What Science Isn’t

My third video on atheism. In this video, I talk about nonfalsifiable beliefs, problems arguing for creationism based on complexity, and the political (as opposed to scientific) motivations of the intelligent design movement.

I really need to figure out how to adjust the settings when I export to MPEG format, these videos keep getting stretched out.

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Hi, everyone. I’m Al. I’m an atheist. I actively believe that supernatural gods don’t exist.

In this video I’d like to talk about…

(Through grit teeth) Intelligent design.

Sorry about that, but I’ve come to consider…

(Through grit teeth) Intelligent design.

…to be nothing more than a politically-motivated euphemism for creationism, so I loath using the term.

So instead of saying the name as…

(Through grit teeth) Intelligent design.

…I’ll just call it creationism.

Although sometimes I’d like to specifically refer to the recent anti-evolution movement in America, so in those cases I’ll say ID.

Creationism has many problems when it tries to present itself as science.

In this video, first I’ll go into the problems that creationism runs into when it is presented as a scientific theory.

Second I’ll talk about how the ID movement is motivated far more by politics than science.

In my next video, I’ll continue this by talking about why I think there is so much popular opposition to evolution and a natural origin of life.

(first segment)

Let’s start with the definition of falsifiability.

Falsifiability means that an empirical statement has, in theory, some sort of counterexample that could prove the statement to be untrue.

Falsifiable doesn’t necessarily mean false.

For example, the statement, “The sun is really hot.” is falsifiable because you could measure the temperature of the sun and the temperature could in theory turn out to be very cold.

Scientific theories have to at least logically admit a possible counterexample, or some experimental result that could prove the theory to be false. Nonfalsifiable theories are theories that by their design couldn’t possibly be shown to be false.

For example, metaphysical solipsism is a nonfalsifiable belief.

Solipsism is the idea that your perspective encompasses the whole of reality and that the external world and everyone in it is only a mental creation of your own.

You can’t disprove solipsism because any evidence of an external reality could be explained as being yet another of your mental creations.

Nonfalsifiable beliefs are often very conveniently packaged. Many conspiracy theories are also nonfalsifiable.

(to off camera) Well of course the investigators found a weather balloon instead of a spaceship, man. The fact that they didn’t find any extraterrestrial artifacts just shows you how much the government is covering it all up, man. There are no witnesses because the men in black wiped everyone’s memory. They also wiped their memory of having their memory wiped. Believe me, this thing goes deep.

Nonfalsifiable beliefs aren’t very useful because they place themselves above scientific inquiry. There’s no end to the number of nonfalsifiable ideas we could believe in, but a belief in any of them requires a leap of faith.

Now I’d like to show how creationism suffers from nonfalsifiability.

Christian creationists state that living organisms are so complex, they couldn’t possibly have come about through a natural process such as evolution. The biological structures are just too improbable.

This high complexity is held as evidence for their design by the Christian God.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that the creationists also say that God created the universe and everything in it.

When we take something of low complexity, like a pile of dirt, in the creationist view it was also created by God.

Creationists won’t admit that God did not create the living organism or the pile of dirt.

So things of high complexity are evidence of God’s creation and things of low complexity are evidence of God’s creation.

The argument for creationism is mostly based off of complexity, but that argument is nonfalsifiable.

If you want to show that God created man and the universe, you’ll have to prove it in a way other than just using the complexity of living creatures as evidence.

But wait, ID doesn’t necessarily state that the Christian God created living things, just that some intelligent designer did. The designer doesn’t have to be a supernatural entity.

In fact, ID proponents are very careful not to make any claims about the nature of the designer for this very reason, even though most ID proponents are Christian theists.

But they couldn’t get creationism taught in public schools as science instead of Christian theology.

So they relabeled it as intelligent design to admit the possibility that the designer was something other than the supernatural Christian God, even though most of them still believe it is.

But when you try to argue that a natural intelligent designer created life, the obvious problem that comes up is who designed the designer?

And who designed that designer? And who designed that designer? And who designed that designer?

All the same creationist arguments for life being too complex to have come about naturally would also have to apply to the designer. It becomes clear that ID can’t hold water with a natural creator.

You could end the recursion by supposing that supernatural God created the original designer.

But then you have the nonfalsifiability problem again if you want to use complexity as evidence for this supposition.

But almost all of IDs arguments are based on life being too complicated to have formed naturally.

