Intelligent design at the shopping mall

It’s a guy thing. We just don’t like shopping. We prefer not to do it but sometimes we just can’t escape. Have a look in any shopping mall on an average Saturday – you will see men standing outside shops waiting for their partners. They seem to be in trances, staring into space. But actually they are thinking. Shopping expeditions give men plenty of time to think. Malls are a great place for contemplating the important questions in life.

Here are some of the thoughts I had on my first visit to Sylvia Park, the largest shopping mall in New Zealand. They were sparked by considering William Paley’s argument by design for the existence of God. His arguments that a watch is evidence for the existence of a watchmaker. Therefore, by analogy, the existence of the universe and of life is evidence for a designer – God.

Cars are obviously designed

car park

First, while waiting in the car park I started thinking about all the vehicles. Such a profusion of shapes and colours. But quickly I recognised patterns. I could place all these vehicles into relatively few groups. The colour variation was superficial – beneath the surface there were relatively few brands and models. These were easily recognised by size, shape and brand badge.

All these vehicles showed evidence of manufacture. They were designed to transport people. Each company (Toyota, Nissan Subaru, etc.) obviously had design departments and employed designers. The very limited variation amongst the vehicles indicated that within a group each vehicle was a replicate of the others. These vehicles had been build from a limited number of blueprints – a different blueprint for each brand and model. So, contemplation in the car park told me the limited variation was evidence for a number of designers with a limited range of blueprints. It was also evidence of manufacture.

People are individuals

mall

Next stop – a fashion boutique. While waiting outside I started noticing the shoppers, the people. Again, a profusion of colours, shapes and sizes. But this time the variation was much deeper than in the carpark. Remove the clothes and the variation remained. Sure there were groups, families, but every individual remained individual – they were not replicates of each other. There was no evidence of manufacture. As for design – clearly many of these people were not well designed for their roles. Some were too large or too small. Some had problems with eyesight, their limbs, hair covering, and many other details.

Clearly these people weren’t built from a blueprint or even a large number of blueprints. These people were individuals. The variation appeared infinite. There was no designer or even a number of different designers here. These individuals were not manufactured. They obviously had internal mechanisms determining their development, producing their individuality, responsible for the seemingly infinite variation.

Charles Darwin on variation

So, moving on to the next stop – a bookshop. Now that is one of the few shops I can appreciate. No staring into space here. In fact, I ended up making a few purchases of my own here. Amongst then a book From So Simple a Beginning. This was great value because it is a collection of four of Charles Darwin’s books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). Reading The Origin of Species helped me understand the importance of the huge variation in living organisms to the evolution of life and the origins of humanity.

So what about William Paley’s “argument from design” I don’t think he thought it through properly. He spent all his time contemplating a watch when he should have been looking at people, recognising the huge variation which could not be explained by something as mechanical as design, blueprints and manufacture. But then again, he didn’t have the advantage of the time for observation and contemplation offered by the modern shopping mall.

Related Articles:

Should we teach creationism?
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript
Evolution’s threat to religion?
Isaac Newton and intelligent design
Intelligent design attacks on Christianity

33 responses to “Intelligent design at the shopping mall

  1. Why not look at people as evidence of design? The very fact of variation within a population points to a ‘randomizer’ mechanism. Sure, there are any number of factors that may influence a variation, but you can also look within a subset of the population at a family. The similarities, in addition to the subtle variations, gives evidence of a designer working from a genetic blueprint.

    Actually, the gripe I have with the ID crowd is that they stop short of identifying the Designer.

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  2. Steve, I don’t think you have to look very far to see that the proponents of ID actually do identify a designer. They make a very poor job of hiding their god when claiming a science base – but just look at their websites. By the way, you seem to have stopped short of identifying your designer of choice! (I actually have a mental image of a bearded man in a white robe clutching a sheaf of blueprints in his hand – as in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Universe. Am I correct?)

