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Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

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Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

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The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fuller’s Dover Testimony

Posted by Jonathan Goodwin on 12/04/05 at 05:10 PM

Michael Bérubé’s been wondering about how Steve Fuller, a leading figure in the sociology of science, could testify on behalf of ID proponents in Dover and also be blurbed on the back of a volume by Meera Nanda, criticizing the reactionary tendencies of post-modernism.

The ACLU has made Fuller’s testimony available, and I thought we might take a look at what he actually says there.

Fuller’ graduate training was at the University of Pittsburgh, which he says is the best history and philosophy of science program in the U. S. and probably the world (AM 5.7-10). (Note that here we established that NYU had the best philosophy department in the world. Though this can be kind of confusing to keep track of, remember that the University of Florida has the best literary and cultural studies department in world.) Fuller has published quite a lot--somewhat curiously, since the University of Pittsburgh seems not to encourage large numbers of publications, Rescher being the paradigm example here--and is undeniably an important scholar in the field.

His dissertation applied Herbert Simon’s concept of bounded rationality to scientific and legal reasoning (AM 9.17-19). He is asked to describe the contents of his books, and relays how they examine the statistical drift of scientific decision making and consensus-formation and how they examine the funding structures in which scientific research takes place. After discussing his interpretation of Kuhn and Popper, he begins to outline his view on intelligent design theory:

So this sort of idea of design which, you know, a lot of people think of as a purely religious idea is, in fact, an idea that is probably going to be of great significance as a kind of heuristic for doing science in the future as more and more science goes on computers.  (AM 28.1-5)

Fuller describes how being a scientist means that you are trained in a very narrow way as a technical specialists (AM 32.20-25). He then says that the sociologist of science is better equipped than the practicing scientist to make decisions about long-term scientific trends and to distinguish science from non-science (AM 33-14). The next part of his testimony is concerned with why he believes that ID is scientific. Fuller rejects methodological naturalism and notes a strong correlation between non-conformist religious belief, scientific practice, and natural theology (AM 76.2-19). He notes that Charles Babbage sought to “operationalize free will” through simulation and suggests that artificial life and similar research is similarly motivated, if unacknowledgedly so (AM 80.2-23).

I recently delivered a paper on some sociological and literary implications of transhumanism and the “simulation hypothesis", which seems to involve an evolutionistic theism of man becoming demiurgic through computational technology. Thus, Fuller’s claim interests me here in that it itself seems to be have a latent technodeterminist origin. But I confess that I can’t follow Fuller’s stated objections to methodological naturalism in the testimony (AM 80-106, passim). His main point seems to be that claiming that ID is theistically motivated is confusing context of discovery with context of justification. The fact that there’s nothing produced by it to justify bothers him not, because this could be a by-product of discrimination against it by establishment science. He also mentions Thomas Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics and the idea that the scientific impulse contains within it a desire of mastery over nature that entails transforming the human condition (AM 119-22).

Fuller’s direct testimony concludes with some remarks about the potentially stultifying effects of peer review and elites reproducing narrow orthodoxies within such structures. Before moving on to the cross-examination, I want to make clear that I strongly disfavor teaching ID in science classrooms. There’s a relevant comment from an article in today’s NYT:

Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, said: “I teach at the largest Baptist university in the world. I’m a religious person. And my basic perspective is intelligent design doesn’t belong in science class.”
Mr. Davis noted that the advocates of intelligent design claim they are not talking about God or religion. “But they are, and everybody knows they are,” Mr. Davis said. “I just think we ought to quit playing games. It’s a religious worldview that’s being advanced."

The fact that Newton and Mendel may have had religious motivations for their scientific work is not relevant, I think, to ID, because their motivations were not to undermine an existing scientific theory for those religious reasons but rather to discover and explore the mind of God. Fuller’s desire for methodological pluralism and his invocation of discovery and justification both neglect this key distinction. This statement from his cross-examination reveals his awareness of this:

I mean, but it is true that these guys define their position very much in opposition to the evolutionists.And I do --yes, there’s a sense in which it would be better if there was a little space between these two so they could develop their programs independently.(PM 65.4-8)

Some of the discussion I’ve seen about Fuller’s testimony has been very quick to invoke various Sokal-induced chimeras and don’t seem to have paid much attention to what he actually is arguing. So perhaps this could be a beginning to a more detailed discussion (and please point me towards other places where this has been considered in detail).


Comments

I read about 40 pages or so of Fuller’s testimony and until someone changes my mind, I’m appalled.

He seems to set up history and philosophy and sociology of science as a meta-science explaining to the poor dumb scientists what they’re really doing. Those are interesting fields, but they don’t have that much power. He also seems not to care that none of the ID people have done any work in biology except in ID itself, which is really just an armchair philosophical critique of science. That strikes me as a fatal error on his part-- something that the autonomous development of the h & p & s of science has allowed him to do, by repicturing science to fit their theories.

None of it is really relevant to whether ID should be taught in HS, except insofar as it relativizes science to the point that anything can be science (albeit revolutionary science), so that no parent can object to anything the school does. (While doubting the authority of biologists, however, he speaks at great length about his own credentialed authority).

His obliviousness to the actual context of this debate in the US is fishy (especially given his own sociological-historical specialization) and I wonder whether he isn’t setting himself up for a side job as an expert witness. He mentions that the British program he works in argues that science and religion are compatible, except that scientists are anti-religious, and I suspect that there’s something fishy about that whole program.

To me the historical relationships between the mind of the scientist and the mind of God, with the engineer ultimately putting himself in the place of God and creating things, and Simon’s science of design or order (my paraphrase of some ideas he floated)—these are all interesting ideas, but his court testimony is a whole different thing.

I’m inclined to knock the U. Pittsburgh program down a few notches based on this guy’s testimony.

By John Emerson on 12/05/05 at 08:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

He then says that the sociologist of science is better equipped than the practicing scientist to make decisions about long-term scientific trends and to distinguish science from non-science

And yet, he does a stunningly bad job of distinguishing science from non-science himself.  One hates to extrapolate from one single example (no matter how impressive the credentials) to an entire field, but it certainly seems to be the case that the minute they wade out of the shallows of the history or the sociology part and into the science part, there is a great cry for lifeboats.

By on 12/05/05 at 10:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

How does one fill a hot air balloon?

You use a fire to heat cold air and capture it in the skin of a balloon. Science is the fire and the forethought to have a balloon on hand.

ID is just hot air, without a balloon in sight.

Post Modernism, at least Fuller’s brand, strikes me more as someone sputtering on your neck while trying to convince you it’s a tropical breeze that will fill all the world’s sails, and mix you a daqueri while we’re at it.

By Keith on 12/05/05 at 10:45 AM | Permanent link to this comment

APS, his point seems to be that the deep waters extend to practicing scientists when they think about the larger context of what they do, which is at least partially what the trial addresses. I disagree with him about this--especially in this particular case--but I think it’s important to provide counterarguments, not complete dismissals.

By Jonathan on 12/05/05 at 11:19 AM | Permanent link to this comment

On *The National Review*’s website, there’s a crazy piece of rhetorical blackmail by Mustafa Akyol:

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/akyol200512020813.asp

Akyol discusses how “Sadly, it was secularist Europe — and especially, theophobic France — rather than the religious United States that the Islamic world encountered as ‘the West.’ No wonder, then, that the West eventually became synonymous with godlessness.”

That’s right!  So go terrorize France, you terrorists, because America is *really* a theocratic state in disguise.  Islamists, we’re—just like you! 

And how can we prove it to fundamentalist Muslims that we’re on their side?  By supporting Intelligent Design!  Take it way, Akyol:

“By its bold challenge to Darwinian evolution — a concept that claims it is possible to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’ — ID is indeed a wedge that can split the foundations of scientific materialism. ID presents a new perspective on science, one that is based solely on scientific evidence yet is fully compatible with faith in God. That’s why William Dembski, one of its leading theorists, defines ID as a bridge between science and theology.

“As the history of the cultural conflict between the modern West and Islam shows, ID can also be a bridge between these two civilizations. The first bricks of that bridge are now being laid in the Islamic world. In Turkey, the current debate over ID has attracted much attention in the Islamic media.”

