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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What did Judge Jones say in 2005? (Part I)

It is generally recognized that we don't do a very good job of teaching the nature of science. We also don't do a good job of teaching students how to think critically. This issue is going to heat up in a few months when Jerry Coyne's new book comes out.

Let's light a few fires right now. We'll look at the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. It was written by Judge John E. Jones III and it reflects on the nature of science and whether intelligent design (ID) is science. You can find the complete transcript on the TalkOrigins Archive website at: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District: Decision of the Court. The decision was published in December 2005.

Let's look at Section E4: "Whether ID is Science." I'll put Judge Jones' statement in boldface italics and my comments in regular type.

The first sentences is ...

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science.
Right off the bat we have an interesting conundrum. Judge Jones is not taking a position on whether ID is correct or not but, regardless, it's not science.

Let's think about this for a minute. Imagine that the "scientists" at the Biologic Institute have proven conclusively that an intelligent designer exists and that he has created bacteria flagella, protein-biding sites, and the Cambrian Explosion. In other words, Intelligent Design Creationism is an accurate description of the way today's world came to be. To my way of thinking, that fact would become part of our scientific explanation of life. I would also claim that the process of discovering that fact was scientific.

I can't imagine what other process could have worked.

What would we teach students in science classes? Would we tell them that we don't know how bacteria flagella came to be or would we lie to them and say that they must have evolved by entirely naturalistic means?

The opening statement is a farce. The truth or falsehood is ID is the most important issue. If it's true then it's science and we teach it. If it's not true then we don't teach it and it may, or may not, be science.
We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.
We are about to look at the three criteria in more detail but already we have an inconsistency. If ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, as it has, then that's because it is false. But the correctness of ID is not supposed to be relevant. And whether a proposition has been accepted or not is not the same as whether it is science or something else.

(I note in passing that all of natural philosophy incorporated belief in the supernatural before the middle of the 1800s. I don't know where these "centuries old" ground rules came from.)
Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. (9:19-22 (Haught); 5:25-29 (Pennock); 1:62 (Miller)). This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. (5:28 (Pennock)). 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. (9:21-22 (Haught ); 1:63 (Miller)). 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. (9:21 (Haught); 1:64, 87 (Miller)). While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. (3:103 (Miller); 9:19-20 (Haught)). 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. (5:23, 29-30 (Pennock)). 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. (1:59-64, 2:41-43 (Miller); 5:8, 23-30 (Pennock)).
I reject this limitation of science and so do many other scientists and philosophers. I believe that we can use the scientific way of knowing to investigate any question and that includes questions about the role of supernatural beings.

We've discussed this issue many times. It's closely related to the Demarcation Problem in epistemology [see: The Nature of Science (NOS)].

Judge Jones is expressing an opinion supported by many people who want to make science and religion compatible. By restricting science to the "natural world" they leave the door open to other kinds of investigations that may uncover truths by another means (faith?).

He is entitled to his opinion—an opinion shared by the National Center for Science Education—but that doesn't mean he's right. And it certainly doesn't mean he's right to declare that this is a universal criterion that defines science for everyone.
As the National Academy of Sciences (hereinafter "NAS") was recognized by experts for both parties as the "most prestigious" scientific association in this country, we will accordingly cite to its opinion where appropriate. (1:94, 160-61 (Miller); 14:72 (Alters); 37:31 (Minnich)). NAS is in agreement that science is limited to empirical, observable and ultimately testable data: "Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data – the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science." ( P-649 at 27).
And just because the American National Academy of Sciences also shares this opinion doesn't make it right. Every claim made by the creationists is subject to testing and amenable to scientific investigation. In the case of Intelligent Design, the proponents make a lot of noise about their claims being scientific and open to scientific challenge. Unfortunately, for them, many of us have taken up the challenge and shown that their claims are false and that's how science works.
This rigorous attachment to "natural" explanations is an essential attribute to science by definition and by convention. (1:63 (Miller); 5:29-31 (Pennock)). We are in agreement with Plaintiffs' lead expert Dr. Miller, that from a practical perspective, attributing unsolved problems about nature to causes and forces that lie outside the natural world is a "science stopper." (3:14-15 (Miller)). As Dr. Miller explained, once you attribute a cause to an untestable supernatural force, a proposition that cannot be disproven, there is no reason to continue seeking natural explanations as we have our answer. Id.
That's nonsense. A lot of ID is about finding scientific evidence of intelligent design.

The real science stopper is methodological naturalism. It rules out, right from the get go, any study that postulates the existence of supernatural beings. Science can't study the efficacy of prayer, for example, or whether miracles exist, if it's limited in such a manner. Science also can't investigate whether Ken Miller's view of theistic evolution is correct but that hasn't stopped some of us from trying.

