can’t even work for large swaths of hypothetical natural agents.)

    If he instead backs off and argues that science can’t demonstrate that, but that he reasons that way via philosophy, etc – then he’s opened the door to one line of refutation after another, and his claim will go down on that front as well.

    Let’s see which route is picked.

  115. Scientific realism is certainly a red herring in this thread, and wasn’t initially raised by me, but I’m happy to respond to posts on it because it makes us think about the nature of scientific theories.

    I suppose I *could* say that the computer in front of me is a theoretical entity posited to explain my sensory experiences, but what is gained by such a circumlocution is beyond me.

    Scientific anti-realism arguments are about unobservables, not observables – the computer in front of you is not in question. It’s not a realism debate.

    If you have poured over photographs of the paths traced by electrons in a bubble chamber, or have rehearsed Millikan’s experiment to measure the electrical charge of the electron, or heard the clicks of Geiger-type detectors (which are very sensitive)

    Anti-realists point out that you are inferring the existence of something unobservable from what you can observe.

    Well, so what? That sounds reasonable – surely the unobservable entity must exist?

    Anti-realism uses the history of science to show that many unobservable entities we thought were real in the past are either 1) no longer accepted at all (e.g. the caloric) or 2) our understanding of them has radically altered. In either case, the entity as we once understood it was not real.

    So the scientific realist needs to have reason to believe that the theory they are being realist about is not going to be substantially revised in the future. What criteria should be used?

    One common anti-realist position is constructive empiricism, which states that science gives us empirically adequate theories, and acceptance of a theory is belief in its empirical adequacy only. By contrast the realist would say acceptance of a theory is that it is true.

    An excellent recent summary of the arguments that can be quickly read can be found here.

  116. G. Rodriquez,

    Whatever we take design to be, it is not the sort of object that has interactions that can be measured; it is not the sort of thing that is accessible to the senses, not even in principle.

    If design is not accessible to the senses, then why do I perceive it when I observe certain objects, and not others? This is my overall question and I don’t think the discussion over degree/kind or how we reason toward the concept of design does anything to change the fact that our mind senses something distinct.

    On that subject…Holo said this:

    One reasons philosophically FROM sensory import; it is impossible to reason scientifically from sensory import to “invisible qualities.” If one reasons philosophically well, then, lo and behold, one usually says “I see!”

    If I understand this statement correctly, the underlying “data” for design *is* accessible to our senses otherwise we could not reason philosophically from anything. True?

    Well, what are we reasoning philosophically FROM?

    This statement seems to be saying that design can be perceived *in some sense*. In other words, my senses pick up on *something* such that I can begin to reason philosophically.

    Because my senses only pick up on physical manifestations, I would argue that this something is, *in part*, physical. True?

    I agree that this underlying sense data isn’t something we can completely quantify in hard terms, however I don’t agree that it’s inaccessible to the senses.

  117. Dirkvg,

    There is a broad consensus among biologists that evolution theory and the mechanisms on which it is based, can account for it.

    Woah now. Broad consensus? Let me remind you of something you said earlier, with some emphasis:

    With strongly justified I mean arguments based on what has been shown to be the best way to get at true knowledge: logic, facts and experiment.
    Since all other ways to arrive at knowledge, intuition, mystical insight, authority figures, … have proven to be way more unreliable.

    Consensus means nothing, Dirk. By your own estimation. Logic, facts, and experiments. I’ve already asked for the experiments – but ‘consensus’? It means nothing here.

    It’s not a scientific proof, but as far as I know most ID’ers have lost their battles in court, trying to show that they were as scientific as evolution theory.

    You’re right – it’s not a scientific proof. In fact, it doesn’t matter at all in terms of science. By the way? I don’t think ID is science – I’ve said as much here. The problem is, I also don’t think ID’s opposite is science, for the reasons stated.

    I don’t know how you do it, but you seem to miss the point of what I am writing each time slightly.

    Oh, I’m getting the point of what you’re writing fine. What’s happening is that your points are being challenged – possibly in a way you’re not used to. Logic and facts are great!

