Intelligent Design is not Science

Ely13

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I ran across this article from a philosophy professor today. I'm preaching to the choir here (mostly), but I thought a few of you might find it interesting. Particularly relevant sections have been bolded. For those of you who don't like to read, here's the British definition of science.

http://techcentralstation.com/111005B.html

Is Intelligent Design a Bad Scientific Theory or a Non-Scientific Theory?
By Uriah Kriegel
Published 11/10/2005

In an election in Pennsylvania this week, voters tossed out eight members of the Pittsburgh school board who wanted Intelligent Design theory to be taught alongside evolution in school. But should Intelligent Design -- the theory that living organisms were created at least in part by an intelligent designer, not by a blind process of evolution by natural selection -- be taught in public schools? In one way, the answer to this question is simple: if it's a scientific theory, it should; if it's not, it shouldn't (on pain of flaunting the Establishment Clause). The question, however, is whether Intelligent Design (ID) is a scientific theory.

Opponents dismiss ID's scientific credentials, claiming that the theory is too implausible to qualify as scientific. But this reasoning is fallacious: a bad scientific theory is still a scientific theory, just as a bad car is still a car. There may be pedagogical reasons to avoid teaching bad scientific theories in our public schools, but there are no legal ones. The Constitution contains no interdiction on teaching bad theories, or for that matter demonstrably false ones. As long as theory is science and not religion, there is no legal barrier to teaching it.

To make their case, opponents of teaching ID must show not just that the theory is bad, but that it's not science. This raises a much more complicated question: What is science? What distinguishes genuinely scientific theories from non-scientific ones?

In one form or another, the question has bothered scientists and philosophers for centuries. But it was given an explicit formulation only in the 1920s, by Karl Popper, the most important 20th century philosopher of science. Popper called it "the problem of demarcation," because it asked how to demarcate scientific research and distinguish it from other modes of thought (respectable though they may be in their own right).

One thing Popper emphasized was that a theory's status as scientific doesn't depend on its plausibility. The great majority of scientific theories turn out to be false, including such works of genius as Newton's mechanics. Conversely, the story of Adam and Eve may well be pure truth, but if it is, it's not scientific truth, but some other kind of truth.

So what is the mark of genuine science? To attack this question, Popper examined several theories he thought were inherently unscientific but had a vague allure of science about them. His favorites were Marx's theory of history and Freud's theory of human behavior. Both attempted to describe the world without appeal to super-natural phenomena, but yet seem fundamentally different from, say, the theory of relativity or the gene theory.

What Popper noticed was that, in both cases, there was no way to prove to proponents of the theory that they were wrong. Suppose Jim's parents moved around a lot when Jim was a child. If Jim also moves around a lot as an adult, the Freudian explains that this was predictable given the patterns of behavior Jim grew up with. If Jim never moves, the Freudian explains -- with equal confidence -- that this was predictable as a reaction to Jim's unpleasant experiences of a rootless childhood. Either way the Freudian has a ready-made answer and cannot be refuted. Likewise, however much history seemed to diverge from Marx's model, Marxists would always introduce new modifications and roundabout excuses for their theory, never allowing it to be proven false.

Popper concluded that the mark of true science was falsifiability: a theory is genuinely scientific only if it's possible in principle to refute it. This may sound paradoxical, since science is about seeking truth, not falsehood. But Popper showed that it was precisely the willingness to be proven false, the critical mindset of being open to the possibility that you're wrong, that makes for progress toward truth.

What scientists do in designing experiments that test their theories is create conditions under which their theory might be proven false. When a theory passes a sufficient number of such tests, the scientific community starts taking it seriously, and ultimately as plausible.

When Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, the first thing he did was to make a concrete prediction: he predicted that a certain planet must exist in such-and-such a place even though it had never been observed before. If it turned out that the planet did not exist, his theory would be refuted. In 1919, 14 years after the advent of Special Relativity, the planet was discovered exactly where he said. The theory survived the test. But the possibility of failing a test -- the willingness to put the theory up for refutation -- was what made it a scientific theory in the first place.

To win in the game of science, a theory must be submitted to many tests and survive all of them without being falsified. But to be even allowed into the game, the theory must be falsifiable in principle: there must be a conceivable experiment that would prove it false.