Actually, that’s being generous. I’ve never heard of an ID defense that wasn’t based on the complexity argument.

There are several other problems that creationism faces if it wants to be accepted as a scientific theory instead of a theological theory.

One problem is that creationism fails to specifically define what level of complexity is “too complex” to have formed naturally, but asserts that all life is above this level of complexity.

Creationism also cannot calculate the probabilities of something like an eye or the immune system to have come about naturally, but at the same time asserts that the probabilities are too small.

ID also makes the argument that even small incremental changes of the evolutionary process are such huge leaps that the increments themselves are irreducibly complex.

But at the same time ID doesn’t give a precise, objective answer for what makes something irreducible complex or not, it just states that biological features such as the eye or immune system are irreducibly complex.

ID is accused of merely filling in the gaps of our knowledge with divine creation.

Creationists use the existence of these gaps in our scientific explanation as evidence for a supernatural God.

Using one theory as a default winner when another theory doesn’t have an answer isn’t science.

And some of these gaps in our scientific understanding, such as the defensive mechanism of bombardier beetles, have been explained in evolutionary terms.

Any lack of evolutionary evidence isn’t evidence for the existence of God.

Some moderate Christians have reconciled their belief in evolution and their religion, by saying that God is guiding the formation of life through the method of natural selection.

While I respect their willingness not to let their religious beliefs dismiss the empirical evidence for natural selection, I still disagree.

The reason I disagree is because I’ve seen religious explanations retreat so much as science provides more and more understanding of natural phenomena.

For example, the sun was once observed as being very bright [because God made it that way.]

Then we find that brightness of the sun is caused by intense amounts of energy given off through radiation and convective processes [because God made it that way.]

This energy is created at the stellar core of the sun when hydrogen is converted into helium through nuclear fusion [because God made it that way.]

Nuclear fusion gives off the energy when light elements are fused together and can become a self-sustaining reaction [because God made it that way.]

This begins to sound like a nonfalsifiable argument.

You could take the deist position and say that God is simply the creator of the physical universe but doesn’t intervene.

And while we’re at it, we could also say that this god is composed of a pile of spaghetti with two giant meatballs and flies through the air.

It’s just as unproveable and offers the same amount of explanation for the universe.

And we don’t have any solid evidence for one god over the gods of the thousands of religions human civilizations have held.

When you compare the everyday beliefs of Christianity today compared to the Christianity of a thousand years ago, you find that many Christians rely less and less on the supernatural because science can account for so much more today.

One of the reasons I’m an atheist is because it made much more sense to me that religion was a provider of explanations for the unknown at a time when science was too underdeveloped to provide these explanations.

This would also explain why religious belief is so universal among all cultures, even though their specific beliefs are completely different.

(second part)

Much in the same way, it makes a lot more sense to me that the creationist theory of ID is more politically motivated than scientifically motivated.

The proponents of ID learned from their failure to implement creationism in public schools that they can’t argue for creationism based on appeals to scripture.

ID is very careful to avoid using religious terms in order to make it appear more scientific.

But the arguments are inherently the same, ID proponents simply use “designer” instead of the G-word.

(as voice over to graph) As you can see in this chart, there was a large pause about six-sevenths the way into the design process.

The ID think tank Discovery Institute had a leaked memo called the Wedge Document, which outlined the public relations strategy for swaying public opinion towards their conservative evangelical Christian viewpoint.

I feel that this document betrays the Institute’s purpose and agenda as being far more political than scientific.

I think the fact that majority of ID proponents are Christian creationists backs up the assertion that ID is a politically expedient label for what otherwise is the same old thing.

I believe that because their first priority is political, they start with the creationism conclusion and try to fit the agreeable data to it.

And the arguments they use against evolution and the origin of life seem to use God as a default explanation if the naturalist explanation is inconclusive.

That’s not science.


I think there’s a large hostility towards the scientific establishment in religious countries such as America because science reinforces atheists to their beliefs.

And atheists are the most distrusted minority in America because of the many misconceptions we’ve been painted with.

Many people have adjusted their religious beliefs to be reconciled with the evidence and discoveries that scientists have made.

As I said before, while I disagree with this reconciliation I still hold a respect for it.

After all I can’t completely prove that a supernatural god doesn’t exist, I just follow what the evidence I’ve seen point me to.

What I don’t have a respect for is when people allow their religious beliefs to dismiss the empirical observations that science has made.