What are we supposed to do when someone says that the Earth was created 6000 years ago by the god of the Bible? Are we supposed to throw up our hands and say that science has nothing to say on the matter because god is a science stopper?
ID is predicated on supernatural causation, as we previously explained and as various expert testimony revealed. (17:96 (Padian); 2:35-36 (Miller); 14:62 (Alters)). ID takes a natural phenomenon and, instead of accepting or seeking a natural explanation, argues that the explanation is supernatural. (5:107 (Pennock)). Further support for the conclusion that ID is predicated on supernatural causation is found in the ID reference book to which ninth grade biology students are directed, Pandas. Pandas states, in pertinent part, as follows:
Darwinists object to the view of intelligent design because it does not give a natural cause explanation of how the various forms of life started in the first place. Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly, through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.>
P-11 at 99-100 (emphasis added). Stated another way, ID posits that animals did not evolve naturally through evolutionary means but were created abruptly by a non-natural, or supernatural, designer. Defendants' own expert witnesses acknowledged this point. (21:96-100 (Behe); P-718 at 696, 700 ("implausible that the designer is a natural entity"); 28:21-22 (Fuller) (". . . ID's rejection of naturalism and commitment to supernaturalism . . ."); 38:95-96 (Minnich) (ID does not exclude the possibility of a supernatural designer, including deities).

Yawn. We all know that the intelligent designer is god. The question before us is how do we determine if Intelligent Design Creationism is correct or wrong? According the expert witnesses, science can't help us and, besides, the correctness of ID isn't relevant.

If we can't use science to find out whether Intelligent Design Creationists are right or wrong then what method can we use? I've written a ton of blog posts showing why Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, and Stephen Meyer are wrong and it really, really, felt like I was doing science. But Judge Jones says it isn't science. Bizarre.
It is notable that defense experts' own mission, which mirrors that of the IDM itself, is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the court in McLean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. Edwards, 482 U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267. First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller); 21:37-42 (Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich)).
The "ground rules" that Judge Jones refers to are the opinions of a subset of philosophers and scientists. Those "ground rules" are not universally accepted, especially by atheist scientists and philosphers. In this sense, philosophers like Maarten Boudry are more aligned with the defense experts than the experts on the plaintiff side [Is Science Restricted to Methodologial Naturalism?]. So am I.
Notably, every major scientific association that has taken a position on the issue of whether ID is science has concluded that ID is not, and cannot be considered as such. (1:98-99 (Miller); 14:75-78 (Alters); 37:25 (Minnich)). Initially, we note that NAS, the "most prestigious" scientific association in this country, views ID as follows:
Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge.
P-192 at 25. Additionally, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (hereinafter "AAAS"), the largest organization of scientists in this country, has taken a similar position on ID, namely, that it "has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims" and that "the lack of scientific warrant for so-called 'intelligent design theory' makes it improper to include as part of science education . . ." (P-198). Not a single expert witness over the course of the six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or organization that endorsed ID as science. What is more, defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the NAS and admit that ID is at best "fringe science" which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community. (21:37-38 (Behe); Fuller Dep. at 98-101, June 21, 2005; 28:47 (Fuller); Minnich Dep. at 89, May 26, 2005).

This gets really confusing. Now we seem to have an entirely different set of opinions about what is, and is not, science.

One organization claims that something is not science unless it's "testable by the methods of science." What does that mean? Does it mean that string theory and the multiverse are not science? What about hypotheses on the origin of life? What are these "methods of science"?

The next claim is that ID is not science because their claims " ... subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief." That's true of a lot of things. Take theistic evolution as an example. Francis Collins and Ken Miller both claim that intelligent beings arose because god planned it that way. This subordinates observed data that strongly suggests that life has no purpose and no direction.

Both Miller and Collins think they are using rational thought and evidence to reach their conclusion and that's science by my definition. They are wrong, but that's not the point. There's a big difference between bad science and "not science."

NAS also says that Intelligent Design Creationists do "... not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error." I don't think this is always true of every Intelligent Design Creationist but, in any case, it's not a criterion that makes them any different than a lot of scientists. NAS officials should meet the ENCODE Consortium.

It's true that no scientific organization has endorsed ID as a correct interpretation of life. That makes it bad science. They haven't endorsed Lamarckism or Phlogiston Theory either but that doesn't mean that those views aren't scientific. It just means that they are wrong—just like ID is wrong.

It's important to keep straight the difference between rejecting some idea because it's bad science and not supported by evidence on the one hand, and keeping open the possibility that it might be correct but just isn't science on the other hand. You can't argue from both sides of this issue.

If it's not science, as Judge Jones claims, then why is it relevant that scientific organizations don't accept it? Isn't that exactly what you'd expect of something that's not science?

Here's the problem. These American science organizations, and NCSE, don't want to be put in the position of saying that intelligent design is wrong because that would offend believers. Instead, they want to accommodate believers by declaring that the issue of god is outside of science. They want to maintain the illusion that science and belief in supernatural beings are compatible. Science and religion are different ways of knowing according to AAAS and NAS.

But then there's a problem because Intelligent Design Creationism maintains that evolutionary theory is wrong because god did it. So the scientific organizations have to say that Intelligent Design Creationism is scientifically flawed when they refute evolution AND that ID is not science.

It makes your head spin.
It is therefore readily apparent to the Court that ID fails to meet the essential ground rules that limit science to testable, natural explanations. (3:101-03 (Miller); 14:62 (Alters)). Science cannot be defined differently for Dover students than it is defined in the scientific community as an affirmative action program, as advocated by Professor Fuller, for a view that has been unable to gain a foothold within the scientific establishment. Although ID's failure to meet the ground rules of science is sufficient for the Court to conclude that it is not science, out of an abundance of caution and in the exercise of completeness, we will analyze additional arguments advanced regarding the concepts of ID and science.
Of the two criteria, "testable" and "natural", I reject both as limitations of science. I think it's possible for something to be part of a scientific investigation without being necessarily testable in the immediate future. I think it's possible for something to be subject to scientific investigation even if it postulates a supernatural explanation.

