Irreducible Complexity

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Irreducible Complexity is a term that was coined by the microbiologist Michael Behe in the early ’90s intended as an argument against Evolution. It has since received a lot of criticism from the scientific community, some justified and some not so much. I sometimes find that the easiest way for me to articulate my opinion on a topic is to do it as a response to someone who does a good job articulating the opposing point of view.

This is the original video by QualiaSoup:

And my video response:

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Comments

  1. Dave (4000)  March 9, 2014

    First thing first, I think that even your first sentence is misleadingly inaccurate. IC is not intended to be an argument against evolution, but an argument for directed evolution instead of natural evolution. Importantly it does NOT argue against ANY of the conclusions of evolution or the “tree of life” only that steps appear to be outside the reach of random chance.

    Can we start (again) by agreeing on this?
    Dave.

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    • Unapologetics  March 9, 2014

      Sure. But that statement is not mine but has been made by evolutionists and creationists alike.

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  2. Dave (4000)  March 9, 2014

    Typing this while reading http://testing7654.info/xyz/
    First of all, I would like a significant definition of what IDC is, what does it propose, and details of where it differs from the current understanding of evolution.
    Next, can you point to anywhere a supernatural explanation has been found to provide objective predictions that verifies it’s accuracy? Or as stated, supernatural explanations have a history of failing.
    So define supernatural to your standards.

    Interrupting
    There is an allowance for the possibility of scenario B, simply come up with the scenario that is able make a successful prediction.

    Back to paper, But predictions for even C type intervention (while admittedly most difficult to detect) simply do not exist either. So ALL types A,B, and C have failed to provide successful predictions.

    Yes, I am very focused on the prediction part, for without that, how do you propose determining if the idea is accurate?

    Doesn’t the idea of Irr.Com. indicate an A type intervention?

    I will respond to the second half of the article later.

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    • Unapologetics  March 9, 2014

      I am not a proponent of IDC so you’ll have to look up that definition elsewhere. Also, my A,B,C, example wasn’t talking about the supernatural.

      So in a situation where A, B, and C are all natural,

      You know from observation that both cause A and cause B produce effect C at a rate of 50% each.

      You now come across several deposits of C and would like to know which of the two causes each deposit comes from. Postulating cause A however makes many predictions while postulating cause B makes NO prediction.

      Following your reasoning we would have to conclude that cause A is responsible for all deposits which we already know from previous observations to be a wrong conclusion.

      As far as I see you have only two options:

      1) Claim that such a case can NEVER happen. In other words, that ALL natural causes can make some predictions so there would never be a situation where postulating cause B would make no predictions.

      or

      2) You make allowance for cause B by saying something like, ‘Because cause A makes good predictions we’re going to go with that option but there is a 50% chance we will be wrong.’

      And, as I’ve explained to you before, regardless of which of these two options you go with, it will favor my side of the argument.

      Keep in mind that I am not disagreeing with you on the importance of predictions by saying any of this. (Also, I might be ignoring some of your questions but if so, it’s because I don’t quite understand what you are asking)

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      • Dave (4000)  March 9, 2014

        Sorry for the confusion, I unintentionally used ABC to reference both ideas, I did not intend to confuse the issues and was not confused on them.
        I am not sure of your example here, how is A able to make a prediction? Is the predicted data present even if it is NOT A? Since you have two known sources, any prediction to be useful would need to separate it from another known cause. Now it is possible that A, B , and D could cause C and only A made predictions, from this we should be able to determine if A is the source or not, leaving B or D and not being able to be distinguished from each other. However I think I am just beating an analogy that failed from the beginning.

        Here is a clear question, what precisely are you proposing?
        Ex. A supernatural being created life millions of years ago and has intermittently stepped in to help natural evolution get over hurdles. All of the understandings of evolution are correct except that it is not completely random, as an outside force has made DNA modifications.

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  3. Unapologetics  March 9, 2014

    The A,B,C is not an analogy but a description of your argument in basic logic.

    Remember that what you are saying is that even if we don’t yet have the ability to confirm a set of predictions, the very fact that an idea CAN make predictions makes it preferable to another idea that CANNOT make testable predictions. I DON’T DISAGREE WITH THIS PART.

    My question for you however, is, what do you do in a situation where you have 2 equally plausible options, one CAN make predictions, the other cannot, but you cannot yet test the predictions that are made by the first option?

    I need to know how you answer this before I can answer your other question.

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    • Dave (4000)  March 10, 2014

      Very simple and clear,

      Option 1, without the ability to make testable predictions, it is not science YET, hopefully someone can progress to the point where a prediction can be made. I think that String “theory” falls into this category.
      I suspect you think that parts of evolution fit this category, but I will have to see what part you claim.

