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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Having to Agree to Disagree on the Science of ID

Memorial of St. Therese of the Child of Jesus

I could probably do another thousand-plus-word post here were I to fisk his latest post, but instead I will add just a couple of things to the discussion of last week with Scott Carson of An Examined Life about the question of whether intelligent design is science and then call it quits. As he noted, he and I agree on a great deal, so I don't want to dwell too much on where we disagree.

First, I must admit to poor clarity. In my post in response to his challenging my failure in defining a demarcation line of science I wrote:
Mr. Carson also chides me for not defining a line of demarcation for science. This despite my repeated references to Thomas Kuhn's definition of normal science as my context for discussion. Among all people, I would expect a least philosophy professor, particularly one with a self-proclaimed interested in philosophy of science, to recognize that as my line of demarcation, even if it’s not Popperian.
My mistake was not putting quotation marks around my second use of "line of demarcation," although I am not sure whether that would have changed Mr. Carson's response. The quotation marks would have better indicated that I do not accept the empiricist notion that science can be so clearly defined because my personal, professional experience in the development of pure science and its application in the field of technology has been such that I think the concept of science cannot be separated legitimately from what it is that scientists actually do. Regardless, I have not really addressed the question of what science is before this (I have been careful to refer to "normal science") because my assertion has been that the legitimate science part of ID, which is a very narrow classification activity, is in actuality derived from neo-Darwinist evolution, thereby assuming its status as science and circumventing the question.

What is this foundation in the case of ID? If you read any of ID's scientific literature (Note that I am not referring to the popular literature, or the news accounts, of the ID movement), then you will find that it is rooted in evolutionary theory.
In other words, stripping away most of what the ID movement is asserting, including what I suspect Mr. Carson thinks is the "hypothesis of ID" that Kuhn would reject, leaves what Kuhn identified as the second class of problems addressed by normal science:

A second usual but smaller class of factual determination is directed to those facts that, though often without much intrinsic interest, can be compared to directly with predictions from the paradigm theory.
There is a small set of ID activities, which generally ought to be let alone to develop, that are genuine science in that they attempt to examine predictions from the neo-Darwinist process of random mutation and natural selection by comparing empirical results to a criterion of specified complexity. What may be the case, however, is that in their zeal its proponents may have instead politicized (de-legitimized?) any discovery even before it has occurred, making its broad acceptance nearly impossible.

Aside:

And no, the example of the bacterial flagellum, if it truly is one of specified, or irreducible, complexity, is itself no more a challenge to neo-Darwinism's hypothesis that it represents the only process of evolution than the temporary challenge to biological taxonomy represented by the discovery of the platypus, i.e., this example is insufficient to produce a paradigm shift.

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