  118. How could I think you were anthropomorphizing, dirkvg? First, note that I put it in conditional form: if you think x, then you are anthropomorphizing. x was “natural selection is some kind of guiding force.”

    Now let me quote you:

    Supposing that evolution is just random and unguided is a classic mistake. There is a selection mechanism.

    and

    Tom claimed in the sentence I quoted that because it was unguided it was unlikely to have produced those results. That is the classic mistake. I corrected this by pointing out that the selection mechanism does account for that. Just reread the post.

    Now, you may certainly believe, as you have just said, that natural selection is blind. That’s good, and I believe you.

    But you also believe that natural selection accounts for the guidance that I had brought up in #110. You said so twice. And if you think that natural selection accounts for guidance, then you are anthropomorphizing natural selection.

    In other words: you believe NS is blind, yet you anthropomorphize it as a guiding force; which is to say you are contradicting yourself.

    Or, maybe you’re not contradicting yourself; maybe this resolves it:

    No, that’s not what I meant. There is a guiding principle that if you have two theories, you should choose the most simple; In this case it’s evolution theory. For reasons I explained above.

    This is not at all what you said in #112 and #117. In #112 and #117 you said that a selection mechanism accounts for some sort of guidance in the development of life; now you’re saying that the principle of parsimony guides the selection of a theory. There’s no relationship at all between these two propositions; they have almost nothing to do with each other.

    But you say now that this most recent statement is what you meant. If so, then I’ll just discount what you said in #112 and #117 as something you said but didn’t mean to say. That would successfully resolve the contradiction that I just identified here, but it would leave open the question of what you really did mean after all.

    Make sense?

  119. ok just one more

    If he claims that science shows that evolution is unguided

    You just missed it once again.

    1) I wouldn’t claim that in that sense. And evolution theory doesn’t claim that. I just stated that as a process it could account for biological creatures on its own. So in that sense evolution could have run its course without a designer. But it doesn’t exclude the, until now unproven, possibility a designer intervened.

    2) On the other hand in science in general one could find arguments against God. And some even say, a.o. Massimo Pigliucci, Daniel Dennett and Lawrence Krauss, who you have to admit, know something on science and philosophy, that religion is in contradiction with science.

    I think your triumphalism was premature and misplaced.

  120. Tom,

    You misinterprete a number of things I wrote but going into each misinterpretation is a bit exhausting.
    Maybe you like this sort of thing. I dont.
    Even so, a bit of clarification.

    It is a blind proces which can account for the biological creatures as they are.

    A computer could guide a car through a maze. This is guidance, but is blind, as in not directed by a thinking being.
    And if you think these results came to be because of guidance by a thinking being, then we differ on that point.

    I hope this clears things up.

    So there is no contradiction, only misunderstanding or lack of clarity. Unless you want to set me up as a fool, which would be, if true, a foolish tactic. But I hope you are better than that.

  121. Dirkvg, I have no desire to set you up as a fool.

    If I see contradictions in what you write, then either there is a contradiction on your part or a misunderstanding on my part. In order to get to clarity—to determine which of those is the case—I have to identify that which appears to be a contradiction. I have to point it out. That’s how communication gets clarified: through identifying what seems unclear.

    Now in this case, what you wrote really was self-contradictory in terms of the context of the discussion at that point (see below), but I did not charge you with being a fool. I opened up the possibility of a miscommunication. I asked if what I wrote made sense. I offered various ways that I thought the contradiction might be resolved and allowed you to take it from there.

    Here now is how you committed a self-contradiction at the point in which you did it. It had to do with the meaning of the term “guided.” I had been using the term in a sense that implied purposive agent guidance. You picked up the word and said that NS fulfilled the role of guiding. Based on what you just wrote, you had a non-purposive, non-agent meaning of guidance in your mind when you wrote that. You used the same term I used, yet you had a different meaning in mind; and you did not inform us that you were using it with a different meaning in mind.

    Now I understand better what you were trying to say. That’s what we can accomplish through this process: where there is apparent contradiction, and where there is lack of clarity, we can probe these things and achieve better communication. I will continue to do this precisely because I respect you and want to know what it is you are trying to say.