I think that ID is science and it's fair game for science just like every other question is open to scientific investigation. We use science as a way of knowing to determine whether the claims of creationists are valid or not. They aren't. And that's why we don't teach creationism in Canadian schools.1

1. Although I favor using creationism as an example of bad science.


Anonymous said...

Larry, I may not have a very good recollection but I'm pretty sure Judge Jones copied most of his final judgment decree from the lawyer's court proceedings arguments against ID I may be wrong but it is possible

However, I don't blame Judge Jones for rendering the judgment like that. I would blame the system that gives judges the power to render judgments of scientific importants they have absolutely no clue about

Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen said...

This time I completely agree Larry. One thing that always bugged me about the Dover case was when Michael Behe "was forced to admit that" if ID was science, then astrology was science too.

Astrology IS science, it's just FALSIFIED science. It's testable, it's been tested, and it's been found to be false beyond all rational doubt. That doesn't make it nonscientific, that just makes it false.

One can easily make falsifiable ID hypotheses (that the Discovery Institute fellows usually try to avoid this at all costs for religious reasons doesn't change the fact that it can actually be done). For example: If we suppose the genomes of living organisms were perfectly made by an omnipotent designer 6000 years ago to be free from flaw or waste, we would expect there to be little to zero junk-DNA. There is (lost of) junk-DNA, so the hypothesis is falsified. But it was nevertheless a totally legitimate hypothesis of ID with a specific testable prediction. So it was scientific.

William Spearshake said...

Although the Creationists ultimate goal is to have schools teach Creationism as the only valid explanation of the origin and diversification of life, the immediate goal was to have it taught on an "equal" footing with evolutionary theory. And they are not talking about being treated equally under the scientific process (because it would fail miserably) but to be treated as an equally valid explanation of life. They may not say it in these exact words, but surely they are not so stupid to think that it would stand up to scientific examination as well as evolutionary theory would. Or maybe they are.

Jonathan Badger said...

But the problem with that is the whole "the lord works in mysterious ways" excuse. Basically nothing involving a deity (or "designer") can be falsifiable because everything can be interpreted at least two ways -- if there is no junk, the designer is perfect, if there is junk, then the designer is leaving their signature behind for mortals to revere.

Konrad said...

Truth of a hypothesis is not sufficient for it to count as science. If I predict, through sheer guesswork, who is going to win the world cup, and I leave it at that without any attempt at justifying my claim, that is not science. And it doesn't suddenly turn into science if my prediction comes true.

A line of argument can only count as science if it employs the scientific way of knowing, and since ID (as espoused by its proponents) employs no such thing, it is not science.

John Harshman said...

What Konrad said. Larry, that's your first fallacy. I'm afraid I stopped reading after that. For some reason you don't like Judge Jones, but the reasons don't seem rational. Truth isn't a criterion for science. Susceptibility to empirical data is, and that's why astrology isn't science; it makes claims that, within astrology, are not able to be rejected by astrologers. The fact that non-astrologers can test those claims is irrelevant; non-astrology can indeed be science. Similarly, IDiots make claims, some of which can actually be tested. But they don't do that. Anyone who tested the claims might be doing science, but IDiots aren't doing science. One must judge a field by what it is, not by what it could have been in another world.

Larry Moran said...

I agree that just because something is true doesn't make it science. But when it comes to what we should teach our students, I think it's a good idea to teach them what is true no matter how much you may dislike it. Thus, if ID is true how could you possibly justify not teaching it?

I know that thought experiments and hypotheticals are difficult for some people.

Intelligent design creationists are constantly attempting to justify their claims with evidence and scientific reasoning. All of their recent books are about science and scientific reasoning. They are wrong but I just don't understand why some people are determined to not call it science. Jonathan Wells rejects junk DNA but so does John Mattick and they use the same arguments. Why is one science and the other not?

Larry Moran said...

I like Judge Jones and I admire him for sorting out the legal aspects of this case.

ID is bad science. The fact that some people don't realize that doesn't make it not science. There are some molecular biologist who refuse to accept junk DNA but that doesn't make it not science. Everything about ID is susceptable to evidence and rationality. That makes it a genuine scientific problem.

It's no different than Lamarckism. Just because there might be some people out there who believe in it doesn't mean that Lamarckism becomes non-science.

Unknown said...

I think that the confusion here is between what is science, and what can be examined scientifically. The fact is, no subject or theory can be classified as science. ID isn't science. But neither is evolution, or physics, or chemistry or molecular biology. But they can all be examined using the scientific process.

Most of us would agree that astrology, phrenology, the healing powers of crystals, and the power of prayer are lame concepts. But I can easily envisions ways to examine each of these following the scientific process.

Anything that can be hypothesized can be examined scientifically. But some have been falsified so often and so thoroughly (eg, ID) decisions have to be made about whether or not valuable resources (usually publicly funded) should be expended to do so. However, if privately funded resources are available, knock yourself out.

Unknown said...

The real science stopper is methodological naturalism. It rules out, right from the get go, any study that postulates the existence of supernatural beings. Science can't study the efficacy of prayer, for example, or whether miracles exist, if it's limited in such a manner. Science also can't investigate whether Ken Miller's view of theistic evolution is correct but that hasn't stopped some of us from trying.

Seriously? By what definition of "natural" and "supernatural"?

