Monday, May 2, 2016

Explaining the Unexplained by Invoking the Inexplicable

Back a few years ago I defined Intelligent Design (ID) as: "It is an attempt to explain the unexplained by invoking the inexplicable. " By the way where I got inspiration for this line was an old joke defining Physics as "explaining the unexplainable by observing the unobservable."  I did this back in 2007 after trying to learn something about ID.  I was wondering now that I am coming up on a decade of this Blog did my definition change at all.  I should probably wait until next year and a 'Decade of Blogging' comes to a close, but you know me, I can't wait once a thought starts percolating.

Actually what started this idea was looking at the stats for my blog and realized someone was reading through many of my old posts.  After months and even years of not showing up in the stats, nearly all my 2007 posts were hit at least once, several a few times.  So it caused me to go back and take a look some and this two of 'What is Science' and 'What is Intelligent Design' caught my eye.  It's strangely interesting to go back 9 years and see what I wrote and also consider if my thinking about the subject had changed.

So looking again at What is ID, I did create my own definition which differs considerably from the 'official' definition from the Discovery Institute (DI), but their definition has changed as well.  We discussed it back in 2010 in "Surprise! The definition of ID has 'evolved'", but my current question is has my definition of ID changed.  Their definition is subject to change whenever they, the Discovery Institute (DI), seem to feel like it.  Over the years, they constantly find issue with anyone whenever they discuss ID, especially when anyone tries to pin down ID in any way.  They seem to prefer a more fluid explanation.

Let's break it down the way I define it, 'An Attempt to Explain', why did I call it an 'attempt'? My thinking, back then, was that folks like the DI were trying to explain things and trying to explain things in a way that fit their religious beliefs. Yes, I know they will argue about the influence of their religious beliefs, but never forget their guiding document 'The Wedge Strategy' document, which says [I added the little underlining]:

"describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." (Wikipedia:  Wedge Strategy)
Yes, that document, when you consider that, their protests of religious indifference is nothing more than a tactic, a way of trying to hide their religious motivations.  I've worded it a bit differently before as 'lying for Jesus'.  They tell one story 'officially', but when talking to the already converted, they tell a very different tale about their 'Designer'.

So . . an attempt certainly fits, but that leads to have they succeeded in explaining anything?  Has there been a single scientific breakthrough that can be traced back to the DI's Intelligent Design pseudo-scientific theory?  I believe if there had been then two things would have happened.  First they would have been crowing from the rooftops . . . step outside and listen for a minute?  Any crowing?  I haven't heard them either.  The second thing would that they never would have started posting about intelligent design . . . remember there is a difference between the act of intelligently designing something and the Intelligent Design spouted by the DI.  But how many posts have they made confusing the two?  "Intelligent Design vs intelligent design" and "Another example of Intelligent Design in action" are discussions on that.

So ID is still 'an attempt to explain', but why did I use the next word 'unexplained', as opposed to the idea of 'unexplainable', like my physics example used 'unobservable'?  Here is an area where I disagree wholeheartedly with the DI and it's also where they get into trouble with the whole 'God-in-the-Gaps' argument.  First of all, is anything really unexplainable?  Is there anything that we will never have a viable, working, and usable explanation?  I don't believe so.  Go back 50 years and you will find a list of items people deemed unexplained and loved to make claimed of being unexplainable.   Go back further and the unexplained/unexplainable list gets longer with each passing year.  However, don't we now have many perfectly acceptable and usable explanations for many of the things once deemed 'unexplainable'?  There are always naysayers that tell us we will never understand this or that . . . and over time there are scientists who explain this or that!  So I don't think there is anything unexplainable, only things that may be very hard to explain -- at least based on our current state of knowledge.  But always remember that the state of our knowledge is always changing, as is our explanations.

So look at the DI, they either claim the actions of a Deity (Intelligent Designer) and justify it by pointing to things they we don't have fairly complete explanations, or they argue against our explanations with spurious claims.  Two examples, Micheal Behe and the Odds Argument.  Behe, in his book "Darwin's Black Box" listed a number of items as 'irreducibly complex'.  Blood clotting factor and the immune system were a couple of his examples.  Yet when faced with examples of the continuing research in those areas, he claimed that the newer research wasn't enough.  He hadn't even bothered to look at it, he just kept to his opinion, an unsupported opinion I might add, that evolution couldn't have done it, but that it required a 'Designer'.  He reminds me of an Ancient Greek defending his 'knowledge' of the Sun being a burning chariot the God Apollo rides across the sky.  Behe's 'work' is an example of the God-of-the-Gaps argument, and other logical fallacies.