    There remain points of disagreement, of course, and we will continue to work those issues as well. I trust you will respect us enough to seek clear communication with us as well.

  122. By the way, I’m not sure in what sense Crude “missed it” by saying, “If he claims that science …”

    That was a conditional statement. He didn’t say you made that claim; he said if you made that claim, then he would have a request for you. If not, and if you took a philosophical route instead, he had a different thought in mind.

    That’s not missing something, that’s posing a question.

  123. Holo,

    If you arrive at a crime scene, do you “see” an injustice committed in the same way you “see” the tears on the face of the victim?

    No, but this seems beside the point.

    Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God… Well, what is the precise character of the “declaration”? Are the heavens declaring by means of sound waves (which have measurable properties)?

    Of course not. Let me ask you this: in what way is our mind picking up on the declaration, and does this declaration have *anything* to do with the physical heavens? My answer is “yes”. If you agree with that then it seems you agree there is something unique about the physical heavens such that their unique attributes inform your mind about God’s declaration.

    Just how does one “see” qualities that are invisible (which is another way of saying sensory inaccessible)? One reasons philosophically FROM sensory import; it is impossible to reason scientifically from sensory import to “invisible qualities.” If one reasons philosophically well, then, lo and behold, one usually says “I see!”

    See my comment in #126 to G. Rodrigues where I discuss this. I would also add this: to reason scientifically is to reason philosophically. You cannot escape the philosophy of science while reasoning scientifically.

    Now. relating all of this to Psalm 19. If the physical manifestation of the heavens have *nothing* to do with the declaration being expressed, then how can it be said that the physical heavens declare anything? It makes no sense.

    On the other hand, if the heavens declare something then there must be a real, rational connection between the physical heavens and what God says they declare.

  124. Crude,

    Oh, I’m getting the point of what you’re writing fine. What’s happening is that your points are being challenged – possibly in a way you’re not used to. Logic and facts are great!

    Logic and facts are great.

    But again you think it says is what it says. You see ‘consensus’ and you imply by highlighting ‘authority’ that it is it to my use of the term authority figures as used in other ways of knowing. It is not equal. In science consensus is reached by questioning the hypotheses others have made, by cheking if their results are repeatable, … by rational critical thinking about things. through this proces theories are checked and if found valid consensus arises.
    While in religion authority means that one accepts certain things because an authority figure, elders X, saint Y, pope Z, … said it. Which is anything but rational and critical.

    So consensus is also reached not by authority, as in religion, but based on the scientific method. Thus consensus in the scientific world, is meaningful.

    If there would be a consensus in Hinduism that one should avoid marrying
    on a certain day would you mind? I take you are not a Hindu so I guess you wouldn’t mind. If there would be a consensus among scientists that a hurricane would hit your town, or that your child had to take a certain medicine . Would you mind? If you are rational, you would mind.

    I don’t mind being challenged, that’s why I discuss. But I get the feeling I have to explain the obvious and that’s a bit frustrating.

  125. Crude,

    correction on my 135

    But again you think it says is what it says. You see ‘consensus’ and you imply by highlighting ‘authority’ that it is it to my use of the term authority figures as used in other ways of knowing.

    It was ok but I changed the sentence and now it is garbage. : )

    It should have been:

    But again you think it says something which it doesn’t say. You see ‘consensus’ and you imply by highlighting ‘authority’ that it is equal to my use of the term authority figures as used in other ways of knowing.

  126. Oh, dirkvg, please.

    Which “authority” informed you that authority in Christianity works the way you say it does?

    Which “authority” informed you that Christianity eschews rational and critical thinking?

    Which “authority” informed you that science always works in that ideal manner?

    Which “authority” informed you that consensus in science means that the process you described here has been followed to its final and complete end?

    Do you realize that no matter where you got those ideas from, they’re all misinformed and false?

    I really do recomend you read True Reason. It would help you discover new places where rationality operates–and where it doesn’t.

  127. Re: #137 and other comments:

    dirkvg, I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but there has been more than one instance where you have informed us that we were misinterpreted some word of yours. It’s happened with “guided,” and now it’s happened with “authority.”