AllanMiller said...

... and then hastily scribbling it out with some danged signal of phylogeny! We know your game, God!

Anonymous said...

I agree that science can study the supernatural. I think the reason that some people disagree is that the notion of the supernatural contains an internal paradox and how a person chooses to resolve that paradox determines whether they think science can/cant study the supernatural.
The paradox is this: On the one hand the supernatural realm is utterly disconnected from the natural world and the rules here don't apply there. Even when advocates of the supernatural don't express this explicitly the idea comes across when one tries to pin them down on evidence for God, miracles, ESP etc.
On the other hand advocates of the supernatural claim to be in an almost continuous 2-way conversation with the supernatural and the supernatural has many effect in this world. This directly contradicts the first premise. If one resolves this paradox in favor of the first premise one concludes science can't study the supernatural. If one resolves in favor of the second one concludes it can.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree with Larry that ID is science. I don't think 'science' has a precise definition so whether ID is science is a personal preference. I'm not 100% committed to this but I'm inclined to say that ID isn't science and the crucial difference is motivation.

ID is to science what theology is to philosophy.

Philosophers use their cognitive tools to explore 'philosophy space' and see where it leads see what they find. Theologians already know what they're going to find: they're going to find that God exists, that Jesus is his son, that he rose from the dead etc etc. If the tools of philosophers help them get there they use them. If those tools hinder them they throw them out the window and invent any new rules of rationality they need.
I think the selective use and interpretation of scientific info by IDers is essentially the same and disqualifies ID as science

Larry Moran said...

If you agree with Judge Jones and philosophers like Michael Ruse, then you should have no trouble defining "natural" and "supernatural" and the restrictions of methodological naturalism. It should be quite simple.

However, if it turns out to be much less simple than you imagine then we have a problem. I'm not sure what you're asking but I can admit that it's very difficult to define what one means by "supernatural." That's why I don't even try to construct a philosophy that limits science based on such a definition.

Do you believe that science is restricted to methodological naturalism by definition? If so, the onus is on you, not me, to define what"s "natural" and allowed and what's "supernatural" and disallowed.

Give it a go.

Larry Moran said...

I agree with you that the subject is complex and there are many different views about what IS science and what is NOT science. Philosophers and scientists have been debating this point for at least one hundred years and still haven't settled on a point of view that satisfies everyone.

If that's true, then the best way to deal with the issue in a court of law is to declare that the court chooses one particular view over all others and declares that ID is not science according to that view. The judge could then add a footnote pointing out that many prominent scientists and philosophers disagree with that particular view and don't necessarily declare that ID isn't science.

Do you really want to defend the idea that "selective use and interpretation of scientific info" is what distinguishes science from nonscience? There isn't going to be much left of science if you do that.

Larry Moran said...

I agree with you that the truth or falsity of a claim is the most important issue. And I agree with you that we have used science as a way of knowing to demonstrate that ID is false.

Judge Jones disagrees, He says that it doesn't matter if ID is true or not. What matters is that it isn't science even if it's true and can't be taught in American public schools.

Anonymous said...

No. I saw a documentary where a team of art historians were trying to identify the source manuscript for a Medieval picture that had been torn out. It struck me how similar the methods and reasoning were to science. One might say what distinguishes science is that scientists have to be much more precise because they obtain data though experiments that involve several layers of cause and effect. They rarely see the thing they're studying directly. Another way to distinguish might be to simply say that scientists study the natural world.
If I were to define ID as not being science I'd say its because IDers aren't really interested in studying the natural world. Their primary motivation is to prove God exists. Everything else is secondary

SRM said...

Well, he does say that the truth of ID is a matter upon which the court takes no position, which is different than saying it doesn't matter whether it is true or not. At the very least, I'm happy that a single judge (with no scientific expertise, not that it would matter if he had expertise) excused his court from being the legal arbiter of what is true or false in science.

Larry Moran said...

Those art historians were doing science by my definition and the definition of others (the broad definition). If you think they were't doing science then what is YOUR name for the procedure they were using and how does it differ from science?

The idea can science can only be done by traditional scientists is quite popular but it does make me wonder hpw many other valid ways of knowing are out there and what they are called.

As for your second point, I'm curious to know if the natural world is all there is. I think all scientists should be curious about that. How should I go about evaluating the hypothesis that supernatural beings exist? It can't be science according to your definition so what is your name for the process I should use and how does it work?

judmarc said...

I admittedly lack expertise in the "demarcation problem" and related topics, so I can't speak to how what Judge Jones said relates to that. What I know something about are the precedents Judge Jones was legally bound to follow. The excerpt from the Wikipedia discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow will sound familiar after having read Judge Jones' opinion above. The Daubert case concerned when testimony is admissible in a court of law as coming from a "scientific expert:"

In Daubert, seven members of the Court agreed on the following guidelines for admitting scientific expert testimony:
Judge is gatekeeper: Under Rule 702, the task of "gatekeeping", or assuring that scientific expert testimony truly proceeds from "scientific knowledge", rests on the trial judge.
Relevance and reliability: This requires the trial judge to ensure that the expert's testimony is "relevant to the task at hand" and that it rests "on a reliable foundation". Concerns about expert testimony cannot be simply referred to the jury as a question of weight. Furthermore, the admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Rule 104(a), not Rule 104(b); thus, the Judge must find it more likely than not that the expert's methods are reliable and reliably applied to the facts at hand.
Scientific knowledge = scientific method/methodology: A conclusion will qualify as scientific knowledge if the proponent can demonstrate that it is the product of sound "scientific methodology" derived from the scientific method.
Factors relevant: The Court defined "scientific methodology" as the process of formulating hypotheses and then conducting experiments to prove or falsify the hypothesis, and provided a nondispositive, nonexclusive, "flexible" set of "general observations" (i.e. not a "test") that it considered relevant for establishing the "validity" of scientific testimony:
1.Empirical testing: whether the theory or technique is falsifiable, refutable, and/or testable.
2.Whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication.
3.The known or potential error rate.
4.The existence and maintenance of standards and controls concerning its operation.
5.The degree to which the theory and technique is generally accepted by a relevant scientific community.

