Monday, October 03, 2005

No method to intelligent design, witness says, etc.

Here are my comments [in square brackets] on articles on the third - fifth days (Wednesday-Friday, September 28-30) of the Dover intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al. Again, I have tried to eliminate duplications and topics that have already been mentioned.

No method to intelligent design, witness says, MSNBC Carolyn Kaster/AP ... Sept. 28, 2005 .... HARRISBURG, Pa. - The concept of "intelligent design" is a form of creationism and is not based on scientific method, a professor testified Wednesday in a trial over whether the idea should be exposed to public school students in science class. Robert T. Pennock, a professor of science and philosophy at Michigan State University, testified on behalf of families who sued the Dover Area School District. He said supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea. "As scientists go about their business, they follow a method," Pennock said. "Intelligent design wants to reject that and so it doesn't really fall within the purview of science." ... Pennock said intelligent design does not belong in a science class, but added that it could possibly be addressed in other types of courses. ... Meanwhile, a lawyer for two newspaper reporters said Wednesday the presiding judge has agreed to limit questioning of the reporters, averting a legal showdown over having them testify in the case. Both reporters wrote stories that said board members mentioned creationism as they discussed the intelligent design issue. Board members have denied that. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III agreed that the reporters would only have to verify the content of their stories - and not answer questions about unpublished material, possible bias or the use of any confidential sources. "They're testifying only as to what they wrote," said Niles Benn, attorney for The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record / Sunday News, the papers that employed the two freelancers. The reporters were subpoenaed but declined to give depositions Tuesday, citing their First Amendment rights. A lawyer for the school board had said he planned to seek contempt citations against the two. The judge's order clears the way for the reporters to provide depositions and testify Oct. 6. ... [It will be interesting to see what was the factual basis (if any) for these reporters' claims. As for Pennock, he is a philosopher of science and so he must know that there is no such thing as "a [single] method" that covers all of "science":

"In modern times, science is highly esteemed. Apparently it is a widely held belief that there is something special about science and its methods. The naming of some claim or line of reasoning or piece of research `scientific' is done in a way that is intended to imply some kind of merit or special kind of reliability. But what, if anything, is so special about science? What is this `scientific method' that allegedly leads to especially meritorious or reliable results? .. The high regard for science is not restricted to everyday life and the popular media. It is evident in the scholarly and academic world and in all parts of the knowledge industry. Many areas of study are described as sciences by their supporters, presumably in an effort to imply that the methods used are as firmly based and as potentially fruitful as in a traditional science such as physics. ... The mistaken view of science referred to above will be discussed and demolished in the opening chapters of this book. Even though some scientists and many pseudo-scientists voice their allegiance to that method, no modern philosopher of science would be unaware of at least some of its shortcomings. Modern developments in the philosophy of science have pinpointed and stressed deep-seated difficulties associated with the idea that science rests on a sure foundation acquired through observation and experiment and with the idea that there is some kind of inference procedure that enables us to derive scientific theories from such a base in a reliable way. There is just no method that enables scientific theories to be proven true or even probably true." (Chalmers A.F., "What is this thing called Science?: An Assessment of the Nature and Status of Science and its Method," [1976], University of Queensland Press: St Lucia Qld, Australia, Second edition, 1994, reprint, pp.xv-xvi. My emphasis)
"The So-called Scientific Method. It is widely believed that the essence of science is its method. The earlier-mentioned definition used in surveys of scientific literacy expresses commonly held notions of what the scientific method is: systematic, controlled observation or experiment whose results lead to hypotheses, which are found valid or invalid through further work, leading to theories that are reliable because they were arrived at with initial open- mindedness and continual critical skepticism. ... For our present purpose, it is sufficient to recognize that these are the salient acknowledged elements of the popular view of being scientifically methodical: empirical, pragmatic, open-minded, skeptical, sensitive to possibilities of falsifying; thereby establishing objective facts leading to hypotheses, to laws, to theories; and incessantly reaching out for new knowledge, new discoveries, new facts, and new theories. The burden of the following will be how misleading this view-which I shall call `the myth of the scientific method'-is in many specific directions, how incapable it is of explaining what happens in science, how it is worse than useless as a guide to what society ought to do about science and technology." (Bauer H.H., "Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method," [1992], University of Illinois Press: Urbana & Chicago IL, 1994, reprint, pp.19-20. My emphasis)
"So the classical and common view of science misconceives the actual relationship between theories and facts; and (consequently, inevitably) it misconceives the nature of the scientific method-the things that scientists actually do. It misconceives the behavior of science and of scientists in the face of surprising discoveries; and it misconceives much else about science, about technology, and about their interaction with one another and with the wider society. An important misconception is implicit in the very use of the terms `science,' `scientists,' `scientific.' To talk of scientists is to imply that astronomers, biologists, chemists, geologists, and physicists are all somehow much the same in some significant respect. To talk of science is to imply that astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics are all much the same sort of things. When there is talk about being scientific, it is commonly implied that one can be that, scientifically methodical, irrespective of the particular nature of what is being done; that one can be scientific about anything ... As soon as one looks in any depth, however, it becomes less and less clear what is really the same about astronomy and biology, say, or about what astronomers do and what biologists do." (Bauer H.H., "Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method," [1992], University of Illinois Press: Urbana & Chicago IL, 1994, reprint, p.24. My emphasis)