      Option 2, no matter how plausible. Without the ability to make predictions, it is worse than wrong, it is useless. The only thing it is at that point is a postfacto explanation. With enough wiggling the silliest things can be fitted. An excellent example of this is Dark suckers. Keep in mind this was written long ago.
      http://www.asu.edu/clubs/sps/phun/sucker.html

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  4. Unapologetics  March 9, 2014

    Or maybe this question is too complicated as an either or, so let me just ask it one at a time:

    Do you think it is ever possible for a natural (non-supernatural) cause to be incapable of making predictions?

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    • Dave (4000)  March 10, 2014

      Difficult wording. Causes do not make predictions. Scientific theories explaining causes do.
      I suppose it is possible that a correct explanation would be incapable to making predictions. However without that ability we have no way of determining if it is the correct explanation and as I said above, without making predictions, it is not only useless but definitely not science.

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  5. Unapologetics  March 12, 2014

    I think one of the difficulties here is that you are thinking of String Theory as an example of what I am talking about. And this just complicates things as string theory is very abstract, somewhat nebulously defined and can accommodate almost any observable phenomena.

    What I am thinking of is something more tangible. I will try to illustrate one more time. Let’s say you are able to observe in nature that two different types of precursors could be responsible for producing a certain type of deposit. As you study numerous recent deposits you can determine that they result from one of the two precursors at a rate of about 50/50.

    However, now you discover a number of deposits that are several thousand years old and would like to know what precursor they come from. If your hypothesis is precursor A, you know that there is a certain byproduct to the transformation and so your prediction is that when you study the deposits you should be able to find this byproduct.

    Precursor B also has a byproduct. However, you know from observation that this byproduct completely dissipates after 2-3 hundred years. So while a hypothesis for precursor B predicts the presence of certain byproducts as well, because these deposits are several thousand years old, you know that there will no longer be any trace of the byproducts so your predictions are not testable.

    So naturally, you would go with the hypothesis for precursor A and, if you don’t find the correct byproducts, you could then conclude it is B. But, as an additional complication, the deposits are found on a sacred burial ground so they are not currently letting you dig to determine if the byproducts exist. (I am trying to keep this as simple as possible and eliminate unnecessary variables and yet still have all the elements that represent our discussions so far)

    SO ACCORDING TO YOU
    The very fact hypothesis A makes testable predictions makes it a better hypothesis even though you are not yet able to test those predictions. And, since hypothesis B does not make testable predictions it is NOT science.

    WHAT I AGREE AND DISAGREE WITH:
    – I agree that hypothesis B is not science for the simple fact that it is a dead end. If we go with hypothesis B, there is nothing we can do after that to learn any additional information.
    – I agree that hypothesis A is a better hypothesis and we should go with that one when we finally get permission to start digging.
    – I would disagree with you if you claimed that, because hypothesis A is science and hypothesis B is not, until we can finally dig and show otherwise, the rational conclusion FOR NOW is that all deposits come from precursor A.

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    • Dave (4000)  March 13, 2014

      I think this analogy is nonproductive. We have two KNOWN sources, one of them leaves a byproduct and the other doesn’t. It is very reasonable to look for the byproduct and if found (or not) that will determine the precursor. If you can’t look, all you can do is apply odds.

      This does NOT apply in any way to IC, where we have one theory that has PROVEN to be very effective based on Random chance and natural selection. You want to propose some other idea that isn’t defined, makes no predictions and involves significant complicating factors. Do you see the significance?

      With IC, even if we accept that we have found a process/step that could not be explained by random chance, or in other words exactly what IC proponents try to claim, that only shows that a process exists. Nothing about what that process is. If a proposed solution (out of an infinite number of solutions) does not make a prediction, there is no way of determining if it is correct other than it may appeal to some. This is NOT science.

      Will you make your claim in detail?????? I will repeat.
      What precisely are you proposing?
      Ex. A supernatural being/intelligence created life millions of years ago and has intermittently stepped in to help natural evolution get over hurdles. All of the understandings of evolution are correct except that it is not completely random, as an outside force has made DNA modifications.

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  6. Unapologetics  March 14, 2014

    “This does NOT apply in any way to IC, where we have one theory that has PROVEN to be very effective based on Random chance and natural selection.”