If we examine ID in this light, it becomes pretty clear that the theory isn't scientific. It is impossible to refute ID, because if an animal shows one characteristic, IDers can explain that the intelligent designer made it this way, and if the animal shows the opposite characteristic, IDers can explain with equal confidence that the designer made it that way. For that matter, it is fully consistent with ID that the supreme intelligence designed the world to evolve according to Darwin's laws of natural selection. Given this, there is no conceivable experiment that can prove ID false.

It is sometimes complained that IDers resemble the Marxist historians who always found a way to modify and reframe their theory so it evades any possible falsification, never offering an experimental procedure by which ID could in principle be falsified. To my mind, this complaint is warranted indeed. But the primary problem is not with the intellectual honesty of IDers, but with the nature of their theory. The theory simply cannot be fashioned to make any potentially falsified predictions, and therefore cannot earn entry into the game of science.

None of this suggests that ID is in fact false. For all I've said, it may well be pure truth. But if it is, it wouldn't be scientific truth, because it isn't scientific at all. As such, we shouldn't allow it into our science classrooms. At least that's what the Constitution says.

The writer teaches philosophy at the University of Arizona.
 
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Nesagwa

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The problem with even calling this a theory, is that there is no way to prove it false.

Its safe forever if people keep attaching themselves to it.

There is no way to do an experiment to prove this true or false.
 

Ely13

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D-Lite said:
Did you post this thread just to upset me?
http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=kansas_where_ignorant_is_the_new_educate&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

Kansas, Where "Ignorant" is the New "Educated"

Kansas: People say that it's flat. But to me it seems to be going downhill.

Somewhere right now in Kansas, there is a little child who may grow up to be a brilliant scientist. She may make fantastic contributions to science, and future generations may remember her as one of the brightest intellectual lights of her time. But if so, it will be despite the public education that she received in Kansas, because today six dimwits on the state's Board of Education voted to lower the standards for how science is taught.

Needless to say, they don't think they are lowering the standards--to the contrary, they think they are raising them. That's how you can tell they are dimwits.

Supporters of the standards said they will promote academic freedom. "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today," said board member John Bacon, an Olathe Republican.
If George Orwell were alive, I think he'd agree this development is not only good but doubleplusgood. Because just teaching kids the right answers is an unbearable infringement on academic freedom. Just think of the advantages that those Kansas students will have when they go up against their peers from other states and other parts of the world, who only know the accepted facts and theories and think that logical consistency is desirable in science.

[More:]

The standards state that high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that some concepts have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

The challenged concepts cited include the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and the theory that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life.

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
It wasn't enough for them to undermine the teaching of biology by falsifying a scientific controversy over evolution. No, the Board of Education went as far as to redefine what science is: it's no longer just a search for natural explanations for natural phenomena. Now it's a search for... well, that's a bit hard to say. Any sort of explanation, apparently. Pixies, ghosts, telekinesis, auras, ancient astronauts, excesses of choleric humor, they all seem to be fair game in the interest of "academic freedom." Oh, and God, of course. The Board might not say that because it could get them into trouble with the Supreme Court, but can anyone say with a straight face that getting God into the science classes isn't the goal of the people who pushed for these changes?

"This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat.
Well, it is a shame, but really, no great harm done. Really. Science and technology will continue to advance anyway, no matter how low the standards in Kansas sink. Students from Kansas will still manage to get into colleges, at least if the colleges aren't too picky about preparation in science, and at least some of those students will come to realize how backward their public educations were, and they'll scramble to compensate. The students who don't will surely find work in fields other than science. If Kansas becomes scientifically irrelevant for a while, I'm sure that plenty of other places, inside the U.S. and out, can pick up the slack.

The state motto of Kansas is Ad astra per aspera: "To the stars through difficulties." But it doesn't sound like Kansas will be going to the stars any time soon, and in this case, the difficulties are of its own making.
 

BryLmoo

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ID is already taught in church

i wish all of these zelous christians would either die, and go to heaven...where they belong(?) or just shut the fuck up.
 

bokmeow

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Intelligent Design is not Science; True.

Intelligent Design is Bullshit Lie; also True.
 

norton9478

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Does anyone else think this ID debate is just a new version of the Heliocentric universe debate?
 

Lagduf

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Thanks for that link Ely. Really good stuff, i have some friends who would be interested in reading this.