    The “design” of living organisms is very different to that of watches, cars, etc., which actually show signs of manufacture. The variation (not random) is easily understood as a result of internal processes (not imposed from the outside).
    Anyway, Steve, you claim evidence for an external designer. Could you please give me the basic scientific hypothesis for this and explain how it could be tested?

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  3. Ken,
    I make no bones about God being the designer. As for evidence, there are a number of examples you could give, the most popular being the irreducible complexity issue, as exemplified (to my mind) in the bacterial flagellum, with its paddles, rotor, and even a chemical motor.

    I’ve seen this discussed on the Talk Origins and Talk Design sites and haven’t seen a convincing argument that such structures could have accidentally happened (i.e., evolved). Given laws of probability, maybe it could, but not in less than several orders of magnitude more time than the universe has been around. It’s the old “hundred monkeys pounding on typewriters” analogy. Maybe it could happen, but not bloody likely in the time periods involved.

    I don’t hope to convince you to abandon your viewpoint, but wanted to point out that there needs to be rational thought on all sides, and not just a wholesale rejection of another’s viewpoint.

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  4. Ken!

    You were in Auckland, and didn’t get a hold of me to have a coffee???

    I’m crushed…

    Just kidding. Next time, aye?

    -d-

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  5. Steve, the monkeys on typewriters analogy doesn’t apply to evolution – although it is often used in misrepresenting evolution, presenting it as an “accident”.
    Wholesale rejection is inappropriate for science of course. That is why I ask for a hypothesis and suggestions for testing. That is how we make progress, and avoid prejudices. This is going on all the time in science, including the evolutionary sciences. Any new testable hypothesis and work to test it would be very welcome.

    Dale, my next visit to Auckland may be to see the Darwin Exhibition at the museum!

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  6. Ken,
    If it’s not an accident, then there must be a First Cause to set it in motion. You can’t have it both ways. (Though there are some evolutionary creationists who claim that God created using evolution.)

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  7. Actually its the creationsists who argue for an “accident” guided by a god – Consider this from Charles Darwin – did they (the creationism advocates) “really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth’s history certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissue?”

    Rather than such an exceedingly improbably accident or conincidence modern science understands evolution to occur by extremely small incremental changes over a very long time.
    Why are you not prepared to advance a hypothesis (or describe a hypothesis advanced by the ID people) and explain how it could be tested (or how it has been tested)?

    Perhaps there isn’t any such hypothesis – I certainly haven’t been able to find any.

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  8. Ken,
    Creationists don’t advocate ‘accidents.’ Creation was for a purpose. As for commanding atoms to flash into living tissue (and I may not be taking this in context), but why not? The creation view is that at some point, whether 14 billion years ago or 6 thousand years ago, the Creator took positive action to create. It’s what He does.

    The young-earth creationists are the most dogmatic about their view. I put them at one extreme and the secular evolutionists at the other. those two camps snipe at each other and nothing is learned. In from the fringes there is at least some dialog.

    Evolutionary creationists hold that God created the initial spark and then guided things with a nudge here and there. That view seems a capitulation to secular evolutionism so it doesn’t get much support. After all, if evolution is viable, then you don’t need God. (And to mirror your concern, I haven’t seen credible evidence for evolution, secular or otherwise.)

    As for the testable hypothesis, Hugh Ross lays out his testable creation hypothesis at Reasons.org. I haven’t heard many credible refutations of his model, but it’s focused more on the cosmological aspect of creation than on origins of life. He’s another who doesn’t care much for the IDers, because they seem to be afraid to name the Creator.

    You say, “modern science understands evolution to occur by extremely small incremental changes over a very long time.” The problem is that there isn’t enough time for all the remote probabilities to line up to accidentally create an eyeball or a working lung or a tree, for that matter. These “evolutionary events” would necessitate quite an improbable number of failed attempts (at a lung, at an eye, etc.), unless – and here I’m contradicting myself – there were a God to nudge it along in the right direction. Maybe that’s the only way evolution could work. Otherwise the time scale is just not long enough for the random positive mutations to coalesce into viable life forms.