    I’m glad that I went back and reread this since it seems that you are using IC (Irreducible Complexity) and ID (Intelligent Design) interchangeably (correct me if I am wrong). IC as an argument simply states that some structures are too complex to evolve. It doesn’t itself propose an alternative; for that anti-evolutionists turn to ID. (Btw, if it isn’t clear by now, I consider IC a failed argument and don’t support ID)

    “You want to propose some other idea that isn’t defined, makes no predictions and involves significant complicating factors.”

    Actually, I have not yet proposed any other idea. I made it clear in my video that I would discuss this in a subsequent video if there was sufficient interest. I reserve the right to cram as much subject matter into one 10-minute video as I see fit.

    This video was simply stating that biologists would be a lot less confident about the evolution of the eye if, because of other available alternatives, they could evaluate the evolution of the eye impartially. This is a significant point since, after watching videos like qualiasoup’s, many people are led to believe that by debunking Behe, scientists have settled the question of biological complexity. You take offense in my making this point but this is science and things need to be stated as they are. I understand that scientists are frustrated with anti-evolutionists trying to take advantage of anything they can to destroy evolution but that is still no excuse for being misleading.

    Now as far as my A, B, C illustration, this was actually intended to address the point that you always bring up in our conversations which is that if one theory makes testable predictions it is better than another that doesn’t. I needed to clarify what I agree and disagree with because you tend to equivocate between two different uses of the phrase ‘this isn’t science.’

    You start by using the phrase in a scientific procedural sense, i.e. this hypothesis makes better predictions so for the time being scientists are better off using this one over another until they get some results to confirm things one way or another.

    Then later you switch to using the phrase ‘this isn’t science’ in an ultimate sense as in, if it’s not science it’s magic and nonsense, or at least highly improbable.

    So your argument generally takes the form:

    1) Because this hypothesis does not make testable predictions, it isn’t science (procedural sense).
    2) Because it isn’t science (ultimate sense) then there is no rational reason to take it seriously.

    I hope you can see from my ABC example why this doesn’t work. You can say that hypothesis B is not science because it does not make testable predictions. But you cannot then conclude that because it isn’t science (procedural sense), it is irrational to believe that at least some deposits come from precursor B (this before you have a chance to dig and confirm things based on the presence or absence of the byproduct).

    So as far as I’m concerned the analogy was fairly productive because in your last answer you agreed with what I was trying to say.

    And, since we’re talking about potential pitfalls let me also bring up two other issues that I suspect we’re going to run into.

    You seem to have this idea that since evolution has proved successful elsewhere, it is very likely to be successful here as well. This is like saying that because an auto-mechanic has done a good job fixing Honda Accords, he should have no problem fixing a Ferrari. You might trust him more than you would someone you haven’t worked with before, but that’s still no indication he will be able to do it. You simply don’t know. And you can’t blame someone else for not being convinced he can do it just because you think he can.

    Also, you seem unable to differentiate between the scientific process and real life. In science you can go with the better hypothesis and, if it takes several hundred years to confirm or disprove a hypothesis, it doesn’t matter since science has all the time in the world to find out. People on the other hand don’t have unlimited time so they have to make decisions based on what is most likely to be correct with the limited information they have now. Just because one option makes for a better scientific hypothesis does not necessarily mean it is more likely to be true. It is just easier to test and work with. So a rational person should be able to step back from the process and say, here is a hypothesis that makes good predictions and I can easily test so I’m going to go with it in my research although I believe another option will prove correct in the end.

    As far as what I am proposing in place of evolution, I’m not. At least not right now. To you this might seem like a shady debate tactic but it is rather my attempt to navigate the labyrinth of evolutionists’ twisted, convoluted logic in a way that still allows me to bring my point across.

    So in essence, I simply have a question for evolution supporters, which I’ve asked you before. If at some time in the future human bio-engineers go on a space expedition and happen upon a planet where abiogenesis already happened, and they introduce some genetic info into the genome of some of the simple organisms present. They then leave, never come back and, many years down the line intelligent organisms evolve from the genetically altered critters. How would the scientists of this intelligent race address the issue of how they came to develop into their present form?

    You should be able to tell by now that this is a trick question. But it is a legitimate question; the flaw is with the reasoning of the evolutionist.