I especially hold in contempt political maneuverings to paint religious beliefs as something they’re not.

But the mere fact that evolution and the scientific explanations for the origin of life have caused such controversy in the religious world has puzzled me for a long time.

In my next video I’d like to go into the reasons I believe cause evolution to be such a contentious issue.

Until then, I encourage you to think about the things I’ve said. And if you have anything to say to me, feel free to leave a comment. A transcript of this video is on my website at coffeeghost.net.

And no matter what your beliefs are, take care, and thanks for watching.

(Long pause) “Because God made it that way. Because God made it that way. Because God made it that way. Because God made it that way?”

18 Responses to “What Science Isn’t”

  1. Yair Says:

    That’s great man, keep on the good work.
    My 2 cents – try to create “snackable” versions of this – short clips that will be more easily consumed by the masses.


  2. Alli Says:

    Hey Dude,

    Your videos are awesome. (All 3 of them that I’ve seen) Your arguments make so much sense! You articulate the atheist arguments/anti-id arguments in a concise, clear manner. You’ve in fact convinced me that I’m actually an atheist, not just agnostic. Good work.


  3. Will Says:

    Are these ideas published anywhere? Ive heard the spaghetti monster reference before, just wondering if you wrote all this.

  4. BENTRT Says:

    I’d have to disagree that IDM is Christian. They may have some Christian members it doesn’t make the movement, Christian Creationism. They divorce themselves from anything to do with the Bible. In fact one of the leaders of the movement is an ordained cleric in the unification church. The majority believe in billions of years of time and many evolutionary ideas. All the movement does is reject the idea that life could arise by chance random processes. They are not necessarily questioning evolution per say but just that it happened by chance. Also there is a big difference between people who believe in creationism and those that are Literal Bible believing Christian scientists, of which the IDM has nothing to do with.

    What I picked up also from the video was that you make it seem that Literal Bible believing Creationism is against observation science and therefore natural selection, as if natural selection is a problem for people who believe the Literal word of the Bible. In fact speciation, variation, and natural selection are required and happily fit with what the Bible says over the matter.

    Also you’re definition of Evolution I’m confused about. You say the B. Beetle can be explained in evolutionary terms. What evolutionary terms, if your talking about molecules to man this example provides no evidence for macro evolution, if you talking about speciation, natural selection then the B.Beetle is an example of these processes but that’s not evolution in the general sense of the word, just natural selection and speciation.
    When you mention evolution again try and say what type of ‘evolution’ you mean whether micro (horizontal change) or macro (vertical change) cos they are completely different (one has proof the other doesn’t).

    Finally I would have to question what you mean by science and what science you are talking about. There are two types of science. Observational and Historical (origins) sciences.You talked a lot about science of the sun you can test that. The same with natural selection you can test it, its observable it in the present but when we’re talking about the past it become a different matter, it isn’t science then, it’s reasoning based on axioms/presuppositions (which are unprovable, hence metaphysical/subjective/biased by definition) their is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ scientific arena within which to interpret the evidence related to the past (Origins science). Darwinism for example is not philosophically/religiously neutral, it starts with a bias, it is squarely based upon the presuppositions of naturalism (another word for philosophical materialism or atheism, i.e., that there is no supernatural, but that this material world is all there is). Any conclusion that does not have a naturalistic explanation is rejected. Origins science is no way on an equal footing with observational science, the science that put men on the moon.

    The past is not directly observable, testable, repeatable, or falsifiable; so interpretations of past events present greater challenges than interpretations involving operational science. Neither creation nor evolution (molecules to man) is directly observable, testable, repeatable, or falsifiable. Each is based on certain philosophical assumptions about how the earth began. Naturalistic evolution assumes that there was no God, and biblical creation assumes that there was a God who created everything in the universe. Starting from two opposite presuppositions and looking at the same evidence, the explanations of the history of the universe are very different. The argument is not over the evidence—the evidence is the same—it is over the way the evidence should be interpreted.

    Like the videos though, they are amusing in a good way!

  5. Socrates Johnson Says:

    “I don’t believe in solopsism therefore no one does.”
    just thought I would get that out of the way.

    Intelligent design is not creationism. Now before you begin flaming me because I am part of the majority against which you are railing, understand that I am a non-theist. That’s right, no personal god, so beware ad hominem circumstantial, because really, if you employ it you are really only agreeing with me in a backwards way anyway.