There are other precedential cases from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Constitutionality of teaching "creation science," whose language would also look much like what we find in Judge Jones' opinion. (This, by the way, is one of a number of excellent responses to the complaints of ID folk that Judge Jones drew so heavily on the plaintiffs' suggested conclusions of law - the plaintiffs cited the controlling precedents, and their language/reasoning, that Judge Jones was legally bound to follow.)

I realize this doesn't resolve the issue of the "demarcation problem" and the Dover case, it simply moves it to a different venue: If Judge Jones in writing his opinion drew heavily on the language and reasoning of the precedential U.S. Supreme Court cases (which he did), then we are now asking the same questions with regard to those precedents as Dr. Moran does above with regard to Judge Jones' opinion.

There are reasons these precedential cases were decided the way they were. Though as I noted I don't have much of a background re the "demarcation problem," I will venture to guess these reasons will not much satisfy those looking for an expansive view of what constitutes science, and in many instances may not even display philosophical consistency.

John Harshman said...

You're thinking of science as an abstract body of hypotheses. I'm thinking of it as a community of human beings and as an activity. ID, considered as an abstract body of hypotheses, might be science. But the ID community doesn't do any of that activity. ID could be science. But it isn't. The dependence of science on community and practice is why "cdesign proponentsists" is so telling.

Do you think there's such a thing as pseudoscience?

Faizal Ali said...

I personally find the idea of the "supernatural" very easy to define in theory, but impossible to define in practice.

In theory, we have a universe that is governed by natural laws. Anything that violates or is in addition to those laws would be "supernatural". Simple.

In practice, though, let's try a thought experiment: Imagine we live in a universe that is governed by natural laws, but in which there also exists a deity who is not bound by these natural laws and is able to violate them at will.

Suppose, in this universe, there is no such thing as gravity. Instead, there is a natural force that causes all things to be repelled from one another. The deity does not like this state of affairs, and instead wants to create a universe in which things are actually attracted to one another, so that stars and planets and oceans and giraffes and other such things can exist. So, thru his supernatural powers, he forces every single object in the universe to overcome the natural repulsive force and, instead, forces them together in such a way that there appears to be a force attracting them to each other. Eventually, this universe gives rise to a bunch of hairless apes with oversized brains who call this apparent attractive force "gravity."

This "gravity" is a supernatural force. It only exists thru the miraculous intervention of the deity. Question: How would the brainy hairless apes be able to use science to determine that it was in fact "supernatural"

Larry Moran said...

You're thinking of science as an abstract body of hypotheses. I'm thinking of it as a community of human beings and as an activity.

I realize that there are different conceptions of "science" and ID can be included in some definitions and excluded from others. That's the whole point of these posts. You can't say that Judge Jones settled the issue back in 2005 and ID isn't science. The best you can say is that according to one definition of science, ID isn't science.

Do you think there's such a thing as pseudoscience?

Yes, but it's hard to define. I think Intelligent Design Creationism is pseudoscience and that's not the same as "not science."

Anonymous said...


I remember when I read the first paper employing GFP. They were using it to watch a regulated protein move in and out of the nucleus in a living cell. I remember it because right after I read it I took my old Toyota to the mechanic to fix an oil leak. The mechanic couldn't find the leak so he put a fluorescence dye in engine and used a black light to find the leak. The similarity struck me. Its interesting the mechanics, art historians and scientists use similar logic to solve problems but it would be nice if we had words that could distinguish them, however arbitrary the word.
Some people define "God' as the sense of awe we feel when contemplate the universe. I saw a preacher in a debate define 'religion' as believing in something. That's fine but that means that everyone, dogs, cats and most higher animals are all religious.
I don't think that art historians would take it as a complement to their field that you consider it science. Rather, I think they'd take it as scientific hubris similar to that expressed by EO Wilson when he said that when fields of enquiry reach maturity they become science.
I'm not sure what you mean by the natural world being 'all there is" If there is something 'other' that has an effect on the natural world then it should be included in the definition of the natural world. If there is something that is completely disconnected then we can never know that it exists and so theres no point in considering it.

John Harshman said...

The best you can say is that according to one definition of science, ID isn't science.

I'd go a little farther. I'd say that according to most definitions, it isn't.

I think Intelligent Design Creationism is pseudoscience and that's not the same as "not science."

That was going to be my next question. Clearly we disagree on whether pseudoscience is science. Is all pseudoscience also science or is there only partial overlap? And are you acquainted with the term "cargo cult science"?

Larry Moran said...

I don't think that art historians would take it as a complement to their field that you consider it science.