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    • Dave (4000)  March 16, 2014

      I am not using IC and ID interchangeably, however I have only seen IC used as an argument for ID and presumed that was a direction that you were headed as you didn’t answer my question about what you propose.
      “Actually, I have not yet proposed any other idea.”
      I see this as a significant problem, one that most who argue against evolution make. Science works by testing ideas against each other. So you either have nothing to offer or are unwilling to offer it. Either way, this rapidly becomes pointless (literally).
      I am not offended, the question is settled, Scientifically evolution has proven (by objective testing) to be the BEST idea/theory that has been presented.
      What I get from your ABC example is that when you are prevented from doing the science you do not have a reason to believe one way or the other. But I see many failures in your ABC analogy as stated above, but great if you got something from it.
      So you have a guy that works on Honda’s and you bring him a Ferrari (lets make this analogy a bit better) Let this be the only Ferrari and nobody knows of anyone that has ever worked on one before. Would the Honda mechanic be where to take it? He has proven that he can work on cars and nobody else has. I think it is safe to presume that he can work on it the BEST until someone else is able to show that they can work on it better.
      There might be someone who can work on it better,(in another country) but they are not known to you as you do not have access to international communications.
      I realize limitations of real life and often there is not time to either do the science or the science is not available.
      However with evolution the science has had a significant chance to develop. Science is never done and is always open to changes (not settled). However I find it silly to argue against science using nonscience.
      I also do differentiate between science and real life, however challenging evolution is or should be taken as a scientific discussion, not one about feelings or philosophy.
      As far as whatever your idea is.
      Unless it accepts EVERY finding of evolution, it is not only useless, but you have no reason to believe it is true and have to admit that you want to believe whatever it is based on feelings or prejudices and not reason.
      I am willing to bet that your idea is in fact significantly in direct opposition to many findings of evolution, but I can only guess that you don’t want to get distracted by these facts and just want to challenge evolution in order to promote/preserve your religious beliefs.
      As to your question, I will try to answer it as completely as possible and more than willing to expand/clarify my view. I do not see it as a trick question, but one that can be used to explain positions.
      Assuming that they are VERY good scientists and have lots of data to work with, they should come to the understanding that “abiogenesis happened” and they naturally evolved from there. Assuming they did not find any indication (finding lander modules and such) that we had a hand at a point in their evolution, they would expand their understanding of their evolution using natural explanations until they had a almost complete understanding with one hole (how did this large jump happen) . What they should not do is assume some aliens made modifications (without leaving any other evidence) at every jump they don’t understand.
      Supposing they found reason to believe aliens had a hand in abiogenesis itself, then they would still have the question of how did abiogenesis happen for the aliens.

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  7. Unapologetics  March 17, 2014

    Let me start from the end:

    Assuming that they are VERY good scientists and have lots of data to work with, they should come to the understanding that “abiogenesis happened” and they naturally evolved from there. Assuming they did not find any indication (finding lander modules and such) that we had a hand at a point in their evolution, they would expand their understanding of their evolution using natural explanations until they had a almost complete understanding with one hole (how did this large jump happen) . What they should not do is assume some aliens made modifications (without leaving any other evidence) at every jump they don’t understand.

    So you are saying that even in a situation where there WAS outside intervention, they should not postulate outside intervention but arrive at that conclusion through a process of elimination. I am assuming that you are saying this because you think a hypothesis that proposes outside intervention cannot make testable predictions (other than maybe the presence of lander modules which would most likely not be preserved for millions of years. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

    So to be realistic, if they are anything like us, from the time they figure out the principle of descent with modification it will probably take them several centuries to collect enough data to really fill in all the holes. And until they do gather sufficient data they will tend to assume that any data still needed to fill in the holes in favor of evolution will likely be found at some future time. Now if their lifespans are anything like ours this means that many generations will die off before their scientists manage to gain a complete picture of what happened.

    In light of this, you seem to be arguing that until scientists gather sufficient data to eliminate all possibilities other than outside intervention that these beings have a rational obligation to believe evolution is entirely responsible for their existence. 

    You blame me of foul play for not proposing an alternative theory even though you believe the only way to determine outside intervention is through a process of elimination while working under an evolutionary hypothesis. 

    You keep mentioning the success of evolution as an argument in its favor even though this success is exactly what we would expect in the scenario above up until that/those final gap/s are reached. 

    In essence, what you are saying is that scientists must assume evolution is entirely responsible even in cases where  there WAS outside intervention. Yet in spite of this, that people are irrational for suspending judgment regarding the truth of evolution until all the data in. Irrational for allowing for the possibility of that which actually did happen.