Poppers definition of science and Kriegels explanation hit the nail on the head, so to speak. I really like how Kriegel summed it up:

"None of this suggests that ID is in fact false. For all I've said, it may well be pure truth. But if it is, it wouldn't be scientific truth, because it isn't scientific at all. As such, we shouldn't allow it into our science classrooms. At least that's what the Constitution says."

:buttrock:
 

iamyagami22

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Good stuff Ely. Intellegent Design is a religious belief, not a science and should not be taught in school due to differing views on the matter.
 

BoriquaSNK

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Any free thinking, moderately religious person can see that Evolution and God are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Proponents of ID are nothing more than politicans seeking to impose religion on everyone else.
 

slerch666

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2 quotes I read today that sum up my opinion on religion:

Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others - for example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein - considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws.

-Carl Sagan

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.

-Carl Sagan
 

norton9478

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slerch666 said:
2 quotes I read today that sum up my opinion on religion:

Hey man, lots of people belive opposite...

But they are the same people that think that Jesus was all for allowing poor people to suffer, Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, War and destruction of the Enviornment.
 

IMTheWalrus

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If you call ID a theory, you can call anything you come up with a theory. It's bullshit, and it's just being used as a stepping stone to push separation of church and state out of the constitution.
 

Lagduf

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IMTheWalrus said:
If you call ID a theory, you can call anything you come up with a theory. It's bullshit, and it's just being used as a stepping stone to push separation of church and state out of the constitution.

See the thing is that ID is a viable theory in many peoples eyes, whose to say god didn't create the big bang and set the universe in motion?

It's just not science and people shouldn't try to pass it off as such.

Believe whatever you want, just dont try to say its science when its not.
 

evil wasabi

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norton9478 said:
Hey man, lots of people belive opposite...

But they are the same people that think that Jesus was all for allowing poor people to suffer, Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, War and destruction of the Enviornment.

whoa whoa whoa

you're making JHendrix and Galfordo sound like the antichrists!
 

slerch666

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norton9478 said:
Hey man, lots of people belive opposite...

But they are the same people that think that Jesus was all for allowing poor people to suffer, Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, War and destruction of the Enviornment.
That's OK too. We're all allowed to have our own thoughts, views and opinions. If we were all the same, the Internet would be a much less bitchy place.
 

HeartlessNinny

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Well, it's nice to see that people aren't fooled by this scam that fundamentalists are trying to spring on us; basically, creationism isn't as easy to pass off on people as a phony theory that sounds scientific, but isn't. I find it insulting that they feel the need to try and fool us. Either put it straight or shut the fuck up right now. There's no room for obfuscation in spirituality, for christ's sake. Or at least, there damn well shouldn't be. People should believe something because that's what they feel, not because they got scammed into it by a fake theory.

I'll never understand why some people are so desperate to embrace ignorance. I may not be a religous person myself, but it seems to me that being a good Christian doesn't mean you have to vehemently deny anything that vaguely conflicts with scripture.

It's like gay marriage (oops, opened a can of worms). I can't figure out why the fundamentalists won't give gays the freedom to commit a sin if they want to. There are plenty of sins that are legal. Why is this different? Just because a gay couple gets married somewhere, suddenly your life is fucked up? What is that about? Insecure, much? Fuck.

Then again, no one accused these people of being logical. This is why I'm usually not interested in trying to argue with a zealot. As I always say, it's a waste of time.
 

beh3moth

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Science = FACT, Creationism = BULLSHIT

Fucking Ban religion, it only causes misery and argument.
 

HeartlessNinny

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beh3moth said:
Science = FACT, Creationism = BULLSHIT

Fucking Ban religion, it only causes misery and argument.

Dude, calm down.

I'm not religous, like I said. I don't believe in god. But people should be able to believe in whatever they want, and organize in any way they want, as long as they're not hurting anyone else.

The problem is that the fundamentalist movement is hurting other people. That's the problem I have.

People should be free to explore faith in whatever way they see fit. They shouldn't try and force their faith on anyone else as a matter of principle. I mean, shit. It's not like I'm stupid or something. I understand their arguments. I just think they're not right for me. That's it. I'm not the anti-christ, like some people say. Leave me alone, and I'm already leaving you alone. It's that easy.

Now, don't get me started on this idea that the fundamentalists are somehow a persecuted minority in the states. Now that's just crazy.
 
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