So, how do you think they would describe the process they use? Would they be comfortable if we said that it was NOT scientific?

Larry Moran said...

I'd go a little farther. I'd say that according to most definitions, it isn't.

I'm not surprised that you think this. Let's assume that you are correct. Judge Jones should then have said that ID isn't science according to most definitions although there are other acceptable definitions that would include ID.

We've discussed this before. Have you read The Philosophy of Psedeodoscience? A substantial number of philosophers in that book accept the same broad definition of science that I accept.I'm pretty sure that a solid majority of philosophers understand that there's no definitive answer the the demarcation problem so they wouldn't be comfortable declaring that ID is or is not science.

Clearly we disagree on whether pseudoscience is science.

Probably, and so do the authors of the book. I tend to agree with the general definition that pseudoscience is discredited or incorrect science masquerading as science. The important point is that it has already been discredited. That means it was treated as science and shown to be false.

Homeopathy is a good example. Nobody ever said that it is "not science" so let's ignore it. Instead, it's claims were analyzed and rejected by scientists. Now when people insist that it's still scientifically valid they are wrong and we call that pseudoscience.

Cargo cult science is complicated. Richard Feynman used to to refer to real science that was badly done as well as to things like homeopathy.

Alex SL said...

I think you are right about the gist of things, but for slightly different reasons:

The word "supernatural" does not actually seem to have any clear meaning, in fact its only use seems to be as a signpost telling scientists to leave their hands off. So there does not appear to be any real reason why science should not be able to examine claims involving it.

And as for the question whether the same logic as used by Jones should also apply to theistic evolution, well, what exactly is the difference between theistic evolution and creationism? They are both creationism, at best they differ about the methodology used by the supposed deity.

I do disagree about testability though. I mean, if there is no way of checking whether an idea is more likely to be right or wrong, how can you do science to it? It would remain pure speculation.

SRM said...

I also favour a broad interpretation of science, or scientific approach.

I would go so far as to say merely crossing the road employs the scientific method. A person looks both ways and collects evidence with their eyes and ears, and perhaps other senses, that bears upon the mutually exclusive hypotheses that it is either safe or unsafe to cross the road. Most people will look both ways more than once before beginning to cross, and this is replicating the experiments to ensure the data you have acquired is reproducible. One can have a scientific approach to solving problems or answering questions even if they aren't the sort of questions we normally envision scientists exploring.

I can't imagine many art historians would object to calling what they do scientific - what other pathyway to reliable knowledge is possible? All else is guessing, which tends to have a very low success rate in most circumstances.

If a different word than "science"or "scientific" is needed, perhaps the general term Empiricism fits the bill.

Anonymous said...


I don't know. I imagine most of them don't think of their field in terms of science or non-science. Rather than relabeling everything as science I think it more useful to just recognize that the scientific approach isn't as unique as many people seem to think. Its just common sense applied a bit more rigorously to things that are very small, very far away or happened a long time ago

SRM said...

This "gravity" is a supernatural force. It only exists thru the miraculous intervention of the deity.

I guess if our universe is a closed system and the force acts from outside the system, then we might conclude that it is supernatural or better yet, supranatural. However, this would simply mean that our system is not in fact a closed system, and our concept of what is natural would need to be expanded. It seems to me that there can be nothing that is supernatural - even a rare violation of regular laws is natural, if it can in fact occur. This is why I agree with the notion that the "God concept" is one that is amenable to scientific investigation, at least in principle. People who claim otherwise are merely shielding their deity from too close an investigation.

In common usage of course, the word supernatural is merely the word some people use to defend strongly held beliefs in the absence of any evidence.

SRM said...

Rather than relabeling everything as science I think it more useful to just recognize that the scientific approach isn't as unique as many people seem to think.

But I think that is the point - it isn't unique. It is brought to bear against the most common and most particular of circumstances by humans. There is a reason for this, and it is because it is the only reliable pathway to knowledge. This approach becomes vitally important when crossing a road for example, but not so much when sitting in a quiet church pew amongst like-minded friends, for example.

SRM said...

But Lantog, I know where you are coming from. Many people bristle at the suggestion that a scientific approach is the only reliable path to truth because they think that means that only people in white labcoats are the finders of truth. But they don't realize that in everyday life they make common applications of the same process scientists use when trying to answer more specific questions about things. This is why I try to use the word empiricism instead of science when talking to non-scientists about this issue, although for all I know I am using that word improperly.

Then of course there are some people who reject science/empiricism altogether in favor of (always undefined) "other ways of knowing". But there isn't much one can say to people like that.

John Harshman said...

You keep adding new words, perhaps strategically. The new word here is "acceptable". I would not take it as given that definitions of science that include ID are acceptable.

If something is masquerading as science, doesn't that imply that it isn't science, at least not now?

I'm pretty sure that lots of people have said that homeopathy isn't science. One can treat homeopathic claims as subjects for science, but that isn't homeopathy. The people actually doing homeopathy do not test their claims against reality and so do not do science.

Where did Feynman refer to badly done real science as cargo cult science? The term is commonly used to refer to practices that take on the surface features of science (white coats, pipettes, lab backgrounds, etc.) but not its important features (hypothesis testing and such).

Diogenes said...

Do you think there's such a thing as pseudoscience?

Yes, but it's hard to define. I think Intelligent Design Creationism is pseudoscience and that's not the same as "not science."