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    • Dave (4000)  March 17, 2014

      NO, they should POSTULATE all sorts of crazy ideas. Outside intervention being one of them. But they should only take them serious if they make testable predictions. I intended is they should not CONCLUDE that an outside intervention without such evidence. But an outside (alien) intervention could leave evidence. If they were to propose aliens, then they would be able to predict that evidence (landers or other) of aliens being there. In absence of finding such evidence, they should not conclude aliens did it. They should never arrive at that conclusion, other than as a possibility.
      “assume that any data still needed to fill in the holes in favor of evolution”
      We do not assume natural explanations a priori, it is that they have proven most useful.
      Likewise, we only assume evolution due to its success. Challengers are welcome, but I admit will be looked at very critically.
      They have an obligation to search for truth. We have simply found that the scientific method is the best we have at determining what is true. And to be science, they/we have an obligation to follow lines of reasoning that are objectively testable. I did and do not say that scientists should assume anything.
      Why do I get more and more the impression that your idea is not only not testable but also in conflict with known evidence? Thus not scientific and not very interesting to me.
      Why is it so common (almost always) that those who want to challenge evolution are so evasive as to what they want to promote?
      Yes, you were able to cook up a scenario where science would not lead to correct answer. I certainly hope you or anyone reading this gets more out of it than that.

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  8. Unapologetics  March 20, 2014

    Well Dave, it seems you’re close to calling it quits so let me take a little extra time to summarize my thoughts. First, let me say that I owe you and Ziggy my gratitude for helping me work through my position over the years. On many occasions, after talking to you guys, I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink through my arguments. 

    Today I have a much better understanding of all the issues involved in this debate and what the problems really are with each side (I do disagree just as much with creationists as I do with evolutionists). There are very few theists that have taken as much time as I have to walk in the other side’s shoes and understand where they are coming from. And, I think I have developed a sound 3rd position that will ultimately benefit both sides and society at large although my biggest challenge now is figuring out how to articulate it in a way that both sides could understand. 

    You probably have noticed that some years back I stopped coming to CL except on rare occasions. It was time that I moved on and have since talked about these subjects with hundreds of other people, many of them very well versed in them. I’ve learned that there are two types of people that I will run into. First, there is a group that have settled it in their mind that people on my side of the issue are unquestionably wrong. When they talk to me their only interest is to figure out how to convince ME of that. There is also another group, equally intelligent and well informed, that is able to give me the benefit of the doubt, listen to what I have to say, reason through my arguments and find value at least in some of my points. And now I mostly spend my time talking to this second group. 

    I don’t blame people in the first group for their attitude. There are religious people that I do the exact same thing to. I know there is a 1% chance that they might still be right, but that chance is so small that it just isn’t worth my attention. So I limit my interaction with them and, during whatever interaction I do allow, I solely focus on trying to convince them they are wrong without in any way considering their side of the argument. Considering an argument adequately takes substantial time and energy, something I have limited resources of. Of course, when the tables are turned and someone does the same to me, though I understand and can relate, I just don’t have the time to invest in that kind of conversation anymore. So I am going to stop after this comment but I will take some time and explain myself more thoroughly. I will let you have the last word. 

    As you are aware, there are two layers to this discussion: theism vs. atheism and creationism vs. evolution. And, because the two layers are interdependent, the discussion can become extremely complex. So far I tried to make my case without appealing to the methodology behind the science and I will not get into it now since I think my point is sufficiently strong without it. But the full force of what I am saying becomes especially clear when considering the underlying issues. 

    I gave you the link to my article on methodological naturalism and it is posted here as well and you’re welcome to take a look at that if you want. The jist of what I try to explain in that article is that most scientists rely on one of two views of the supernatural as described by each of the two articles linked in my introduction. I then explained why each of these two views is flawed and as a result many scientists draw unwarranted conclusions from the success of methodological naturalism in science. This skewed perception of reality then affects the probability they assign to supernatural intervention in the evolutionary process. I believe that if someone could follow the entire chain of logic starting from the theist-atheist debate going to the methodology and finally to the evolution debate they would see a series of circular arguments that would not be noticible if they tackled each subject separately. 

    But again, having mentioned that, I’m just going to go back to what we have been talking about earlier since getting into this now would just mean another long discussion that I don’t expect would be much more fruitful. 

    So coming back to our discussion so far my argument can be summarized as follows:

    If you have two alternative explanations and you choose to go with one of them but it takes some time before you can fully accept or reject that explanation, then you must either:

    a) allow for a competing hypothesis that studies the other possibility as well or,

    b) allow people to suspend judgment until you have fully confirmed your own hypothesis. 

    You gave me the typical objections:

    1) Your alternative cannot make testable predictions.

    – I actually disagree with this as I will explain in a bit, but didn’t push the point since you still had to deal with b. 
     
    2) Because much of my hypothesis has already been confirmed I have good reason to believe the rest will be also. 

    – I rejected this as well on the grounds that this is not a case of one or the other but could be 99% evolution and 1% outside interference and it would still be significant as long as we would not have gotten here without the 1%. 

