Saturday, May 23, 2009

Socrates: Is Intelligent Design Science?


In a recent ID the Future podcast, host Casey Luskin interviewed philosophy student James Hoskins regarding a fictitious dialogue he wrote between Socrates and a created skeptic named Hector Dawkins.

Hoskins writes:

"My latest fantasy involves Socrates questioning the archetype of the philosophical materialist, whom I will call Hector Dawkins, on the definition of science and the justification of Guillermo Gonzalez’ tenure denial from Iowa State University." [1]

This is an utterly fascinating dialogue that deals with questions such as:

1. What is science?
2. Is Intelligent Design(ID) science?
3. Is ID a religion or religiously motivated?
4. What is the relationship between science and philosophy?

Here is a short preview:

Hector:

I would say that Science is the search for truth.

Socrates:
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! And how does the definition you just gave exclude Intelligent Design theory?

Hector:
Well, because ID posits a Creator God, therefore it is religion, not science.

Socrates:
You are mistaken. Intelligent Design theory does not mention a God of any sort. It simply concludes that certain aspects of the universe are better explained as the product of intelligence, rather than chance and necessity.

Hector:
Socrates, have you been duped by the ID proponents? If you looked into it at all, you would see that the overwhelming majority of ID-ists are Christians. They are being dishonest when they say they are not promoting religion.

Socrates:
Interesting. Hector, you are an atheist and also an advocate of Darwinian evolution. So, when you teach Evolution are you promoting atheism?...

Hector:
Science is the search for causes. It can only deal with natural things. Intelligent Design posits a God, which by definition is outside nature and therefore outside science.

Socrates:
Intelligent Design also searches for causes. It simply concludes that some causes are intelligent. Again, ID, the theory, does not posit a God. It simply posits intelligence and the intelligence is not necessarily outside nature.

Hector:
Oh, give me a break! An ‘intelligence’ that designed life or the universe? Everyone knows that means God!

Socrates
:
So you are rejecting Intelligent Design theory not because it is unscientific, but because it has theistic implications?

Hector:
No, no, that’s not right. It’s not science. Science must be restricted to methodological naturalism. ID falls outside that boundary.

Socrates
:
Well, then Science cannot also be the search for truth. If Science is restricted to methodological naturalism then a more accurate definition would be: Science is the search for exclusively materialistic theories of the world. That is much more narrow and agenda driven than simply “the search for truth.”

Hector:
No, I still believe that Science is the search for truth, I’m just having trouble explaining how ID is unscientific.

Socrates:
Perhaps you are having trouble because ID is in fact a valid scientific theory, regardless of whether it is true or not. The problem is that you are trying to reject it a priori. It cannot be done, except by arbitrary and dogmatic means. If you want to reject ID you must engage its arguments and falsify it empirically, not avoid the debate entirely. [2]

No matter what your worldview is, I highly recommend this piece. It is an outstanding read!

Check out the PDF here.

Also, Part II of this literary debate, entitled, "Are ID proponents liars?," can be viewed here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Reference:

1. A Debate Between Socrates and Hector Dawkins by James Hoskins

2. James Hoskins, On the Definition of Science: A debate between Socrates and Hector Dawkins, http://www.arn.org/_idarts/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/on-the-definition-of-science-by-james-hoskins.pdf


6 comments:

Samuel said...

problem:
"
Hector:
I would say that Science is the search for truth."

Science is an empirical method for finding out information about the natural world.

It can't help you in the world of forms, if you consider those to exist and to be Truth.

Science is limited to natural explanations. They must be observable and repeatable.

Metaphysics is philosophy my friend.

Samuel said...

"Socrates:
Well, then Science cannot also be the search for truth. If Science is restricted to methodological naturalism then a more accurate definition would be: Science is the search for exclusively materialistic theories of the world. That is much more narrow and agenda driven than simply “the search for truth.”"

Precisely. Except it's not "agenda" driven unless your agenda is to actually find information about the natural world - which is what science does.

Science doesn't explain illnesses in terms of non-natural explanations. You don't get sick because of sin or the anger of god. You get sick because of pathogens.

Science doesn't explain weather in terms of gods and whether or not we have done the rain dance. You get weather due to natural forces.

Science doesn't explain speciation in terms of "god made all the animals according to their kind." Science explains speciation in natural terms - natural selection, genetic drift, and to a small part random mutations.

Science is limited to methodological naturalism. That's its scope. That's where its effective. That's what it is.

No one has ever claimed science is the search for all sorts of truth. It's not. It's the search for information about the natural world.

When you try to take science outside the context of methodological naturalism you aren't doing science. To say this is agenda driven is actually backwards.... to take science outside of this context is agenda driven.

Chad said...

Hey Samuel,

"Metaphysics is philosophy my friend."

I can't argue with that. However, would you also agree that materialism is a philosophy?

Respectfully

Samuel said...

Materialism is a philosophy.

Science is concerned strictly with material things. The method is inherently empirical - and to change that is to do something other than science.

Philosophy (and theology) are concerned with immaterial things (in addition to material things).

ID is philosophy couched in scientific language.

Chad said...

Hey Samuel,

Thanks again for taking the time to offer your thoughts-

I think we should be careful not to attack a “straw-man” here. No one is talking about God specifically. We are discussing ID, which the proponents themselves admit cannot tell us who or what did the designing. As Dembski’s explanatory filter dictates, natural explanations should be consider first; however, ID does not limit itself to ONLY natural explanations. Science is a search for causes- IDers are opened to intelligent and non-intelligent ones.

I agree that science is limited in its methods (observation of the natural world); however, just because its methods use, and are limited to, natural measurements and explanations does not mean that I am unable to infer an intelligent cause of the mechanism being observed. To claim that science must be the search for natural causes also eliminates archeology, forensics, and cryptography as legit sciences.

Finally, I’ll leave you with the words of Socrates from the article:

“Philosophy comes prior to Science in history, and it comes prior to it logically. The definition of Science is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical one.”

I agree that science can only tell us so much; however, I do not agree that it is incapable of detecting design, nor do I believe that intelligent causes should be eliminated from the live pool of options. I think one should be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it leads to design.

Respectfully

Samuel said...

As someone who has actually studied forensics (and is majoring in social science), "To claim that science must be the search for natural causes also eliminates archeology, forensics, and cryptography as legit sciences."

When we examine forensic evidence we aren't positing metaphysical entities. We ARE looking for naturalistic explanations.

As sociologists we don't look to understand people's behavior in terms of how God made them (or how a designer designed them to be) - but rather we study what humans actually do. Granted, we aren't always talking about impersonal natural causes - but we don't think stonehenge or civilizations just build themselves ex nihilo.

The problem with ID is that it can't say anything about the designer or the causal mechanisms.

As for being open to intelligent or non-intelligent causes - I don't think scientists would refuse to accept intelligent causes as an explanation - except that there is NO evidence for an intelligent cause.

I think Hume's critiques of Natural Theology apply equally to ID (from a philosophical standpoint) - because ID is pretty much a modern re-birth of Natural Theology (e.g. Paley's Watch).

I feel like I'm clogging the comments, if you want to talk via e-mail we can do that.