Archive for February 18th, 2010

February 18, 2010

Why Intelligent Design and Evolution Belong in the Same Category

Today’s blog is a continuation of yesterday’s blog on evolution and intelligent design (ID). Roy Speckhardt, who is the executive director for the American Humanist Association, responded to my post which primarily was targeted at a quote he made available through AHA’s website. This entry is primarily a response to the comment left by him. I have chosen to post it as a blog rather than in the comment section for multiple reasons:

  1. The reply is too long  to put neatly in the comments section.
  2. I would like it to be searchable on its own.
  3. This gives me the incentive to do another post on an interesting subject.
  4. We all can benefit from this discussion
  5. Perhaps I will personally be able to build a relationship with Mr. Speckhardt.
  6. As I said yesterday, “Every Intelligent Design proponent on the national level is happy for the discussion Mr. Speckhardt.” And Mr. Speckhardt appears to be amenable to this conversation as his response is itself an indicator of this fact.

A couple of disclaimers from the start in this response. First, I am not recognized as a national proponent of ID; although, I am more than happy to have this discussion. Second, as I do not know Mr. Speckhardt’s personal convictions in many of the areas of the discussion concerning evolution I will be making some sweeping generalizations. I have no desire to misrepresent anyone and will gladly accept correction at any point where I have done a disservice to either Mr. Speckhardt or evolution. My goal is not to address something that looks like evolution, but evolution itself. My descriptions of evolution should then be akin to the self description an evolutionist would provide. So above all I want to be accountable in this discussion.

If I understand Mr. Speckhardt’s response correctly then it is not that he has a problem with dialogue concerning the differences between ID and evolution, but that he has a problem doing it in the setting of a classroom because the science is so overwhelmingly in favor of evolution that it just is an unreasonable request. He posits this as an issue between faith and science. For Mr. Speckhardt the position of evolution is a position of science while the position of ID is a position of faith. And of course this is exactly the problem. My position is that if ID should not be called science then either should evolution.

This distinction drives right at the center of what we mean by science. What exactly is science? Personally, I believe much of the rhetoric that comes from the camp of evolutionists results from playing fast and loose with the term science. There are many reasons for this verbal play. For the most part I don’t think it is intentional, but the result is equivocation on the grandest scale. However, my guess as to why this is the case is because  most people have not considered the multiple answers that are available to the question “What is science.” The problem results in category confusion of Aristotelian proportions.

We can begin a discussion of science by saying simply that is a method of enquiry. It proceeds by means of a hypothesis and stands in need of verification. And there are at least three things a hypothesis should do:

  1. It should incorporate all the available data.
  2. The solution sought should make sense of all the data, not just some of the data at the expense of the rest;
  3. It should be coherent with larger fields of verified study (perhaps this is what is meant by scientific validity by Mr. Speckhardt).

Science then is a kind of knowledge. When looking at the criteria for a hypothesis it should be obvious then that science is limited by that which can be observed. Of course, this is not its only limit. Even in this field of observing and testing the material universe, science is driven by the position of the observer: Where he is, who he is, the culture he lives in, the time period he is from, the tools available to him, his limited imagination and unrecognized limitations all come into play on his ability to create a hypothesis. Yes, even add this up to the millions of scientists who have and ever will exist and the problem is still the same. In this sense then there is no such thing as science in the sense of pure and complete knowledge of the given subject. There are just many variables and issues at play. Even on the things we say we know all we are saying is what we know is what we observed before in a specific environment.

This point of the impossibility of knowing “pure science” cannot be overemphasized. You don’t have to be a proponent of ID to get the Anthropic Principle, which is what drives my point here. And of course, both ID and evolution as theories are not just scientific in nature, but they are also historical inquiries. And just as we find that it is impossible to know “pure science” so to is in impossible to have an account of “mere history”. They have an extra barrier beyond the issues of being an observer, but they must also deal with the constraint of a time line as well.

The whole idea then that we can sift through the evidence without our sifting having an effect on the evidence is, in my estimation, intellectually dishonest. The observer has too many limitations to think otherwise. We don’t even have to consider evolution to see the reality of this. Discussions on bogons (the study of bogosity), string theory and what light looks like all are illustrations how how much we can’t observe about that which we already think we know. And please note none of my given illustrations carry the time-honored weight of going back in history in an effort to make sense of the data.