    3) You claimed that these two options are not equally probable to begin with but that mine is not only highly unlikely but just one of many equally unlikely scenarios which can’t all be considered. 

    – To this I will say the following:

    a) My scenario is not that unlikely. In fact, chances are that if on any one planet life develops to the point where it is advanced enough for space travel and competent genetic manipulation, it will likely attempt to either implant life or contribute to an existing evolutionary process on any planet where the survival of these organisms is likely. Why, because for all these scientists know, they might be the first in the history of EVER for intelligent life to exist and, the more places intelligence can be helped to emerge, the more likely it is that it will survive.

    b) There really aren’t ANY other scenarios that are viable as an explanation for life other than ID and evolution.

    c) Evolution really isn’t THAT likely (completely undirected evolution that is). This is what I was getting at in my video. There are parts of what evolution needs to explain that it still has not explained and appears unlikely to be able to explain if given an IMPARTIAL look. Now I don’t want to make this sound like it is something HIGHLY unlikely since I have no basis for making that judgment call. I am simply saying that we are dealing with two unlikely scenarios not one that is very likely and one that isn’t. And, even if you had a case of evolution being 90% likely and ID 10%, ID would still need to be taken into consideration. Your argument would only apply if the odds were something like 99.999% versus 0.001%, a claim which you would have no basis for making. 

    Now coming back to point number one, I consider your claim that postulating Intelligence cannot make testable predictions pretty ridiculous. You sound as if Intelligence is science’ kryptonite. The Supernatural, yes. Postulating supernatural involvement cannot make testable predictions and IS something of a Kryptonite for science. This does NOT mean that it could not have happened. Just that it is not something science can address. Natural Intelligence on the other hand is a different story and there is no reason why science would not be able to work under such a hypothesis. I agree that introducing intelligence brings in many complications. If you say for example that a stone came down the hill from natural causes you have limited options and can make some good predictions. If you say on the other hand that a person threw it, they could have gone about that in many different ways so it makes the process quite a bit more difficult but not impossible. Neither is it always a good idea to work through a process of elimination since many times you won’t have access to all the necessary data to eliminate the first option and then the second option never gets any exposure.

    You will now probably want to know what specifically my theory’s predictions are and I couldn’t tell you. But neither does this in any way nullify anything I’ve said so far. In essence, if I ever get a chance to put my ideas into practice, I would want to sit down with a group of seasoned biologists, geneticists, etc., do a thorough survey of evolutionary history and figure out what our best hypothesis would be and what predictions it would make. With only an undergrad in Biology, I simply don’t have a good enough handle on the subject to give you that kind of detail; just the overall picture.

    So here is what I am proposing; my alternative to both evolution and creationism:

    1) Since you cannot study a supernatural explanation for life directly, study it as a natural explanation. In other words, if a supernatural agency did something to the natural world, regardless of how it went about doing it’s supernatural thing, at some point it would have to affect the natural world in the same way any natural agent would. If it made some changes to the DNA of an organism, those changes would end up the same as when done by a natural bio-engineer. So then let’s eliminate the supernatural from the equation altogether and just study the concept in a natural context. Postulate an alien bio-engineer and go from there.

    2) Go from small to large. Find the most difficult gap for evolution to explain and postulate Intelligent Interference in only that one instance. If you can make testable predictions based on that hypothesis and if those predictions are confirmed, you can repeat the process elsewhere. If your predictions fail, try it a few more times in other similar gaps. 

    And that’s it. This is a way that IDers can get their foot in the door sort of speak and build something that would actually qualify as real science as opposed to EVERYTHING they have tried up to this point. This would not be just an attempt to poke holes in the theory of evolution but would be an actual ALTERNATIVE hypothesis that could potentially run side by side with the ToE. If god WAS involved in the evolutionary process then at least SOME predictions made by this hypothesis should be more in line with the data than evolutionary predictions are. And, this approach would also address a third possibility that neither creationists or evolutionists are considering, that of alien interference. Most importantly, IDers will no longer be able to try to push theories into the public school curriculum for which there is no science to back them up. They will have to wait until they have gathered sufficient evidence to have a solid theory. 

    Now you mentioned that the scenario we have been discussing so far is just a crazy scenario I cooked up to reveal a loophole in the scientific process. That scenario however is a thought experiment that helps point out flaws in the evolutionist’s arguments when taken to extremes. Evolutionists DO have a legitimate case against many of the things IDers have proposed so far but if those same arguments are pushed too far they create a situation where science favors a false conclusion over a correct one. Creationist would then be justified in asking, ‘why do you insist that I accept evolution when you would still claim evolution even in a situation where ID definitely happened?’ I find that bringing up this thought experiment is necessary before mentioning my actual proposal as described above. 