So each branch of science has had to develop its own methodology, appropriate to its particular subject-matter. ID theorists have developed a number of methodologies to detect design, including: inference to the best explanation, e.g. Meyer, 1994; Dembski, 2000; Dembski, 2001, Meyer, 2004; the explanatory filter, Dembski, 1996; incorporating a universal probability bound.

As for Pennock's claim that "supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea" this is demonstrably false: e.g. Behe's evidence that certain structures in the living world exhibit "irreducible complexity", e.g. the bacterial flagellum rotary motor, the vertebrate blood-clotting cascade and Meyer's evidence that the rapid information build-up in the Cambrian Explosion exceeds the capacity of unguided natural process. See also Dan Peterson's excellent article, The Little Engine That Could...Undo Darwinism. But as anyone who has debated philosophical naturalists (as Pennock is) soon finds out, the real problem is that there is no evidence for intelligent design in nature that they would accept.]

"Intelligent Design" on Trial, TIME, Michael Lemonick. Sep. 29, 2005 .... Proponents of intelligent design insist that it is founded on science, because evolution can't fully explain some of the complexities of living things - the structure of the eye, for example - which they argue follow a conscious design. And while some critics maintain this argument is but a ploy to avoid the Supreme Court's ruling, advocates of ID avoid identifying who or what that designer might be. ... The thrust of the ID argument - that there are many things not yet explained by the theory of evolution - will be challenged by expert witnesses, on the grounds that it holds true for a variety of other widely taught scientific theories. .... Still, ID'ers will counter, failing to teach kids about the scientific controversy over evolution is tantamount to keeping them ignorant. Except that there is no significant scientific controversy. ID proponents are correct in maintaining that there are legitimate scientists - a relatively tiny handful - who maintain that evolution is bogus science. But you can also find an equivalent handful of legitimate scientists ready to challenge relativity, or quantum physics, or the idea that HIV causes AIDS, or pretty much any widely accepted idea in modern science. A handful of doubters does not a controversy make. ... [As for "there is no significant scientific controversy" about evolution, this too is false. As Cambridge paleontologist Simon Conway Morris observed, "the only point of agreement" among evolutionists about evolution is that `It happened'":

"When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: `It happened.' Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd." (Conway Morris S., "Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold," Cell, Vol. 100, January 7, 2000, pp.1-11, p.11).