    “Explaining is not explaining away”

    That aside down to my vocation: Philosopher. What this means to you? I don’t buy fallacies. What THAT means to you? Saying that people who tend to support ID are Christians is not the same as prooving ID wrong. Hitler was a vegeterian (or so people always insist) does that mean that all vegetarians are like Hitler? Well in THAT way yes, but the argument doesn’t extend beyond the RELEVANT connection. Formally speaking, that means everything you say about how evil those Christians are doesn’t refute ID, nor does it apply to me. If you try to put me in their boat you will be as insensitive to my role as a non-theist as they are yours as an athiest.

    So, with that out of the way I will agree with you, in a sense. ID is not science(well not REAL science, but I will get back to that later), despite what the Christian boogeymen would have people believe. What is it? Well despite your flames on the topic it is actually a evidentiary problem in inductive proofs. Basically what this means for you is that you aren’t REALLY justified in believing that the sun will come up tomorrow. Yet you most likely believe it. If I asked you the reason you would say that given prior evidence the likelyhood is great that it will come up, yet you can show no causal mechanism by which you can ensure that it will.
    Now before you get off on me for appealing to some sort of epistemic gap against which there is no defense (think the matrix ‘am I dreaming’ sort of thing) I would like I say that this sort of inductive reasoning is similar in character to the scientific hypothetical model. That’s right, science isn’t capital T true. It is a series of generalizations based upon past evidence. Facts are true or false, theories aren’t, sorry. Case in point. How does universal gravitation at a distance work? answer: it doesn’t. Newton was wrong, but he got good results. He didn’t bother with truth, he shot for effective. This is actually how science works (for those rigid scientific dogmatists who would burn me for heresy I set a challenge: to proove something scientific as universally true without either begging the question or ruining science – good luck people have been working on it for 2,500 years.) Science deals with what is EFFECTIVE, not what is true. That is to say, universal gravitation at a distance inversely proportional to the square of the distance yada yada yada gives a good way to explain things, it doesn’t HAVE to be true, it is effective.
    So, what would constitute evidence that the sun will come up tomorrow? Well, frankly anything you say that does. IT is an inductive move. If you say “the sun has come up every other day so it will tomorrow” the response is that tomorrow isn’t those other days, You can’t really infer that tomorrow is like today. Yet you still probably feel justified in believing that the sun will come up tomorrow. (trust me, but should you want to go rounds I advise boning up on Bayesian confirmation theories first) Believe it or not. Standard models of explanation can show that the prior probability of things such as complex life do actually increase if a creator(s) hypothisis is accepted. What that means for you? The odds of complex life are higher if some sort of creator(s)
    Now before you accuse me of being one of THEM understand this. I am not trying to prove that god exists. I am simply saying that STANDARD explanatory models do funny things sometimes, including predicting that complexity is a good sign that something beyond the imidiately empirically verifiable is going on. Which is to say, since there is intelligent/complex life in the universe, and since we are going to treat a non-created vs created universe as empirically indistinguishable, we are actually marginally justified in believing a creator.

    WOAH, stop the presses. Someone who knows the arguments of ID explained them without an agenda to prove the existence of god. Now I know the flaming will start soon (who can resist the ad hitlerum) but I will pretend that everyone here remembers above where I talked about how falsly identifying me as a Christian doesn’t actually count as arguing with me.

    Oh Dawkins. Dawkins is to ID what Pat Robertson is to evolution. Which is to say woefully underequipped to deal with the argument at hand, and sorely mistaken in his conclusions. Oh no, I refered to Dawkins in a pejorative sense and implied that he is stupid. But hell he refers to religion as intelectual flabbiness so he started it. Well now that we are on level ground I want to make a few points about what science is, since I have said a few things about ID. First of all let’s take a claim Dawkins makes. ‘A universe created by or populated by a supernatural being would be fundementally different from one without, therefore religious makes claims which are scientific, therefore they are fair game.’ Now, I paraphrase, but I believe he would agree with my characterization of his rejection of religion. Basically my problem with Dawkins is as follows: smart scientists generally adopt oppinions like those of Stephen J. Gould. Basically, if you try to disprove science with religion, or visa versa, both sides can only lose.