    In closing I want to explain a bit more why I consider what I am trying to do important (I also talk about this in that methodology article). Scientists are pretty frustrated with the general population’s lack of acceptance of ToE and the general anti-science and anti-intellectualism attitude that seems to be spreading accross society. What they don’t see however is that they are in large part to blame for the current state of things. The majority of the population is still theist and many people perceive an atheistic bias in the scientific reasoning on these subjects. Yes, there are theistic evolutionary scientists as well but, in truth, THEY are the logically inconsistent ones. 

    Now I am not one to argue that scientists should bend the facts in order to please the public but in this case they are bending them in the opposite direction. They don’t yet have the necessary evidence to hold the conclusions they do. They might eventually, but not yet; and by that time society might be more ready to accept those conclusions so there is no point in rushing things. 

    There are at least three reasons why scientists tend to draw unsubstantiated conclusions that lean towards naturalism:

    a) they have a flawed concept of the supernatural and of how methodological naturalism works, as explained in my article. 

    b) they realize they don’t yet have the necessary evidence but have a personal conviction they will eventually turn out to be right so they are willing to take that bet. 

    c) they are religious atheists. In other words, they have an emotional investment in the idea that god doesn’t exist and are willing to proselytize and to fight against competing worldviews. You probably reject this possibility but, having grown up under communism, I have no doubt that such people exist.  

    So what are the consequences of this atheistic bias in science? Well, as already mentioned, more than half of our population is still theist and many of those who might otherwise consider a career in science are, because of this, turning to other fields. It is not a good idea to alienate more than half of your prospective scientist pool. We are making the same mistake the Nazis made when they lost Einstein because of their hatred of the Jews. 

    But the bigger problem however is the anti-science, anti-reason trend in society as a whole. Many people are perceiving moden science as an attack on god, a perception magnified by fanatical religious leaders. As a result large segments of society are becoming more and more unreasonable and I don’t think vary many people understand the danger that this trend poses. History and the present are marred by unreasonable people joining forces and doing unreasonable things. Much of this could be avoided if scientists took a more balanced position, a position that would be more in line with what they actually know. 

    Now you probably disagree with most of what I said so far but I think even you can recognize the anti-intellectualism trend among large, and powerful, segments of society. And neither you nor anyone on your side of the issue has any real solutions to the problem except to continue discrediting creationists by any means possible. And, while this might effectively keep them out of the sciences it ends up actually playing into their narrative of an atheistic conspiracy within the scientific community and strengthens their influence. 

    I actually HAVE a solution and one that will end up benefiting both sides of the issue. Many evolutionists would be terrified to allow any version of ID to get a foot in the door. The public would then be likely to go with the god-friendlier scientific theory. 

    But scientists don’t really have anything to worry about and in fact this will turn out to be to the benefit of science:

    – first, evolution is firmly enough established that it will not easily be displaced by a newcomer. 

    – second, science can only benefit from two competing ideas working side by side. It will provide a new perspective that might shed new light on difficult questions. 

    – and lastly, if scientists really are right, there is no faster way to disprove ID than to allow them the chance to work on an ID hypothesis. (All this assuming that IDers do manage to come up with testable predictions, to do competent science and not to try to mess with the results to line them up with their religious views)

    Creationists as well will tend to have problems with my approach. Showing that an alien race made one contribution to evolution will not help them prove that the earth was created in 7 days 6000 years ago. But they also stand to benefit from this:

    – first, they have been so busy trying to win an unwinnable battle that they are very close to loosing the war. Even if they cannot support YEC, they are still better off with some form of ID than with evolution. 

    – second, they have a much better chance of proving their point once a version of ID is accepted as legitimate science than by any other means they have tried so far. 

    – and third, if this minimal version of ID proves successful, it will develop further and be even more in line with their beliefs. 

    And now I’m sure you’re going to have a lot of issues with all of this. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me. If I don’t manage to get my ideas to the public they will die with me and that will be the end of that. If I do manage to get them out, they will be tested and judged in the court of public opinion and that will determine if anything happens with them regardless of whether that judgment is correct or not. I personally have done my due diligence and have thought about these things from both sides more than most other people have so I am not making this proposal lightly. I have already heard probably any argument that can be brought against this, have thought through them at length and have concluded that I still have a case. All I can do now is try to move forward, though I am still trying to figure out what exactly that means. 

    Feel free to leave your comments but I will only respond if there is something you specifically want me to address.