So: the clash of civilizations can be eased, if only the US would become more religious.  The war on terrorism will end once everyone is a fundamentalist.  I’m just glad that the crew on *The National Review* are finally admitting that the Bushies and the Islamists are—wait for it—on the same side!  As Akyol argues, the real problem is that the terrorists who hate materialism have targetted the wrong country because they think the America of TV and Hollywood is the real America.  Actually, it’s *Europe* that’s to blame, so go bomb them.  (And let’s all forget that Bush’s advice to get the country back in the saddle after 9/11 was to all go shopping.  That’s just a case of materialism serving as the bitch of theocracy, I guess. )

The NR’s publication of Akyol’s essay gives the lie to the denial that ID is trying to bring theology in through the back door.  Theology is coming right in through the front door, in fact, even if it feels, through all of this, that we’re all taking it in the rear.

By on 12/05/05 at 03:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I agree with you, Luther, that is a very bad argument, but you place a higher evidentiary value on the NROnline’s willingness to publish something than I do.

By Jonathan on 12/05/05 at 03:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

his point seems to be that the deep waters extend to practicing scientists when they think about the larger context of what they do, which is at least partially what the trial addresses. I disagree with him about this--especially in this particular case--but I think it’s important to provide counterarguments, not complete dismissals.

I’m not sure I get that - is the trial in Dover really about whether or not biologists get the cultural implications (the “larger context") of evolution?  Or is the trial about whether or not something masquerading as science and designed to forward some larger cultural agenda should be admitted as science (on the strength of its cultural agenda)?

For that matter, frankly, as in the “larger context” of the ID debate, I think complete dismissal *is* in order.  It sounds an awful lot like another attempt to invent a conflict in order to create an ersatz credibility (as in “teach the conflict").  Fuller blows some smoke, and people wonder - does he have a point?  The more we debate it, the more it looks like he does.

A common assertion of the history or sociology of science crowd is exactly this:

“But rather, what you have is kind of a statistical drift in allegiances among people working in the scientific community over time, and especially if you add to it generational change.” (from his testimony: AM 12:8-11)

Which I suppose is interesting to watch for a sociologist.  And a not very careful sociologist might even conclude that the resulting science is driven by the “drift in allegiances” rather than that the drift in allegiances is driven by the science.  In part, perhaps, because it means that not just those drifts but all of science are part of the pleasant (for the sociologist) realm of sociology instead of the hard to understand realm of science.  And when the sociologists can set themselves as more expert than biologists in biology or physicists in physics, well, how much more relevance can an academic want?  (Why have science envy, when you can condescend to them instead?  “You think you are moving to uncover truths about nature, but really, you just playing a social game, the rules of which you aren’t as privileged as I to see")

It’s no great leap from this equivocation or obfuscation or confusion (depending on how you assess the practitioner’s motives/intelligence) to the idea that the only thing wrong with ID is that scientists haven’t had time to drift that direction yet.

But the argument is a fraud, right from the start; the conclusion is, too.

Throw this in the bin with ID and holocaust revisionism as mendacious and irresponsible argumentation which expects to gain ground through publicity rather than force of reason, and for ulterior motives rather than a disinterested search for the truth.

So, there you go.  Counterargument *and* dismissal, served with an attitude.

By on 12/05/05 at 04:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

his cv doesn’t indicate any natural science background.  i think that someone who wants to engage in meta-scientific chatter should at least have some basis within science ahead of time so that one is familiar with the culture.  kuhn had a background in physics.

By razib on 12/05/05 at 11:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hyperspecialization is a serious problem here. Acquiring technical mastery of one subset of electrical engineering, optical physics, contemporary eugenics, etc. doesn’t imply a conceptual understanding of the logic of scientific discovery, particularly over long periods of time.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 12/06/05 at 12:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

jon,

i’m not talking about getting a science ph.d., i’m talking about someone who wants to study the sociology of science would be well prepared if they did a double major with a science as an undergrad. patent attorneys often have a science degree (or even doctorate) under their belt.  a guy who runs a lab i know has an undergrad double major in english and biology (he has a ph.d. in bioloyg obviously).  at lab meetings he has some pretty precise critiques of grammar and style in terms of future presentations or papers, and we never realized until a few weeks ago when he mentioned that he’d done an english degree.

to understand how science is done a minimal stint in a laboratory as an undergrad would help a lot of people.  the long view is irrelevant if you don’t know about the day-to-day epiphenomena upon which it is built.

By razib on 12/06/05 at 01:11 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Razib, I disagree very strongly with Fuller’s position about this--to the point of mystification--but it’s parochial to suggest that more time taking multiple-choice tests and dissecting things would have affected his later thinking. It’s just completely irrelevant to the argument he’s making.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 12/06/05 at 01:29 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Science is a strictly defined disciplin. ID dosen’t meet this definition. Fuller (and others) are suggesting we should change the definition. This is a highly radical and political suggestion. It would be a big step towards theocracy. I don’t think it will succeed becasue it is so radical, but it is importatn to realize that a large segment of americans want a theocracy. We should be on the watch for instances like DOver. It isn’t written in stone that the US will always be a secular democracy.

By on 12/06/05 at 03:13 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I quote Fuller from Berube’s thread:

“Some of the later posts actually get at this one quite well. It seems that people think that just because we talk about Hindu, Muslim and Christian ‘fundamentalism’, there must be some ‘fundamentalist’ essence they share. So-called Hindu fundamentalism strikes me, having read Nanda, as simply an Indian nationalist movement whose modus operandi isn’t so different from the nationalist movements that, say, Benedict Anderson talks about in ‘Imagined Communities’. Its use of history is basically a pastiche of rather different strands that project a mythical Indian past. Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, in contrast, are attempts to revive and update religious traditions that have actually motivated good science in the past, and the latter have to do with the postulation of a monotheistic God as being the source of the order we perceive in the universe. In this respect, it’s quite significant that Darwin was trying – and of course failed – to discover design in nature. Why try in the first place, if you didn’t think some order was put there? Basically ID is the disinherited sibling of the history of our own science. It isn’t some ‘alternative science’ that starts from radically different cultural assumptions – real or imagined.”

Religious and cultural bigotry, nothing more.  I suspected that might be the case from his repeated mentions in that thread of atheist scientists being against Christianity instead of against religion, and from his how-dare-you rhetoric where Christianity was concerned.  This confirms it.  And he’s proud of it.

By on 12/06/05 at 09:33 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Acquiring technical mastery of one subset of electrical engineering ... etc. doesn’t imply a conceptual understanding of the logic of scientific discovery, particularly over long periods of time.”

Evidently, to judge by Fuller and his fine credentials, neither does technical mastery of the sociology of science.

Can we all please quit equivocating between the social and professional behavior of scientists and science?

Let me put a simple question to anyone who wishes to stand-in for Fuller: was Special Relativity accepted by the scientific community because Einstein was an iconic figure?  Or did Einstein become an iconic figure in part because of his work on Special Relativity?  If Lorentz had more personal magnetism, would there be an aether?

I don’t doubt that scientists have their own peculiar social behaviors, and that these might even act to steer the direction of research or slow the acceptance of better theories.  But you have to make a dishonest argument to get from there to the idea that a sociologist is in the best position to determine if string theory will win the day, or that recruiting more bodies will make ID true.

By on 12/06/05 at 09:52 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Lotta fancy words here.

I think this Fuller guy is saying, “Look, in the spirit of compromise, if we simply redefine what science means, then ID could be taught as science.”

He needn’t have gone through all the trouble.

The Kansas board of education has gone through all the trouble of doing that already.

By Fearless Leader on 12/06/05 at 03:54 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I haven’t read his entire testimony and failed to understand much of what I did read (especially the parts having to do with computers, which seemed utterly bizarre) but is Fuller arguing nothing more than that ID could potentially be science? I’d actually agree with that position but it’s incredibly minor and really besides the point in the Dover trial: there are, of course, a great number of things which could potentially be science which we would never consider teaching in science classes. What we should teach in science classes is, of course, what scientists actually think.

This debate was about what will be taught, not what potentially should be taught. If Fuller ignored the context in which he was making these statements then I can’t help but think that he was behaving very irresponsibly.