    Remember up above where I said that science doesn’t want to be bothered with finding the capital T truth? Well it turns out that those sorts of games are the type that things such as logic, philosophy and religion try to play. What does this mean for Science? That frankly It can’t play my game (that is to say Philosophy) without becoming philosophy. Dawkins strays into my waters when he says things to the effect of ‘a fundemental difference in the universe is a scientific question and thus subjects you to scientific inquiry.’ Now this is his excuse to abuse religion. But really he has just trivialized the ACTUAL work that science does. He has said that science can (and possibly needs to) adress fundemental differences in the universe. Well, I may be african american, or asian american, or latino, etc. All of these would make this in some way a fundementally different universe by extension of Dawkins’ claim. Hell whether I populate the universe with offspring would be subject to his scientific inquiry. Now, these thigs are empirically verifiable yes, but sgnifigant? hell no. Frankly he has made science the stupid triviality. All in the name of prooving religion wrong *tsk tsk* Some people’s scientists.

    I guess what I want to reiterate about this is: A and 1. ID is not Christianity, please learn the difference, you may not impress as many college kids, but you will philosophers. B and 2. Believe it or not people who understand ID know that it is not science, but instead a funny evidence problem, or a funny logic exercise, which may or may not give sufficient reason to believe things (the votes are still out on that one.) C and 3, Science is not true. If you are thinking about setting up a false dichotemy between science and religion understand that they are a different category of thing. One deals with truth, one deals with effectiveness. Killing people with guns is effective, is it true? that’s a meaningless question. Same with science. Is religion effective? well maybe it has effects, but you wouldn’t say “if more people employ religion it will work better” or anything, at least I would hope that isn’t your logic.

  6. Socrates Johnson Says:

    Sorry about the explaining is not explaining away thing, I had that in there planning to mock dan Dennett, but alas I ran out of time. Ignore that.

  7. Socrates Johnson Says:

    blargh. I should proof-read before posting late at night

  8. BENTRT Says:

    Society has had it drilled into it that science is the only means of truth. I agree with the above point that ID isn’t Christianity as i said above ur post also i agree that it isn’t true science but neither is evolution science. When ever you study things from the past the evidence is oppen to interpretation based on your worldview. Science is all about testing and observing and making deductions from the evidience. Since you can’t observe molecules changing into life you can’t test it and since it happened in the past you can’t observe it. Thats why it is so stupid that newspapers and society say its science verse religion when really its worldview verses worldview.

  9. Socrates Johnson Says:

    while I appreciate the support I would like to say that personally I believe evolution is science. It may be a natural history and thus have a sort of epistemic gap (which you refer to through your claim about the non verifyability of the past) and while I think the panglossian paradigm of panadaptationism adopted by people like Dan Dennett may beg the question and appeal to ignorance in such a way as to put them above testability, evolution as presented by Gould is science. Thus all the previous points about being effective explanations/pragmatically useful apply, though absolute TRUTH may not.

  10. BENTRT Says:

    It depends on what kind of change is mentioned. If your refering to evolution as simple horizontal change like bacteria getting resistant, sickle cell and resistance to malaria, different types of dog then that is proven by science. Really this shouldn’t be called evolution in the general sense of the word. Its only variation/adaptation within kinds of animal. But when they talk about evolution in the sense of moelcules turning into humans, apes to man thats a totally different type of change (vertical) that requires a mechanism to increase information in the genome (no such mechanism exists). They say mutation can increase information and use bacteria becoming resistant (horizontal change) as evidence for such a vertical change but at a molecular level no information is being gained at all. This isn’t science since we never observed mutations that increase information there is a problem. Vertical change that ‘must have happened’ isn’t observable, u can’t test it and this type of evolution isn’t falsifiable. This isn’t science by definition. Yet this type of change is taught as fact.

  11. Socrates Johnson Says:

    No one answers me and no one seems to have read what I posted before trying to agree with me… *shakes head*

  12. BENTRT Says:

    What evolution are you talking about that is presented by Gould

  13. Socrates Johnson Says:

    Do you mean like what particular argument? Or have you been hiding under a panglossian manual hiding from good science? I mean the research he did with Lewontin regarding things such as problems with fixity and allelic distribution in the panadaptationist model and spandrels.

  14. neilmarr Says:

    ***evolution isn’t falsifiable***

    Oh, I see, BENTRT. Thanks. Neil

  15. Kevin (The Roycing Carnap) Says:

    1) Of course, we should mention that the proposition, “The sun is hot” is not falsifiable. “Hot” is subjective, and varies according to time, place, and person. Same with “cold.” …But that’s nit-picking.

