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What is wrong with intelligent design?
EurekAlert! ^ | 22-Feb-2007 | Suzanne Wu

Posted on 02/22/2007 6:22:34 PM PST by Boxen

In a thought-provoking paper from the March issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology , Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin) clearly discusses the problems with two standard criticisms of intelligent design: that it is unfalsifiable and that the many imperfect adaptations found in nature refute the hypothesis of intelligent design.

Biologists from Charles Darwin to Stephen Jay Gould have advanced this second type of argument. Stephen Jay Gould's well-known example of a trait of this type is the panda's thumb. If a truly intelligent designer were responsible for the panda, Gould argues, it would have provided a more useful tool than the stubby proto-thumb that pandas use to laboriously strip bamboo in order to eat it.

ID proponents have a ready reply to this objection. We do not know whether an intelligent designer intended for pandas to be able to efficiently strip bamboo. The "no designer worth his salt" argument assumes the designer would want pandas to have better eating implements, but the objection has no justification for this assumption. In addition, Sober points out, this criticism of ID also concedes that creationism is testable.

A second common criticism of ID is that it is untestable. To develop this point, scientists often turn to the philosopher Karl Popper's idea of falsifiability. According to Popper, a scientific statement must allow the possibility of an observation that would disprove it. For example, the statement "all swans are white" is falsifiable, since observing even one swan that isn't white would disprove it. Sober points out that this criterion entails that many ID statements are falsifiable; for example, the statement that an intelligent designer created the vertebrate eye entails that vertebrates have eyes, which is an observation.

This leads Sober to jettison the concept of falsifiability and to provide a different account of testability. "If ID is to be tested," he says, "it must be tested against one or more competing hypotheses." If the ID claim about the vertebrate eye is to be tested against the hypothesis that the vertebrate eye evolved by Darwinian processes, the question is whether there is an observation that can discriminate between the two. The observation that vertebrates have eyes cannot do this.

Sober also points out that criticism of a competing theory, such as evolution, is not in-and-of-itself a test of ID. Proponents of ID must construct a theory that makes its own predictions in order for the theory to be testable. To contend that evolutionary processes cannot produce "irreducibly complex" adaptations merely changes the subject, Sober argues.

"When scientific theories compete with each other, the usual pattern is that independently attested auxiliary propositions allow the theories to make predictions that disagree with each other," Sober writes. "No such auxiliary propositions allow … ID to do this." In developing this idea, Sober makes use of ideas that the French philosopher Pierre Duhem developed in connection with physical theories – theories usually do not, all by themselves, make testable predictions. Rather, they do so only when supplemented with auxiliary information. For example, the laws of optics do not, by themselves, predict when eclipses will occur; they do so when independently justified claims about the positions of the earth, moon, and sun are taken into account.

Similarly, ID claims make predictions when they are supplemented by auxiliary claims. The problem is that these auxiliary assumptions about the putative designer's goals and abilities are not independently justified. Surprisingly, this is a point that several ID proponents concede.

###

Sober, Elliott. "What is Wrong with Intelligent Design," The Quarterly Review of Biology: March 2007.

Since 1926, The Quarterly Review of Biology has been dedicated to providing insightful historical, philosophical, and technical treatments of important biological topics.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: creationisminadress; crevo; crevolist; evolution; fsmdidit; goddidit; id; idjunkscience; intelligentdesign; itsapologetics
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That's just a press release.

Here's the full-text of the article in question, "What is Wrong with Intelligent Design" by Elliot Sober, graciously hosted by the University of Wisconsin.
1 posted on 02/22/2007 6:22:39 PM PST by Boxen
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To: Boxen

As I'm sure PH would remark, let's try to keep it civil.


2 posted on 02/22/2007 6:23:44 PM PST by Boxen (Branigan's law is like Branigan's love--Hard and fast.)
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To: Boxen

Everybody be nice! : )


3 posted on 02/22/2007 6:24:40 PM PST by WestVirginiaRebel (A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel-Robert Frost)
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To: Boxen

Bump for later...


4 posted on 02/22/2007 6:28:16 PM PST by Sopater (Creatio Ex Nihilo)
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To: Sopater
Bump for later...

Me too.