By on 12/06/05 at 06:08 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Victor

“there are, of course, a great number of things which could potentially be science which we would never consider teaching in science classes”

Yeah, like the theory that we are all puppets in a show being put on by the Styrgiungling Myropids of Galaxy 43 and we’ll discovery that the show is over when they turn the gravity machine off.

I’ve got a lot of other theories, too, all of which are more interesting than “ID theory” and which don’t lead to the sanctioning of institutionalized discrimination against gay people.

By on 12/06/05 at 09:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

As a Pittsburgh HPS grad studnet, I would like to respond to the first comment about ‘knocking down PItt...”; I find this disheartening. Indeed, it seems to be a move that the ID folks would use, as it its similar to the inference from ‘he has got a science degree and he thinks evolution is wrong’ to ‘even SCIENCE thinks evolution is wrong’.  Just because one of our graduates thinks ID is science, it seems a bit rash to judge the whole department.  Judging the work of a whole group of people, based on one of their former colleagues (who, you should note, now works in a sociology department) is a bit unfair and hardly justified.

And, in any event, you should note that the one of the other expert witnesses was another HPS grad, Rob Pennock. His position is somewhat more representative of Pittsburgh HPS on the ID issue. 

As for the comments about Fuller’s credentials in science, I do think that they are relevant, and they can never hurt, but judging his arguments based on whether he has a BA or MA or whatever in biology or some other scientific field is Ad Hominem; it may be true that those exposed to the actual practice of science are less likely to promote ID (at least, one would hope!), but we must judge arguments on their own merits, not on the credentials of those who make up the argument. 

Personally, I agree with most of you; ID is not a science.  And, even if Fuller had good arguments to support his position regarding ID’s status as a science (and I don’t think he does, but I won’t comment on this now), it is still incredibly irresponsible for him to argue a subtle philosophical point (to be charitable) in a court of law.  The courtroom is not a philosophy journal, there is more at stake than one’s pet theory or opinion.

Cheers,

Benny Goldberg

By on 12/07/05 at 12:03 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"we must judge arguments on their own merits, not on the credentials of those who make up the argument”

“(who [Fuller], you should note, now works in a sociology department)”

And would you include disciplinary ad hominems within your prescriptions or do they just not apply when taking jabs at sociologists?

By Buridan on 12/07/05 at 12:55 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Benny Goldberg: “it may be true that those exposed to the actual practice of science are less likely to promote ID (at least, one would hope!), but we must judge arguments on their own merits, not on the credentials of those who make up the argument.”

Fuller’s argument is a waste of time.  At this point, I’m more interested in the odd ideas that people have about science who have never done any science.  Try Jonathan’s “it’s parochial to suggest that more time taking multiple-choice tests and dissecting things” for example.  Multiple-choice tests?  I can’t remember a single multiple-choice test in an undergraduate science course, ever.

I would say that academics really shouldn’t write about science professionally until they’ve done even a little of it.  I mean real research, not just labs where you know what you’re supposed to find.  People have the oddest ideas about what science is, and I don’t mean only the sceptics, or the people like Fuller for whom opinions about science are really just a way to ratify opinions about Christianity or something; there are also a lot of people who seem to favor a weird scientism.

As a non-academic, popular example try this passage from Norman Spinrad.  (A good mid-range SF writer; anyone who reads a good deal of SF who has not read _The Iron Dream_ should do so.)

Spinrad: “Let’s [...] consider “science” as a worldview. Deeper even than the scientific method is the conviction that reality has a knowable nature, that all of creation is of a consistent pattern, that it is all interrelated, that what is is real, and what is real is ultimately knowable [...]”

I don’t think that Spinrad could have written this if he had done any grad school level science.  You just don’t need a lot of this stuff about “ultimate knowability” or even, quite, consistency in order to research something.  It’s no more necessary than Fuller’s fantasy about how scientists needed to believe that the world had a monotheistic designer in order for science to get started.  It’s a projection of faith.  If a scientist has “faith” in anything, it’s faith in a method, not faith about some aspect of the universe.

By on 12/07/05 at 01:09 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I can’t remember a single multiple-choice test in an undergraduate science course, ever.

amen!  i’m sorry jon, but as i said, that sort of statement is what prompted me to post what i posted (as i noted).  even excluding the day in and day out of lab minutiae, cranking your way through a problem set in 60 minutes where there are questions which are not exactly modeled on anything you see in homework, and which have a precise and clear answer, is something i have never seen in a liberal arts course.  i only have a minor in history, to go along with a b.s. in biochemistry along with a lot of course work in evolution and ecology, so i can’t say i have the biggest data sample.  but, i never took a history course below a 300 level (junior), and all but one of my courses i took in history were 400 level (senior), so i think i have some idea of what upper division liberal arts is like. and it is simply qualitatively different from a physical chemistry course in the mentality.  similarly, a physical chemistry course is nothing like the general chemistry stuff that pre-meds end up taking.  once the pre-meds leave chemistry (after organic) the classes shrink and grades become less important so professors don’t write multiple choice exams.

anyway, i wouldn’t go as far as rich.  myself, i’ve done stuff in labs as an undergrad, so i don’t have the graduate school mentality. but i don’t think making an issue of background is ad homimem.  i don’t think it invalidates someone’s perspective, but, it does give less credibility than they would otherwise have.

i commented mostly because what i saw of fuller’s testimony suggested he didn’t have close up contact as a working scientist with its day-to-day minutiae.  I.D. simply doesn’t cut it as science, where’s the bench work?!?!  jon’s quip about multiple choice exams and dissection trivialized my point.  as i stated in my post, would you trust an anthropologist who made generalizations about a tribe in amazonia if they had never lived amongst them?

By razib on 12/07/05 at 02:45 AM | Permanent link to this comment

First of all, there’s no doubt that multiple choice tests feature prominently in undergraduate science education in the U. S., particularly at the introductory level. My original comment about them was flippant, but the more serious point is that the kind of technical training provided by scientific education in an era of hyperspecialization is not necessary to make arguments about the social reception of science or its processes of discovery and justification. The problem I see with Fuller’s argument is conceptual, not technical.

Latour’s anthropological analyses of science in action are worth noting here as well.

By Jonathan on 12/07/05 at 11:15 AM | Permanent link to this comment

the more serious point is that the kind of technical training provided by scientific education in an era of hyperspecialization is not necessary to make arguments about the social reception of science or its processes of discovery and justification.

It is still a specious argument.

Look, the Ph.D. sociologist has just as specialized a training as the Ph.D. biologist or physicist - except that he is *not* trained in doing science.  Why this makes him *more* qualified on what it means to *do science* (rather than on the social behavior of scientists) continues to elude me. 

Frankly, I think a few more dissections and few more multiple choice tests in science *are* worth more than a few more statistical surveys of how kids turn their hat brims and a few more multiple choice tests in sociology if what you want to know about is science.  That’s what an education is for.

It is more clear if you use the same argument on a similar case:  Perhaps the hyperspecialization of the surgeon means that a surgeon won’t have the broadest view of human health and medicine, but he is going to know a lot more about health than someone who studies the social patterns of surgeons.  (Sociologists are a lot cheaper than surgeons, too.  You can save a bundle in health care costs if you are commited to this argument.)

Gah - it’s a variant of the whole ID argument - evolution hasn’t answered all the questions about the development of life on earth, therefore it must be designed.  No scientist knows everything about science, therefore we should ask a sociologist.

Why does anyone take this seriously?

By on 12/07/05 at 11:53 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"the kind of technical training provided by scientific education in an era of hyperspecialization”

No one has said anything about technical training.  What I’ve written and what I’ve seen other people write here are variations on saying that people who professionally study science should have actually done some very slight amount of science.  No one expects people in philosophy of science to really know anything technical, but it would be good if they had once had the experience of setting out to investigate something scientifically that was not a simple problem for which people knew the “correct answer”.  I would add, given the propensity of sociologists to think that everything is sociological and the confidence of people in the humanities to think that everything has an author, that it would be good if they briefly studied something involving the physical or biological sciences.