No, I don' t think pseudoscience is hard to define. I'll define it right now, and distingish pseudoscience from merely bad science. Moreover, I will argue that ID has at least two components, one of which is pseudoscience and one of which is bad science (falsified). We will never resolve this argument, "ID is pseudoscience" vs. "ID is bad science", until we recognize that ID "proves" its hypothesis by more than one means and we have to tug them apart and separate the bad science from the pseudoscience.

Briefly, in real science, good or bad, the predictions about observable phenomena follow logically from the claimed hypothesis, while in pseudoscience, the predictions about about observable phenomena do NOT follow logically or honestly from the claimed hypothesis; or in some other way a match between prediction and observation is faked.

First, I'll define "real science", good or bad. In real science, you have a hypothesis H which honestly and logically leads to some predictions about observable quantities X_p, which can then be compared to observations X_o. But to be real, not pseudo, science, the human authorities (A) who promote hypothesis H must tell the truth about what predictions it entails, that is their predictions must follow the real logical entailments (R).

Real Science:
A (human authorities say): H --> X_p
R (logic demands): H --> X_p

If it's good science, then X_p will match the observations, X_p = X_o. If it's bad (falsified) science they don't match.

Good science:
A (human authorities say): H --> X_p
R (logic demands): H --> X_p
&& X_p = X_o

Bad (falsified) science:
same, but X_p != X_o

Now in pseudoscience it's different: the human authorities who promote H do not tell the truth about the predictions which follow logically from the hypothesis. This is the most common (but not only way) of actively seeking to evade falsification of H.

Pseuodscience mode 1 (fraudiction):
A (human authorities say): H --> X_p'
R (logic demands): H --> X_p
but X_p = X_p'

I call this "fraudiction", the faking of a prediction that does not follow from a hypothesis. Examples of fraudiction would include, "If Noah's Flood really happened 4,300 years ago, there would be billions of fossils around the world. And that's just what we do see!" Another example would be Jonathan Wells' bizarre claims that Intelligent Design predicts that centrioles in cells, when cells undergo division, are tiny spinning turbines (!?) (which didn't follow logically, and was experimentally disproven before Stephen Meyer touted this fraudiction in "Signature in the Cell".)

Fraudiction is the most common way but there are other ways that pseudoscience can mimic science but evade falsification. Another way is to falsely describe (just lie about) the observations of science, i.e., to make up fake observations X_o' != X_o, and then claim X_p' = X_o'. An example of this would be, "Creationism predicts that there are no transitional fossils. And there are none!" I call this garbagediction.

Pseuodscience mode 2 (garbagediction):
A (human authorities say): H --> X_p'
R (logic demands): H --> X_p
&& X_p' = X_o' but X_o' != X_o

Diogenes said...

There is an additional mode of pseudoscience, and that is when it mimics deduction rather than mimicking the scientific method as we saw above. To mimic deduction, there is a major premise (an alleged general law) and a minor premise (usually something we observe) leading to the conclusion of the truth of hypothesis H. In good science the syllogistic logic is sound and the terms are well-defined. In pseudoscience, deductions are based on equivocation, in which the definitions of terms are switched between the major and minor premise, thus concealing the non sequitur.

The best way to show this is with what Stephen Meyer calls the alleged "Positive Argument for Design" (PAD) or "Inference to Design" or "Vera causa", which he denies is God of the Gaps. A typical version goes like this:

1. All instances of irreducible complexity are created by intelligent beings (humans or invisible spooks).

2. Living organisms have instances of irreducible complexity.

3. Therefore, living organisms were created by intelligent beings (humans or invisible spooks).

(The syllogism then continues with the elimination of human design, because humans weren't around millions of years ago, leaving invisible spooks as the only possible cause.)

So what's wrong with that deduction?

Well, it's based on equivocation. There are several definitions of "irreducible complexity"; by some definitions, IC exists in living organisms, but has been observed to evolve in some recent systems; by other definitions, IC probably can't evolve, but is not proven to exist in any living organism. For example, if IC is defined as "a system of several parts wherein if you remove a PART the system loses its function", the words "several", "remove", "part" and "function" have all been equivocated by Behe and ID advocates, with IDers switching between definitions of one or more words. For example, "part" can mean a big or small part; if part is defined to be big, then IC is evolvable; if "part" is defined to be small, no IC system has ever been proven to exist in any organism.

In the case of the systems that Behe first wrote about in Darwin's Black Box, his original meaning of "part" was "protein molecule", which is big on the scale of molecular biology. By that original definition, we know that IC systems can evolve and we have seen new IC systems evolve, e.g. the three-enzyme pathway for degradation of PCP, a xenobiotic pollutant. We also know that such "irreducible" systems are reducible, e.g., we knew 19 years before Behe wrote the book that the blood clotting system of whales was reduced relative to most land animals.

Behe then evaded falsification by redefining "part" as amino acid, much smaller than the original protein. If you could prove that every point mutation of every amino acid in a protein would kill its function, that probably could not evolve, but that kind of IC has never been proven to exist in any organism, and ID proponent Doug Axe's own experiments have shown that he had to mutate more than 30 amino acids on the surface of protein molecules before he could kill their function.

But there is no single definition of "Irreducible Complexity" by which we can simultaneously say, it cannot evolve, and it's been seen in living organisms. Similar considerations go for Dembski's "Specified Complexity": Dembski laid out several pathways for computing it, so that one equation is used for systems seen to evolve in biological organisms, and a different equation is used for systems whose origin is unknown, or are known to be made by humans (e.g. Mount Rushmore). The use of multiple definitions lets him switch between the major and minor premise.

