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Discussion 2 to Talk Back 86
You do know and you do care

by: Rob Lockett

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John, I was immediately struck by the contrast between your creed and your vociferous reply since I ‘did not’ get the impression that you ‘don't know or don't care’.  By implication, you assert that you do know… and the volume of your discussions shoes that you definitely care. Beyond that, your perspective is not unexpected considering the current definition of science. This definition (or convention) limits any description of the natural world to ‘natural causes’. The problem with this preconception is easy to perceive because it is done on philosophical grounds rather than any testable or empirical method. It was a definition born of philosophers. The name ‘methodological naturalism’ was not yet in place until the 19th century, but the idea (the philosophy) had been spawned.

So as to not invite accusations of misrepresentation (which you appear eager to declare) I will, rather than tell you what the definition of science is, use the definition from Discover Magazine editor Susan Kruglinski . I could not have articulated it better myself.

“…since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth. In deliberately omitting theological or "ultimate" explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of "meaning" and "purpose" in the world.  While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science.  This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as "methodological naturalism" and is sometimes known as the scientific method. Methodological naturalism is a "ground rule" of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify.”

http://discovermagazine.com/2005/dec/intelligent-design/?searchterm=bacterial%20flagellum )

Using this definition, I have numbered the particular points of contention.

1. Science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.

As I explained above, this idea (philosophy) is not something that can be observed, tested, replicated, or verified in the empirical sense. It is a preconception that is made before all of the evidence is in. Obviously, natural causation is a legitimate part of the picture, but to say that it is the ‘only thing empirical or testable’ is lunacy. As I will explain next, such an idea has already failed the philosophical coherence test which is the implicit foundation of any so-called science.

2. Science is not concerned with philosophical coherence as a measure of an ideas worth.

Well that is just fascinating isn’t it? The entire scientific enterprise is founded upon the belief that recognizable patterns can be made to cohere logically and that the universe is at least partially comprehensible to human beings in that way. When there is coherence, we can then obtain an empirical fact and know it scientifically.

Forgive me for being redundant, but I want to express this in as many ways as possible.

The whole point of empirical testing is to verify coherence. The heart of empiricism is the logical coherence of a system and the repeatability of any claim. In other words, science itself is only valid if philosophical coherence is valid. The idea (philosophy) that empiricism is a valid tool to understand the universe is not itself empirical. It is an assumption of the validity of logic. And that is the one area in which we all must agree.

 “…Unless human reasoning is valid, no science can be true.

It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory itself would have been arrived at by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved no argument was sound -a proof that there are no such things as proofs- which is nonsense.” (C.S. Lewis ‘Miracles’, chap 3 ‘The cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism’ pgs 21, 22)

Methodological naturalism doesn’t pass the coherence test itself because it must assume (without evidence) that the universe can only be explained in material terms. It relies upon the very thing (philosophical coherence) that it claims is irrelevant.

Consider the words of Paul Davies:

 “The worldview of a scientist, even the most atheistic scientist, is that essentially of Monotheism. It is a belief, which is accepted as an article of faith, that the universe is ordered in an intelligible way.

Now, you couldn’t be a scientist if you didn’t believe these two things. If you didn’t think there was an underlying order in nature, you wouldn’t bother to do it, because there is nothing to be found. And if you didn’t believe it was intelligible, you’d give up because there is no point if human beings can’t come to understand it.

But scientists do, as a matter of faith, accept that the universe is ordered and at least partially intelligible to human beings. And that is what underpins the entire scientific enterprise. And that is a theological position. It is absolutely ‘theo’ when you look at history. It comes from a theological worldview.

 That doesn’t mean you have to buy into the religion, or buy into the theology, but it is very, very significant in historical terms;  that that is where it comes from and that scientists today, unshakably retain that worldview, as an act of faith. You cannot prove it logically has to be the case, that the universe is rational and intelligible. It could easily have been otherwise. It could have been arbitrary, it could have been absurd, it could have been utterly beyond human comprehension. It’s not! And scientists just take this for granted for the most part, and I think it’s a really important point that needs to be made.”