5 posted on 02/22/2007 6:33:06 PM PST by Coyoteman (Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.)
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To: Boxen

Thanks, Boxen.

This is a useful analysis, though it could just as well be titled "What's wrong with biological origins theories". One can forgive the author for the title and the emphasis, given the dominance of the religious consensus that governs biological origins theory today, and thus determines what makes it through the gauntlet of "peer review" into print.

What would make the discussion more interesting is if the evolutionist proponents could see themselves, and their "just so" stories about origins, in this analysis. I'm not waiting around for that, however. There are more productive ways to invest time.


6 posted on 02/22/2007 6:40:22 PM PST by Blue_Ridge_Mtn_Geek
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: Boxen
An evolutionist is somebody who could open the hood of a car, look at the engine, and say to himself:

"Gee, isn't that a hell of a thing for all that aluminum, steel, porcelain and rubber and what not to have gotten blown into something that looks like that!!"

8 posted on 02/22/2007 6:42:05 PM PST by rickdylan
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To: Boxen

Evolution happens.


9 posted on 02/22/2007 6:42:45 PM PST by ExtremeUnction
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To: Boxen
>"If a truly intelligent designer were responsible for the panda, Gould argues, it would have provided a more useful tool than the stubby proto-thumb that pandas use to laboriously strip bamboo in order to eat it."

Well what has god like genius Gould created?.....
Thought so!

10 posted on 02/22/2007 6:43:51 PM PST by rawcatslyentist ("The liberty we prize is not Americas gift to the world, it is Gods gift to humanity.GWB-03)
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To: Boxen
"What is wrong with intelligent design?"
Well. for the beginning the fact that its proponents seem to have been designed in a way that cannot be called particularly intelligent.
11 posted on 02/22/2007 6:45:16 PM PST by GSlob
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To: Boxen
"intelligent design: that it is unfalsifiable and that the many imperfect adaptations found in nature refute the hypothesis of intelligent design."

Good analysis. The problem is that both of these arguments are contradictory - something the article does not make as clear as it should.

It is inevitable that this debate enters the realm of the philosophy of science because it is not merely about what is correct or incorrect but what qualifies to be called "science".

One of the biggest philosophical problems introduced by evolution proponents is how the ToE is treated as an explanatory theory rather than a generalized theory.

Closer examination of these concepts leads to the realization that pure naturalism does not lend itself well to the formation of concepts with explanatory power. Everything just is because it is, for those who see the universe through this lens.
12 posted on 02/22/2007 6:45:32 PM PST by unlearner (You will never come to know that which you do not know until you first know that you do not know it.)
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To: Boxen

Does "ID" really compete with the Theory of Evolution?

Or does it more properly compete with other much less well developed "origins" theories like abiogenesis and panspermia?


13 posted on 02/22/2007 6:46:20 PM PST by voltaires_zit
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To: Boxen; editor-surveyor
Intelligent Design can be used for a lot of things--even Macroevolution guided by God (as some Christian opine). Christians should be Creationists. Intelligent Design is a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge umbrella term.
14 posted on 02/22/2007 6:47:18 PM PST by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Boxen

The problem with intelligent design is that it posits a designer...and if there is a designer that powerful then we may not be the masters of our own destiny...this designer may expect something from us...and that is unacceptable to many of us.


15 posted on 02/22/2007 6:49:48 PM PST by highlander_UW (I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future)
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To: Boxen

A third and valid criticism is that Intelligent Design has no empirical data to support it.


16 posted on 02/22/2007 6:50:22 PM PST by Rudder
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To: Boxen

Thanks for posting.


17 posted on 02/22/2007 6:51:50 PM PST by aculeus
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To: Boxen

As an intelligent design person myself there is thing I've never been able to explain.

Al Gore.

Seems to contradict the whole thing ;-)


18 posted on 02/22/2007 6:52:01 PM PST by festus (The constitution may be flawed but its a whole lot better than what we have now.)
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To: Boxen

God knows!! :-)


19 posted on 02/22/2007 6:53:23 PM PST by pillut48 (CJ in TX (Bible Thumper and Proud!))
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To: Boxen
Please, allow me to be the first.

Thank you. I've never had this opportunity before.

20 posted on 02/22/2007 6:55:39 PM PST by HoosierHawk
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