As for Latour, APS has already written on this one: “Can we all please quit equivocating between the social and professional behavior of scientists and science?”

By on 12/07/05 at 11:54 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Is is possible to know anything about science without receiving a university credential? What is it that you take the word to mean? Reflecting on this for a moment will reveal how much both of you are overreaching.

The problem here and even more so at Bérubé’s, is that many of you seem to be allowing indignation to prevent you from focusing on what Fuller actually has to say.

By Jonathan on 12/07/05 at 12:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmm, and I’d say that you seem to be allowing your usual reflexive defense of authority within your field to prevent you from focusing on what Fuller actually has to say.  How’s that for instant psychological analysis?  Maybe that’s why you’re so mystified.

It’s possible to do science with only a high school education.  The point is in the experience of setting out to investigate something and knowing that there is no one who can tell you the answer, not in doing cutting-edge work.

By on 12/07/05 at 12:28 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’ve been following this thread with some interest over the last few days, but I’ve been responding to another blog (Michael Berube’s) as well as attending a conference. I won’t be able to participate anymore than the statement below, where I pick up on some issues that have been raised. Since it’s easiest to quote and respond, I’ll do that, whenever possible.

I’m actually not a methodological pluralist, in the Feyerabendian sense of ‘letting a thousand flowers bloom’. And I’m not a relativist or a postmodernist either. At least the people who normally call themselves these things would not see me as one of theirs.  I actually support the promotion of ID because of the heuristic value of thinking about nature from a design standpoint, and historically this has very often meant adopting the standpoint of the mind of God. For me ID does not prove the existence of God, but it’s part of long-standing tradition in the history of science (including Newton, Babbage, Mendel) for whom the presupposition of God as the intelligence designer behind the universe (in whose image and likeness humans were created) has led to important science. Unfortunately, ID is not fully in touch with this tradition, and so the full pedagogical value of ID (regardless of whether Behe or Dembski can validate their particular theories) is not fully appreciated. I said this during the trial. I realize that trial transcripts are always a bit difficult to interpret since the court reporter (who is often unfamiliar with the subject) must transcribe things as they are said, not as they are meant. But that’s my basic line. I also said I thought Neo-Darwinism was much better supported than ID, but that is only one of many considerations when deciding what’s pedagogically valuable.

One of you queried Babbage: He was a successor to Newton’s chair at Cambridge in the 1830s who is often credited with having invented the computer (a.k.a. analytic engine). He presented a proof for the existence of God in one of the Bridgewater Treatises that basically imagines God as computer programme who sticks in some stochastic variables to allow for free will and perhaps even changes to the original programme. There are lots of different mechanical models for envisaging divine creation – not simply, or even most importantly, a watchmaker. The computer model has been perhaps even more important. ID should reclaim this from the evolutionists. Rob Pennock, who seems to be somebody’s idea of good historian and philosopher of science, basically rediscovered Babbage without realizing it, when he frothed about a glorified computer virus generating programme that he passed off as an ‘instantiation’ of natural selection. The defence lawyer queried whether such a programme, even with all its stochastic and self-changing qualities, could not be just as easily read as support for ID. Pennock gave a canned or stupefied answer to that and all the other questions concerning the historical development of science. Too bad the lawyer didn’t have enough background in HPS himself to tear Pennock to shreds.

This brings me to why I agreed to be an expert witness: I read the expert testimony statements of the plaintiffs: Pennock, Ken Miller, Barbara Forrest, and the rest of the anti-ID travelling road show (all nicely compiled by Ruse and Dembski in their 2004 CUP volume). They are uniformly appalling in their self-serving bluster and historical and philosophical fatuousness. If you think something called ‘methodological naturalism’ existed before the latest round of Creationist trials in the early 1980s, then you can’t tell the difference between a real and pseudo-philosophy. Yet, Pennock – a Pitt grad like myself – basically defended this made-up dogma, which is designed to conflate a metaphysical position (naturalism) with a methodological position (some extended version of positivism). The result is to give the impression that the only way you can do proper science is by presupposing that the world works according to natural causes as they are ordinarily understood. 

I happen to be a naturalist but not a methodological naturalist because I don’t believe naturalism has a consistent track record in delivering good science (initial opposition to Mendel was largely on naturalistic grounds) but also anti-naturalism has had significant heuristic value. This point is more easily seen if you read the history of science from past to present (i.e. as it occurred) rather than present to past (i.e. Whiggishly). Methodological naturalism is an historiographical mirage that is created when you read the history of science whiggishly and hence notice that, say, an originally supernatural force like gravity was eventually ‘naturalised’ – rather than the fact that the force was originally conceived as supernatural (and indeed in relation to a particular view of divine action). Again, if we are talking about what should be taught in schools, you are interested in what stimulates ideas that eventually become scientifically proven. And here one needs to give supernaturalism its due. Methodological naturalism is just an attempt to impose thought control on what sort of person is eligible to do science. If you follow the mainstream philosophical literature – not the parallel universe that consists of Pennock and the other philosophers who make a living out of defending evolution – you repeatedly find philosophers not only disputing methodological naturalism on its own terms, but also wondering why such ‘naturalists’ don’t stress the traditional anti-monotheistic provenance of the metaphysical doctrine (from Spinoza). The answer of course, is that ‘methodological naturalism’, unlike metaphysical naturalism, is afraid of upsetting Christians who want to be evolutionists and believe in a monotheistic god too: i.e. so-called methodological naturalism is a bit of PC pseudo-philosophy tailor-made for our times.

Here’s an interesting quote: “The fact that Newton and Mendel may have had religious motivations for their scientific work is not relevant, I think, to ID, because their motivations were not to undermine an existing scientific theory for those religious reasons but rather to discover and explore the mind of God.” I guess I don’t need to say that you can want to explore the mind of God and undermine an existing theory at the same time. But the more important point is: What’s so wrong with trying to want to undermine a scientific theory?  It’s times like this that I realize that Karl Popper was saying something radical by proposing the criterion of falsifiability, which he always interpreted as something that scientists did to each other’s work, because each scientist would be expected to remain tenaciously wedded to their own work unless proven otherwise (by an equally determined colleague). So, the negative intent of ID is not itself a problem, as far as I’m concerned.

Another quote: “For that matter, frankly, as in the “larger context” of the ID debate, I think complete dismissal *is* in order.  It sounds an awful lot like another attempt to invent a conflict in order to create an ersatz credibility (as in “teach the conflict").  Fuller blows some smoke, and people wonder - does he have a point?  The more we debate it, the more it looks like he does.” I’d love read a non question-begging definition of the difference between a ‘real’ and an ‘invented’ conflict in science. It seems like another way of restricting who’s got the right to raise a criticism in science, regardless of the validity of the criticism. I actually don’t believe ID should be spending so much time finding holes in evolution. Better time would be spent in finding alternative hypotheses for what evolution claims exclusively for its own research programme (with some research horizons tossed in). Nevertheless, the hoels in evolution are holes whether Michael Behe or Steven Jay Gould says it. The fact that one might want to get some conceptual mileage for an anti-evolution position should not be at issue here.

Another quote, starting with a quote from me, and then the poster’s comment: “[Fuller:] Basically ID is the disinherited sibling of the history of our own science. It isn’t some ‘alternative science’ that starts from radically different cultural assumptions – real or imagined. [Poster]: Religious and cultural bigotry, nothing more.” I suppose I earned this response because the poster read ‘our’ in an exclusive (i.e. Western only) rather than an inclusive (i.e. all of humanity) fashion. The latter was intended. If the poster is still troubled, it would be interesting to learn why.
Here’s the real winner: “And, even if Fuller had good arguments to support his position regarding ID’s status as a science (and I don’t think he does, but I won’t comment on this now), it is still incredibly irresponsible for him to argue a subtle philosophical point (to be charitable) in a court of law.  The courtroom is not a philosophy journal, there is more at stake than one’s pet theory or opinion.” Welcome to the Middle Ages!  The mind boggles at what this guy thinks a philosopher should say under oath other than his considered philosophical judgement on the matter. Instead, we get Pitt’s answer to Averroes telling us that the US legal system can’t deal with philosophical sophistication. So what’s the alternative?  Philosophers of science should stay out of the courtroom unless they’re epistemic lapdogs for the scientific establishment like Pennock? People sometimes call me cynical but this statement reveals just what a low opinion some people have of lay judgement, even in the context of courtroom deliberations. Finally, when thinking about all this, it’s worth recalling that the scientific method was invented by a lawyer, Francis Bacon, who was not a scientist, but someone who believed that science was very important for society but that scientists overhype their claims with metaphysics and so a neutral method – model on a judicial inquisition – is need to sort the wheat from the chaff.

