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Thursday, February 12, 2015

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

We're discussing the nature of science by attempting to answer the question, "What is science?"

The example I've chosen is the debate over intelligent design (ID) and whether it is science or not. Many people believe that the question was settled by Judge Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District: Decision of the Court. His answer was "no," intelligent design is not science.

In my first post I went over part of his decision in order to show that the issue is a lot more complicated than most people think [What did Judge Jones say in 2005? (Part I)]. It turns out that there are many ways to define science and Judge Jones picked one in order to prove that ID is not science. But there are other definitions of science where ID would qualify as science.

A lot of my ideas come from a recent book called Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. Much of that book is based on philosopher Larry Laudan's view of the demarcation problem. Here's a relevant passage (p. 111)...
Laudan applied his position to the Arkansas trial of 1981-82 (McLean v. Arkansas) over the teaching of creationism in public school biology classes, a stance that would also apply to the more recent Dover, Pensylvania, case of 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District). Laudan agreed with the decision that creationism should not be taught as biology, but he was severely critical of every point of Judge Overton's philosophical justification of the decision. Overton appealed to Popper's falsifiability criterion to show that creationism is not science. Laudan replied that creationist doctrine itself is science by that criterion.It is obviously empirically testable since it has already been falsified, To be sure, its advocates have behaved in a nonscientific manner, but that is a different matter. The reason it should not be taught is simply that it is bad science.
I think most of us would agree that Judge Overton was wrong back in 1982 because we no longer think that Popper's criterion of falsifiability is the way to define science.

Let's look at the next part of Judge Jones' decision.

ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. (5:41 (Pennock)). This argument is not brought to this Court anew, and in fact, the same argument, termed "contrived dualism" in McLean, was employed by creationists in the 1980's to support "creation science." The court in McLean noted the "fallacious pedagogy of the two model approach" and that "[i]n efforts to establish 'evidence' in support of creation science, the defendants relied upon the same false premise as the two model approach . . . all evidence which criticized evolutionary theory was proof in support of creation science." McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267, 1269. We do not find this false dichotomy any more availing to justify ID today than it was to justify creation science two decades ago.
I think we can all agree that Intelligent Design Creationists are guilty of many logical fallacies. False dichotomy is one of them.

This has nothing to do with whether ID is science or not since many genuinely scientific debates use logical fallacies.