    2) I think your construal of the Intelligent Design (ID) argument is not quite right. Indeed, David Hume, a long time ago, rejected the design argument as based on an improper analogy between human artifacts such as clocks and the universe. Similar effects do not necessarily mean similar causes, and we must at least have witnessed one cause to the universe. Since we have not witnessed the origins of any universes, it is an improper analogy. This argument is certainly a strong one, but the problem is that ID, at least in some forms, is not an argument by analogy.

    ID is rather an inference to best explanation. In other words, it is an attempt to devise the best explanation for the phenomena we have presented before us. ID is rejecting evolution as implausible given the great deal of complexity of living organisms, and saying that a better explanation is to infer a designer. In other words, ID is not inferring deductively the necessity of a designer given the complexity of design, but rather the convenience of postulating a designer given this complexity. It is thus an inductive, rather than deductive, argument.

    I am, however, not quite sure what you mean when you say that organisms of lower-complexity are taken as evidence for ID. Without any further elucidation of this argument, I am just inclined to think that you are setting up a “straw man,” by constructing a circular argument, calling it ID, and then showing why it is circular and thus is not cogent. In other words,

    1. The complexity of higher organisms is evidence for the Design hypothesis
    2. According to the Design hypothesis, all organisms were created by a designer
    3. All lower organisms were created by a designer (2)
    4. There are lower organisms
    5. These lower organisms are evidence of a designer (3 & 4)
    /. Therefore, there is a designer.

    But this is not the argument, and is clearly circular. In fact, there is no reason to suppose that (4) should be taken as a premise (viz. as evidence) for the conclusion. Rather, it would itself be part of the conclusion. Hence:

    1. According to the Design hypothesis, all organisms were created by a designer
    2. The complexity of higher organisms is evidence for the Design hypothesis
    /. Therefore, there is a designer
    /. Therefore, this designer created all lower organisms as well

    3) ID proponents do give arguments about why the eye is “irreducibly complex.” Basically, they argue that the eye is constructed so that if there were even a minor difference in its structure, it would not function at all. Therefore, it would be implausible to say that the eye evolved gradually, because if it lacked even a minor detail, it would not have served its function. (Of course, there are in fact scientific explanations for the evolution of the eye.)

    4) Scientific theories are judged by the explanatory gaps that they provide or resolve. If Newtonian physics is unable to account for an anomaly, we must either reject the theory, restrict its domain, or expand its domain. The latter was done by hypothesizing the existence of a new planet (which did in fact exist where they theorized it would). If the holes become so big and numerous, we are inclined to reflect badly upon the theory as a scientific account.

    Further, as noted above, ID is not proposed, necessarily (and I am by no means an expert on ID), as a default alternative to natural selection, but rather as an inference to best explanation. Given the implausibility of natural selection, ID proponents argue that it is a much better (though not necessarily a necessary) hypothesis to conjecture the existence of a designer. Evidence for the implausibility of evolution (no matter how bad this evidence is) is certainly not evidence for the existence of a designer. But again, it need not be. ID proponents simply take it as the cue to develop what they take to be a more plausible hypothesis.

    Moreover, you take on Daniel Dennett’s position on evolution that all traits are optimal and that if they have not been so deemed, it is because we do not have enough information about the selection pressures in which they were developed. While I find this position disagreeable, and am much more inclined to Gould’s position that traits are not necessarily optimal, and that instead they simply respond to the pressures (of variant degree) of the environment and the struggle for existence, I find another, more principled, problem. This is that of falsification. We can simply say, “Yes, but we do not know all the facts,” and use this as a rejection of any argument against an account of the development of some phenomenon. This is unscientific. We could simply discount any objection by asserting an indefinite amount of ad hoc circumstances that may have given rise to that phenomenon. But, again, this sort of argument is non-falsifiable. We can’t rely on an argument to ignorance. Indeed, while science is intrinsically future-oriented, it nevertheless does not give as premises for its theories or conclusions the fact that we do not know, but may know in the future (or, alternatively, that we do not know, but there is something there).

    Theories that account for the most in the least amount of terms, with the fewest explanatory gaps, are to be seen as, if not correct, at least very nice. In fact, this was the justification for accepting the heliocentric vision of the solar system, as opposed to the serious complexity that was involved in maintaining the geocentric hypothesis (even though the results were functionally equivalent).

