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    Poblems with the Naturalistic theory

    Dembski


    FIRST LET ME EXPRESS my thanks to the organizers of this symposium for the opportunity to present certain ideas that for some time now have exercised me. The occasion for this symposium is Phillip Johnson's book Darwin on Trial. The title would suggest that Johnson's main concern is with Darwinism and neo-Darwinism proper. Nevertheless, I would claim that Johnson's book is as much about a philosophical world view used to prop up Darwinism as it is about Darwinism. Atheism, materialism, scientism, and secular humanism are a few of the names attached to this world view. Yet the name I like best and find most descriptive is scientific naturalism.

    I want here to examine scientific naturalism. I am going to argue that this view has a serious defect-it is incomplete. As a consequence of this defect I shall argue that it is legitimate within scientific discourse to entertain questions about supernatural design. The backdrop for this discussion will comprise two areas in mathematics: computational complexity theory and probability theory.

    First let's be clear what we mean by scientific naturalism. The key ingredient in scientific naturalism is, let me say it, naturalism. Naturalism as a world view has two components: (1) It is a metaphysical doctrine about what things exist in the world. These include material objects and sometimes (as for the philosopher Willard Quine) mathematical objects such as sets. Excluded are supernatural beings, nonmaterial interventions, divine meddlings, etc. (2) Naturalism includes an epistemological doctrine about how the things permitted under this metaphysical doctrine are to be explained-i.e., they are to be explained naturalistically. I am not sure that naturalistic explanation is a perfectly clear notion, but what is clear is that naturalistic explanation excludes any sort of appeal to nonmaterial intervention, divine meddling, etc.

    Where does the 'scientific' in scientific naturalism come in? As a world view, scientific naturalism regards itself as continuous with science. It therefore looks to our scientific understanding of the world for its justification. This last point distinguishes scientific naturalism from naturalism simpliciter. It is also this last point that is responsible for scientific naturalism being incomplete.

    To see what is at stake let me quote the last line of Edwin Hubble's The Realm of the Nebulae: "Not until the empirical resources are exhausted need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation." When Hubble wrote that line in the 1930s, he clearly believed that the empirical resources would not be exhausted and that our entrance into the dreamy realms of speculation could be postponed indefinitely.

    Against this I would argue that empirical resources come in limited supplies and do get exhausted. Moreover, as soon as empirical resources are exhausted, naturalism can no longer fund its justification in science. This then is the incompleteness of scientific naturalism, namely, the incapacity of science to justify naturalism once the empirical resources wherewith science limits itself get exhausted.

    Next I want to focus on two empirical resources, one computational, the other probabilistic. I want to show how even the possibility of these resources being exhausted undermines the completeness of scientific naturalism-the pretension, as far as I'm concerned, that a complete understanding of the world is possible apart from God. Since this talk is addressed primarily to non-mathematicians, I'll begin by considering the words of a well-known American philosopher, Woody Allen.

    Woody Allen probably didn't think that God would take him seriously when he quipped,

    If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.{1}

    But what if God had taken Allen seriously? Would an unexpected $7,000,000, say, in Allen's Swiss bank account have convinced him that God was real? Suppose that a thorough examination of the bank records failed to explain how the money appeared in Allen's account. Should Allen have inferred that God had given him a sign?

    Since I can't answer for Allen, let me answer for myself. If I were a famous personality having uttered Allen's remark and subsequently found an additional $7,000,000 in my Swiss bank account, I would certainly not have attributed my unexpected good fortune to the largesse of an eccentric deity. It's not that I don't believe in God. I do. But my theology constrains me to think it unworthy of God to grant flippant requests like Allen's and then apparently ignore the urgent requests of so many suffering people in the world.

    I would refuse to acknowledge a miracle for theological reasons, Barring theological reasons, however, I would still refuse to acknowledge a miracle. Why? Well, other explanations readily come to mind. If I had uttered the remark and were as famous as Allen, and if $7,000,000 had appeared in my account, I would probably have concluded that some eccentric billionaire with a religious agenda was trying to convert me to his cause. The strange appearance of the $7,000,000 would have been fiendishly designed to make me believe in God. But alas, I was too clever for them.

    There is a point to these musings. Allen's remark is clearly funny; however, if taken seriously it is self-defeating. If God were in fact to do what Allen requested. Allen and just about anyone else would remain unconvinced. The question therefore arises whether God can do anything, either in response to a request like Allen's or otherwise, which would provide convincing proof that he and no one else had acted.

    Let's put it this way: is there anything that has, could, or might happen in the world from which it would be reasonable to conclude that God had acted? Are there or could there be any facts in the world for which an appeal to God is the best explanation? Or to reverse the question, is God always an easy way out, a lame excuse, a prescientific device that invariably misses the best explanation?{2}

    We are asking a transcendental question in the Kantian sense: What are the conditions for the possibility of discovering design (i.e., supernatural intervention, nonmaterial interference, divine meddling, call it what you will) in the actual world? This question must be answered at the outset, for if this world is the type of place where anything even in principle that happens can be adequately explained apart from teleology and design, then it makes no sense to look for design in what actually happens. Might the world do something, however quirky, that would convince us of design?