Judge Jones then goes on for several paragraphs reviewing the scientific arguments against irreducible complexity as presented in his courtroom. It's clear that all sides are engaging in science in this part of the trial. For example ....
The immune system is the third system to which Professor Behe has applied the definition of irreducible complexity. Although in Darwin's Black Box, Professor Behe wrote that not only were there no natural explanations for the immune system at the time, but that natural explanations were impossible regarding its origin. (P-647 at 139; 2:26-27 (Miller)). However, Dr. Miller presented peer-reviewed studies refuting Professor Behe's claim that the immune system was irreducibly complex. Between 1996 and 2002, various studies confirmed each element of the evolutionary hypothesis explaining the origin of the immune system. (2:31 (Miller)). In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough." (23:19 (Behe)).
This part of the debate is clearly within the realm of science. I think everyone can agree on that. Science shows that irreducible complexity is not a valid argument against evolution.
We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. (17:45-46 (Padian); 3:99 (Miller)). Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design. (2:15, 2:35-40 (Miller); 28:63-66 (Fuller)).
Agreed. This part of intelligent design is "bad science" as opposed to "not science."
We will now consider the purportedly "positive argument" for design encompassed in the phrase used numerous times by Professors Behe and Minnich throughout their expert testimony, which is the "purposeful arrangement of parts." Professor Behe summarized the argument as follows: We infer design when we see parts that appear to be arranged for a purpose. The strength of the inference is quantitative; the more parts that are arranged, the more intricately they interact, the stronger is our confidence in design. The appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming. Since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is rationally justified. (18:90-91, 18:109-10 (Behe); 37:50 (Minnich)). As previously indicated, this argument is merely a restatement of the Reverend William Paley's argument applied at the cell level. Minnich, Behe, and Paley reach the same conclusion, that complex organisms must have been designed using the same reasoning, except that Professors Behe and Minnich refuse to identify the designer, whereas Paley inferred from the presence of design that it was God. (1:6- 7 (Miller); 38:44, 57 (Minnich)). Expert testimony revealed that this inductive argument is not scientific and as admitted by Professor Behe, can never be ruled out. (2:40 (Miller); 22:101 (Behe); 3:99 (Miller)).
The argument appears scientific to me. It uses evidence and reasoning to reach a conclusion about probable design. You dispute the argument by challenging the evidence and questioning the validity of the logic and that's how science works. You can never prove the negative—that nothing is ever designed—but that's true of many scientific debates.
Indeed, the assertion that design of biological systems can be inferred from the "purposeful arrangement of parts" is based upon an analogy to human design. Because we are able to recognize design of artifacts and objects, according to Professor Behe, that same reasoning can be employed to determine biological design. (18:116-17, 23:50 (Behe)). Professor Behe testified that the strength of the analogy depends upon the degree of similarity entailed in the two propositions; however, if this is the test, ID completely fails.
We are using science to test the hypothesis and we reject it. That sure looks like science to me.
Unlike biological systems, human artifacts do not live and reproduce over time. They are non-replicable, they do not undergo genetic recombination, and they are not driven by natural selection. (1:131-33 (Miller); 23:57-59 (Behe)). For human artifacts, we know the designer's identity, human, and the mechanism of design, as we have experience based upon empirical evidence that humans can make such things, as well as many other attributes including the designer's abilities, needs, and desires. (D-251 at 176; 1:131-33 (Miller); 23:63 (Behe); 5:55- 58 (Pennock)). With ID, proponents assert that they refuse to propose hypotheses on the designer's identity, do not propose a mechanism, and the designer, he/she/it/they, has never been seen. In that vein, defense expert Professor Minnich agreed that in the case of human artifacts and objects, we know the identity and capacities of the human designer, but we do not know any of those attributes for the designer of biological life. (38:44-47 (Minnich)). In addition, Professor Behe agreed that for the design of human artifacts, we know the designer and its attributes and we have a baseline for human design that does not exist for design of biological systems. (23:61-73 (Behe)). Professor Behe's only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies. (23:73 (Behe)).
If ID is not science then why do all these arguments look so much like a scientific debate? And if it's not really a scientific debate then what kind of a debate is it? Surely the question of whether biological systems exhibit the unmistakable appearance of intelligent design is something that can be settled by biologists?
It is readily apparent to the Court that the only attribute of design that biological systems appear to share with human artifacts is their complex appearance, i.e. if it looks complex or designed, it must have been designed. (23:73 (Behe)). This inference to design based upon the appearance of a "purposeful arrangement of parts" is a completely subjective proposition, determined in the eye of each beholder and his/her viewpoint concerning the complexity of a system. Although both Professors Behe and Minnich assert that there is a quantitative aspect to the inference, on cross-examination they admitted that there is no quantitative criteria for determining the degree of complexity or number of parts that bespeak design, rather than a natural process. (23:50 (Behe); 38:59 (Minnich)). As Plaintiffs aptly submit to the Court, throughout the entire trial only one piece of evidence generated by Defendants addressed the strength of the ID inference: the argument is less plausible to those for whom God's existence is in question, and is much less plausible for those who deny God's existence. (P-718 at 705).
Again, this is a scientific debate. The evidence presented by Behe and Minnich is presented and refuted using the methods of science according to the broad definition of science that I support.
Accordingly, the purported positive argument for ID does not satisfy the ground rules of science which require testable hypotheses based upon natural explanations. (3:101-03 (Miller)). ID is reliant upon forces acting outside of the natural world, forces that we cannot see, replicate, control or test, which have produced changes in this world. While we take no position on whether such forces exist, they are simply not testable by scientific means and therefore cannot qualify as part of the scientific process or as a scientific theory. (3:101-02 (Miller)).
Now we're getting to the crux of the problem. The positive argument for ID is that biological systems exhibit overwhelming appearance of design and that can only arise from purposeful creation by an intelligent agent. The proponents claim that this agent can be space aliens or humans from the future and we are obliged to consider that argument at face value. We all know that they have god in mind but that doesn't affect the logic of their argument.

