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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thoughts On Intelligent Design. (More Pet Peeves)


I recently posted on my pet peeves with evolution, now I will take a crack at intelligent design.

1. First off, some scientists need to get a life!!!

I swear some scientists seem to spend the vast majority of their "public discourse" attacking intelligent design.  To me this is a sign of having nothing better to contribute. (On the research front especially!)  With all the amazing science going on in every field and you are going to waist the majority of your public discourse on some political issue?  Seriously!

However, I believe it is the duty of every scientist to spend some energy putting down potentially problematic ideas.  Here is my contribution.

2.  Intelligent Design Halts Scientific Progression.

I visited Old Faithful a few years ago and while there I was told that for thousands of years native americans believed that the geyser spoutings where caused by their gods.  Because they were content with this answer, they never bothered digging deeper.  Had they have done so, they might have discovered how geo-thermal processes work centuries before their peers.

Let's pretend we have some physical process we don't understand.  History shows that societies often say "we don't know why other the god made it this way" and move on learning nothing further in the process.  Fortunately, modern day scientists don't accept this as the final answer.  Because of this we do dig deeper and inevitably find there is much more to the story and often learn a treasure trove of helpful science along the way.

3.  Intelligent Design Isn't Science.

People like playing philosophical games with defining what science is, but at the end of the day a good scientific theory is one that makes testable predictions.  There is safety requiring a scientific theory meet this criteria.  Else, how are we to choose between competing theories?

People come up with different theories about all kinds of things all the time.  Fortunately, by requiring good theories make testable predictions, we can quickly figure out what theories are right and which are wrong:

  • We can test out what medications and medical practices work, and which do not.
  • We can test out what material is best for designing a bridge, and which is not.
  • We can test out... the list goes on and and if we stick to scientific theories.

Intelligent design on the other hand makes no testable predictions.  (Someone can correct me if I'm wrong).  There is no way to know what about the theory is right and what is wrong.  How do we derive what medications work from such untestable theories?  How do we know what materials to build bridges out of if we stick with untestable theories, etc...

4.  Not claiming there is no god or value to religion. (Where scientists often drop rigor).

Saying intelligent design is not a good scientific theory is not the same and saying there is no god or value to religion.  (Some people get confused here.)  This is another discussion entirely and would take me off topic.

However, I will point out one thing: if scientists are going to throw a hissy fit claiming there is no god, it would be nice if they applied the same level of rigor to such statements as they do to get a paper through the peer review process.  The reality is, saying there is no God is just as untestable as saying there is one.  Hence, people who reject God are being just as unscientific as those who don't. (It's no more than unscientific opinion.)

9 comments:

  1. "Intelligent design on the other hand makes no testable predictions. (Someone can correct me if I'm wrong)."

    Well then, prepare to be corrected. ID predicts that anything that is too complex to have come about by random mutation and selection is too complex to have come about by random mutation and selection. This has been tested over and over again because everywhere you look things are indeed complex and they just couldn't have come about by random mutation and selection. You might as well say a tornado blew by and randomly created a creationist. =:)

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  2. I can add this :

    http://eternal-cartesian.blogspot.com/2009/08/heisenberg-and-god.html

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  3. "The reality is, saying there is no God is just as untestable as saying there is one. Hence, people who reject God are being just as unscientific as those who don't."

    This is equally stupid:

    The reality is, saying there is no EASTER BUNNY is just as untestable as saying there is one. Hence, people who reject the EASTER BUNNY are being just as unscientific as those who don't.

    My point is only childish idiots believe in magic god fairies, so it's totally unnecessary to test this crap. People should grow up. This is not the Dark Ages.

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  4. "The reality is, saying there is no EASTER BUNNY is just as untestable as saying there is one."

    Point well taken Human Ape. Which is why I said there is a safety in scientific theories that does not exist in untestable theories.

    As for such beliefs being childish, I would ask if you think believing in morality is childish as that is equally untestable?

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  5. You accommodationist you!

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  6. Joseph-
    Great post. I loved it! While I don't condone scientists making claims about the non-existence of God, I do think they are at least justified in that position.

    The claim that God exists is a positive claim, and hence needs to be demonstrated. If it cannot be, and we say that the evidence for God existing is NOT convincing, then we must at least land back at the null hypothesis - which may be agnostic, if not atheist (depending one one's definition).

    As Human Ape said, you can't prove a negative. It's just that the negative is the default if the positive cannot be demonstrated convincingly. In this vein, it's more an admission of uncertainty of God's existence.

    BTW, I'm not saying this is the case for me, just pointing out that I think scientists are at least justified in their beliefs, although perhaps not in expounding them.

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  7. jmb275,

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

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  8. I know Stan was joking, but to any who think I am being an "accommodationist " for either side of the coin, just know I am trying to say what both scientists *and theologians* have said for years: science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, any more then it can prove or disprove the existence of the Easter Bunny. I'm just trying to be intellectually honest here.

    However, science can *also* not prove or disprove the existence of love, hope, kindness, justice, honor, morality, etc... so people need to cautious deciding they want to take an extreme position of not believing in anything that is untestable.

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