The Odds Argument is another old-y and quite moldy.  How many different ways have we heard how the odds of evolution resulting in . . . anything . . . is too incredibly long to accept.  Tornado in a junkyard and such.  Yet, has anyone actually calculated those odds in a way that makes any sense?  Nope, they cite huge numbers yet have never supported them.  Has Wild Bill Dembski's 'Design Inference/Filter' gotten any useful results yet?  Not in the least.  The whole 'Information' argument is predicated on the odds argument as well.  What I find interesting is that the Odds and Information arguments do not actually support ID, but are nothing but attempt to cast shadows on Evolutionary theory.  The assumption seems to be is that if they can push Evolution aside, the only game left in town will be their religious beliefs.  Look at their own definition of ID:
"The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." (Discovery Institute: Definition of Intelligent Design)
Do you see anything in there that is an actual definition?  No, what you see is an alternative opinion, and one that can only apply if natural explanations fail.  Have they failed?  Not in the least.  Are they perfect?  No, but remember that we are always learning new things and so far we haven't reached a point where actual science fails.  I know, the DI would like us to think it has, but the reality it has not.

Scientific theories don't 'hold' or offer whishy-washy terms like 'best explained' without one hell of a lot of supporting information.  Where is their supporting information?  There isn't any.  They've been looking for over 20 years . . . well the modern ID Movement has been at it since the mid 1990's.  Other forms of Creationists have been at it even longer and not once has their religious belief set offered a viable explanation of any sort of natural phenomena.  The Ancient Greeks, Romans, Norse, and Egyptians, to name a few, formed their own religious beliefs as explanations.  What makes the DI and other Creationists any different?  Honesty says they are not. What there is, in their definition, isn't an actual usable scientific theory, but an expression of their belief system.

So how does the DI resolve any and all issues?  Push hard enough and eventually you reach an impasse, the invocation of a Deity.  Oh they usually call it an 'Intelligent Designer', at least officially and in print.  But often when preaching to the already converted, they wink and remind their supporters that the 'designer' is the Christian God. But that is where their arguments always end, with the actions of a 'Being' that basically requires you to suspend disbelief.  No one has quantified any of those actions, but the DI wants us to insert their religious beliefs into any explanation.  I want to why why we need to do that?

Have you ever heard some old joke that goes something like this.  You are a bus driver and at your first stop 5 people get on.  At your second stop 2 people get off and 4 people get on.  No one gets off at your third stop, but 3 people get on.   . . . the joke goes on and eventually the final question gets asked . . . "What is the name of the bus driver".  Of course the idea is to confuse you with tracking all the math of who is getting on and off in anticipation of a question more a long the lines of "how many people are currently on the bus?"  You lose track of the simple idea that you are the bus driver.  So all that ons and offs were nothing more than a distraction.

So what do you get when you take a natural process and insert the actions of a Deity/Designer into the process? It makes the process more complicated, but even worse, it makes the process impossible to explain.  How can you account for the actions of a deity?  The reality is you cannot.  Things work not because of the wishes of a deity.  Although you might pray a great deal when you run out of gas on a long stretch of West Texas highway without a light in sight, it's not prayer that will get your car in motion again, but gasoline!

My definition is pretty much just a re-statement.of their own.  They are trying to explain 'certain features of the universe and living things' by invoking a religious belief, an intelligent cause.  They target their belief set at one part of the actual scientific theory of evolution, natural selection.  But they offer nothing in way of actual explanation in what their 'designer' is or how it did whatever they think it did.  Hence 'explaining the unexplained by invoking the inexplicable'.

So in the 20+ years this particular stripe of Creationists have been marketing their belief set and trying to replace actual science with it.  Yet they haven't had much success mainly because their 'theory' offers no explanatory power.  No one has used it to advance our knowledge, no one has used it to offer a viable explanation of any observed phenomena.  They only thing they, and others, have used the 'theory' of ID for is politicking to have their religious beliefs injected into the science curricula.

Yes, Explaining the Unexplained by Invoking the Inexplicable is still an excellent way of looking at Intelligent Design, if I do say so myself!

No comments:

Post a Comment