Thursday, February 01, 2007

A "contrived dualism"

I checked what Judge Jones said. What he meant by a "contrived dualism" is the statement that "either evolutionism is right, or creation science is right." This "doomed" creation science in the 80's, and it dooms the irreducible complexity argument today which, being central to ID, therefore shows that ID is not science. I still disagree.

Firstly, from a purely logical perspective, if you really strip these back to the meanings at the core of these words, there is actually an underlying truism. "Either all of the universe and life are present as a consequence of naturalistic means, or not all of the universe and life are present as a consequence of naturalistic means." That's not a contrived dualism: that's a logical necessity. It may be considered to undermine the first amendment - how inconvenient! - but it is only flawed if you destroy language and communication. And given that darwinists maintain that they aren't talking about abiogenesis, few of them can unequivocally say that the first statement definitely applies.

Presumably, that's not what Jones has in mind, though. What he is objecting to is the definite statement that something is irreducibly complex, and therefore a naturalistic explanation must be wrong, and therefore ID must apply - he is asserting that this is not science by analogy with creation science. I don't follow - though again, to follow properly, I guess I need to go to the case that Jones cites. What I think he is probably getting at is that creation science said something along the lines of "The Bible must be right. The Bible contradicts darwinism. Therefore darwinism must be wrong." This clearly isn't a scientific position - fair enough so far.

However, the statement "This object is a low probability object that is irreducibly complex." is a statement that is scientific, unlike the first step in the creationism argument above - it is open to testing, falsification and analysis without reference to anything other than scientific method. And, given the attention that has been paid to supposedly irreducibly complex objects since Darwin's Black Box was written, this is also accepted by the (sceptical) science community as well. The logical consequences if something is genuinely irreducibly complex - that "this could not arise through naturalistic means, and therefore darwinism is an inadequate explanation in this case" also seem to have been accepted.

Jones' assertion that this is "non-science" must certainly come as a surprise to Nick Matzke, for example, who has spent a great deal of effort trying to demonstrate that the concept of irreducible complexity doesn't stand up scientifically. Why, he could just have said that, by analogy with the way creation science was argued for, irreducible complexity was not science. But he didn't. He worked on a scientific refutation of irreducible complexity in the case of the bacterial flagellum instead.

Now, a question. Are photons particles or waves? There is evidence for both. Did we need a court to tell us whether one or other is right? Would it have helped to clarify the debate had a court declared that the evidence for photons being waves was conclusive, and evidence that demonstrated that they were particles was therefore unscientific? Of course not. People continued to work with both - and eventually came to the conclusion that, in actual fact, photons (and indeed, everything else) express properties of both waves and particles.

So why do so many naturalists place such great store on a court judgment in this case?