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  9. I disagree – considering that life has been around for over 3 billion years there has been plenty of time, including all the “failed attempts”, dead ends, extinctions, etc.. Just look at the huge evolutionary changes we have observed in domesticated species over a few thousand years to put it in context.

    The infinitely huge improbability of atoms flashing together into a species in its final and immutable form of course requires a miracle – or really millions of miracles. That does put into extreme doubt to concept that we have a universe following its own internal logic and order – a concept that works extremely well. And, of course, it’s not necessary to do this seeing evolution works so well.

    As you point out, evolution doesn’t deny a place for a god and a large proportion of scientists have that sort of belief. But I doubt they would welcome a god concept which necessitate continuous miracles violating the internal order of reality. The issue is not about one’s belief in a god – I have absolutely no problem with that. It’s about misrepresentation of, and attacks on, science. That I have to oppose.

    I suggest you try to look objectively at the problem of time scale you raise, as the alternative is just so infinitely unlikely. You haven’t been able to find a workable scientific hypothesis for it and I suggest you won’t be able to find one which stands up to scrutiny, let alone testing.

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  10. Ken,
    I must have missed the “huge evolutionary changes we have observed in domesticated species over a few thousand years.” Micro-evolution, or adaption, is no big deal. We don’t see the macro changes, such as a fish to a mammal, that would be the hallmark of evolution. Even given 6 billion years (I’ll spot you 3bil), you haven’t shown that there was enough time for even minor cases, let alone migration from one species into another.

    improbability of atoms flashing together into a species in its final and immutable form

    I think we’re arguing the same point, sort of. From my view, it is more probable that there was a First Cause. The levels of improbability necessary for a successful transitional form are no different statistically than that required for “flashing into a brand new species.”

    Lots of consecutive miracles are necessary for evolution to work even at a rudimentary level.

    As for no viable hypothesis, what’s wrong with Ross’s hypothesis? It’s reasonable and testable, and the implications are extensible to origins of life.

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  11. Once you accept the possibility of transitions like A to B, B to C, C to D, . . . . X to Y, Y to Z it seems to me the possibility of A eventually with multiple incremental steps to Z is also accepted. Arguments based on monkeys at typewriters and the infinite improbablility of the one step transition A to Z are just inappropriate. But, intellectualising aside, the facts surely show such transitions have occurred. Evolutionary theory has a tremendous amount of factual input – observation of changes in organisms, fossil records, molecular biology, genetic science, etc. It’s very much a living science, details being tested, theory being altered, knowledge being enriched as the facts come in.

    I am not aware of any credible scientific creationist hypothesis. I checked Ross’s website and could only find a model based on literal interpretation of the Bible. That amounts to proposing a bronze-aged myth as an hypothesis and then checking it by saying it must be true because it is in the Bible and therefore infallible. Sorry, I need more than that.

    Maybe I just couldn’t find Ross’s theory (the website is a bit difficult to search). If I am wrong could you please give a simple description of the hypothesis and its testing?

    I am genuinely interested.

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  12. Just a quick thought…

    From a logic point of view (not that I’ve got the authority on logic!), the obvious question is how did ‘A’ transition from ‘_’???

    just a thought…

    -d-

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  13. Dale, taking you literally about evolution that goes back to the formation of replicating molecules, and hence leading to evolving, molecules. That’s where Steve’s improbability has to be considered. However, it’s not necessarily too improbable because the molecule doesn’t necessarily have to be very large. Of course, it’s an area of speculation because we have very little idea of what conditions prevailed at the time. Maybe the advance will come as we start to create our own living organisms in the laboratory. The announcement this week from Craig Venter’s lab of the artificial formation of a synthetic chromosome from laboratory chemicals is an example of progress in this direction.

