Design Theory

blue prints Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 09:27:06:

I've just read an article in First Things by William Dembski entitled Science and Design. This article apparently summarizes a new book he wrote entitled The Design Inference in which he promises to wield complexity-specification criterion (math) for the purposes of detecting design. Has anyone read the article or book? (I'm reading out of the August issue which is not on the First Things web page yet.)

I've noticed that fellows like Dembski, Behe and Phillip Johnson call themselves "design theorists". These guys take great pains to distance themselves from creationists rhetorically. You will never hear any of them refer to the bible. I don't think evolutionists will make much headway by questioning their motives. Say what you will about Phillip Johnson, his method of disputing evolutionary theory has put him in prestigious company. Weinberg, Provine, Ruse and other bright lights consider him (and by extension his arguments) to be worthy of debate. (Steven Weinberg would not be caught dead on stage with a YEC.) My question is (finally), will scorn and the brandishing of credentials be enough to keep "design theory" out of mainstream science?


Response

Posted by Joe Meert on September 15, 1998 at 10:06:28:

Exactly what elevated this to the status of a theory? Johnson's say-so? What sort of predictions and retrodictions does this 'theory' make? How can it be falsified? Can you please describe the basic tenets of 'design theory'.

PS: I would hope you would try to answer these questions before playing the creationist game of inserting 'evolution' for 'design' in the above post. Archive it and ask it later once you've answered the questions. That way we can compare and contrast.


Response to Joe Meert

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 11:29:46:

Joe: Exactly what elevated this to the status of a theory? Johnson's say-so?

Fence: Yes (though not Johnson's say-so alone). A man can walk out his front door in the morning and say, "I have a theory..."
Whether the theory is sustained or passes into obscurity will be the test.

Joe: What sort of predictions and retrodictions does this theory make?

Fence: Even if I were to come to the conclusion that something was designed, could I not still ask "how it was produced, to what extent the design is optimal and what is its purpose?" (Taken from Dembski)

Joe: How can it be falsified?

Fence: You'll take care of that.

Joe: Can you please describe the basic tenets of "design theory"?

Fence: No. It remains like evolution quite vague. (Keep in mind that I have not read Dembski's book) It seems that specificity in terms is dangerous to one's theory. "Design Theory" at this stage is a politically convenient construct, meant to offer a home to various notions reflected by its name. To evolutionists I say that the opposition is becoming more sophisticated and is gaining an increasing audience outside the halls of science. Under the "design theory" rubric, scientists who have had doubts about evolution may be willing to express them without fear of the accusation that they are indulging or expounding faith based, irrational opinion. Say what you want about Johnson and the others. They are very intelligent, politically astute and have a facility with words. They will be more worthy opponents for the (very intelligent) Joe Meerts of this debate. And they are not appealing to you, but rather directly to the public.

Response to Fence

Posted by Dr M on September 15, 1998 at 13:29:37:

Fence: Yes (though not Johnson's say-so alone). A man can walk out his front door in the morning and say, "I have a theory..." Whether the theory is sustained or passes into obscurity will be the test.

M: This is a good point. In my opinion the most important task for scientists in a public discussion like this board is to explain why science is more than just a bunch of theories.  The mistake creationists make is to say "I have a theory with evidence to support it" and to think that they are doing science.


Response to DrM

Posted by Helen on September 15, 1998 at 13:56:19:

Dr. M. wrote, "The mistake creationists make is to say "I have a theory with evidence to support it" and to think that they are doing science."

You mean science doesn't do that?


Response to Helen

Posted by Dr M on September 15, 1998 at 16:12:50:

Most scientists don't spend most of their time gathering evidence for theories. Most science is directed towards practical results.


Response to Fence

Posted by Joe Meert on September 15, 1998 at 11:57:36:

Fence: Yes (though not Johnson's say-so alone). A man can walk out his front door in the morning and say, "I have a theory..."

Whether the theory is sustained or passes into obscurity will be the test.

JM: In a colloquial sense you are quite correct about 'theories'. Science has very specific requirements for a theory and since you seem to agree that this has now been elevated to the status of a scientific theory, the onus falls on you to describe why it deserves this status.


Response to Joe Meert

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 14:25:30:

I am merely reporting what I believe will be an upcoming development in this debate. I do agree with you that the scientific community has formal requirements for theories. It must.
Many creationists, like those on this board, have what they believe to be legitimate empirical questions about the sufficiency of evolution in explaining all facets of the development of life, from non-life to humans. So in that sense "Design Theory" may never function as a formal scientific theory, but rather as a generalized, multi-faceted theory opposed to the generalized theory of evolution. But truth be told, Joe, I'm not sure if attempts will be made to formalize it or not.
I believe the attempt is to legitimize dissent (politically) and perhaps drive a wedge between adherents of the multiple evolutionary paradigms. From your perspective this is a Trojan Horse. From the perspective of creationists, this is an attempt to overturn the hegemony of the evolutionists over the origins question and find a legally acceptable way of opposing the teaching of evolution in schools.