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    • Dave (4000)  March 24, 2014

      First, I appreciate your reasonable approach and persistence at trying to reason the subject through.
      I will also likely respond more to this very lengthy post as you clearly have put a lot of thought to it and I do not want to seem like I am dismissing it quickly.
      Next, it is not about last word, and I hope you consider keeping track. Respectful discussion from countering points is/should be productive for both parties.

      It seems that your current position is one of a “God of the gaps” which I have said before is NOT in conflict with science. A big point that you seem to recognize is that you NEED evidence to be realistic about making claims that are in conflict with established science. You will not likely get any support with any of the anti-evolutionists if your idea includes accepting common decent even with a guiding hand.

      What I do not understand is how you separate yourself from theists that accept evolution, as GOD guided is not particularly unique and quite common amongst theists that accept evolution.

      But most importantly, you seem to have researched enough to realize that evolutionary research has been and will continue to be very productive as it is at least basically correct and creationists are “fighting an unwinnable battle.

      Unfortunately I very much dislike the “court of public opinion” as it is usually uninformed and overly biased OPINION. Which is quite meaningless.

      “if this minimal version of ID proves successful,” it will become science and I will have NO issues with this.
      That is a big IF and I wish them luck, as this will be a significant scientific discovery.
      Until then, it is not science.

      Looking at extremes is a very productive tool, one that I use often. However it is not news that science has limitations. However even with those limitations, there is NO better way of determining who’s ideas are closer to reality.

      Nice talking to you, even if we have reached an end to this conversation.
      Dave G.

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  9. Unapologetics  March 24, 2014

    Thanks Dave,

    It seems that I still need to briefly clarify a few things.

    First, you are welcome to come back with a more thorough response later if you like. As long as it seems that there is progress to the conversation, I don’t mind. I do have a few things I want to work on first so I might not be able to respond right away.

    Second, I also dislike the court of public opinion but don’t really have a choice. I am not a scientist so I could, like Einstein, do all the underlying science myself and then go public with something that will revolutionize Biology as we now it. I am simply a guy who has spent the first 20 years of his life understanding the creationist mind and the next 20 years understanding the evolutionist mind. These are two groups that are completely unable to communicate with each other but I think I have a way to address the concerns of both. If I can convince the public of that then what I will ask for is a budget so I can put together a team of scientists that will do actual science. The science will have to stand or fall in the court of scientific scrutiny, which is far more trustworthy. But before I can get there I have to deal with the court of public opinion.

    Finally, regarding theistic evolution, here is why I consider that option irrational. First, if God directs the evolution, but evolution still happens because of random mutations coupled with natural selection, then God is an unnecessary variable.

    If however, the mutations are not random but god-directed, then that is a different theory than evolution and needs to be studied independently. That idea can be studied as part of what I am proposing. But believing this while saying you accept evolution at the same time seems like a cop-out to me; like an attempt to appear rational to the scientists and faithful to the theists without having to do any work to support your idea.

    Second, I consider theistic evolutionists irrational because they are accepting restraints that they don’t need to accept. The atheist has no choice but to assume naturalistic causes for everything even in situations where a naturalistic cause seems hard to swallow. Theists do have other choices and they should look for ways to study out those possibilities as well instead of submitting to the restraints of the atheist.

    Thanks again for eight years or so of good conversation.

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  10. Lausten North  March 31, 2014

    I think you are missing a major aspect of how science works in the 21st century. There was a time when one person could reflect on the world and perform a few simple experiments and take a place with the great discoverers of history. That’s still possible, but with the increase in specialization in the sciences, extremely unlikely.

    The court of public opinion does not decide who’s experiments to fund. It is decided by specialist in the field for the experiment and requires understanding the language of that field to propose the idea. For most people, many years of education in the field are needed to get to that point. Even those who vote on funding measures base their votes on the recommendations of the scientists (with exceptions of course). Non-scientists do not direct teams of scientists. You need to either become a scientist or use political channels to direct funding.

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  11. Unapologetics  April 14, 2014

    In this case it is different. There are large numbers of people who are willing to fund anything that they think will support their worldview better than evolution. Ken Ham for example has raised almost $100 million dollars to build a replica of the ark; something which will be an absolutely useless accomplishment. I’m pretty sure I can accomplish in 5 years with 5 million dollars what creationists and IDers have not accomplished in 150 years with tens of billions of dollars. But that’s just me.

    As far as non-scientists directing teams of scientists, it happens all the time. Think of tobacco companies hiring scientists to prove tobacco is harmless and pharmaceutical companies sponsoring drug research.

    I will be closing the blog for a few months to focus on other projects and the podcast.

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