END

By Steve Fuller on 12/07/05 at 01:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Thanks to Steve Fuller for his response.  But I have to take issue with one of his comments that I think is central to the problem of ID.

“Nevertheless, the hoels in evolution are holes whether Michael Behe or Steven Jay Gould says it.”

The important difference is not whether the holes exist, the important difference is how we go about filling them.  Do we go about filling them by saying “hmmm.  some mysterious intelligence must have wanted it that way.” Or do we go about filling them by asking “what natural forces could have led to this?” One of them is a seeking after reassurance.  The other is a seeking after knowledge.  One is religion.  One is science. It *does* make a difference whether we look at those holes through Behe’s eyes or Gould’s eyes.

What never ceases to surprise me is how backwards the whole ID crowd has their agenda.  There *is* a study of intelligent design based on the designer’s artifacts: archaeology.  But that is the study of the designer through the designed.  If the proponents of ID were serious, they would be asking what we could learn of the mind of the putative designer(s) from the creations.  But no honest assessment in that direction is going to give the proponents the right answer (an omniscient, omnipotent, omnitemporal, benevolent being who created man in his image) and that’s why they work backwards from their conclusion to their argument instead.  There are few proofs of the insincerity of the ID movement as clear as that.

By on 12/07/05 at 02:33 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The reason that ID is not in touch with that tradition (Newton, Babbage, Mendel) is that it is, as I have written a couple of times now, a theistically motivated attempt to undermine a theory perceived (wrongly) to be atheistic. You suggest that this doesn’t matter, but I don’t understand why.

You write that you can “attempt to understand the mind of God and undermine an existing theory at the same time.” But the only reason these two things would not be mutually exclusive w/r/t evolution is limited theology. The a priori insistence on evolution’s falseness restricts ID’s potential development. As a positive research program, it has nothing. As a positive research program, it will have nothing--not because of jealous disenfranchisement by the scientific establishment, but because its presuppositions cripple it. Supernaturalism as a negative motivational principle can only converge on reality by accident, and that rarely. (You seem to want to justify what a potential ID free of this dogma might create, but this involves ignoring the obvious social context of the trial and debate.) The mind of God, however, is open.

By Jonathan on 12/07/05 at 03:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Steve Fuller: “I suppose I earned this response because the poster read ‘our’ in an exclusive (i.e. Western only) rather than an inclusive (i.e. all of humanity) fashion. The latter was intended. If the poster is still troubled, it would be interesting to learn why.”

All right.  The particular strand of the argument that I find troubling (to the point of it making the whole thing dismissable) is the one that insists that Hindu Science and ID are different in kind because one is motivated by polytheistic religion while the other is motivated by monotheistic religion.  I can understand a point of view that embraces both (as a criticism of methodological naturalism, say), or one that dismisses both (as religion intruding into science); dismissing one but not other, for the reasons given, seems to be bigotry even if bigotry is denied as a motive.

On Berube’s blog, you claimed, as an empirical fact, that science could not have come from a polytheistic society.  I challenged this by saying that science descended, indirectly, from Greek thought, and that Greek society was polytheistic.  You replied that Greek thought needed to be “re-branded” (horrible term, but OK) by the monotheistic Arabs before it could be transmitted to Christianity and turned into science.

I find this hypothesis to be excessively shaky as one to hang an “empirical fact” claim on.  I really don’t want to get into the problems that I see with it in detail; frankly I don’t think it’s worth the time.  But just as a general matter, you are making a sweeping claim about possible histories based on a single data point, that of how real history went.  History is not a model that you can run over and over with slightly varying initial conditions in over to see different outcomes.  Once science started in a particular society, that pretty much preempted its independent creation anywhere else, due to how globally connected advanced societies were at that time.  So you have what I would consider to be a highly undue degree of confidence in your theories of religious-cultural superiority.

Now, proceeding from this undue confidence, you then go on to support that ID be what—Investigated by scientists?  Given funding?  Taken seriously?—no, taught in high school.  That is completely incoherent.  Whatever the merits of new approaches in science, they do not appear in high school before they appear in peer-reviewed literature.

So, as APS says above about archeology, a design tells us about the designer.  The only coherent explanation I can construct out of this odd design is that of a designer who was taught that Christianity is good at an early age, that Hinduism was heathen nonsense, and who has gone on into adulthood with ever more sophisticated yet fundamentally unconsidered defenses for these basic beliefs.

By on 12/07/05 at 03:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Even if we concede that Fuller’s comments have some truth value they don’t belong in secondary school science. A course in HOW science is done would be the place to engage with these ideas-but on a college level.

By on 12/07/05 at 03:54 PM | Permanent link to this comment

tzipp, amen!  props to steve fuller for coming here laying it all our there.  i see more clearly where he’s coming from, but after all this, i’ve going to just have to say.  to paraphrase a dover city (ex-)councilperson, someone died on the cross 2,000 years ago for us, isn’t anyone going to stand up for him?  i mean, isn’t steve fuller is trying interpose a rather subtle vector into enormous forces of great social magnitude?

By razib on 12/07/05 at 07:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Fuller

“Finally, when thinking about all this, it’s worth recalling that the scientific method was invented by a lawyer, Francis Bacon, who was not a scientist”

What bunch of garbage.

As long as animals have had rudimentary brains they have been practicing the scientific method.

In it’s simplest form, the scientific method is “learning through trial and error”.  Ever see a squirrel trying to get at an apple at the end of a tree branch?

Now ask yourself: ever seen a squirrel pray?

I find it interesting, as others have noted, that there seems to be almost a willful effort to make this “ID” business more complicated than it is.

If you are interested in the subject, don’t just read Fuller’s testimony.  Read Michael Behe’s cross examination and the cross examination of the stooges on the Dover school board.

ID hails from the same swamp that brought us holocaust denial and it appeals to a certain group’s pre-existing prejudices in exactly the same way.  Spend some time arguing with a holocaust denier and you’ll encounter the same types of argumentative that are ritually relied on by the ID peddlers.  It will all boil down to the “close-mindedness” and “dogmatism” of “Darwinists” (a smear that translated to “atheists” to the converted) who “believe” that E.coli and S. typhimurium shared a constant ancestor but have “never” “actually” “seen” one “kind” of animal “turn into” another, or “seen” a “complex” protein “machine” “build itself” from “random” parts.

If we are going to teach ID in school than we damn well better teach holocaust denial like we mean it. 

And while we’re at it I want those kids exposed to the best developed theories which support the inate inferiority of The Negro.

Anthing less is just discrimination against people whose religion forces them to believe that white people are superior.

Moreover, maybe white people ARE superior.  Wouldn’t we doing human beings a great disservice if we refused to obtain and develop that knowledge because we wasted our lives worshipping at the altar “political correctness”??

These are the kinds of minds we are dealing with, folks.  And yeah, Steve Fuller definitely has that kind of mind, the kind of mind that never gets too far away from the idea that Steve Fuller Is Really Too Cool.  He just won’t admit it because he’s too busy making bucks off the “controversy.”

By on 12/08/05 at 12:39 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Whooops, that’s “common ancestor”, not “constant” ancestor.

By on 12/08/05 at 12:41 AM | Permanent link to this comment

My suggestion that one consider the remarks of Fuller to have truth value was a thought experiment to redirect the discussion to WHAT the content of science education at the secondary level should consist. Personally I find no evidence in ID that is credible. In addition, my suggestion that HOW science is done be saved for college level was not an attempt to exclude the scientific method from secondary schools. And I am not not fearful that bibical references will poison science. Consider that the first identifiable controlled trial was described in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel (OT)! I find this historically interesting and not a reason to call in the PC police.