    Taking your question more fundamentally though – we can certainly go back a long way. It’s amazing to me that we can be pretty confident way back to minutes after the formation of the universe. We do have a time machine in the sense that we can use the speed of light to observe the distant past. We can hypothesis way back to the first minutes – and, amazingly, test these in our own laboratories, measuring elemental compositions in the universe, etc. We can speculate back to very short times and could be able to eventually test these ideas. Currently we cant go back much before about 10(-35) secs because we just don’t have the physics, the theories, to do so.
    Now, my point is that there is just no way, currently to make any meaningful statement about “original causes”. In fact such ideas may not have any meaning with current concepts (very well supported by evidence) of space/time. I believe it is height of arrogance to make the confident claims about “original causes” that many people do.

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  14. Ken,
    A summary of Ross’s ‘testable creation model’ may be found here. That page also refers you to one of Ross’s books, The Genesis Question. I always found Hugh Ross to be very reasonable, rational, and balanced. He’s an astrophysicist/cosmologist by trade and struggled for a long time between the perceived conflict between faith and science. He’s done a great job in bring the two together.

    In response to your last comment to Dale, you say, “I believe it is height of arrogance to make the confident claims about “original causes”, presumably because we weren’t there. Here’s where science and faith come together – I trust in God as the First Cause and then look to observation of the universe, from the smallest biological entity to the most distant galaxy, to see whether it confirms or invalidates the idea of a creator. So far it has only confirmed it. Granted, we are human beings speculating about a) God, and b) the universe, and we bring our own biases into the mix.

    steve

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  15. Ken,

    I literally don’t have time to interact with this material at a detailed level. I browsed ole’ Wikipedia the other night for a mere 30 minutes looking at cosmology, big-bang theory, age of the universe, etc. and just the amount of pages was incredible… What I saw, however, seemed to indicate that the further back in time we imagine (or to use your term ‘speculate’), the more theories and sub-theories (and sub-sub-theories) you see… It appears to be an ever-branching theory-tree…

    Looking at how life works, that tells me that we’re not advancing as quickly (and certainly not as concretely) as the comments of some would indicate… You should know me well enough to know I’m anything BUT anti-science and learning, but let’s be honest about what we know and don’t know…

    Good on Craig Venter, but any experiment he conducts will be guided by him and not a random, un-guided leap in complexity. The experiment shows what happens when certain/specific chemicals are introduced to a certain/specific environment… As you say, the environment is key…

    Further, the ‘original cause(s)’ question is at the same time the most universally asked question, and the most difficult. And I reckon that part of the reason you say that some ideas about it may not have any meaning with current concepts, is precisely because those ‘current concepts’ are material, phenomenonalistic, or ‘5-sense only’ kinds of concepts… (i.e. – Time? Yes. Space? Yes. Matter? Yes. Anything else? Absolutely NOT!) Hmmm… and we wonder why the question of the ORIGIN of Time, Space and Matter is so HARD???!!! Open the parachute…

    -d-

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  16. Steve, thanks for the link. I will have a look at what Ross has contributed to the scientific literature (the real test of a model) but can say now I am not impressed by the his presentation of the model on that page. In my post Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge? I have commented on the way people use scientists to support unscientific ideas. So I suggest you look beyond his “astrophysicist/cosmologist by trade” credentials and objectively consider the model.

    His description of “scientific method” is quite inadequate and is used only to set up his argument. He also misrepresent General Relativity and makes unsubstantiated claims about evolutionary probabilities. What he does is to try to fit and reinterpret the genesis story (a bronze-aged myth) to current scientific knowledge and actually manipulates some of that knowledge in the process. His “testing” lists 20 “predictions” which are not unique – they are not proper tests. A scientific theory doesn’t work that way. Real theories produce unique predictions which are tested, often found inadequate and lead to adjustment of theory. It is a living process, not a dead justification. Theories are continually changing and maturing. (If his model is living, being tested, being developed, it will be in the appropriate literature)

    I can take the same process, as Ross has done, with the creation myths of my own country. I really like the concept of three stages of matter (reality) in Maori mythology – existing, coming into existence and the initial (Te Po) potentiality of existence. The later can be said to predict vacuum energy – the spontaneous formation of particles. I really like that correspondence – to me it gives a beauty and a meaning to the myth. But that doesn’t mean I am going to believe in the earth mother (Papa) and sky father (Rangi), even if it is a nice story. That model is not proved any more than the Genesis model.