In fake deductions, since a different definition is used in the major and minor premise, the apparent syllogism is actually a non sequitur, so there is no inference to design.

Diogenes said...

Now that I have solved the demarcation problem, I will address the question: is Intelligent Design bad (falsified) science or pseudoscience? Many ID critics say ID is not science at all, but pseudoscience. Larry says pseudoscience is a subset of bad science. Above, I've defined bad science and pseudoscience so they don't overlap. So where does ID fall?

I will divide ID assertions into two groups. Some ID assertions are bad science; others are pseudoscience. Some ID assertions fall within the purview of science that has been falsified; other ID assertions are pseudoscientific and dishonestly seek to evade falsification. This means that Larry is part right and his critics are part right.

So first we must take all ID assertions and divide them into two broad groups. I will call these two groups, for want of a better term, Teleological ID and Non-teleological ID. (I considered the use of the "religious ID" and "non-religious ID", but this is not ideal, because even non-teleological claims could be religious in a sneaky, God of the Gaps way.) The difference is that Teleological ID assertions assume that we know the PURPOSES of the Intelligent Designers(s), while Non-teleological ID assertions make no assumptions about purpose.

You should immediately recognize claims such as, "If the human body were designed by God, there would be no Junk DNA", as teleological predictions. These claims assume that we know God loves humans enough that we know God's purpose for our entire genome is to serve us, the host organism.

If ID proponents assume they know the mind and purposes of God, they can make falsifiable predictions. Unfortunately, those propositions ("no Junk DNA") have been falsified. Thus, Teleological ID assertions (e.g. "no Junk DNA, no vestigial organs") have been falsified and are BAD SCIENCE.

But if we made no such teleological assumptions-- if we simply said, "The human body was designed by intelligent being(s) of unknown purpose"-- we would have to seriously consider that our genome was designed by beings that loved broken transposons and that created humans as a vector for carrying and duplicating broken transposons. Without teleological assumptions about the purposes of God, predictions like "No Junk DNA" do not logically follow from the hypothesis, and thus they are PSEUDOSCIENCE.

Now for Non-teleological ID, the most common examples are the deductions which Stephen Meyer calls the "Positive Argument for Design" (PAD) or "Inference to Design" which are not based on the scientific method but just deductions from alleged general principles (e.g. about Irreducible Complexity, information theory, Dembski's specified complexity etc.)

As I explained above, the PAD or "Inference to Design" is a deduction always based on dishonest equivocation; that makes it non-falsifiable, and thus PAD or Inference to Design is pseudoscience.

Thus we can generally summarize ID as follows:

                           Teleological ID     Non-Teleological ID
Purposes of God?  Known                Unknown
Science?               Bad                    Pseudo
Weakness             Falsified              Equivocation/Non-falsifiable
Examples              "No Junk DNA"    Irreducible Complexity, CSI

So to process ID assertions, we must classify them as follows:

1. Do they make assumptions about the purposes of the Intelligent Designer(s)?

2. Do the alleged predictions logically follow from the claimed hypothesis (divine purposes known; or divine purposes unknown)?

3. In an alleged deduction, are all terms defined the same way in the major and minor premise, or is equivocation employed?

So Demarcation Problem solved, right? Right.

Unknown said...

It is not that science is restricted to methodological naturalism, it is that nothing is necessarily excluded - by my definition.

My definition is not the standard one and, as a principle, is very simple. 'Naturalism" is to be understood as the study of the 'natures' of things, where 'nature' is what makes a thing itself and not something else. 'Methodological naturalism' is the methodical investigation of such phenomena, whether observable or even conceivable, using an evolving suite of tools and procedures that have been developed - and are still being developed - by the human enterprise of science.

From this perspective there is nothing that is not grist to the mill of science, from the apparently random behavior of virtual 'particles' in the vacuum of space to ghosts, ghoulies and things that go 'bump' in the night to gods or God. From this perspective 'supernatural' is an empty set, a placeholder for something we do not yet understand, an ill-defined and incoherent concept.

From this perspective, yes, Intelligent Design can be studied scientifically. Trying to find a fingerprint of the intervention of non-human intelligent agents in the world around us is a perfectly legitimate scientific enterprise. Whether the Intelligent Design movement as a whole can be said to be doing good science is another question. In my view, spending ninety per cent of your time attacking science in general, one theory in particular and the people who support them is not, whatever else it may be, doing good science. This not to say that exposing the faults and weaknesses of a particular theory is bad science, it's a part of science, but Einstein didn't spend ninety per cent of his career complaining about the shortcomings of Newtonian physics and attacking 'Newtonists', he developed a better theory. That is what science tries to do.

Anonymous said...

Larry wrote:

"...This issue is going to heat up in a few months when Jerry Coyne's new book comes out. Let's light a few fires right now. We'll look at the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District..."

I actually ordered Jerry Coyne's book... and I intend to light up more than few fires...

I will make sure that my lighting up the fires creates enough controversy, so that Jerry can retire a wealthy man....

Controversy sells books... and not reviews of people like Dive-skins, Sam Heretic and guy that is always shits his reviews... what's his name again...

I can bet a lot of money none of them have read the book... none...