The argument is challenged by disputing the evidence of design in nature and/or by showing that it can be accounted for by evolution. If scientists were unable to explain the appearance of design then we would have a problem—a problem that was severe before Charles Darwin came on the scene. This is science.

If we were incapable of explaining the appearance of design by natural processes then we would have to consider other possibilities. That's how science works. This would get us into a discussion about time travel, interstellar travel, and whether gods exist. We would use scientific reasoning to explore the evidence for aliens, time travelers, and gods. We would accept or reject the hypotheses based on that evidence and rational thinking.

We aren't at that stage because scientists have rejected the "evidence" of intelligent design and they did this scientifically. Even if we were at that stage, we would be applying science to test, as much as possible, for the properties of the intelligent designer.

It's all science and it satisfies all of MY ground rules of science.

Judge Jones and the plaintiffs are not taking a position on whether gods exist but that's a cop-out. They are trying to avoid the appearance of a conflict between religion and science. They'd like to dispute all of the evidence of design but still allow for the fact that there might be a designer after all. That's okay, according to them, because claiming that an intelligent designer exists even though all the evidence has been refuted is not science and not testable. It's some other way of knowing the truth.

That's not okay. The claim that there's an intelligent designer who is responsible for the history of life on this planet has been subjected to science and found wanting. The hypothesis is rejected. There is no evidence that an intelligent designer exists. It's ridiculous to say that science has no say in the matter simply because the intelligent designer is supposed to be supernatural.
It is appropriate at this juncture to address ID's claims against evolution. ID proponents support their assertion that evolutionary theory cannot account for life's complexity by pointing to real gaps in scientific knowledge, which indisputably exist in all scientific theories, but also by misrepresenting well- established scientific propositions. (1:112, 1:122, 1:136-37 (Miller); 16:74-79, 17:45-46 (Padian)).
This is followed by a lengthy summary of testimony showing that scientific arguments against evolution are refuted. It's all science.
A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory. Expert testimony revealed that the peer review process is "exquisitely important" in the scientific process. It is a way for scientists to write up their empirical research and to share the work with fellow experts in the field, opening up the hypotheses to study, testing, and criticism. (1:66-69 (Miller)). In fact, defense expert Professor Behe recognizes the importance of the peer review process and has written that science must "publish or perish." (22:19-25 (Behe)). Peer review helps to ensure that research papers are scientifically accurately, meet the standards of the scientific method, and are relevant to other scientists in the field. (1:39-40 (Miller)). Moreover, peer review involves scientists submitting a manuscript to a scientific journal in the field, journal editors soliciting critical reviews from other experts in the field and deciding whether the scientist has followed proper research procedures, employed up-to-date methods, considered and cited relevant literature and generally, whether the researcher has employed sound science.
We all agree that Intelligent Design Creationists aren't playing the game in the same way as established scientists. As Larry Laudan said, they are behaving in a nonscientific manner. But that's not the same as deciding whether their original claims were part of science. They were, and they have been falsified.

Now that their claim have been shown to be false, the fact that they persist in pretending that they are doing good science moves them into the realm of pseduoscience where they join homoeopathy and astrology as discredited science.
After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents', as well as Defendants' argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID's backers have sought to a void the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.
My opinion differs. I find that ID is false science or bad science and that's why it should not be taught in biology classes except as an example of how not to do science. I agree with Judge Jones that ID is not an accepted scientific theory but that conclusions was reached by due consideration of the scientific claims and not by simply declaring that it was not science.

