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"Is Intelligent Design science?"
"Is Intelligent Design science?"
Published by Clutch Munny
12-07-2007
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Is “Intelligent Design Theory” science? This question is asked repeatedly in the public discourse regarding ID. Curiously, it is answered in both the negative and the affirmative among the people who are the staunchest opponents of teaching ID. It seems clear that it can mean very different things – or at least that people can mean different things in uttering it. Some of the debate over the proper answer is surely a result of this equivocation: even people who have no use for ID are talking past one another when it comes to explaining why. So here’s an attempt to clear it up a bit.

I think that the answer to any one of the more carefully specified questions is pretty straightforward, so I’m hoping this may end or reduce the heavy weather that seems to accompany the discussion of ID.

Here's my take on some prime candidates for what “Is ID science?” might be taken to mean, and the answers to those various questions.

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  #1  
By Doohickie on 03-04-2008, 03:35 PM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

Quote:
The underlying issue here is probably the demarcation problem: the problem of how to distinguish science from non-science.
Science, in a classical sense, was indistiguishable from philosophy. A few thousand years ago, both referred to a means to explain the world and why it is like it is. You can see this carried over in current terms today- biology is a science; theology is closer to the realm of philosophy. Yet, part of theology is the orderly analysis of sacred texts. I theologian may take the Bible, for instance, as holy, but still puzzles over the factual and spiritual truth being presented. Given some basic assumptions, though (for instance, the holiness of the Bible), one can still apply a systematic method to its study. In the extreme this study might rightly be considered a science.

The non-religious will no doubt disagree with that example. So consider instead, the "sciences" of sociology and archeology. These are more likely be considered true sciences, but they are still “systematic studies” in the areas of the study of people in groups and ancient cultures.

So if one definition of science is a “systematic study” of a given subject, one may agree that theology is a science. From that position it is not too much of a stretch to call ID a science. From a few basic assumptions, one can take they available data and attempt to fit it into those assumptions.

Now, I don’t agree that ID is a science. But starting from your statement of the demarcation problem, I think this is how a true believer in ID can push that demarcation line toward including ID in the sciences. The problem with that is some of the basic assumptions behind ID can be easily proven wrong with conventional science. The assumptions sound reasonable to the layperson, but when assessed by, say, a biologist, they turn out to be just plain false. Because ID is trotted out to lay people who don’t have deep scientific training, it can be credibly portrayed as a science. With the advent of home schooling and Christian schools, training in the scientific method is further eroded, enabling pseudo-sciences like ID to gain a foothold in the public mind.
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  #2  
By Clutch Munny on 03-05-2008, 03:06 PM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
Now, I don’t agree that ID is a science. But starting from your statement of the demarcation problem, I think this is how a true believer in ID can push that demarcation line toward including ID in the sciences.
Indeed, there are various ways that this can be done -- quite reasonably, in some cases.

Quote:
The problem with that is some of the basic assumptions behind ID can be easily proven wrong with conventional science.
No doubt. Yet "mistaken" does not univocally mean "non-scientific". I think the bulk of the article clarifies the matter more than the one line you quoted.
Last edited by Clutch Munny; 03-05-2008 at 03:21 PM..
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  #3  
By viscousmemories on 04-26-2008, 02:05 AM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

We split a number of posts that were more of a tangential ID debate than comments on this article to this thread.
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  #4  
By naturalist.atheist on 04-26-2008, 07:54 PM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutch Munny
The underlying issue here is probably the demarcation problem: the problem of how to distinguish science from non-science. Many people have felt that there should be a relatively sharp line to be drawn, so that we can always have a single, short, univocal, hard-nosed, no-nonsense answer to the question of whether X counts as science. Yet no plausible way of making such a demarcation has ever been given. What is far more plausible is that there are many hallmarks of science, none of them absolutely necessary. Things count as more and less scientific along a number of dimensions, and we can ask about their resemblance to clear cases of science along each of those dimensions. That, I take it, is what we're doing when we offer distinct interpretations of "Is ID science?".
ID has many problems, the least of which is does it or does it not pass some sort of demarcation test. As an explanation of reality it is in scientific competition with other explanations. If it can’t do a better job then it stays on the shelf scientifically and who cares. Because scientific explanations that have any kind of predictive power at all are far better than ID since ID doesn't actually predict what you can find but what you will not find, however it doesn't tell you what it is that you won't find so nobody has any idea at all if the dang explanation means anything at all. In that regards it is a total failure as a scientific explanation.

Now that in and of itself would not necessarily be a show stopper if advocates of ID spent more time in their labs and offices expanding and extending it, making predictions and publishing meaningful scientific papers that would establish a research program to actually advance scientific knowledge, but as far as I can tell the movement is spending all its time in political debates and sneaky backhanded takeovers of school boards. Frankly it is a slimy enterprise and any decent and honest person would most likely not want to have anything at all to do with it.