By on 12/08/05 at 07:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I have no problem with Fuller’s suggestion that supernatural notions or framing scientific problems from a design perspective – a heuristic god-like figure – may have pedagogical value and therefore should be given its due. The claim, however, that because historical figures like Newton, Babbage, Mendel, et al utilized a design perspective and therefore we ought to consider such perspectives because they’ve worked so well in the past is not very compelling. I’m assuming something like this was meant when Fuller said:

“…it’s part of long-standing tradition in the history of science (including Newton, Babbage, Mendel) for whom the presupposition of God as the intelligence designer behind the universe (in whose image and likeness humans were created) has led to important science.”

Fuller is, at least in this instance, arguing from tradition and while such modes of thought may do well in some disciplines, they do not do all that well in the biological sciences – that’s why you won’t often, if at all, find Darwin as required reading in biology courses.

Now this says nothing about the suggestion that using a design perspective as a template of sorts may have significant value for making important scientific discoveries in our contemporary context, i.e., given what we know today and the significant developments made since Newton, Babbage, Mendel and Darwin. I don’t really know, and in-and-of-itself it’s not an unreasonable proposition. But, is that enough? Is there any evidence that a design perspective, lets say over the past 75 years or so, has in fact produced important scientific discoveries? That is, the sort of perspective that one could attribute to Newton, Babbage or Mendel. It’s an honest question by the way.

My guess is that science has evolved to a considerable degree over the past 75 years or so without significant help from such a design perspective. If that’s the case, who knows, perhaps science could have discovered much more, but such counterfactuals are just that.

So, let’s just assume that a design perspective has heuristic value and holds the potential for making discoveries that would not otherwise have been found. Is this what the present ID movement is really about and does it matter within the context of this debate “what they are all about?” Is the high school classroom the best place to conduct these sort of epistemological experiments? Should we first test the idea/notion/perspective and see if it has any scientific merit before we require such modes of thought in high school science classrooms? Again, these are honest questions.

Standards are certainly tricky things when the conduct of inquiry is being considered, but for better or worse it probably should be the scientific community who decides what, if any, standards are applicable here. Yes, that may be a little too territorial but I’m not aware of any discipline that allows people outside of their ranks to be the gatekeepers so to speak for cutting edge ideas, and that includes sociology (a discipline I share with Fuller). In other words, we do seem to believe in peer review and at least something approximating that is what allowed for Newton, Mendel and Darwin’s discoveries to be recognized as significant scientific ideas. So, in a sense, I’m also making an argument from tradition. But this one (peer review) seems to still be working today.

By Buridan on 12/08/05 at 11:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

tzipp would like to see discussion WHAT should be the content of secondary science education. Well, I’d sure like to see less rote learning of “established” answers, and more teaching about how to raise questions in a way that permits experience and experiment to contribute to answers. Science, after all, is for inquiring minds.

That’s why I have emphasized (in several fora), that there is a legitimate question to be raised about the generative capacity of natural selection. I don’t think the IDers have (yet) found a way to formulate this question in the idiom of experience and experiment, and the answer they propose, very prematurely, lacks even a whiff of evidential support. But it is important that we not allow our distaste for IDism (whether intellectual, political, religious, or whatever else grounds our biases) to dismiss questions about the limits of natural selective processes. That would not be good scientific practice.

By on 12/08/05 at 11:32 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Buridan

“So, let’s just assume that a design perspective has heuristic value and holds the potential for making discoveries that would not otherwise have been found. Is this what the present ID movement is really about”

No, it’s not.  That’s been demonstrated and any arguments to the contrary ignore the research of, e.g., Barbara Forrest.  DOcumented liars like Jonathan Wells pretend to do experiments that were “inspired” by “design theory” but a close look reveals that claim to be just another case of self-promotion and blowing of hot air.

“Is the high school classroom the best place to conduct these sort of epistemological experiments?”

Yeah, right.

“Should we first test the idea/notion/perspective and see if it has any scientific merit before we require such modes of thought in high school science classrooms?”

First, the “mode of thought” is probably the lowest form of intellectual thought on the planet, i.e., “How can I please the invisible deity and honor him so he doesn’t smite me?” Second, we don’t need to “test the question” because the only people who can understand how it could possible be fruitful to do so are religious fanatics, for obvious reasons. 

“Again, these are honest questions.”

And the questions have all been answered honestly.

By on 12/08/05 at 04:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Bob

“it is important that we not allow our distaste for IDism (whether intellectual, political, religious, or whatever else grounds our biases) to dismiss questions about the limits of natural selective processes.”

Thanks Bob, again, for your endless recitation of your script.

Guess what?  As has been pointed out to already, scientists aren’t dismissing “questions” about the “limits” of natural selective processes.  They are exploring those limits.  Every day.  All the time.  And they have been doing so for years.

Get it, Bob?  I doubt it but I thought I’d give you the chance to say, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“That’s why I have emphasized (in several fora), that there is a legitimate question to be raised about the generative capacity of natural selection. “

I already gave you one answer to your strange and inarticulate question, Bob, and you ignored it.  But it was a perfectly good answer.

“I don’t think the IDers have (yet) found a way to formulate this question in the idiom of experience and experiment”

Either have you, Bob.  And yet you seem certain that the question can be asked in an anwerable way.  And you seem determined to think that “ID theory” is somehow related to this question when it’s clearly not. ID is a religious answer to a religious question.  That is one of the many reasons why ID is pure crap from the standpoint of scientists.

The bottom line is that the question that you can’t articulate but which you find so interesting is really silly and boring.

It’s like asking, “What are the limits of erosion”?

The question immediately begs clarification on so many levels that one is forced to ask what is it exactly that the inquirer REALLY wants to know?

By on 12/08/05 at 04:41 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Felt Soap -
Have I ever said a word in defense of ID or IDers? What’s with the incivility.

And you say you have already answered my question. Where and when? I think you just blew your cover, even though you hide behind multiple phony names and phony email addresses.

You say, “ID is a religious answer to a religious question.” We disagree. I think that ID is a religious answer to a scientific question. And guess what. Evolutionary biologists, the sort who publish in places like “The Journal of Theoretical Biology,” agree with me that there’s a scientific question here. Some of them even try to develop formal models of selective processes that would make it possible to rigorously define the limits of selection—in a manner reminiscent of incompleteness proofs in mathematical logic.

Do you have so much as a clue as to what you’re bellowing about?

To the rest of the people here, I apologize that you were exposed to this.

By on 12/08/05 at 06:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Lawrence Sober,

By the “tone” of your response, I’m guessing you’re not happy with the questions I’ve posed. Yes, they’re honest questions with my own honest answers. Perhaps you should visit my website before passing judgement on where you think I stand on all of these issues. I promise you’ll be surprised.

Buridan

By Buridan on 12/08/05 at 06:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

As aside, it would probably be a good thing for everyone to carefully read what it is they’re going to comment on before coming out with both barrels blasting. And if the individual has a website, it wouldn’t hurt to take a gander at what they’re saying there as well. Certainly if you plan to attribute, either implicitly or explicitly, a position to that person find out where they stand first. It’ll save you all sorts of embarrassment.

By Buridan on 12/08/05 at 06:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Bob

“And you say you have already answered my question. Where and when?”

You posted the same strange question over at Berube’s column and I answered it.

“I think you just blew your cover...”

That’s funny, Bob.

“Some of them even try to develop formal models of selective processes that would make it possible to rigorously define the limits of selection”

Really?  Show me a cite and show me where in the cite the scientists in question are attempting to “rigorously define the limits of selection.”

Let’s have it Bob.

“Do you have so much as a clue as to what you’re bellowing about?”

Um, I’m not the one suggested that scientists weren’t asking questions that ID peddlers are allegedly interested in (but, as a matter of fact, are NOT interested in).

That was YOU, Bob.

All I’ve done is point that out to you.  I pointed it out to you on Berube’s blog and then, instead of addressing my point, you dissembled and ran over here and posted the same inarticulate nonsense.

By on 12/08/05 at 07:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Buridan

“Perhaps you should visit my website before passing judgement on where you think I stand on all of these issues. I promise you’ll be surprised.”