And as Bill Dembski testified, "there is considerable debate in scientific circles about the mechanism of evolution, namely, how it happened" (my emphasis):

"In his testimony to you on July 9th, UT biology professor David Hillis claimed, `There is no debate about the existence of evolution in scientific circles.' That may be, depending on how you define evolution. But there is considerable debate in scientific circles about the mechanism of evolution, namely, how it happened. Cambridge paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, writing for the premier biology journal Cell, remarks: "When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: `It happened.' Thereafter, there is little consensus...." (Jan. 7, 2000) Despite that, the illusion of consensus is all we get in the textbooks. What's more, pro-Darwinian lobbyists, like Eugenie Scott, strive to maintain that illusion. In an interview with Salon (May 4, 2001), Scott tells us why. According to her, for textbooks to admit the lack of consensus over how evolution happened will "confuse kids about the soundness of evolution as a science." Whatever happened to science education nurturing the capacity of young minds for critical thought? Whatever happened to exposing students to as much information as required to form balanced scientific judgments? All the textbooks under consideration grossly exaggerate the evidence for neo-Darwinian evolution, pretending that its mechanism of natural selection acting on random genetic change is a slam-dunk. Not so." (Dembski W.A., "William Dembski Testimony for Textbook Hearing, Austin, Texas, September 10, 2003," Texas State Board of Education, September 10, 2003. Discovery Institute: Seattle WA. WA.)

As for "ID proponents ... who maintain that evolution is bogus science" this is a straw man. Few (if any) IDists claim "that evolution is bogus science." As journalists are increasingly noting, IDists have no problem with many (if not most) aspects of evolution, up to and including common ancestry (e.g. Mike Behe - and myself). As I pointed out in an interview with a local newspaper, "ID is only necessarily opposed to `evolution' when the latter denies that there is design in nature, e.g. Darwinian evolution (or Darwinism) ...". But these misrepresentations of ID will eventually backfire on those doing the misrepresentation, as the public increasingly discover for themselves what ID is really about, and that they have been deliberately misled.]

Theologian says intelligent design is religion, MSNBC, Sept. 30, 2005 HARRISBURG, Pa. - "Intelligent design" is vastly similar to creationism and should be taught as religion, not science, a Catholic theologian testified Friday, on the fifth day of a trial over whether the concept belongs in a public school science curriculum as an alternative to evolution. Georgetown University theology professor John F. Haught said that while intelligent-design proponents do not explicitly identify God as the creator of life, the concept is "essentially a religious proposition." "I understand it to be a reformulation of an old theological argument for the existence of God," he said. Haught testified as an expert witness on behalf of eight families who are trying to have a reference to intelligent design removed from the Dover Area School District's biology curriculum. ... Haught said there is no conflict between science and religion because they represent different levels of explanation for phenomena. "When we have a failure to distinguish science from religion, then confusion will follow," Haught said. "Science and religion cannot logically stand in a competitive relationship with each other." During cross-examination, Richard Thompson, a lawyer representing the school district, asked Haught to draw distinctions between intelligent design and creationism. Haught conceded that not all intelligent-design supporters literally interpret the Bible, but said the two concepts only differ "in the same sense that an orange is different than a navel orange.".... [It is misleading to portray Haught as "a Catholic theologian," implying that he represents mainstream Catholic or Christian theology. But in fact Haught's "God" bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible or historic Christian (including Catholic) theology. For example, Haught's "God" is "a vulnerable, defenseless, and humble deity" (Haught J.E., "God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution," Westview Press: Boulder CO, 2000, p.46), who is "no-thing" (p.78), a "void" (p.79), "hidden and subdued-even to the point of seeming to be completely absent (p.79), who "`withdraws' in order to allow for the relatively autonomous self-creation of evolution" (p.97) and who is not even intelligent, since: "The enormity of cosmic time simply adds to the suspicion that intelligence is something that emerged only recently, perhaps only in the evolution of the human species" (p.113). See also theistic evolutionist Ted Davis' eye-witness assessment of Haught's testimony, including that Haught does not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, nor in His bodily resurrection. Also, Haught contradicts himself above, because if ID is "religion" and "there is no conflict between science and religion" then he should have no problem with ID! As for Haught's claim that ID is "vastly similar to creationism", that is a fatal admission (since "similar" is not the "same"), as is his admission that "not all intelligent-design supporters literally interpret the Bible." BTW Haught dissented from Cardinal Schönborn's recent statement in the New York Times that "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense-an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection-is not", so Haught's days of calling himself a "Catholic theologian" might be numbered, given that Cardinal Schönborn is reportedly close to Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Ratzinger indicated that he preferred a "smaller, purer church"!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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