New bird designed!

New-Bird-Design

An early blueprint for the new bird species

I have always found arguments from analogy very weak. Especially as they are usually allied with strong preconceived beliefs and amount to nothing more than attempts to “prove” those beliefs.

Typical is the “argument from design” for the “proof” of existence of gods. You know – Rev. Paley and his discovery of a watch on the heath? It’s amazing how many of the anti-scientific arguments used by today’s creationists follow the same lines.

A huge elephant in the creationist design room is their comparison of living forms with inanimate manufactured objects. “A watch has a watchmaker therefore an animal must also have a designer/maker.” Similarly the current intelligent design (ID) proponents who insist that a biological cell is an intricate machine – hence it must have a designer/creator. This approach is so inappropriately mechanical. One could never come to understand living forms, or their origins, by insisting on treating them like inanimate machines or objects.

Of course the design argument does raise the question of how and where this design, and the inevitable creation, of live animals occurs (or occured) and where the animals are (were) manufactured. You can’t have it both ways – claim “design” and “creation” and then just ignore those events.

But the approach does provide some humour. Remember the manufacturing plant for planets in Douglas Adams‘ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy“? Now the satirical web site The Onion has a spoof on God’s creation of a new bird species. Dressed up like the reporting of a new model of car (see God Introduces New Bird ).

Have a look at the article – here is a short extract from the advertising blurb for this new bird:

“Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, prepare thine eyes for the most exciting line of avian wildlife in millennia,” God announced as He released an estimated 14 million first-run models into the important bird markets of North America, Australia, and Eurasia. “This new bird has it all: slicker wings, a more streamlined beak, better-than-ever capacity for beautiful song. Plus, all of the grace and majesty you’ve come to expect from the Eternal Creator of Life Itself.”

“The bird is back,” God continued, His booming voice parting the very heavens. “And baby, it’s never looked better.”

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20 responses to “New bird designed!

  1. The teleological arguments for God’s existence propounded today are not arguments from analogy but inferences to the best explanation.

    Lets say the spoof of the new bird was genuine – suppose that God really was responsible for the creation and distribution of a brand new avian species. The thought experiment disfavours any science which includes methodological naturalism as a presupposition, for the genuine interpretation of the evidence would be necessarily excluded. Most likely a false interpretation would be proposed, and probably seek to include the new bird in the grand evolutionary narrative of common-decent.

    So what I see in this satire is actually an argument to favour some form of theistic science.

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  2. Ah the irrelevant “metaphysical naturalism” mantra again.

    It’s all been dealt with before.

    Suffice to say that I never made those assumptions in my research (nor did any other working scientists I know).

    If a bird suddenly spoofed into existence in front of us, or if the stars all lined up to spell “I am here” or if any other so-called “supernatural” event actually occurred we would all get stuck in and investigate it.

    Mind you a few religious apologists might try to tell us that these were not problems for science. But we just wouldn’t listen to them – the visions of Nobel Prizes would deafen us to their whining.

    And isn’t it funny – when “supernatural” phenomena are examined and we begin to understand them we suddenly start calling them natural.

    Its a bit like “alternative” medicine – isn’t it. When we find that “alternative” medicine works we no longer call it “alternative.” We call it medicine.

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  3. I don’t know what metaphysical naturalism is. I wrote of methodological naturalism.

    I also don’t see how your previous comment Ken responds to what I wrote – particularly how a working scientist who has never presupposed a methodological naturalism should even be a consideration when the discussion point is the idea that a specific method of doing science precludes the inference to design as the best (and in this case the correct) explanation.

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  4. Again a mantra – “the inference to design as the ebst explanation.” A favourite of the creationists and the Wedge people have worked hard on this. Trying, unsuccessfully, to get it adopted as a science standard by the education board of at least one US state.

    In itself inference is worthless. This mantra is just a way of “justifying” ones own ideological beliefs and prejudices. Science would get nowhere if it stopped there.

    Science works by testing ideals, hypotheses and inferences against reality. Reality is what keeps us honest.

    I guess “inference to the best explanation” is what keeps the anti- science people dishonest.

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  5. That comment is wholly ridiculous, as an inference to design does not preclude further testing of hypotheses. The slur of being “anti-science” is thus unjustified. And, as the thought experiment showed, the inference to design was reality.

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  6. Stuart – of course an inference doesn’t mean one goes no further. Scientists are always making inferences – but these may amount to no more than prejudice if no attempt is made to map against reality.