    Steve, you “trust in God as the First Cause” and then look for evidence. You have made the assumption and are looking for justification – in the process you are being selective about the evidence and interpreting the data selectivity. You may want to believe – that’s not unusual – but it is insufficient for me, or for scientific understanding of reality.

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  17. “And I reckon that part of the reason you say that some ideas about it may not have any meaning with current concepts, is precisely because those ‘current concepts’ are material, phenomenonalistic, or ‘5-sense only’ kinds of concepts… (i.e. – Time? Yes. Space? Yes. Matter? Yes. Anything else? Absolutely NOT!) Hmmm… and we wonder why the question of the ORIGIN of Time, Space and Matter is so HARD???!!!”
    Dale, you seem to imply that everything is so easy if we just give up modern scientific methodology. But I don’t see anything credible coming from those who reject this methodology – in fact quite the reverse. Their “explanations” really do show a poverty of imagination. Put those “explanations” alongside what we already know about the evolution of the universe and life and you can see there is no competition.

    Why not just accept that there are things we don’t know, can’t explain at this stage and that is OK. After all, we have barely started – why should we expect to understand details of a situation which we have yet been able to investigate. Instead of arrogantly claiming knowledge we don’t really have, let’s admit the limits of our knowledge and dedicate ourselves to proper investigation so that we can find out these things.

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  18. yep… let’s all ‘give up modern scientific methodology’… yeah, that’s precisely what I was advocating… NOT!

    I do not want to reject or give up or disregard or slow down or do anything to hurt or damage the process or discovering how the universe works… you should know me well enough to not have to misrepresent me like that…

    As for arrogance, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it that makes it arrogant. I don’t think reasoned, intelligent belief in a creator is (in and of itself) arrogant any more than reasoned, intelligent denial of one is…

    Are we getting anywhere? I fear that we aren’t…

    -d-

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  19. Of course, I am using “arrogant” really only because it’s a term which gets thrown at the non-religious and scientists all the time. It’s usually a sign of anger that the scientist, or scientific knowledge, doesn’t support the beliefs held by the religious. Just look at all the attacks on Richard Dawkins.

    However, I am not using it about a person, or their method of presentation in this case. As I have said before I have come across scientists (usually the younger ones!) who have an arrogant manner, but I would not say that their claims are arrogant. Here I am using it to characterise claims of knowledge (not belief) when such knowledge is patently not available. Similarly to claim that something can’t be known (implying don’t even try to investigate) is arrogant. And then to go on to claim special knowledge of that unknowable phenomena is again arrogant. Let’s face it – these sort of arrogant claims are being made all the time – “I know that my god exists and I know what he thinks about you and I know that he will send you to hell if you don’t live the way I want you to.” Sure it’s a characterisation, but it is essentially the message we get a lot of the time from many (certainly not all)religious people. (And these arrogant claims may be presented in a very non-arrogant manner).

    So, sure, we all have beliefs about things that we can’t know for one reason or another – that’s not arrogance. But some people make much more out of their beliefs than is warranted. Even going to the extent of calling those who disagree with them “arrogant” – just because they disagree.

    Connected with this is the understanding of science and the dis-ease some religious people have about it. I think the term “arrogant” is sometimes used because science doesn’t assume a “supernatural” realm or a source of knowledge outside our reasoning and empirical evidence. Of course many individual scientists have those beliefs but they don’t assume them in their work for very good reasons – it would make their scientific work impossible!

    Modern scientific methodology does come under attack – and the current ID people make no secret of their intentions. They see methodological naturalism as a source of all the world’s ills and they want to replace it. Their declared targets are not only the practice of science (where their influence is effectively nil for obvious reasons if you think about it), but also modern society politics and religion. Where they do have an effect on science is in the public’s perception of it – and that is where the “arrogance” charge is sometimes made.