The fact that ID is grounded in theology is irrelevant to the issue, in my opinion. If, as Judge Jones claims, that violates the defining principle of methodological naturalism and makes ID "not science" then why did the court spend so much time considering scientific arguments? And why were the expert witness for the defense (Behe and Minnich) refuted using papers from the scientific literture?
To conclude and reiterate, we express no opinion on the ultimate veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation. However, we commend to the attention of those who are inclined to superficially consider ID to be a true "scientific" alternative to evolution without a true understanding of the concept the foregoing detailed analysis. It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science.
I think a reasonable, objective, viewer would recognize that the ID objections to evolution have been refuted and the positive argument for ID has been discredited. Thus, ID should not be considered as a true explanation of the history of life.

I'm willing to express an opinion on the veracity of ID as a supernatural explanation of life. It is false, although like all scientific conclusions that is subject to change.

I do not understand how ID could be kept out of biology class if all scientists agreed that life was guided by an intelligent designer. The veracity of ID is the most important issue.

It's absurd to argue that ID can't be taught while admitting that it might, in fact, be true.


  1. Jones is winning the argument with you, Larry. You've not addressed the distinction between the ID movement's positive argument for ID, and the ID movement's negative arguments against evolution. Judge Jones makes this crucial point, and he says it's crucial, and you miss it! What is testable and what is not depends on which thing you are talking about. You just kind of lump it all into one mass and declare it all science, basically so that in the end you can say science is against God.

    Other things you need to address include:

    1. Pennock's testimony on e.g. whether or not young-earth creationism is testable. The quesiton is not as simple as you say in your previous blogpost.

    2. Pennock's rebuttal to Laudan, both in testimony and in the third edition of "But Is it Science?"

    3. The fact that Laudan was mostly worried about falsificationism and whether or not we can distinguish science and pseudoscience. He did not really question the idea that science relies on natural explanations.

    4. The fact that Boudry, your own favored philosopher, *does* endorse science demarcation, and *does* think that we can demarcate between science and pseudoscience. (Where "demarcate" is taken in a reasonable way, i.e. we can demarcate night from day, even if there are some gray areas.)

    5. If we just give up on demarcation and call everything "science", then the words "science", "scientist", etc., no longer mean anything.

    Interested to hear you address these points.

    Cheers, Nick

    1. Nick,

      As you know, all those points have been addressed over the past ten years. Do you think they've all been settled and therefore you and Judge Jones are completely correct and I am completely wrong?

      I am not arguing that my opinion is the only correct version. Are you arguing that the opinion of NCSE and Judge Jones is the only correct version?

    2. I may have missed it, but I don't recall you addressing Pennock's views in depth. This is disappointing because he went to a lot of trouble to produce expert reports, testimony, and (most importantly) a long, detailed academic paper on the questions of science demarcation, methodological naturalism, Larry Laudan and his supporters, the (in)coherancy of attempts to erase the distinctions between science and everything else, etc. Instead, we just get reiteration of Laudan's views, which really don't make a lot of sense when you think deeply about them, as even Boudry found.

      I would just like the critique of the mainstream/NCSE/Judge Jones view to be serious, and not ignore the key points and key scholarship on the question.

      See But Is It Science, third edition, and/or Pennock's Synthese article:

    3. You seem to be implying that there is no serious critique of the "mainstream" NCSE view. Is that what you mean?

      If not, then at least you admit that there are other legitimate views on the nature of science. That's some progress. :-)

      I quoted the paragraph about Laudan in order to inform my readers that there is a genuine controversy and Judge Jones (or Judge Overton) don't have the last word on the subject. I don't agree with everything Laudan said.

      As you know, the point about methodological natularism being a universally agreed limitation of science is just plain wrong. I think that even you will have to admit that you could not get away with making such a claim in a courtroom today.

      Did you really believe there was no controversy about this claim back in 2005? Did you warn the lawyers when you were briefing them that the testimony of your expert witness might be challenged by other philosophers? Were you surprised that the defense lawers didn't do a better job?

    4. Laudan's claims were pretty absurd on their face from any practical point of view, and no, there really wasn't a lot of controversy about methodological naturalism back then, or now. Just survey the statements from scientific organizations that were entrered into the record in Kitzmiller, for example. Just survey the scientific literature for work using the supernatural to explain things.