    But the “design inference”is never mapped against reality. The ID people never do any real scientifc work. That’s why it became redundant 150 yrs ago with Darwin’s work. His ideas, inferences, have been and are being tested now all the time – producing a wealth of converging evidence. This science did not stop with “inference” in the way that the “design inference” of Paley, Dembski and the other wedge people does.

    As for your reference to a “thought experiment” – I thought me article made clear that The Onion is a satirical site. The article is a spoof – even if you might think it a fact.

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  7. But the “design inference”is never mapped against reality. The ID people never do any real scientifc work.

    Intelligent Design.
    Not a single test tube dirtied in an experiment.
    No actual work.
    Plenty of coffee-table books.
    No actual work.
    Over twenty years of…nothing.

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  8. Eric Olthwaite

    No Ken! Not you too! It is not an “argument from design” but an “argument TO design”. If your starting premise is that life was designed then of course you need a designer, but it isn’t. The point of the teleological argument is that theists must prove that life was designed by their imaginary friend.

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  9. Eric – you must be a semantic obsessor. Does it matter?

    Anyway – my impression is that everyone who argues for ID is arguing the “from design” position to find a “proof” for their god.

    I am not aware of anyone who actively works to prove or show design (presumably the “to design” argument. They all more or less assume it or use facile arguments (such as Dembski’s design filter) to derive design.

    If UD “researchers” were honestly trying to argue “to design” then they would be doing the work to establish evidence that birds like this were actually deigned and created. Instead they devote their time to attacking evolutionary science, mainly through dishonest “quote mining” and “reinterpretation research.”

    In fact their starting point is that there is a god so their is design.

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  10. Your prejudices are getting in the way of clear thinking here Ken, as ID proponents clearly do make testable predictions.

    In any case, I don’t see how one can “map against reality,” as you like to say, when the best (and correct) explanation to our thought experiment (see comment 1.: October 24, 2009 at 1:23 pm, second paragraph) is the explanation that methodological naturalism precludes.

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  11. So you declare that “the best (and correct) explanation to” the Onion article (I assume this is the thought experiment you refer to) is that “methodological naturalism precludes” the explanation.

    Why bring in long words like “methodological naturalism”? Simple evidence shows the story is a spoof. And we understand a huge amount about the evolution of different species. No long words needed – unless we want to confuse the issue!

    Talking about prejudices:
    What testable predictions are being made by “ID proponents”?

    Where have they actually carried out the tests of these predictions? Where is the work published?

    I ask that because I have read quite a bit in this area and can’t find anything like you claim. Sure we have things like Behe’s “irreducible complexity” which surely has been shown wrong in specific cases. And is not a testable prediction of ID anyway. It is just the old argument from ignorance we are so familiar with.

    And don’t forget that some ID spokespeople have actually admitted that they have not done the research. That they don’t have a credible substantiated theory.

    So come on. Put up. Give me some proper evidence of relevance to ID. The sort you are claiming.

    Having made the claim – your reputation is hanging on your reply!

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  12. Reasons to Believe have their models which make predictions. I don’t know if they do serious research or leave it up to others.

    You’ve totally got the wrong end of the stick regarding the thought experiment, which is odd as I told you where to go to find my reference to it. Here I will repeat it.

    Lets say the spoof of the new bird was genuine – suppose that God really was responsible for the creation and distribution of a brand new avian species. The thought experiment disfavours any science which includes methodological naturalism as a presupposition, for the genuine interpretation of the evidence would be necessarily excluded.

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  13. Come on Stuart. Remember your reputation!

    Where is this model published? Who is doing the work, etc? I am a scientist and rely on evidence not hearsay – especially this sort of hearsay.

    I am forced to conclude that your claim “ID proponents clearly do make testable predictions. “ was just hot air – piss and wind!

    Yes I am familiar with Hugh Ross’s claim and it doesn’t convince me at all. You may be familiar with my article on “fine tuning” where I showed he was distorting the work of Krauss to get his 1 in 10^120 for the cosmological constant. So I don’t trust the guy – and you shouldn’t either. And anyway, one always goes with the published evidence – for which he has none.

    Your “thought experiment” boils down to “assume a god created the birds. I want to protect that thought so I will propose that no evidence can be used to support the claim. You have to take my word for it.”

    My point is that if there is a god or goblins or fairies, and if they =go around creating things, of course there will be evidence for this. And as an intelligent species there is a good chance we will find this evidence and draw conclusions closely approximating the facts.

    It is just silly to advance a proposition for which there is not evidence, claim it is true, and then say there is no way of supporting it with evidence.