We can say that at least one definition of science is what I would call “pure science” which is the way things actually are in the universe. Additionally, I would say that we cannot know “pure science” and we are deceiving ourselves if we think we can. This is not to say that scientific endeavors are not worthwhile, but that we should recognize their limitations. And with emphasis I say this: This is what most people mean when the use the term science, which means that they are claiming more than they can. I think this is why evolutionists are so dogmatic about their position truly being of science. Well, maybe it is…depending on how you define it.

But building on this initial understanding of “pure science” then is where we begin to see science as it daily corresponds with our lives. This is we do experiments, we create hypotheses, we test them, interact with them, respond to them, seek to verify them then validate them. An example of this is the law of gravity and the test of Newton’s apple. Everyone can go outside today and let go of an apple and it will drop. For our discussion’s sake, let’s call this “known science.” We all then can summarize that gravity will pull the apple to the ground. But in this definition of science the summary ends here.

And then there is the science that most of us do; although we think we are doing “pure science” what we really are doing what I’m going to call “philosophical science.” The reason I’m calling it this is because in this science not only are we doing the study as represented in experimentations, but our summary of the results of the test do not stop where they would at “known science,” which is merely seeking to restate the event as you observed it with repeatable accuracy. Instead we go further and offer our commentary as to why these things are the way they are and by doing so we have left the field of science and entered the field of philosophy. Of course, I’m more comfortable calling it philosophy, but since science is driven by its proponents’ philosophy there is some intermingling of the disciplines, so if you want to define it as a type of science then fine. But what you should not do is act like you are not doing it or that it is not so. With disciplined fields of study such as science how can we trust the oberserver’s findings when the observer fails to recognize where “pure science” has ended and “known science” has begun or where “known science” has ended but “philosophical science” has begun? Well the answer is I don’t trust this scientist or anyone adhering to any ideology who can’t recognize this as any sort of trusted authority.

Of course, the historian faces the same problem with investigating history. They can report the events as they found them to be. That is one definition of history. But typically, just as with science, we typically practice a philosophical type of historical investigation, which is one that offers philosophical summaries to our findings. We don’t just say give an accounting of the events, but we then give our interpretation of why these events transpired.

Now enter into the debate of ID and evolution. Mr. Speckhardt you say that one is of science but one is of faith. You pointed to the Dover court case, as though courts prove anything these days. And you act like there is consensus in the scientific community. I disagree and digress. If ID is not of science then either can evolution be for they both belong in the same category, which is they give an explanation to the origin of life. As I’ve pointed out this is not just a scientific endeavor, but a historical one and a philosophical one.

In your response to me yesterday you wrote, “need more than a wild guess, you need something that a preponderance of scientists can recognize as valid, something replicable.” Well, please give me the information to the experiment that took non-life and made it life. I must have missed that study. Did you use crystals? Was lightning or electricity used? Since science is based on the replicable then replicate life. The point is that evolutionists for all their swagger can’t and this is the crux of the matter. You claim to be of science and say I’m of faith. Fine, I’m of faith. I have no problem with that. But since your foundation is repeatability (“something replicable” as you stated it) and you can’t repeat  the very thing evolution supposedly proves (the origin of life) while you stand on the foundation of science then it is your system that is being dishonest. And how you can’t recognize the faith required to accept the jumping of a bunch of elements into organic life purely because they are resting on a crystal during a thunder storm is interesting.

It seems to me to be a funny thing that when evolutionists are pressed on the crux of their theory – the origin of life – the answer still is “I don’t know.”

ID and its similar theories are not new on the scene nor or they novel. They have been here longer than yours and just like yours they interpret all the evidence available. You may think ID is improbable, but since “pure science” is an improbability then I am frankly dumbfounded at the zealous refusal to accept dialogue in any forum that places both theories as equals. Unlike most of the famous proponents of evolution, who are decidedly philosophical in their rhetoric, most of the ID proponents making news these days are entrenched in the science of the thing. Example compare your man of the year to World’s man of the year. Both invested in the discussion, both scientists, but one famous for his work in science and the other famous for his blog. There is a discrepancy.

Since ID has many proponents who are scholars in scientific, historical and philosophical fields (just as evolutionists do) and it is not a novel theory and it is held by a sizeable portion of our country it stands to reason that you would be amenable to allowing both in the classroom for investigation. If the evidence is so overwhelmingly in your favor and all (or most) the science teachers overseeing the subject are evolutionists then why are you so defensive?

My friend, I hope to be able to call you that, I hope that I have been respectful of your position in this response and I hope this meets you well. Thank you for taking the time earlier to respond to my blog.