I think I know where you stand, Buridan, and if I’m correct that you think that ID peddlers like Fuller are frauds then applaud you. 

That doesn’t change the fact that your questions have already been answered and asking them again merely gives creedence to the existence of an alleged overarching “controversy” which is, “Are ID peddlers paid propagandists employed by a think tank attempting to establish a Christian theocracy in the US, or are they genuine scientists struggling to get their scientific theories recognized?”

That question has already been answered, too.

There are two types of people attracted to this “debate.” There are those like myself who are interested in maintaining the status quo where religions are not allowed to use their considerable power to hijack the government for the purposes of propagating their beliefs, and there are those who just like to twaddle on and on and on about the “epistemiological” issues surrounding the scientific study of deities.

To those of us in the first camp, the focus is on education and the facts.

To those in the second camp, the focus is the interaction between the “two sides.”

My concern is that a lot of folks in the second camp make statements that show or appear to show that they have forgotten the plain facts about the Discovery Institute and how this “debate” was seeded into the public discourse (again).

In summary, please don’t take my comments personally, Buridan.

And I’m really only embarassed on blogs when I make a false statement and someone catches me doing so.  I found that an easy way to avoid being embarassed is to avoid making false statements.

By on 12/08/05 at 07:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Lawrence Soap -
I did not dissemble. When I quite correctly pointed out that instead of answering the question you produced a red herring, you did not respond further to the question, and effectively gave away the game. So again, and more carefully phrased, do you know of any naturally occurring non-selective process by which heritable functional traits can evolve?

Also, nowhere did I suggest that scientists were not asking about the limits of selection. What I suggested was that opponents of ID (not all of whom are scientists, obviously), by not carefully parsing the issues, were in danger of dismissing legitimate scientific questions.

As for formal proofs of the limits of selection, that must await the rigorous formalization of models of selection. We’re not there yet, but the people working in the area of formal modeling are well aware that once the models are in hand, we will be able to address the question about the limits of selection in a rigorous manner.

I would welcome a response, but do ask that you drop the accusatory, insulting tone. If that’s beyond you, never mind.

By on 12/08/05 at 08:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I think it would be great to discuss ID and methodology of science with high school students. These issues are likely to be more interesting and more useful to them than a bunch of quickly-forgotten scientific fact without method.

My concern is that we abstract from the reality of public school. Would believers really be willing to have their children exposed to atheistic and materialist arguments? In all likelihood, a liberal,] science teacher who exposed kids to Dawkins would immediately have a bunch of angry parents hassling the principal. It would be a career limiting move.

So, the problem with teaching ID would be that there could never be a fair fight, at least in public high schools.

By on 12/08/05 at 08:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Pithlord

“I think it would be great to discuss ID and methodology of science with high school students. These issues are likely to be more interesting and more useful to them than a bunch of quickly-forgotten scientific fact without method.”

So would techniques of giving each other intense orgasms without risking pregnancy.

So would discussing how to find the Easter eggs in the video game, KUNG FU VII: BATTLE OF THE ZORBS.

So would teaching them how to make contact explosives and where to buy the materials online.

Sadly, the purpose of educating kids is not to entertain them.  The purpose is to create a society of skilled intelligent people because, it is argued, such a society is less likely to fall prey to supersticious beliefs which lead to mass delusion, the failure to recognize approaching catastrophes, and ill-considered geopolitical decisions.

But hey, if you believe it’s all part of “God’s plan” and the rapture’s coming in a couple years anyway, then why give a shxt?

By on 12/08/05 at 09:03 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I almost never take comments personally. I thrive on heated debate, which of course you know having visited my website. And since you have visited my website (or have you?), you know perfectly well that you’re preaching to the choir here. I was battling ID before Dembski became known as one of its leading spokespersons. That is, I went to school with both Bill Dembski and Jay Richards in their early days at Princeton Seminary and organized a group of atheist/agnostic seminary students in opposition to their Rightwing religious-political agendas, which included Intelligent Design. So I’m not a newcomer to these parts by any means.

Having said that, I think you’ve misinterpreted Fuller’s position. He is pointing out the “cognitive place” that design thinking has had in the history of science and suggests that because it was *used* by people like Newton and Mendel, studying the physical world from a similar design perspective can therefore have heuristic and pedagogical value in contemporary science.

As I pointed out, I don’t find that argument compelling because he’s arguing from tradition, which basically claims that “because x, y, or z worked well in the past, it should work well in the present.” No! That’s just a bad way to make an argument regardless of the content. Nevertheless, Fuller is not *directly* advocating for a Behe/Dembski type of intelligent design. He’s arguing for a Newton, Babbage, Mendel type of “design perspective,” which he beleives can be useful for generating new scientific ideas. This does not mean the present ID movement falls within such an orbit. This is what Fuller says:

“Unfortunately, ID is not fully in touch with this tradition, and so the full pedagogical value of ID (regardless of whether Behe or Dembski can validate their particular theories) is not fully appreciated."

So, given that the type of design perspective Fuller’s advocating is not a Behe/Dembski type of intelligent design, is it reasonable to consider a Newton, Babbage, Mendel type of “design perspective” for heuristic and pedagogical purposes? I claimed that it is certainly *reasonable* and then asked the following questions (now with my answers following):

1. “But, is that enough?” No, reasonableness in-and-of-itself is not enough for contemporary science to adopt a perspective.

2. “Is there any evidence that a design perspective, lets say over the past 75 years or so, has in fact produced important scientific discoveries?” I really don’t know, but as I said I highly doubt that a “design perspective” has played any significant role. I may be wrong.

3. “Is this what the present ID movement is really about and does it matter within the context of this debate “what they are all about?” No and Fuller seems to acknowledge that, and yes it does matter because their intentions are and always have been religious and not scientific. I suspect Fuller would disagree with me here.

4. “Is the high school classroom the best place to conduct these sort of epistemological experiments?” No, because *most* high school teachers and students are not equipped for such discussions. Besides, these are paradigmatic issues that most scientists rarely engage in.

5. “Should we first test the idea/notion/perspective and see if it has any scientific merit before we require such modes of thought in high school science classrooms?” Yes, peer reviewed scholarship in the scientific community is where such determinations need to be made, not in high school science classrooms.

That’s more than enough for now. I hope I’ve made myself clear.

By Buridan on 12/08/05 at 10:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

By the way, I thought my tit for tat was with Lawrence Sober but it looks as if Felt Soap has taken that spot. Are you the same person? Not a problem, I’ll argue with anyone…

By Buridan on 12/08/05 at 11:01 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Buridan—you’ll have to ask Bob who I “really am.”

In the meantime

“Nevertheless, Fuller is not *directly* advocating for a Behe/Dembski type of intelligent design.”

Whatever Fuller is advocating for, he sucks at it and my question to you is why are you trying so hard to make his arguments for him?

This jerkoff went to Dover and testified for the ID peddlers, spewing out the same inarticulate self-absorbed claptrap that he spewed here.

What’s there to figure out Buridan? And why?

Here’s where you and Fuller evidently get hung up

“He’s arguing for a Newton, Babbage, Mendel type of “design perspective,” which he believes can be useful for generating new scientific ideas.”

What is this garbage about “generating” “new” “scientific ideas”?  What about the “brought up in lower middle class neighborhood with gay older brother” perspective?  Is that useful for “generating” “new” “scientific ideas”?

There are so many assumptions built in there and the stakes are so freaking low that I have to ask: what is the point?

The idea that a philosopher of science—especially a dissembling tool like Fuller—is going to contribute somehow to the “generation” of “new” “scientific ideas” appears to be the ultimate fantasy for some so-called “philosophers of science.”

These philosophers are free to dream on, of course.  But if they choose to do so in public, well, they are in for what is called a “rude awakening.”

The cure for diseased characters like Fuller is straightforward: put him in a lab or out in the field and get him started on practicing some science for a couple years.  He’ll discover that the “design perspective” is useful for him in the same way that the “design perspective” is useful to most people: it gives them something to talk about when they are having an orgasm.