    5) Once again, I feel that you have simply set up a straw man, knocked it down, and claim to have defeated the actual argument. You begin by asserting (not arguing) that ID is just Creationism and results in a Christian God—you acknowledge that ID proponents do not generally go so far, but you simply state this as a political strategy (more on that later). You later propose that even if we did hypothesize a designer, we could say nothing about its characteristics. But certainly this is not an objection if it is precisely what ID proponents originally argued—perhaps their belief in a Christian God is simply a leap of faith, and is not meant to be intertwined into the “scientific” account of ID.

    I should also ask, does the lack of knowledge about a (causal) mechanism negate the scientific credibility of hypotheses that conjecture it? “Force” was certainly a very important notion for physics, and, as Hume pointed out (also attempting to reject “force” as an actual mechanism), we know (or knew) very little about how force operated. But Newtonian physics still gave a very scientific explanation of one billiard ball effecting change in motion of another billiard ball as due to “force.” The point here is that ignorance with respect to some sort of phenomenon is not prima-facie justification for rejecting that phenomenon as scientifically credible.

    6) Your argument about the political motivations of ID does not hold. Science itself is politically motivated. The issue rests upon a fallacy of amphiboly. One can construe “political” in two ways. First, as the struggles of a specific domain of politics. Second, as the internal struggles over the appropriation of power and forms of “capital” within given social domains (hence, there are political struggles within the field of aesthetic production). In other words, we can define political struggles in terms of an internal or an external dialectic. Whereas in the internal dialectic, the immanent motions of the machine lead to its furtherance, in the external dialectic it is the interaction of the scientific or religious sphere with other domains of social knowledge.

    It is clear that religion is not subject simply to the internal development of theistic thought. Religion has been interwoven into the various other domains of social knowledge and political struggles, reaching its height during the Middle Ages, but certainly still prevalent. In this sense, religion is sharply characterized by its interaction with separate political struggles.

    It is nonetheless also subject to internal struggles of furthering religious knowledge. You can accuse them of playing word games in order to acquire legitimacy for their ideas, but this is a useless point. That is the very definition of a political struggle, either external or internal, and pervades religion as much as it does science.

    Scientists use word-games and all other sorts of things in order to gain legitimacy for their own invested theories as well. It is the same with ID. Scientists use various methods to convey their theories as legitimate to the population at-large. So does ID. It is not clear how the political motivations at play in ID are any different than those at play with other scientific theories.

    So, the somewhat convoluted point so far is this: The various strategies of legitimation that characterize ID follow the same sorts of paths as strategies of legitimation of scientific theories, hypotheses and definitions. With respect to the internal dynamics of the scientific and religious fields, this is not dubious but the very crux of their functioning (indeed, science is carried forth only by the various struggles of legitimate capital). If we grant that ID is set forth as a scientific hypothesis, then the internal political struggles are normal and to be expected in science.

    But the other point is this, that just as religion and ID are subject to external political struggles, so too is science. Science is not a special domain of knowledge that is carried forth only by the internal movements of its constituent parts. It is thoroughly situated within social, political, economic, and even religious domains of struggle. Ptolemy’s geocentric system could perfectly predict the movement of the planets. In fact, the Copernican system had a great deal of doubts placed upon it, for various reasons not just political, but also scientific. The reason the Copernican system became accepted stems largely from the political and religious revolution spurred by Martin Luther, and battles over the power of the papacy. The point being that science is strongly influenced by external struggles, and this cannot be avoided. In fact, just to note this, science and religion were and, to a lesser extent, are strongly interlinked. Without religion, science would not have emerged. The projects of scientists such as Newton were aimed at discovering the absolute truths of the universe, but more than this, the absolute truths of God’s universe.

    Science is not purely objective. It is a domain of political struggles over the legitimacy of certain products. If one is to accept science, one must accept that it can only be perpetuated by the internal struggles for the legitimacy of certain concepts. One must further face the inexorable fact that science is intertwined with external struggles as well (to some degree or another). In the face of the first, it would be in bad faith to reject the attempt to legitimate ID in certain ways (although many forms of rejecting this attempt are propitious to the development of science, as a space of cross-checking each others positions). In the face of the second, it would be dubious of us to place science on a pedestal by counter-posing it with ID and religion.