    An illustration might help. Imagine a peculiar art studio comprised of ten-inch by ten-inch canvases, a full range of oil paints, and a robot that paints the canvases with the paints. In painting the canvases, the robot divides each canvas into a ten by ten grid of one-inch squares, and paints each square with precisely one color. Imagine that this robot also has visual sensors and thus can paint scenes presented to its visual field, though only crudely, given the coarse-grained approach it adopts to painting.

    Imagine next that Elvis and an Elvis impersonator come to have their portraits painted by this robot. Will the portraits distinguish Elvis from his impersonator? Because the representations on canvas are so crude, if the impersonator is worth his salt, the two portraits will be indistinguishable. Our imaginary art studio cannot distinguish the real Elvis from the fake Elvis.

    This example indicates what is at stake in determining whether design has at least the possibility of being detected and empirically grounded. Putative instances of design abound. But is it possible within this world to distinguish authentic from spurious design should instances of authentic design even exist? Or is this world like the art studio? Just as the portraits painted at the studio cannot distinguish the real from the fake Elvis, so too is it impossible for our empirical investigations of the world to distinguish authentic from spurious design?

    Scientific naturalism prefers to think just this, namely, that the world is the kind of place where all objective phenomena can be explained by purely naturalistic factors. Non-naturalistic factors therefore become not only redundant but also illegitimate to explanation. As George Gaylord Simpson put it,

    There is neither need nor excuse for postulation of nonmaterial intervention in the origin of life, the rise of man, or any other part of the long history of the material cosmos.{3}

    Simpson claims that the world is the kind of place where no objective, empirical funding can ever legitimately lead us to postulate design (what he calls "nonmaterial intervention").

    That is a bold claim. The question remains whether it is true. In the case of the art studio, it is true that robot portraits of Elvis and his impersonator will fail to distinguish the two. The paintings produced by the studio are simply too coarse grained to do any better. From these paintings there is, to use Simpson's phrase, "neither need nor excuse for postulation of" two Elvises, the real and the fake. From the portraits alone we might legitimately infer only one sitter. But is the world so coarse grained that it cannot even in principle produce events that would evidence design? That is what Simpson seems to be affirming. A little reflection, however, indicates that this claim cannot be right.

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    I will post the rest tomarrow for anyone who is interested.

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    veinyleehaney is offline Junior Member
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    Naturalism, Realism and Logic are bound together in Truth. You cannot entertain a metaphysical argument if you are not inherently metaphysical yourself...you might argue that your mind is metaphysical, but how can you prove your mind's metaphysicality? Thoughts and feelings are attributed to various areas in the brain, most predominately located in the cerebellem, or neocortex. These areas of the brain are physically proven to exist and the thoughts and feelings therein exist solely (unless a Higher Power is one day proven to exist) because of their existence and are a part of their nature. Thus your mind is not metaphysical, and you cannot conjure a valid metaphysical argument from your physical mind...

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    Richard Lewontin PhD Zoology Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University

    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in particular is hopelessly metaphysical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by books555
    Richard Lewontin PhD Zoology Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University

    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in particular is hopelessly metaphysical.
    Darwin even repented his sins and voiced his belief in God on his deathbed.

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    veinyleehaney is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by books555
    Richard Lewontin PhD Zoology Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University

    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in particular is hopelessly metaphysical.
    Just because a man has a PhD behind his name doesn't make him right. How can natural selection be considered metaphysical? Animals copulate in order to reproduce and spread their seed. The weak die off and the strong survive...that's the major premise of Natural Selection. There is nothing "metaphysical" about this...

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    Quote Originally Posted by books555
    Richard Lewontin PhD Zoology Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University

    Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in particular is hopelessly metaphysical.
    Metsphysical!? Evolution is not based on reasoning alone. I'm curious to know books, what conclusions would you draw from Darwin's studies of the finches?

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    books???

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeerBaron
    Metsphysical!? Evolution is not based on reasoning alone. I'm curious to know books, what conclusions would you draw from Darwin's studies of the finches?

    First these are not my statements, many of them are atheist, many are former atheist. I am only pointing out that there are some big problems concerning Macro evolution theory. There is no problem with a christian being a evolutionist. My problem with evolution is purely personal.

    I agree with darwins study, but that is micro evolution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeerBaron
    Metsphysical!? Evolution is not based on reasoning alone. I'm curious to know books, what conclusions would you draw from Darwin's studies of the finches?

    I believe he is refering to macro reguarding reasoning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by veinyleehaney
    Just because a man has a PhD behind his name doesn't make him right. How can natural selection be considered metaphysical? Animals copulate in order to reproduce and spread their seed. The weak die off and the strong survive...that's the major premise of Natural Selection. There is nothing "metaphysical" about this...