Response to Fence

Posted by Joe Meert on September 15, 1998 at 14:49:17:

Perhaps it's the inclusion of abiogenesis into evolution That many Christians find repulsive. I suspect it is that and the fact that evolution does not elevate man to some 'higher' plane. However, no matter how much creationists want evolution to explain abiogenesis, it has made no claims.
Evolution (biological) requires that life exists and changes proceed from there. It is entirely possible that the start of life was a miraculously 'designed' event. It is also possible that it was merely an outcome of chemical reactions or some other mechanism. As far as evolution is concerned it only matters that life begin sometime.
As for political motivations, I agree 100%. Creationists not only want evolution out, but they also (many) want biblical creationism in. In the US, that violates my right to believe whatever I want including no God. So politically, the movement must die in order to maintain religious freedom.


Fence’s Answer to Joe Meert

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 15:21:11:

Putting biblical creationism in public schools would be a huge mistake. I merely want evolutionists to be honest about what they can prove empirically. Because being an evolutionist means never having to say - "I don't know" - the science curricula (for K-12) needs a non-religious based corrective.


Response to Fence

Posted by Joe Meert on September 15, 1998 at 16:26:10:

Because being an evolutionist means never having to say - "I don't know" -

JM: Hardly, it is precisely the "I don't knows" which make up evolutionary theory.  Most scientists are quite comfortable with those words and if they are not, then they will be in for a humbling experience.

Response to Joe Meert

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 18:01:35:

The humility of scientists is manifest all over this board.


Response to Fence

Posted by Joe Meert on September 15, 1998 at 18:08:56:

There is humility amongst scientists regarding science. There is little tolerance for ideas long-ago discarded and presented without so much as an acknowledgement of the past history behind the ideas. Scientists are a tough group and when an idea is unsupportable and poorly developed, they will jump all over the presenter. Bad ideas don't last long in Science. That's why the young-earth global flood model died out over 100 years ago.

Response to Joe Meert

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 19:30:42:

Science\ 1 : the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding 2 a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study.
Please add anything else which I should know about science.
I am not YEC. I have noticed the lack of tolerance for the position.


Response to Fence

Posted by Alaric on September 15, 1998 at 16:04:27:

"I merely want evolutionists to be honest about what they can prove empirically."

Yes, well, that would be the current theory of evolution. That is what is empirically supported. Anything other than science really has no standing to "correct" science.


Response to Alaric

Posted by Fence. on September 15, 1998 at 19:51:17:

Alaric: Yes, well, that would be the current theory of evolution.

Fence: I propose you make a philosophical defense of your assertion. Title your thesis: Reality is the Current Theory of Evolution.

Alaric: Anything other than science really has no standing to "correct" science.

Fence: Soft sciences as well? Or does data "correct" data?


Response to Fence

Posted by Alaric on September 15, 1998 at 21:59:33:

I propose you make a philosophical defense of your assertion.

What are you talking about?

Title your thesis: Reality is the Current Theory of Evolution.

How about "The theory of evolution really is a scientific, empirically supported theory already"  The only way scientific theories can be changed is through the use of the same scientific method that created them. Sorry to disappoint.


Response to Alaric

Posted by Fence on September 16, 1998 at 00:19:10:

Alaric said: The only way scientific theories can be changed is through the use of the same scientific method that created them. Sorry to disappoint.

Fence: That’s wonderful Alaric. I made my original post to get some feedback on what I saw to be some developments in this debate in the general population. Apparently my Christianity peaked through and someone smelled a rat. In another thread a guy named Scott gave me a few paragraphs of standard-issue rebuke and implied that I must be forthcoming with my identity lest I be extrapolated (his word) as some other deceptive Christian. I'll try and make my related point:  Outside of the community of scientists who make their livings in evolutionary science (and a few others, Star Trek fans, maybe) this debate is more important for its implications than for the science it yields (even if new discoveries give you goose pimples). Sciences which can make money have long since left evolutionists to their underfunded departments. Perhaps this explains some of the hostility. 'Here we are working our butts off doing real science (check the by laws) and a brilliant not-scientist like Phillip Johnson goes out and sells a ton of books. In so doing he convinces a bunch of the same people that passed through our institutions that we didn't come from apes.' If the best you can do is assign deceptive motives to Phil Johnson and your opponents, will you be able to sustain your political hegemony over the years? (Now the charlatans are coming out of the woodwork with their books and seminars, right?)
Can anyone comment on this 'before' they try and convince me that my beliefs are foolish?  (BTW, I support evolutionary science. I would like to see more money spent on research science of all kinds.)


Response to Fence

Posted by scott on September 17, 1998 at 12:13:17:

Alaric said: The only way scientific theories can be changed is through the use of the same scientific method that created them. Sorry to disappoint.

