Monday, August 11, 2008

Medved: ID not a Theory

Michael Medved on Intelligent Design:

"The important thing about Intelligent Design is that it is not a theory - which is something I think they need to make more clear. Nor is Intelligent Design an explanation. Intelligent Design is a challenge. It’s a challenge to evolution. It does not replace evolution with something else."

Science is about proposing and testing theories that explain what we observe. If it is not a theory, and not an explanation, and doesn't replace evolution with something else, then it isn't science, nor is it a challenge to evolution. In similar fashion, noting that Newton's laws of motion couldn't account for the precession of Mercury did not challenge Newtonian physics, not could pointing that out be considered a science in itself.

"No, you see, Intelligent Design doesn't tell you what is true; it tells you what is not true. It tells you that it cannot be that this whole process was random."

Well you don't need Intelligent Design for that, every biologist would tell you the whole process isn't random. If it was we couldn't expect to wake up every morning.

I certainly hope any ID defender who ends up on the stand to defend their shenanigans, perhaps in Louisiana, is asked to comment on Medved's views, because these guys sure talk like they can explain a lot, and they insist what they are saying/doing is science. It is time we broke up the big tent.

8 comments:

alex said...

Medved: "No, you see, Intelligent Design doesn't tell you what is true; it tells you what is not true. It tells you that it cannot be that this whole process was random."

Science Avenger: Well you don't need Intelligent Design for that, every biologist would tell you the whole process isn't random. If it was we couldn't expect to wake up every morning.

I really think that Medved was just speaking loosely. I think what he was saying was that this universe isn't, at its core, an /accident/. If that's the case, then your retort would have to be different.

ScienceAvenger said...

But that's one of the big problems with the ID crowd, isn't it? They always speak loosely. They can't be bothered with that "pathetic level" of precision science demands. That way they always have a way out when it is pointed out that what they said wasn't true per standard conversational English definitions.

In the case of your statement, the phrase begging for precision is "at its core". WTF does that mean? You and the IDers should just drop the pretenses and get right down to it. You think the universe had to be purposely designed or guided by intelligence. You don't think mass, energy and the laws of physics (with all their emergent proporties) are insufficient. Don't say "accident" when you mean "natural". A dead tree falling is not an accident, it is just natural. Evolution is just a more complicated example.

alex said...

In my opinion, an eternal universe is unnatural, and a universe that emerged out of nothing is also unnatural. Thus, I believe that at least one thing had to have happened that was unnatural. I'm not stating to what extent this design extended, because I just don't know.

ScienceAvenger said...

But there you go: what do you mean when you say "unnatural"? That sounds eerily similar to when people say homosexality is unnatural, or having 12 kids is unnatural. If something happens in nature without any oversight by intelligent beings, how can it be called "unnatural"? It seems like people are saying "unnatural" when they either mean "impossible" or "sinful", because they find the latter two claims too difficult to defend.

alex said...

"If something happens in nature without any oversight by intelligent beings, how can it be called "unnatural"?

Your question lost me. When I used the term unnatural, I really meant to say "that which science cannot, not even in principle, explain." I was surely not talking about sinfulness.

I believe the universe had a beginning. (I'm in good scientific company, no?) Thus, at that point, if you could call it a "point," there WAS NO nature to speak of.

ScienceAvenger said...

You are illustrating my point. "Unnatural", "at its core", all mushily defined, all begging questions. These word games are not what science is about, and until you and Medved and the rest of the ID crowd start talking in specific, well-defined scientific terms, you can't expect scientifically literate people to take you too seriously.

alex said...

"Well you don't need Intelligent Design for that, every biologist would tell you the whole process isn't random."

Does that mean some isn't random, or none is random? Didn't you say something about "mushily defining" things?

Excerpt from a ID site:

"Surely I'm not the only student who has ever been told that Darwinian evolution is a random process. In fact, a new textbook devoted to evolution out this year (Evolution, Nicholas Barton et al., 2007) claims that there is "extreme randomness [in] the evolutionary process" (p. 435). The point is reiterated, time and again:


Seen in detail, however, the evolutionary process is fundamentally random. (p. 413)

. . . we begin our consideration of the processes responsible for evolution by emphasizing the randomness of evolution. (p. 413, emphasis mine)

Mutation randomizes genetic information, genetic drift randomizes genotype frequencies, and gene flow randomizes the positions of genes in space. (p. 439)

ScienceAvenger said...

It's not mushy at all, and frankly, the only reason I can see why otherwise intelligent people can't grasp what biologists are telling them is because they don't want to.

It's very simple. Mutation is random, from the point of view of fitness of the organism, or the desires of people watching. It is not random relative to the laws of physics and chemistry and all the other sciences. Natural selection is not at all random, as should be obvious.

It is very analogous to a dice roll. It is random in the sense that we can't predict the outcome at better than chance. It is certainly not entirely random however: a roll of 9 with one die is not possible. And if we had full physical knowledge of all the relevant factors, we should be able to predict the outcome within quantum limits of exactness.

The randomness canard is one of the easiest of the evolution denial arguments to refute. It's simply a game of equivocation.