Unless they concentrate on actual science ID will join all the other failed ideas that exist in abundance in published journals sitting on library shelves around the world that at most are part of the historical record of what not to do.

What makes the entire enterprise most slimy is that it is clear that it is backed by conservative Christian groups with an agenda to force god into every human endeavor on the planet whether it belongs there or not. But they say that ID is not about god even though the very name says it all, "Intelligent Design". They lack even that most basic honesty to admit that the organizations backing it are doing so precisely because it is about god. They betray a lack of conviction in their own cause. What is most amazing about it is just how many people are taken in by it.

Enough of the posturing, political maneuvering and bullshit. Take all that money being plowed into deception and support the basic research. Because if they are onto something then it could be important science. And if they actually thought it was important science then that is what they would be doing. There would be an avalanche of papers with new and important discoveries. But for the most part they got bupkis because even they know it is bullshit.

THIS COMMENT IS IN RESPONSE TO THE ESSAY. IF YOU REMOVE THIS AND NOT THE OTHER COMMENTS THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOUR ABITRARY EDITING
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  #5  
By Clutch Munny on 04-26-2008, 08:16 PM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by naturalist.atheist View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutch Munny
The underlying issue here is probably the demarcation problem: the problem of how to distinguish science from non-science. Many people have felt that there should be a relatively sharp line to be drawn, so that we can always have a single, short, univocal, hard-nosed, no-nonsense answer to the question of whether X counts as science. Yet no plausible way of making such a demarcation has ever been given. What is far more plausible is that there are many hallmarks of science, none of them absolutely necessary. Things count as more and less scientific along a number of dimensions, and we can ask about their resemblance to clear cases of science along each of those dimensions. That, I take it, is what we're doing when we offer distinct interpretations of "Is ID science?".
ID has many problems, the least of which is does it or does it not pass some sort of demarcation test.
ID does have many problems, as I explain in the article. I suggest you read it carefully.

You may have failed to recognize the point of the article, which was to disambiguate the frequently asked but deeply equivocal question, "Is ID science?" Many public commentators on the matter, many of them scientists, have asked and answered this question as a way of raising those problems, and in particular as a way of showing that ID does not belong in a school science curriculum.

If your contention is that this is a silly question to ask, I urge you to take this up with the many, many scientists -- famous ones among them -- who raise it (including indirectly, by simply issuing denials of ID's scientific status). One of the things you might tell them is that the question is highly ambiguous, and simple answers to it correspondingly indecisive.

The rest of your post seems split between irrelevant material, and some recapitulation of points I make in my disambiguations 3, 6, and especially 4.
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  #6  
By naturalist.atheist on 04-26-2008, 08:27 PM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutch Munny View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by naturalist.atheist View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutch Munny
The underlying issue here is probably the demarcation problem: the problem of how to distinguish science from non-science. Many people have felt that there should be a relatively sharp line to be drawn, so that we can always have a single, short, univocal, hard-nosed, no-nonsense answer to the question of whether X counts as science. Yet no plausible way of making such a demarcation has ever been given. What is far more plausible is that there are many hallmarks of science, none of them absolutely necessary. Things count as more and less scientific along a number of dimensions, and we can ask about their resemblance to clear cases of science along each of those dimensions. That, I take it, is what we're doing when we offer distinct interpretations of "Is ID science?".
ID has many problems, the least of which is does it or does it not pass some sort of demarcation test.
ID does have many problems, as I explain in the article. I suggest you read it carefully.

You may have failed to recognize the point of the article, which was to disambiguate the frequently asked but deeply equivocal question, "Is ID science?" Many public commentators on the matter, many of them scientists, have asked and answered this question as a way of raising those problems, and in particular as a way of showing that ID does not belong in a school science curriculum.

If your contention is that this is a silly question to ask, I urge you to take this up with the many, many scientists -- famous ones among them -- who raise it (including indirectly, by simply issuing denials of ID's scientific status). One of the things you might tell them is that the question is highly ambiguous, and simple answers to it correspondingly indecisive.

The rest of your post seems split between irrelevant material, and some recapitulation of points I make in my disambiguations 3, 6, and especially 4.
I understand that this has been an issue in both scientific and public discourse. But my comment was specifically directed at the lead sentence in the conclusion of your essay.

As such, agree or disagree with it. It is a germane comment such as it is.
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  #7  
By ZEZOZE on 04-26-2008, 09:21 PM
Default Re: "Is Intelligent Design science?"

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Originally Posted by viscousmemories View Post
We split a number of posts that were more of a tangential ID debate than comments on this article to this thread.

thank god.
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