Fence: Thats wonderful Alaric. I made my original post to get some feedback on what I saw to be some developments in this debate in the general population. Apparently my Christianity peaked through and someone smelled a rat. In another thread a guy named Scott gave me a few paragraphs of standard-issue rebuke and implied that I must be forthcoming with my identity lest I be extrapolated (his word) as some other deceptive Christian. I'll try and make my related point:

***** My goodness... I was not even referring to YOU! If you wanted to know what I thought of you (I think nothing about you, btw), you should have asked instead of shifting my analysis of some individuals onto yourself. I gave you the 'standard' rebuke because you gave the 'standard' creationist line. Reap what you sow.

Here is my original post to you (RE: you posting this to Helen: Helen, If scientists classify something as vestigial doesn't that merely note our lack of understanding about function? Do we then stop searching for its function? Does this promote science?):  Funny you say that, since it was, afterall, scientists that discovered the functions of so-called vestigial structures, not creationists or design hypothsists. Maybe you'd like to take a crack at explaining the function of the extensor coccygis - none of the anti-evolutionists on this board have been able to come up with a rational scientific explanation .

After that, you get all smarmy and now you're trying to cast me in a bad light (paranoid, etc.) Pathetic.....

Outside of the community of scientists who make their livings in evolutionary science (and a few others, Star Trek fans, maybe) this debate is more important for its implications than for the science it yields (even if new discoveries give you goose pimples). Sciences which can make money have long since left evolutionists to their underfunded departments. Perhaps this explains some of the hostility. 'Here we are working our butts off doing real science (check the by laws) and a brilliant not-scientist like Phillip Johnson goes out and sells a ton of books. In so doing he convinces a bunch of the same people that passed through our institutions that we didn't come from apes.'

***** LOL! Underfunded? Hardly. My advisor has been getting grants to study evolution - big ones - since the '60's.

Johnson ISN'T a scientists - that is why much of what he says about science is laughably wrong. But that doesn't stop him from selling those propaganda tomes, does it?

If the best you can do is assign deceptive motives to Phil Johnson and your opponents, will you be able to sustain your political hegemony over the years?

**** Thats FAR from the best evolutionists can do. They've been pointing out the asinine scientific shortcomings of creationists and presenting real scientific evidence in favor of evolution for years. Its just that most creationists aren't concerned about that. They seem happy to feed themselves a diet of mis-and disinformation from the likes of Gish and Johnson.


Response to Alaric

Posted by Joe Martin on September 16, 1998 at 07:10:30:

Science is corrected all the time and not only through scientific means. Science is nothing more than physical interpretations and correlations for something that is more than physical.


Response to Joe Martin

Posted by Alaric on September 16, 1998 at 21:07:59:

Try again. Scientific theories can only be corrected through the methods of science. This is a fundamental part of the method.   Naturally, you are free to accept or reject science. You are free to reject it using any method you choose.
If you want to change a theory, however, you must use only science.


Response to Alaric

Posted by Joe Martin on September 18, 1998 at 06:41:09:

Humanity is on the verge of changing and improving those methods. You're not afraid to ride the wave are you, Alaric?


Response to Joe Martin

Posted by Alaric (163.153.182.105) on September 18, 1998 at 14:49:14:

What are you talking about? Creationism? What? If you have a better method to do science, please let me know. Ride the wave of knowledge, my friend!


Response to Alaric

Posted by Joe Martin (d19-xa02-toro-pdi.attcanada.net) on September 19, 1998 at 10:48:48:

You seem to imply that spirituality has nothing in common with knowledge or reality. Do you really believe that atoms banging around is all there is to it?


Response to Alaric

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 16, 1998 at 09:02:10:

PK: I count about 15 instances of speciation in part five of this FAQ. Of those 15, I see three as due to evolution.

PK: I interpret this body of evidence to indicate that evolution may account for a fifth of the species rather than most species.

TO's Observed Instances of Speciation FAQ --
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by Alaric on September 16, 1998 at 21:04:05:

Hmmm... you count only three as due to evolution....

What were the others due to, instant creation by god?  So let's start with the basics: You agree that what has occurred was speciation, but contest that the species evolved. Is that accurate?


Response to Alaric

Posted by Mockingbird1 (max2.ip90.ameritel.net) on September 18, 1998 at 23:27:55:

A: Hmmm... you count only three as due to evolution....

PK: That is the initial assessment

A: What were the others due to, instant creation by god?

PK: Material explanations are available for the other 12.

A: So let's start with the basics: You agree that what has occurred was speciation, but contest that the species evolved.

PK: The populations were evolveing before and after the speciation. The speciation was not caused by evolution.

A: Is that accurate?

PK: Yup, as clarified.


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by Alaric (dialup88-186.telenet.net) on September 19, 1998 at 22:23:34:

Are you suggesting that a scientific theory causes anything? That is not what theories claim to do. They merely attempt to explain what is observed based upon the observations that we have.  I am as much at fault as anyone since I'm sucked into discussions about what evolution "does" rather than what it explains.
Apologies in advance

 

 

 

 
 
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