    Please be aware that, as I have already said, your changed use of “guided” led to some miscommunications. You called me out as if I had made the error there, but you were the one who switched definitions.

    Please be aware also that Crude’s use of “authority” here was perfectly legitimate and proper in the context in which he used it. If you want to take the position now that “authority” means something other than what he said, it’s incumbent on you to show not only that you had something else in mind, but also that his use of the word was wrong in that context.

    At least that’s how I see it. As it stands right now, all you have is your bare, unsupported assertion that he got it wrong.

  128. Tom, please

    These are standard defintions of authority

    You seem to think I don’t have any experience with religion.

    There is the pope in catholicism, there are the elders in a number of protestant groups, etc., etc. …

    and before your 139, I will, as I said , react to your questions in the beginning. And discuss those. Also I think it’s beter to discuss the problem of evil before the others. If we get that far. It is the most interesting and the strongest. I saw you wrote a post on this problem, I’ll read that first.

  129. There is the pope in catholicism, there are the elders in a number of protestant groups, etc., etc. …

    Huh? The Pope doesn’t establish the truth of core Christianity by way of his authority. The truth of core Christianity had already been established as reasonable and true prior to the first authoritative statement. In other words, people don’t believe in Christ because some authority figure said so.

  130. At this point I exit, using Tom’s last question as the segue. That answer is “none”… for the same reason there are no natural scientific arguments for the existence of God, nor will there ever be any.

    Reading what bigbird says is, frankly, disgusting from the perspective of borderline-fideistic ignorance… as I’m disgusted with some of the scientistic things Dirkvg, again from the perspective of ignorance. Here’s the context: I’ve read some of the comments this morning before walking into the first of a two-semester set of courses on the philosophy of nature I teach. In other words, the arrogance and ignorance of bigbird–especially the suggestion I know little to nothing about the realism-antirealism topic is on-its-face flat out wrong. The only bone I can throw in that direction is, per Tom’s suggestion, this is a blog not a book… and it’s certainly not a sound-bite-based classroom. These are highly-nuanced topics. If I try to use everyday example, I run the risk of missing nuance; if I use technical terms, I risk losing the audience. So, rather than resolving anything, I find myself getting angrier at their assertions and at myself for not having the time to spend hours explaining this stuff. And, given my admitted irascible nature, that’s usually enough to push me over the edge of charity. I’m sorry.

  131. dirkvg,

    There are standard definitions of authority, and scientific consensus is included among them–yet you rejected that as “authority.” So you haven’t helped any by reminding us of what we already knew there: we used a standard definition and you said it didn’t count.

    You’ll have to do more than mention the existence of some set of standard definitions, some of which you accept and some of which you reject. You’ll actually have to explain yourself if you want people to know what you’re talking about. You’ll have to justify your explanations with reasoning and logic if you want us to accept them as valid and true.

    As to your experience with religion, I do not deny that there are authorities there, just as there are in science, law, politics, the Food channel, tennis, …. I just deny that you have represented Christianity properly with the way you have described authority in that realm. This has nothing to do with whether you think that I think that you have little experience with religion. It has to do with the fact that you have misrepresented the place of reason, rationality, and authority within Christianity.

    I’m not sure whether you are, or are not, suggesting that the problem of evil is a scientific argument against religion. That part of your last comment was vague to me. This post is about a scientist and what I have identified as his witch-hunting ways toward other scientists. I’m specifically interested in your scientific arguments against God if you have them, and I’m leaving that question on the table and asking you to answer it.

  132. Holo,

    These are highly-nuanced topics. If I try to use everyday example, I run the risk of missing nuance; if I use technical terms, I risk losing the audience.

    I can see that. Thanks for trying, and just so you know, every time we discuss the topic I learn a little bit more.

    So, rather than resolving anything, I find myself getting angrier at their assertions and at myself for not having the time to spend hours explaining this stuff.

    I hope my comments didn’t come across as disrespectful or assertive. They weren’t intended to be.