    7) It is generally well-taken that we should not take a conclusion and try and fit our data to it. But Clark Glymour points out that it is a scientifically valid practice to assume a hypothesis in testing the theory to which that hypothesis belongs. “Confirmation, then, is a three-termed relation linking a piece of evidence E to a hypothesis H by way of a background theory T, with the proviso that H might be included in T. It is the last feature, that a hypothesis may be assumed in the course of testing it, that leads Glymour to claim that a hypothesis can and often does support (or ‘lift’) itself by its own bootstraps” (Lemert & Brittan, 1992, p. 77). Two hypotheses regarding force in Newton’s theory (F=ma and Second Law of Motion) can confirm accounts of force, even though they derive from the same theory. The same sorts of instances can be found in Darwin. Hence, while it is bad practice to assume a conclusion and fit data to it, it is credible to, so to speak, pull oneself up by the bootstraps and assume various hypotheses derived from a theory in order to confirm that theory.

    8) Science does not reinforce atheists in their beliefs. This is because the atheistic claim is, as mentioned elsewhere, a fundamentally metaphysical claim, and thus is not germane to the realm of scientific inquiry. If you simply mean a rejection of ID, this is correct, but does not have the same implications as strong atheistic accounts. This is because of the major gap in ID, between the existence of a designer and the ontological status of that designer. Just as ID cannot infer conclusions that cross the gap, so too rejections of ID cannot thereby reject further ontological claims regarding, say, a Christian God.

    9) You seem to be conflating scientific explanations that answer why-questions (and it can argued that most scientific explanations do not, or can not answer why-questions) with those that answer how-questions. This is the flaw of the “because god made it that way” point. ID is an attempt to answer a how-question (i.e. “How did such complex elements come into existence?”), not a why-questions (“Why did they come into existence?”). In fact, when you think about it, one could make the same sort of remark concerning evolution. Why do we have thumbs? “Because selection pressures made it that way.” These amount to little more than just-so stories. But the fundamental point is that the theory of natural selection is chiefly a response to questions of how things came in to being, not why. Now, various sorts of predictions and, more significantly, retrodictions, can be made based on our knowledge of the mechanisms of selection pressures, resulting in something like just-so stories, they are nonetheless scientific in that they enable better understanding (and even prediction/retrodiction). Simply put, evolution is the fact, and natural selection is the theory—it is the theory of how evolution operates, not why.

    I myself am a little skeptical with respect to this point about evolution. I think you can answer why-questions using the theory of natural selection. But we should not mistake this diversion as a key point. And the real key point is that ID as an answer to a how-question, not a why-question. Note the difference: The theory of natural selection poses mechanisms for evolution without yet providing a teleological/purposive framework for their coming into being. Similarly, one can assert the same for ID. It is not a fault for a scientific explanation that it cannot say why, just so long as it is able to say how a phenomenon came about—and in many instances scientific accounts are just as blind as the ID account as to why (certainly, scientists of the 17th and 18th centuries may well have just said, “Because god made it that way”).

  16. Makr Says:

    Hey, I found your video on YouTube. Very good stuff indeed. Keep it up.

    Don’t worry though. The US might be screwed up when it comes to I.D, but the rest of the world is not (apart from Turkey). As more and more science is discovered, the I.D people will desperately cling on to their “gaps” in the theory, which will grow ever smaller, until they don’t exist.

    Don’t worry. Science will always win. We beat them in Physics, we beat them in cosmology, we beat them chemistry. We beat them with Galileo, we beat them with Hubbard.

    Rest assured my good friend, science will always win. But I think you already knew that.

  17. Andrew Says:

    This is my favorite video that you’ve made. I believe in God and consider myself a committed Christian. I also believe that the ID movement is politically motivated and should be opposed. I don’t necessarily feel that I am reconciling my belief in evolution with my belief in God due to the fact that the explanation of origins seems to me a secondary topic within Christianity. I haven’t met too many people that are in agreement with me on what I have stated so it has been necessary for me to seek out atheists for conversation about the matter.

    I think there is a great deal we can learn from each other and that our mere beliefs shouldn’t prevent us from collaborating in our shared desire to seek Truth. Keep making these videos on evolution; they are excellent for referring friends to.

    I live in Alabama and I can tell you that there are serious problems within our education system that have led to a scientific misunderstanding of what evolution is. After initiating a discussion on evolution with a group of Christians I was mocked and ridiculed. I feel I made some good points and I can honestly say that their argument consisted of nothing more than making monkey noises and asking me why there aren’t half gorillas/ half humans walking around.

  18. helium balloon Says:

    Great post. Thanks for the information.

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