Monday, 24 March 2014

Design - the best explanation?

I came across an article by the "Centre for Intelligent Design' claiming they are not creationists. Yeah, right. I wonder how many of them believe God created mankind as is... (see this web site)

Anyway, the article cites evidence for intelligent design, so I thought it would be fun to see what these guys count as evidence.
But it’s when we look into the mind-boggling complexity of the living cell that the evidence of design becomes most apparent.  And it’s not just the chemical complexity which is breathtaking.  It’s the vast information content of DNA which poses the enduring problem of modern biology. What is the source of this functional, specified information?  ...

All human experience suggests that such information arises only from intelligent mind.  To  propose that the information in DNA is a reflection of intelligence is to make an inference to the best explanation.  In the absence of any other coherent explanation, the ID position, at the very least, is worthy of debate.  The core of the issue remains the scientific evidence and raising these other and irrelevant religious points really does nothing to address the evidence.
So "design" is the best explanation? Really?

I mean, even for something hat really was designed, that is a pretty poor explanation. How were the pyramids built? Design. How are computers made? Design. And this is not just the best the ID proponents can manage, it is all they hope for. They live in a world where to declare something designed actually counts as an explanation!

This is not science, it is the antithesis of science.

I am not saying the ID position is not intrinsically worthy of debate, but when the position is labelling something as "designed", and pretending that that explains how it came to be, then it certainly is unworthy of debate.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Operational versus Historical Science

This was inspired by the web page:

To help us understand that science has practical limits, it is useful to divide science into two different areas: operational science and historical (origins) science. Operational science deals with testing and verifying ideas in the present and leads to the production of useful products like computers, cars, and satellites. Historical (origins) science involves interpreting evidence from the past and includes the models of evolution and special creation.
Sure. It is useful to divide science into science we like and science that contradicts our personal interpretation of Genesis 1, then we can just pretend the latter is not real science.
Recognizing that everyone has presuppositions that shape the way they interpret the evidence is an important step in realizing that historical science is not equal to operational science. Because no one was there to witness the past (except God), we must interpret it based on a set of starting assumptions. Creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence; they just interpret it within a different framework. Evolution denies the role of God in the universe, and creation accepts His eyewitness account—the Bible—as the foundation for arriving at a correct understanding of the universe.
It is amusing that they assert their own presupposition that God witnessed the past to casually in a paragraph about the problem of presuppositions. But therein lies the problem. To them, it is not a presupposition - it is a fact. And this is why this is antithetical to science.

All science is based on evidence, and much of it we cannot see. No one has seen an atom, but we know they exist because of the evidence. No one has seen relativity or quantum waves, but the evidence points to them. No one has seen a dinosaur, but the fossils show us they existed.

We do not need to see something to be sure it happened.

Not convinced? How do you think a murder trial goes if no one saw the accused commit the crime? The prosecution shows the forensic evidence that shows what happened. This is so-called historical science in action.

Here is how they define these two types of science:
Operational (Observational) Science: a systematic approach to understanding that uses observable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable experimentation to understand how nature commonly behaves.

Historical (Origins) Science: interpreting evidence from past events based on a presupposed philosophical point of view.
Certainly creationism is historical science. It is the perfect example of "interpreting evidence from past events based on a presupposed philosophical point of view". But not evolution. Evolution uses observable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable experimentation to understand how nature commonly behaves - by their definition evolution is an operational science. Sure, we cannot go back in time and see dinosaurs evolving, but the theory of evolution makes strong and bold predictions about the fossil record, about genetic trends, etc. these things are observable, they are testable, they are repeatable and they are falsifiable.

The article makes the point:
Many founders of scientific disciplines, such as Bacon, Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Dalton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Maxwell, and Kelvin were Bible-believing Christians.
Sure, and when they were around, the evidence available to them pointed to a young Earth, created by God. Then other scientists came along, and found better evidence, and showed that actually the Earth was millions of years old. And you know what? They were Bible-believing Christians too.

They were not creationists like AiG, who interpret "evidence from past events based on a presupposed philosophical point of view". Quite the reverse. They discarded their presupposed philosophical point of view, and determined the Earth was very old because of the evidence.

The most famous of these was Charles Lyell.

That is quite a problem for creationists. AiG say:
What, then, should Christians think of science? Science has been hijacked by those with a materialistic worldview and exalted as the ultimate means of obtaining knowledge about the world.
It is not true, is it? Why would Christians declare the world is millions of years old as part of a conspiracy to hijack science?

It is worth remembering that Darwin himself was originally a Christian, with plans to enter the clergy after his voyage on the Beagle. Far from devising evolution as a way to beat Christianity, it was the evidence for evolution that led Darwin away from his faith.

And this the point. Creationists are insecure in their faith; they know that if people properly look at the evidence, they will leave Christianity in droves. So they lie and distort and make stuff up. It is all in a good cause, right?

Here is another example web page with the same nonsense:
Operational science has indeed been very successful in understanding the world, and has led to many improvements in the quality of life, e.g. putting men on the moon and curing diseases.
That is the problem that creationists face. They would love to destroy all science (the Wedge document makes that clear), but the simple truth is that science has provided so many wonderful things. Science has revolutionised the world beyond all recognition in the last 200 years. In fact, it has changed the world dramatically just in the last 20 to 30 years. How has religion changed the world in that time?

So if creationists are forced to accept that science is good, then they have to somehow marginalise the hated theory of evolution.
In contrast, evolution is a speculation about the unobservable and unrepeatable past. Thus it comes under origins science. Rather than observation, origins science uses the principles of causality (everything that has a beginning has a cause11) and analogy (e.g. we observe that intelligence is needed to generate complex coded information in the present, so we can reasonably assume the same for the past). And because there was no material intelligent designer for life, it is legitimate to invoke a non-material designer for life. Creationists invoke the miraculous only for origins science, and as shown, this does not mean they will invoke it for operational science.
Sure, this will make sense to the ignorant masses that creationism appeals to, but it is not true. Evolution makes predictions that are observable and repeatable today. A necessary consequence of evolution is the nested hierarchy, and this leads to strong predictions in genetics. Predictions that get confirmed time and time again.