  133. Here’s the context: I’ve read some of the comments this morning before walking into the first of a two-semester set of courses on the philosophy of nature I teach. In other words, the arrogance and ignorance of bigbird–especially the suggestion I know little to nothing about the realism-antirealism topic is on-its-face flat out wrong.

    Holopupenko, when you label as “silly” the standard and widely acknowledged arguments of scientific anti-realism, claim that I’m cherrypicking when I post the SEP entry on the topic and a pro-scientific realism paper, and then refuse to explain yourself further, I reluctantly conclude you aren’t familiar with this particular topic.

    As I know nothing about your philosophy of nature course I don’t know how relevant your context is. In what ways does it engage the topic of scientific realism? How does the course deal with van Fraassen’s arguments for constructive empiricism?

    My context is that I’ve spent the last few months studying the arguments for and against scientific realism in some detail, so I’m quite familiar with this topic. So when someone accuses me of ignorance, not only is it annoying but it naturally makes me wonder how much they know about it.

    The only bone I can throw in that direction is, per Tom’s suggestion, this is a blog not a book… and it’s certainly not a sound-bite-based classroom. These are highly-nuanced topics.

    But you are disparaging what I’ve gone to some effort to write with little or no explanation. Now you are claiming that “these are highly-nuanced topics” so you don’t have to explain yourself.

    If you aren’t prepared to explain in reasonable detail why you disagree with a post of mine because you feel a proper answer would be too technical for me or others to understand (or if you don’t have time to do so), it might make things easier if you simply don’t respond to the post.

  134. Dirk,

    1) I wouldn’t claim that in that sense. And evolution theory doesn’t claim that. I just stated that as a process it could account for biological creatures on its own. So in that sense evolution could have run its course without a designer. But it doesn’t exclude the, until now unproven, possibility a designer intervened.

    First, you don’t need an ‘intervention’ in the course of evolution for evolution to be guided. It’s outcomes could have been determined, in whole or in part, before the entire process even began.

    Second, it’s still not the case that it’s scientifically shown that the process ‘could account for biological creatures on its own’. To say evolutionary theory is incomplete at parts would be a dramatic understatement. At best, evolutionary theory – as far as science goes – can account for some amount of what we see in terms of biological creatures.

    Third, wonderful – then you’re conceding that, insofar as evolution is concerned, there has been no scientific demonstration that the process is, in whole or part, unguided. In fact, there apparently hasn’t even been an experiment on this front. I’m glad we got that out of the way. Your claim here is, at best, it’s a logical possibility that the evolutionary process may possibly be unguided. But this is nothing new – we had ‘logical possibilities’ that such and such things didn’t come about due to guidance, etc, far in advance of evolutionary theory.

    Your case is shrinking, but at least you chose the right prong.

    2) On the other hand in science in general one could find arguments against God. And some even say, a.o. Massimo Pigliucci, Daniel Dennett and Lawrence Krauss, who you have to admit, know something on science and philosophy, that religion is in contradiction with science.

    Oh really? Then supply these scientific arguments against God. Really – I’m waiting. As for your short list…

    1) No, I don’t think Krauss knows much about philosophy. I don’t think Dennett knows terribly much about science, and I think philosophically he’s in a joke position. Massimo is the most sensible man on the list in my opinion, but he also is noteworthy from retreating from the view that evolution was shown to be unguided.

    2) You’re back to quoting authority figures. But where are the experiments? Where is the scientific meat?

    3) You say ‘these guys know a lot about science and philosophy’ as if that makes them authority figures about God’s/gods’/etc existence and guidance. But that’s like citing Jerry Coyne as an authority on plate tectonics on the grounds that ‘well, he’s a scientist’. It’s a non-sequitur – he’s just a guy with an opinion, and his expertise is minimally useful at best.

    But again you think it says is what it says. You see ‘consensus’ and you imply by highlighting ‘authority’ that it is it to my use of the term authority figures as used in other ways of knowing. It is not equal. In science consensus is reached by questioning the hypotheses others have made, by cheking if their results are repeatable, … by rational critical thinking about things. through this proces theories are checked and if found valid consensus arises.

    And you have determined this how? By what logic, fact or experiment?