    I suppose at this stage scoundrels just resort to meaningless words and silly argument to attempt to confuse the situation.

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  14. One prediction the Reasons to Believe model makes is that new species will appear suddenly in the geological record and fully formed for their environment. Now, they may not be digging up the desert to test the hypothesis but you can hardly indict a model because its proponents aren’t actively seeking out in the field seeking the evidence that would support or disprove it, can you? And lack of a publication of a model is hardly evidence for it not being a serious model worthy of investigation. So when you lay aside the ideological prejudice, why should we exclude it? What legitimate reason is there for limiting the pool of live options?

    I think everyone should be able to see through the, this-guy-made-one-mistake-so-everything-he-says-is-untrustworthy fallacy.

    My point is that if there is a god or goblins or fairies, and if they go around creating things, of course there will be evidence for this. And as an intelligent species there is a good chance we will find this evidence and draw conclusions closely approximating the facts.

    And my point is, not if you’re presupposing methodological naturalism which excludes gobblins, fairies and the like.

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  15. That is also a prediction of natural selection – it is it is not a specific prediction of ID. But we (evolutionary science and natural selection) also predict transitional forms – and we find them. ID doesn’t – in fact I would suggest that ID would predict that transitional forms would not occur. So it’s obviously discredited, isn’t it?

    But then again, when you use gods, goblins and fairies you can modify your predictions to fit the facts, can’t you? You are not really interested in testing a theory.

    Now – ask yourself why they are not “digging up the desert.”? Why they think research is “reinterpretation research”? They just aren’t interested ins scientific work, in proposing hypotheses and testing them.

    Science doesn’t exclude anything until the evidence shows the impossibility – and then we continue to revise our conclusions.

    I don’t know how you define “methodological naturalism” (and why bother with those words? Unless you want to hide your ignorance?) Science does not exclude gods, “goblins, fairies and the like.” It just hasn’t found evidence for them, so far.

    When we do find real evidence for something like that (and it would be us, not you because you won’t be looking) we would all be rushing in to research the phenomena (and won’t be at all interested in what you are saying because we are thinking of higher things).

    After all – isn’t the quantum mechanical idea of “spooky action at a distance” an example of how we are wide open to considering such things?

    You armchair critics!! Especially when you pride yourself in ignoring the reality of these situations.

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  16. That perspective is so up-side down its not worth commenting further.

    In any case, what is misconstrued about your article above is that the best teleological arguments for God’s proposed today are not arguments from analogy, like you charge, but are best construes as inference to the best explanation.

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  17. You mean you are unable to comment because you have got yourself in a bit of a mess.

    Isn’t that always the way with creationists. Pontificating on things they don’t understand & then retreating rather than admitting their mistakes.

    No wonder you guys never learn.

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  18. Cedric ,

    You will find that the two main points I have been advocating here are very modest.

    The first…

    In any case, what is misconstrued about your article above is that the best teleological arguments for God’s proposed today are not arguments from analogy, like you charge, but are best construed as inference to the best explanation.

    …is not even addressed.

    The second is…

    suppose that God really was responsible for the creation and distribution of a brand new avian species. The thought experiment disfavours any science which includes methodological naturalism as a presupposition, for the genuine interpretation of the evidence would be necessarily excluded.

    …not refuted. In fact, Ken has admitted that science does not exclude supernatural entities such as God, which is almost precisely my point about the presupposition of methodological naturalism excluding hypotheses.

    His diatribe on the testability of a design hypothesis is the main point of contention in his second to last comment, which I neither have the time or patience to deal with.

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  19. Stuart both your points have aready been dealt with:

    1: Of course scientists use inference. They then test their hypotheses derived from those inferences. Something ID people refuse to do.

    Now we often find, by this testing, that our inferences are incorrect – so back to the beginning – but with our new data from that testing. So you can see why your “inference to the best explanation” is not science. It’s just a way of sticking with a preconceived belief. Because you always avoid testing your “inference.”

    2: You contradict youself on this point -claiming science rejects investigation of “supernatural” claims – then admitting that it doesn’t! What you ignore is that science just doesn’t find evidence of your claimed “supernatural” events. If there is such an event it turns out to be “natural” – by definition- once we understand it.

    I have a review of Prof. Stenger’s latest book here tomorrow am – which makes this point. So refuse to believe me as you wish – but realize that my views on this concur with well known scientist’s views.

    You are the mistaken one on these matters.

    Sent from my iPod

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