3.  Science does not consider issues of "meaning" and "purpose" in the world.

Fine and good… then what is the meaning and purpose for that? 

It is not possible to do things or theorize ideas without a meaning and purpose for doing so. That is so, unless the propagators of said ideas are themselves utterly incoherent.

4. Methodological naturalism is a "ground rule" of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify.”

I can test all kinds of things that are not natural in the material sense. For instance, your claim to ‘not know, and not care’ fails the test of empirical analysis. You obviously do care that truth be exalted as king over any deception that might cloud our collective vision. Well, you and I are in agreement. Reality (whatever it may be) is indivisible from truth. It is what it is, and no amount of delusion will change it. The laws of physics will not be suspended just because I might fancy the idea that I can fly; which brings me to my next point…

Gravity and energy are not things that can be known in the scientific sense. No doubt you disagree with that proposition, so hear me out.

We know what these things do, and to a large degree we understand the parameters in which they operate within the physical world. But we don’t know what they are. We know what they do, but we don’t know what they are. Methodological naturalism necessarily implies that these entities are only meaningfully described as ‘a what’. It precludes (unscientifically btw) the possibility that they are ‘a who’. And because our convention of science does this, it most certainly is dealing or meddling with purpose and meaning.

We have been unwittingly taught to think of questions of science and reality in terms of questions such as, ‘what is reality?’, or ‘what is the universe?’. How can we know scientifically if we are asking the right questions? Why not, ‘who is reality’?

This habit of thinking of the world and existence in purely material terms is belied by the very existence of things like gravity and energy. The inconceivable notion of infinite space itself testifies against such a nicely tailored box.

The material world is clearly only a part of the picture. And science is only valid if our philosophy is married and made to cohere with the external world. We do not live in a one dimensional universe. Empiricism itself is dependant upon the testimony of at least two witnesses or entities being woven into a coherent spirit of harmony. And that is a richly though not accidentally Biblical concept. The triune nature of the evidence also reflects a universal principle of unity and diversity (university) which is the great philosophical search of all science and applied logic. And only one answer exists as to the discovery of unity and diversity in creation (the effect) in terms of unity and diversity in the first cause. It is in the doctrine of the trinity where we find unity and diversity in the first cause.

Now, having dealt with your philosophical assumptions, let’s work on some of your comments as I see them:

You said, “If ID is involved, then there should not be a single meaningless codon in DNA, otherwise it would be wasteful. There should not be a single irrelevant molecule in DNA, not a single irrelevant atom - if indeed ID is valid.

On a larger scale, no animal (including humans) would have vestigal organs or vestigal limbs - if ID is valid. So, I assume we can shortly expect a prediction from Sean D. Pitman M.D. that a function will be found for each and every vestigal organ and limb in every animal.

Of course some "junk DNA" will get reclassified. I doubt there is a scientist working on DNA that does not expect that at least some of so-called "junk DNA" will turn out not to be junk, but essential to life. That has nothing to do with ID, it's just that all the scientific research has not been done yet. And finding new function for strands of DNA will not change a single researcher into a rabid IDer.

But as functions are found for some of the unidentified sections of DNA, I will predict this: Not a single function will be identified by an ID researcher - all the discoveries will be made by real scientists with an understanding of science. And then when real scientists have done the work, the ID apologists will then look for ways to deliberately misinterpret it, again.

The question I have for you Rob is this: Given that the science backing evolution is overwhelming and continuously increasing (contrary to the false information peddled by your Sean D. Pitman M.D.) why are you unable to consider that your God works through evolution?”

What you say regarding codons and atoms would be true if a Biblical view like my own taught that God restores and maintains all things at every moment and doesn’t allow us the freedom to mess with the created order. But that is not what it teaches.