    See, what you just did here is a common mistake. You described an ideal, hoped for situation that exists in your head. But what you need to do is demonstrate not only the reality of that situation, but the reality by the standards you previously outlined – and worse, you have to do it for pretty well every point of consensus you want to take on.

    As of right now you just said, “Well, this authority says this. And I bet you they did all the right things that would make the consensus opinion they hold to be the right one. They didn’t make any mistakes. They were not prone to any biases. They did not go beyond the evidence, or not go as far as the evidence warrants.” But why in the world should anyone accept that? Where’s the logic, facts and experiment?

    While in religion authority means that one accepts certain things because an authority figure, elders X, saint Y, pope Z, … said it. Which is anything but rational and critical.

    So consensus is also reached not by authority, as in religion, but based on the scientific method. Thus consensus in the scientific world, is meaningful.

    And this isn’t true either, or at least it’s an oversimplification. The history of religion is absolutely full of individuals who came to their conclusions by reasoning and logic: you have examples from Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle to Duns Scotus and Augustine. Likewise, it’s not as simple as ‘saint X said this’ or ‘pope Y said this’. There are reasons, entirely rational, that people can and do go through to conclude that a given person X is reasonably an authority figure on a particular subject.

    Now, there’s no experiment. But then again, I don’t rely on experiment for this. You do – but you have no experiment (in fact, you didn’t even have logic and fact) to reach the conclusion you did regarding scientists. You just had a broad appeal to authority.

    If there would be a consensus among scientists that a hurricane would hit your town, or that your child had to take a certain medicine . Would you mind? If you are rational, you would mind.

    That’s going to depend on a host of factors, including the rationale and reasoning behind the consensus, the particular claim involved, and the expertise of the scientists. To use an example, in Italy recently a ‘consensus of scientists’ declared that no earthquake was going to take place at a town in Italy. It didn’t work out that way. That doesn’t mean that science, broadly, cannot be a helpful guide. It does mean that there is a big gulf between ‘science’ and ‘scientists’.

    I had a strong feeling Crude thought he had me cornered. : )
    but that was not the case.

    Logic and fact says otherwise. 😉

  135. Crude,

    no appeal on authority, no ideal,
    I have seen scientists at work, I read scientific articles, I followed scientific discussions, I read books written by scientists on their work, I saw interviews with scientists, I followed courses on sociology of science and also philosophy of science

    and on religion and authority: I didn’t claim that there were no people who used rational thinking in religion. You attack a straw man of your own making.

    that scientists can make mistakes doesn’t show that they didn’t use the scientific method

    who claimed that it was infallible?

    infallibility is something which is claimed by the church. Which further supports my point.

    you seem again and again to think that I only would rely on experiment, because again and again you demand proof by experiment? Rational thinking (logic) and fact are other elements of the scientific method.

  136. Tom, Crude

    Talking of logic (see previous comment), Tom I read your article on the problem of evil https://www.thinkingchristian.net/C2031585454/E20060523053059/

    It can be refuted thus:

    You rely on Plantinga, and he relies on freedom of will in his attempt to refute the problem of evil argument.
    His argument is refuted in cases where there is evil not caused by freedom of will. As in the many cases throughout history where newborn children, who have not done anything out of their free will, are suffering from horrible diseases. God being all powerfull could have prevented this evil, this suffering, but he just stands by and lets the children die in agony. If my neighbour would stand by while my child drowned in the pool, he would be convicted and thrown in jail.

    This problem is sufficient to conclude that the christian God or doesn’t exist or is a monster not worthy of praise.

  137. Dirkvg,

    A. This is not a thread about the problem of evil. Nevertheless I will point out
    B. The vast majority of philosophers agree that Plantinga’s solution to the deductive problem of evil succeeds.
    C. Your counter-argument fails in ways that I’m not going to bother with because
    C1. This thread is not about the problem of evil, and
    C2. You show no indication of recognizing the difference between the deductive and evidential problems of evil, a distinction which is crucial in this case, and which I pointed out in the discussions you’ve linked to, and yet
    C3. Without having a full understanding of the problem, its scope, its value, its limitations, or its arguments, you conclude that your take on it is “sufficient to conclude that the Christian [proper nouns are capitalized in English] God doesn’t exist or is a monster not worthy of praise.
    D. Which leads me to believe that you are quick to jump to unwarranted conclusions; for your conclusion here is certainly hasty, uninformed, and unwarranted.