      Read Pennock, read Pennock, read Pennock. If you want to rebut something, rebut Pennock's article. He addresses everything you've brought up, and more. It's a very thorough article.

    5. Laudan's claims were pretty absurd on their face from any practical point of view, ...

      That's your opinion It's obviously not shared by a number of philosophers and scientists.

      ... there really wasn't a lot of controversy about methodological naturalism back then,

      I know you believed that back then.

      ... or now.

      Nonsense. Nick, you have just left the world of reality.

      Just survey the statements from scientific organizations that were entrered into the record in Kitzmiller, for example.

      We all know why American scientific organizations want science and religion to be compatible. I don't usually consult AAAS or NAS when I want the latest information on the philosophy of science. (These days I don't even consult them about science.)

      Read Pennock, read Pennock, read Pennock.

      I'm picturing you with your eyes tightly closed and your fingers in your ears shouting at the monitor. I know Pennock is your guy. He's the one you put on the stand. That does not mean he's the only god of epistemology.

      I read his article and I think it's pretty silly.

      Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I'll post a review of Pennock's article on Sandwalk if you post a review of the Boudry et al. article on "How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism" on Panda's Thumb.


    6. Sure. I can't promise when though. Be sure to address the distinction between negative arguments against evolution and ppositive arguments for ID. And Pennock's point about how the test ability of Young Earthism depends on making various naturalizing assumptions. And the testability of divine intervention inside the avida program. These kinds of critical points came up a lot at trial and in Pennock's work and you've mostly ignored him, as has Boudry afaict. Does Boudry have anything addressing Pennock 2009? I haven't seen it yet.

    7. I look forward to seeing your analysis of Boudry et al. I'll wait until you are ready before posting my take on Pennock's paper.

      Don't worry. I'll cover everything he says, even the silly and irrelevant stuff that has no bearing on the issue..

  2. And, (6):

    "It's absurd to argue that ID can't be taught while admitting that it might, in fact, be true."

    It might be true that we are all brains in vats. Or that we all live in The Matrix. Do these therefore deserve time in science class?

    1. Not if it just "might" be true but it definitely deserves time in science class if it IS true.

    2. But operationally speaking, being true isn't good enough. We would have to have good evidence that it was true. It would be great to teach only every true thing and no false things, but how would we do that unless we knew everything about everything?

      Once more, there are true things that should not be taught in schools, because we don't know that they're true and can't at this point distinguish them from false things.

    3. Exactly. Science is not about truth, it is about knowledge and ways of knowing. Truth on its own is more or less irrelevant.

      What should be taught in science class are (1) the things we have good _reason_ to _think_ are true, and (2) our reasons for thinking they are true along with our methodologies for reaching this conclusion.

    4. I'm becoming convinced that Konrad is my sock puppet. Or perhaps I'm his.

    5. Science is a way of knowing. The goal is true knowledge. Science is all about truth and how to distinguish it from falsehood. If you don't agree about that then there's not much point in continuing this discussion.

    6. I agree with all of that. By that description, ID doesn't qualify as science. Or are you claiming that ID is a scientific way of knowing?

    7. Science is a way of knowing. The goal is true knowledge. Science is all about truth and how to distinguish it from falsehood. If you don't agree about that then there's not much point in continuing this discussion.

      In my example above, the truth is that gravity is actually a supernatural force miraculously produced by a god. To say gravity is a "natural" force would be a false statement.

      How would science be able to discern this "truth" in my thought experiment?

      IMHO, "Truth" is one of those metaphysical terms that is beyond determination by science. Determining it is the job of metaphysicists but, unfortunately, they have yet to devise the tools necessary to perform this job, (though some of them still claim to be able to do it).

      Fortunately, we can still come to an approximation of the truth that is close enough for any practical purposes, by simply making a number of reasonable assumptions. That, by my understanding, is what is involved in accepting metaphysical naturalism.