    I agree with everything you said.

    I am almost postive he is referring to Macro, I will see if I can find out though.

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    evolution vs creationism. A solid theory vs a non falsifiable story.

    Creationism will never be considered scientific unless they can create a comprehensive theory explaining everything evolution has succesfully explained and also add falsifiable predictions to it. Pointing towards the sky and claim "he did it" wont cut it.

    Evolution might not explain it all yet. But its undoubtly the best theory we have and theories that are equaly succesfull as evolution have yet to be proven wrong.
    Just been shown to need modifications(like quantum mechanis and theory of relativity is modifications of newtonian mechanics).

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    Creationists makes the misstake of claiming that since a theory has a few flaws it should be thrown out completely. But if that was the case we should say goodbye to the bigbang theory, the standard modell of particle physics, quantum mechanics, psychology ect

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    the origins of life is not evolutionary theory btw. Its a separate field called abiogenesis

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan
    the origins of life is not evolutionary theory btw. Its a separate field called abiogenesis

    Thats interesting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan
    Creationists makes the misstake of claiming that since a theory has a few flaws it should be thrown out completely. But if that was the case we should say goodbye to the bigbang theory, the standard modell of particle physics, quantum mechanics, psychology ect



    I dont believe that. I believe the problem with Macro is that it has flaws that seem impossible to overcome. A supernatural being would have literally been needed to overcome the incredible probability stacked against it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by books555
    I dont believe that. I believe the problem with Macro is that it has flaws that seem impossible to overcome. A supernatural being would have literally been needed to overcome the incredible probability stacked against it.
    I dont know enough about evolution to say for sure. But I find it comforting that 99% of biologist doesnt seem to agree with that. The fossil remains seems enough proof to me of gradual macro evolution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan
    evolution vs creationism. A solid theory vs a non falsifiable story.

    Creationism will never be considered scientific unless they can create a comprehensive theory explaining everything evolution has succesfully explained and also add falsifiable predictions to it. Pointing towards the sky and claim "he did it" wont cut it.

    Evolution might not explain it all yet. But its undoubtly the best theory we have and theories that are equaly succesfull as evolution have yet to be proven wrong.
    Just been shown to need modifications(like quantum mechanis and theory of relativity is modifications of newtonian mechanics).


    I disagree Johan, read thos qoutes I posted on the other page. We can talk about it there.

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    [QUOTE=veinyleehaney](unless a Higher Power is one day proven to exist) QUOTE]


    He will....

    Alot of people want proof there is a God or God(s). This is part of the non-beleiving human heart. Thats why its called Faith...not Proof. I was once in search of proof there was a God. Only when I totally submerged myself did I realize that He is. Thats when I finally felt peace in my heart. I cant explain it becuase I dont know how to. I understand better than I teach. I wish I could, but I cant yet. I understand that people dont believe in god, or have their own views of how and who God is. There are things Science can explain that religion cant and vise versa... But like I said its about Faith ad following.


    FF06

    PS - I wont argue with non-believers. I can only pray for them....pray very hard. I wont answer rediculous "evolution" questions. And I strongly urge all non-beleivers and Evolutionists to read the Bible and then make a decision. You cant pick one side if you havnt explored the other...thats a non-intelligent decision.
    Last edited by freedomfighter06; 09-09-2005 at 09:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by freedomfighter06
    PS - I wont argue with non-believers. I can only pray for them....pray very hard. I wont answer rediculous "evolution" questions. And I strongly urge all non-beleivers and Evolutionists to read the Bible and then make a decision. You cant pick one side if you havnt explored the other...thats a non-intelligent decision.
    I dont se how reading a fairy tale would give me any scientific knoweledge. the bible doesnt explain anything it only claims god did it all. If people settled for that we wouldnt even have science, computers, rockets, nuclear power, medicine, tv ect ect ect.

    The "other" side in this case is creationism/inteligent design and Il rather read something a creationist biochem or biology professors writes rather than "waste"(I wouldnt consider it a waste of time since I am interested in religion but from a scientific point of view it sure is a waste) time on the bible.

    I bet you didnt read the torah, the quran or the hindu or buddhist scriputes before choosing religion so seems like your pic of a religion was a non-inteligent descision(A appologise if you indeed did study those religions).

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    Quote Originally Posted by freedomfighter06
    PS - I wont argue with non-believers. I can only pray for them....pray very hard. I wont answer rediculous "evolution" questions. And I strongly urge all non-beleivers and Evolutionists to read the Bible and then make a decision. You cant pick one side if you havnt explored the other...thats a non-intelligent decision.
    ignorance is bliss for some I supose. And your statement of "You cant pick one side if you havnt explored the other...thats a non-intelligent decision" laughably contradicts your statements just prior to it. You obviously won't argue evolution because your favorite book doesn't speak of it. If you won't argue with "non-believers" then you are in the wrong forum.

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