In a sense, I do believe in evolution and that God uses it to serve His purposes. But, it is moving in the opposite direction implied by evolutionary theory in general. We live in a dying world, not one being birthed into higher states of order. And this empirical fact is born out by the laws of physics. Be it the universe itself, or us as living beings, we are dying. True, we are adapting to our environment. Natural selection is a real process. But to assume as Darwin did, that it is operating in this direction and not that, is contrary to empirical facts. As Jonathan Wells said, natural selection can explain the survival of the fittest, but not the arrival of the fittest. The real rub of evolutionary theory is in the realm of abiogenesis. And that is a subject I would love to discuss with you in voluminous detail.

The fact is, Darwin got it half right. And the science spawned by the legitimate side of the discovery has led, unwittingly, to a better understanding of the vast submicroscopic complexity of even the simplest one celled organism. You can call them legitimate scientists if you want. I don’t care who does the work. A treasure hunter may uncover all sorts of artifacts and meaningful discoveries while failing to find his treasure. Such is the pathetic situation for many a ‘legitimate scientist’ when it comes to evolution. What they cast aside as useless junk in their zealous digging for their God, I will gladly cherish as prized evidence for my own.

As For vestigial organs (which you misspelled btw ;) ID predicts the same thing. “Your surgeon was a little out of date’, replied Chicagoan Kathleen James in the pro-evolution magazine’s questions-and-answers column. ‘Although it used to be believed that the appendix had no function and was an evolutionary relic, this is no longer thought to be true. Its greatest importance is the immunological function it provides in the developing embryo, but it continues to function even in the adult … . The function of the appendix appears to be to expose circulating immune cells to antigens from the bacteria and other organisms living in your gut. That helps your immune system to tell friend from foe and stops it from launching damaging attacks on bacteria that happily co-exist with you.” (The last word, New Scientist 177(2381):65, 8 February 2003 . The question (with name) first appeared in the 12 October 2002 edition. )

The same goes for other so-called vestigial organs.

Evolution easily explained these organs as leftovers. And the same goes with ‘junk DNA’. But yet again, the assumptions of evolutionary theory are found to be just that, unscientific assumptions. ID, very meaningfully predicts that these features will prove to expose deeper and deeper layers of complexity and design in the future. After-all, the most technologically advanced self- replicating machines in the known universe are biological systems.

Science is moving forward JT. It isn’t the 19th century any longer. Darwin is dead. If binary digital codes are known ‘empirically’ to be the result of intelligent agents, then a more sophisticated and efficient quaternary digital code like that of DNA can be inferred to also result from intelligence. And that is based on empirical evidence. The design inference is therefore a completely scientific theory. And it makes predictions.

"Imagine that an intelligence service were to discover some unintelligible messages being sent by a spy. At first the intelligence agents naturally assume they are looking at a code. They assume the task of decoding will be straightforward. But on closer analysis it turns out that the message means one thing if the signal has been received and acted upon, another thing if it has been received and not acted upon. It’s another thing if the receiving apparatus is not switched on, and so on. Rather than just a code the message is a bit like a set of rules for a rather complex interactive game. There are feedback loops, and circuits within circuits, and a lot of things happening inside the cell but outside the genome in the unfashionable realm of cytogenetics. NIH-funded geneticists don’t even want to think about that, because they thought that by sticking to the four nucleotide bases, they had the problem neatly “digitized.” Computers would hum away unaided, 24 hours a day, and unravel the mysteries for them while they slept.

We should have known that it would not be so simple. Successful biological systems resist simple analysis for the very same reason that they are successful. Every time we gain greater knowledge of any such system we discover that it is far more complicated, redundant, self-healing, adaptable, and resistant to “single points of failure” than it first appeared. If the functioning of the genome were as simple--and therefore easily manipulated--as the advocates of the genome project have been implying, it would be impossibly fragile. Significant genetic defects would be far more common, assuming any organism based on such an easily cracked and therefore easily corrupted code could survive in the first place." ( http://www.discovery.org/a/623 )

There is so much more I could say, but in short I agree with half your creed. You definitely don’t know... You do have a God given logical mind however, so I have great faith that you can handle these equations if you really decide to start caring.