    You display the same hastiness when you deny that your reliance on science involves any appeal to authority or to an idealized version of science. Look, Dirkvg, everyone in the philosophy and history of science recognizes that the scientific method practiced with pure objectivity is an ideal that may be approached but is never realized. And everyone knows that it absolutely depends on appeals to authority; or what’s a literature search for? What are citations for?

    Are you able to conceptually distinguish between an appeal to authority in science, and doing one’s own experiments? Do you recognize the difference, and how it counts in this context?

    What’s really ironic is that while you claim infallibility is something claimed by the church, which further supports your point, you say, you speak in absolutes yourself:

    “No appeal on authority, no ideal.”
    “Sufficient to conclude that … God doesn’t exist or is a monster.”

    You questioned earlier whether it was my intention to make you out to be a fool. It is not. If you do it to yourself, however, then you do it to yourself. Jumping to hasty and uninformed conclusions is foolish. Speaking in uninformed absolutes is foolish.

    I strongly recommend you re-evaluate yourself and your competence in these matters. I am very serious about that.

    Further, there is a biblical saying, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” By your premature and careless conclusion-drawing you are cutting yourself off from the knowledge of God. This isn’t just about whether you can hold your own in an online discussion. It’s about whether you are severing yourself from the life and truth of God himself.

    Please reconsider your methods, your ways, your conclusions. Please. For your sake.

  138. Dirk,

    no appeal on authority, no ideal,
    I have seen scientists at work, I read scientific articles, I followed scientific discussions, I read books written by scientists on their work, I saw interviews with scientists, I followed courses on sociology of science and also philosophy of science

    So have I, on all fronts. When am I going to get the logic, fact and experiment that takes you to ‘the right thing to do is to accept the consensus of scientists’? And does this apply to other scientists?

    and on religion and authority: I didn’t claim that there were no people who used rational thinking in religion. You attack a straw man of your own making.

    Nope. You said: “While in religion authority means that one accepts certain things because an authority figure, elders X, saint Y, pope Z, … said it. Which is anything but rational and critical.” You didn’t make any exceptions there. Can you really fault me for making them for you?

    that scientists can make mistakes doesn’t show that they didn’t use the scientific method

    who claimed that it was infallible?

    Who claimed you claimed it was infallible? I was asking for the logic, fact and experiment that justified your stance on scientific consensus, among other things. So far you’ve fired back with, basically, “I used to watch Nova!”

    Furthermore, the fact remains that ‘consensus’ can be reached for reasons – all manner of reasons – other than an idealistic rapt following and adherence to ‘the scientific method’. That’s another part of your problem here, which is why I keep asking for the logic, fact and experiments that allow you to claim that subscribing to authority (in this case, the perceived consensus of scientists) is the obviously correct position. You haven’t had much of an answer yet.

    infallibility is something which is claimed by the church. Which further supports my point.

    Not really. Maybe you mean to say ‘you dislike infallibility and reject it’, but you haven’t made an argument anywhere on that front. Hint: that conversation won’t go the way you’re thinking either.

    you seem again and again to think that I only would rely on experiment, because again and again you demand proof by experiment? Rational thinking (logic) and fact are other elements of the scientific method.

    Without ‘experiment’, the scientific method ain’t the scientific method. Logic and fact existed well, well in advance of such things.

    But more than that – you aren’t even giving me logic and fact. You’re giving me, oddly enough, faith statements and anecdotes which you seem to think automatically cash out to justification. “I read about philosophy of science, I’ve seen some scientists work”, therefore…?

    I’ll leave Tom and others to reply to your argument from evil comments, since that hasn’t been the focus of our conversation. Once we’ve finished exploring your problems with science and scientists, I may move on to comment about that. Once again? Don’t count on that going the way you think it will.

