Sunday, October 17, 2010

How To Build A Strawman And Knock It Down

This morning I got up and turned my computer on. I began randomly browsing the web, glass of water in hand. I almost choked to death. Carumbas Blog got my attention. According to that blog, intelligent design can never be science because intelligent design isn't falsifiable.
To quote the author of the blog:
"ID cannot be science because it can never be falsified – a requirement of a scientific hypothesis. ID never can be falsified – and therefore cannot be science - as long as one possibility for the designer is an omnipotent and omniscient God. Such a God, by definition, can do anything and do so for reasons that we mere humans might not be able to understand. As long as such a God is a possible designer – even if not the only possibility – any natural phenomenon is possible. Because of that, until the possibility of an omnipotent and omniscient God is specifically excluded as a possible designer, ID cannot possibly be science."

Right off the bat Randy Crum (the author of the blog) gets it wrong. What we essentially have here is Mr. Crum constructing a man made out of straw and then proceeding to destroy it. Let's deconstruct his straw-man.

   To do this, we need to define intelligent design. In a word, intelligent design holds that certain features of the biological world are more adequately explained by an intelligence rather than a mindless process like Darwinian evolution.
 So can intelligent design be falsified? You bet. If for example one observed the evolution of a biochemical system that required several dozen specifically arranged amino acid residues, then intelligent design proponents would stay up till 4 o'clock in the morning pondering over how they could have messed up so badly. Mr. Crum of course, by his argument, would argue that this wouldn't really falsify intelligent design because if an omnipotent God was the designer, then the designer could "do anything and do so for reasons that we mere humans might not be able to understand." However this is fallacious because it is irrelevant whether or not the designer did things we could understand; what is the real issue here is whether intelligent design is a more adequate explanation for something in the biological world than a mindless process. Even if God decided to allow such a described biochemical system to evolve in real-time, intelligent design would still have been falsified because to us humans intelligent design would cease to be a more adequate explanation for the origin of said biochemical system. 

And I thought Darwinians didn't use straw-men arguments. 


  1. Really? You thought Darwinians didn't use straw-man arguments?

  2. Also, even though God is not an essential part of the Intelligent Design theory, I happen to know that you personally believe in him. How would you answer this argument in light of your personal beliefs?

  3. Ben:
    Firstly we must realize that there is the intelligent design theory, a scientific one, and then there are my personal beliefs which are not scientific in the sense that it makes no predictions and cannot be falsified. So, on the one hand we have a scientific theory -- intelligent design -- and on the other hand we have a belief which cannot be considered scientific. This is not to say in any way or form that there is no evidence for the existence of God. There is plenty of evidence for God, but mere evidence does not amount to science. An example: it is a simple fact that chocolate ice cream is my favorite ice cream. This statement cannot make any real predictions and nor can it be falsified, tested, or subjected to peer-review. But it is still a fact. The same is the case with the existence of God.
    Hope this helps ; )

  4. Thanks Meatguy! It's encouraging to get feedback ; )

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  6. "Firstly we must realize that there is the intelligent design theory, a scientific one..."


    What do you know that Paul Nelson did not know in 2004:

    "Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design."

    When did the theory come out, and where can one read about it?

  7. "Firstly we must realize that there is the intelligent design theory, a scientific one,"

    Science is made up of theories.
    Q: what is the theory of creation/ID?
    Does it involve only one specific god/designer? Why/why not?

    Theories are falsifiable.
    Q: how could one test or falsify creation/ID?

    Theories are predictive (an aspect of being falsifiable) and further our knowledge in reality.
    Q: does creation/ID make any predictions?
    What are they based on?
    Has or can creation/ID further our knowledge at all?

    Science has applications.
    Q: are there any practical applications of creation/ID?