By on 12/09/05 at 12:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

J.B.S. Haldane debated the subject of what should be taught in biology with Arnold Lunn, a rightwing Christian, long ago. Haldane, to my mind, had the right view. To Lunn, who proposed teaching the truths of creationism in the classroom, Haldane made an elaborate reply. I like this part: “However, in answering your letter, I have stated a part of I my case against religions, and more particularly Christianity and Islam, which make faith a virtue. In the past millions of people have stifled their own reason, and hundreds of thousands have been killed and tortured because doubt was regarded as a sin. Today this attitude does not greatly affect your or my intellectual freedom. But it emphatically affects that of the average citizen. The ordinary child in England is taught a diluted Christianity and a vastly more diluted science. He or she never hears the scientific anti-religious view of people like myself, nor, I should suppose, the intellectual case for Christianity. He is not given the case for or against evolution, and I should like to see him given both (say a little book by me, with caustic foot-notes by you). It is the same when he grows up. Look at the B.B.C. talks on Science and Religion this spring. The case against religion was entrusted to Huxley, who thinks he is religious, and Malinowski, who would like to be, rather than to an outright opponent of religion, like Keith or Chalmers Mitchell. Hence when the average person drifts away from religion he finds no substitute for it, and makes himself and others miserable. I do not think the scientific attitude to those who attack what you might call the dogmas of science is quite so bigoted. For example, I admit to a certain exasperation when Mr. Joad attacks Darwinism with a sublime indifference to a mass of known facts, but I am delighted to read a really well-informed anti-Darwinian book like Berg’s Nomogenesis, because the true theory of evolution, whatever it is, will have to explain a lot of Berg’s facts. I doubt if a similar attitude is very common among professional religionists, simply because, as I think, they are biased by the theory that faith is a virtue, whereas I hold that clear thinking is a virtue, even if at first it leads to false conclusions.”

Surely the only reason to put ID in the same classroom with Evolution is to show that ID represents a thoroughly exploded view of the world. Far from showing “holes” in evolutionary theory, ID shows the more alarming holes in clinging to a cosmology developed 2000 years ago and revised by the most bilious and superstitious of men since.

By Roger on 12/09/05 at 01:50 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, perhaps an exhibition of intellectual masturbation was underlying Fuller’s testimony on the Dover case. I haven’t read the transcripts so I don’t really know.

I do wish Fuller had declined the invitation to be a witness for the defense. I think if he had better understood the issues, he would not have come out so strongly in favor of ID, regardless of type. But then, he disputes this and claims he knew full well what was at stake.

In any event, I’m a sociologist with a background in analytic philosophy and religion. This is the way we conduct arguments - looking at all the angles critically and then trying to find holes to exploit. Fuller certainly was not critical enough in his analysis of ID or of his own arguments.

I’m not trying to make his argument for him, just setting it up as I understand it in order to exploit the holes that I find. I was the kid who loved to meticulously build model airplanes only to blow them up with firecrackers soon after they were finished. It’s a sickness.

By Buridan on 12/09/05 at 01:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m a newcomer to these debates and also a philosopher, and so I realize that I’m in potential peril. But I want to pick up on a point that Buridan has made, which I take to be false – or at least misleading.

Buridan says at one point that design-based thinking hasn’t contributed anything to science over the past 75 years or so. Even if we set aside engineering, both in the physical and increasingly biological spheres, as ‘mere’ applied science, it seems to me that nevertheless, at a meta-level, design-based thinking is actually constitutive of developments made in the experimental method and computer programming. (Fuller’s allusion to Babbage tipped me off here.) In that respect, scientists increasingly adopt a designer’s standpoint as they do science. Drawing inferences from found objects, as evolutionists often portray their field, is less and less representative of how science is done.

There may be a problem here with people taking for granted that intelligent design is ONLY about God as the ultimate explainer, when in fact it aspires to being a general science of ‘design’, where ‘design’ is understood as identifying a distinct domain of reality. This doesn’t mean they have succeeded, of course.

By on 12/09/05 at 03:08 AM | Permanent link to this comment

ID could have heuristic value especially if you want to teach evolution to creationists. But, just because something has heuristic value does not legitimize its routine use in the classroom.
I don’t think astrology should be used to teach astronomy because it might have heuristic value (although it would likely be discussed when teaching the history of astronomy). There is not a paucity of heuristic techniques.
As for scientists adopting a design standpoint-scientists tell themselves stories and use metaphors constantly but they don’t let the story determine the interpretation of the results - AN Whitehead pointed this out over 50 yrs ago as the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’.

By on 12/09/05 at 07:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hans said: “But I want to pick up on a point that Buridan has made, which I take to be false – or at least misleading.”

I said: “2. “Is there any evidence that a design perspective, lets say over the past 75 years or so, has in fact produced important scientific discoveries?” I really don’t know, but as I said I highly doubt that a “design perspective” has played any significant role. I may be wrong.

There’s absolutely nothing misleading about my statement here and the only way it could be false is if I’m lying about my doubts or ignorance in this case. As a “philospher,” Hans, this should be an easy observation for you to make. What gives?

By Buridan on 12/09/05 at 10:25 AM | Permanent link to this comment

If, indeed, intelligent design is not about theology, but about Design (and the discovery institute is about nanotechnology instead of Jesus, and a silk purse is a pig’s ear), then the flow of influence seems to go all the other way. The design perspective has been infinitely enriched by understandiing that it is inseperable from diffusion, and that variation, sometimes induced, sometimes random, is much more important than the perfect blueprint. Engineering in the twentieth century is about corporate design, not individual works of genius—affordance accrues improvement.  Bernstein’s popular history of the Bell Labs is full of stories that make this point. And it is a point that has been institutionalized by the open source movement.

If we apply an archaic idea of what intelligence is to an archaic idea of design, we will not get a science of design, but a mess. And ID applied to biota is a mess not worth bothering about—it can neither assign a place, nor a mechanism, nor even locate an intelligent to account for changes in organic structure.

By Roger on 12/09/05 at 12:24 PM | Permanent link to this comment

What would it actually mean to make a good faith effort to use ID as heuristic in teaching high school science?

Would you do regular science experiments and then look at the results for evidence of design? Or would you figure out what would be incontravertable evidence of design and then go looking for that?

I would not have any problem with kids doing the second for extra credit. They would still be learning the basics of science, right, and then (making my best guess) they would spend a lot of time chasing wild geese.

It would be like reverse psychology. “You want to look for the hand of the designer? Sure, go ahead. Make sure your experiments are well designed and that all your other work is done.” They would learn scientific method and maybe have their beliefs challenged.

In the end most of them wouldn’t do anything, like grown up IDers. I think IDers mostly just want to say, “maybe there was a designer” and then go home for a well earned pot pie. I don’t see any effort at all on the part of grown up IDers to challenge their beliefs through experimentation at all.

By on 12/09/05 at 12:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Roger - nicely put!

cw - yes, and that’s why high school classrooms are very poor arenas to be “testing” these epistemological and pedagogical experiments. The only potential value that a “design perspective” (and I believe Fuller is making a distinction here between this and current ID theory) might have in terms of being a heuristic device (i.e., non-literal or “relating to exploratory problem-solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques [as the evaluation of feedback] to improve performance") is in terms of generating new research questions that do not entertain a literal designer. This is neither what the intelligent design movement is advocating nor would they find such heuristics acceptable.

Whether a design perspective, in its non-literal, heuristic sense, holds potential as a useful device for such queries is still an open question. I remain skeptical but I don’t completely dismiss the possibility. Hell, if believing that Elvis is still alive provides a heuristic for generating legitimate research questions, who am I to protest how those questions were derived? But I’m not holding my breath.

Fuller has a much more broadly defined threshold for what counts as legitimate research questions than I do, but then I tend to have more positivist leanings than he does.

By Buridan on 12/09/05 at 01:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Buridan

“I think if he had better understood the issues, he would not have come out so strongly in favor of ID, regardless of type. But then, [Fuller] disputes this and claims he knew full well what was at stake.”

Of course he knew what was at stake:  book sales.  Or promoting Fuller’s personal ideology and/or religious beliefs.

Fyi, for a good time go and visit http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/789/ and watch Steve Fuller soil himself and his “profession.”

By on 12/13/05 at 02:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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