  139. Botching a refutation of the POE without knowing you botched it is a good indication that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  140. Dirk,

    You reliance on the problem of evil as a refutation of God has itself been refuted many times and in many ways. Here is a 5 minute video that will demonstrate one of them if you can spare the 5 minutes. From Peter Kreeft:

  141. If my neighbour would stand by while my child drowned in the pool, he would be convicted and thrown in jail.

    As a matter of fact, this is not correct – there is no duty to rescue in the common law of most Western countries. In countries that do have such an obligation, usually it is enough to call the emergency services.

    Your neighbour would only be in trouble if your child was invited to swim in his own pool, and he stood by.

    In European civil law, there is a duty to rescue but again it can usually be satisfied by a phone call to the authorities.

  142. I meant to answer the comments above but, time flies and I have a very busy schedule, so
    sorry for the long delay but here are some answers. I’ll keep the answers short because I wonder if after all this time, if people will still visit the thread. On the other hand I didn’t want to leave the remarks unanswered. So here goes:

  143. Bigbird:

    Could be, but it is beside the point. The point being that people in general think badly of
    persons who do not help, while Christians who see the lack of help God gives, don’t mind
    or try to find excuses.

  144. BillT

    Thanks for the link. The problem of evil is not answered at all. Craig still calls it the killer argument. I watched the link in October, but when I tried it again now, it didn’t work anymore.
    As I remember it, Kreeft stated that since atheists didn’t believe in absolute norms they couldn’t claim that the existence of evil was a counterargument. This argument is beside the point because as Tom also pointed out, the problem of evil has a logical and an evidential side.
    On the logical side, there is a logical contradiction. Contradictions still hold, even if one does not believe in their elements. One could formulate a logical contradiction involving unicorns, even if one didn’t believe in unicorns. Besides, the problem is a problem for Christians, at least if they try to uphold the classic Christian definition of God and the principles of logic.

  145. Tom

    You reject my counterargument but refuse to give an argument. You just cite ‘the majority of philosophers’ , based on what evidence? As I wrote above: Craig still calls it the killer argument. Further you state (C1) that the thread is not about evil but you yourself posted above a number of questions for me that had nothing to do with the thread.
    You also don’t want to bother with a rational reply because of C2 and C3. Both statements which you claim without proof.
    Besides even if C2 and C3 were right, this doesn’t say anything about the validity of my argument.
    My conclusion is that you refuse to answer the argument based on an argument from authority (most philosophers) and your own subjective opinion. Not very rational reasons.

  146. Tom and Crude
    In re-reading some of the above comments it seems to me that the difference in opinion between you and me lies in the way we see the fundamental difference between religion and science.
    I’ll pass by the many faulty interpretations of my reactions in your comments.
    I will also pass by our different conception of the term authority.
    And say the following:
    Science knows flaws, it is after all a human endeavor. Also science can’t answer everything. So I am certainly not an adherent of scientism.
    But science is a self correcting method to gain the most justified knowledge. It can be tested by anyone anytime
    Yes, if I quote a scientific article, I trust that it is done right according to what one calls the scientific method. Yes, I trust upon science when I believe that the earth has a molten core.
    The reason I trust this is overwhelming evidence of the results of science. Science contains a core of suppositions that is unrefuted. The many sectors of science, such as geology, biology, chemistry, … mutually support and confirm each other. They are based on physics, which in its turn is confirmed by the other sectors. The results of science are all around us. From the chemical cleaning products in our house to the rockets we send in space, to the very computers you and I use to write and read this. Moreover as I wrote it is a method of knowledge which is self-correcting.
    To deny the value of science or to state it is just a question of faith and authority is akin to hypocrisy.
    Or would you jump out of the tenth floor on the idea that the law of gravity is only based on faith and authority?
    Religion on the other hand is based on no evidence at all or weak anecdotal evidence.
    Having faith in religious concepts is fundamentally different from having trust in science.
    Believing in dogmas based on the authority of the pope, likewise.
    Claiming otherwise is reducing the notion of faith to something trivial.

    Moreover besides the lack of evidence for the supernatural, the core laws of science are in contradiction with a supernatural world.