    Unfortunately the beliefs held by many people do make them susceptible to this attack. The negative attitude to science gets displayed in attitudes to evolution, origins of life and the universe, and research on consciousness. The problem is not the quality of the science in these areas but the beliefs of the people – they don’t want to accept knowledge which might conflict with their belief.

    Now Dale, I can accept your personal assurances about supporting scientific knowledge. But you do seem to suggest science needs to change somehow to accept a non-naturalistic (supernatural?) approach. And that is how I interpreted your comment: and we wonder why the question of the ORIGIN of Time, Space and Matter is so HARD???!!! If I am wrong perhaps you could correct me – just what do you mean?

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  20. Thoughtful reply, Ken. Thanks.

    The label ‘arrogant’ is thrown about in all kinds of discussions about all kinds of things. Most of the time because (I suspect) people aren’t listening to each other…

    Yes, of course, I believe (as many rational, critical, sane people do) in a Creator who is the Source of all things. Yes, (as I’ve said countless times) I do think there is more to the universe than time, space and matter. However, I wouldn’t want the words ‘science needs to change’ to be on my lips… (and yes, I’m unhappy with the term ‘supernatural’…)

    ‘Science’ not a static thing, so it is always changing (for the better, we all hope and trust), but even this language is uncomfortable to me logically.

    ‘Science’ is not some ‘thing’… ‘Science’ is a word we use to speak of the body of knowledge acquired through the observation, inquiry, testing, theory-making and correction of human beings.

    My sense is not that ‘science needs to change’, but that the observations, inquiries, tests, theories and corrections of many of the human beings seems (at least in some way) ‘closed’ to any notion of there being anything other than time/space/matter in the universe…

    Do I wish that there would be more ‘openness’ to this from these human observers/inquirers/testers/etc.? Yes. Does that mean trashing all ‘scientific knowledge’? No.

    I don’t expect you to be too excited about this kind of ‘openness’, however… I predict the use of the word ‘subjective’ to be used… 🙂

    -d-

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  21. There is always a problem of openness vs closed minds in human investigations – that’s natural. But ambition certainly encourages people to take risks – go out on limbs. Look at “cold fusion”. In the end of course scientific methodology is able to check out these things – claims which don’t allow this have no credibility. If there is evidence for things outside “time/space/matter” there are plenty of scientists who would like to make their name in this field.
    But evidence is the key. I like Sagan’s reply to a question about whether he rejected “miracles”. He said definitely not. But would he investigate them? Yes he would if he was given reliable evidence that they had occurred. He personally would be very interested in turning water into wine. But without the evidence there was nothing to investigate.
    A “miracle”, if it does occur, is nothing more than a phenomena we don’t yet understand. And the study of such phenomena is where we make progress and where ambitious scientists can make their name.

    So I maintain, the problem is not human beings being closed to new ideas, its just the lack of evidence to investigate.

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  22. Good thoughts, Ken,

    The two problems that come to mind are this…

    1) You speak of ‘going out on limbs’ and being ‘open minded’. I of course, agree. But then, I have the sneaking suspicion that anyone attempting to provide ‘evidence for things outside time/space/matter’ would be told that their evidence was not ‘scientific’ – or more specifically that their ‘evidence’ does not fit with a time/space/matter-only view of reality. You see the problem? No?

    2) As for ‘evidence’ for ‘miracles’ (and be reminded that this is yet another word that I use carefully!), of course you’re not going to have ‘evidence’ for events that are largely unrepeatable. And, add to this the same problem above…

    These are significant problems; evidential categories and unrepeatability…

    -d-

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  23. Problem 1: An investigator doesn’t ask herself “is this evidence outside time/space/matter?” They check the evidence and go ahead with their investigation. This charge of rejecting evidence is usually made by those who have none.

    Problem 2: Many events are unique but everything leaves evidence. In fact science is far better at posdicting than predicting. And surely the whole history of, say, fundamental structure of matter and the universe, and of science in general, shows that in the end mankind has been able to accept ideas completely outside preconceived ideas or existing concepts of reality.

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  24. 1)
    It’s not that simple. What is ‘the evidence’ checked against? Checking/testing is not done in a vacuum… We’re speaking in generalities here, of course, but I think this principle is key… Is it possible that ‘those who have none’ (evidence) are thought to have none because what they have (possible evidence) doesn’t ‘fit’ the norm?

    2)
    I agree (cautiously) that ‘everything leaves evidence’, but perhaps not always evidence that ‘methodological naturalism’ (your term) can test…

    On an indirectly related note – you might find this paper interesting on the topic of ‘remote viewing’, etc. http://anson.ucdavis.edu/~utts/air2.html#6. Are you familiar with the Stargate Project? I wasn’t…

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  25. Dale, you linked to an example of checking – statistical analysis is a powerful way of checking if an observation is just a chance event or can’t be explained by chance – there is no “norm”. Explanation comes later. It’s used all the time in the natural and social sciences. I have very often seen scientists making claims in which they honestly believe. But the acid test has been the statistical analysis. You get to respect that after a while.

    I was aware of the US government interest in parapsychology. I think the fact that scientists have investigated the phenomena shows that science itself doesn’t have a prejudice or limited concept of naturalism (although individuals may, an do, have their own prejudices – one way or the other). To be logical the so-called “supernatural’ should not be ruled out from scientific investigation.

    My mind is quite open to things like parapsychology – if it occurs its a material effect and, in principle, capable of investigation.

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  26. VERY good Ken!

    This is much of the problem I have with the ‘natural’ / ‘supernatural’ divide… This distinction hints at ‘norm’ / ‘un-norm’… See what I mean?

    Many things are ruled out by some because the don’t fit the norm… I like how you say ‘there is no norm’. That’s good.

    I think we’ve reached a very important point here… (perhaps we were both there all along, but just needed to tease out a few semantic issues?)

    Strange things happen. Perhaps sometimes shockingly so… The jury should (as you suggest) remain ‘open’ to these things, even if we don’t have language or an scientific understanding/framework in which to interpret them…

    Now, you also say that ‘if it (parapsychology) occurs it’s a material effect…’

    I would instead say… (presupposing a large conversation about what ‘material’ is…) …that it might actually stretch or re-define our interpretive framework for what ‘material’ is, and indeed reality…

    Must run now… NZ music awards! I get to go… 🙂

    -d-

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  27. Our concept of reality and “material” is continually being stretched. But of course there are people who want to impose limited interpretations in order to attack. I als find “supernatural” as a term to misleading (and very often dishonest). To me, if something exists it is natural, it is part of reality. But an amazing number of people want to challenge that.

    Of course, for the individual their own “norm” always exists. People come to their own hypothesis by subconsciously involving their “norm”. But I think it is possible by using the scientific approach, in its normal methodology but also, more importantly, in its wider social organisation, to produce more objective evaluation. Statistical analysis is a powerful way of doing this (but of course it can get subverted – “statistics” can be interpreted and selected to support preconceived ideas and agendas – it happens all the time).

    Personally, I think when we discover something we don’t understand (or doesn’t fit into preconceived ideas) we are making progress (although it’s always worth checking that the discovery is real, not a rumour or misrepresentation). I think confusion is just a prelude to understanding.

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  28. Pingback: qzcomplete » Intelligent design at the shopping mall

  29. Idetrorce, I am interested to know why!

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  30. Ken, I suspect that comment from Idetrorce was spam. I found exactly the same comment on another blog. I won’t take offence if delete it along with this comment in the interests of housekeeping.

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  31. Thanks Damian. Can’t understand why people do this sort of thing.

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  32. I believe it’s an attempt to gain immunity from spam-detection for their IP addresses so mark it as spam if you can. There was a young guy in Hamilton who recently got caught – if I ever get the chance to meet him I may just have to pull his arms off. 😉

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  33. “Why not look at people as evidence of design? The very fact of variation within a population points to a ‘randomizer’ mechanism.”

    Isn’t the biggest factor driving the randomizer mechanism simply mutation? By definition, mutation is random…. And built in at the cell level.

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