Intelligent Design Needs a Re-Branding

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents

Intelligent Design Needs a Re-Branding

In this age of consumerism, everyone understands the importance of positive branding; indeed, companies and individuals alike readily comprehend that if your “brand” has negative connotations attached to it, then there are a great many people that will pre-judge you on that basis alone rather than taking the time to survey your ideas in the detail that they deserve. And though such a “pre-judging” may not be fair, it is a reality, and there is no escaping that reality. So, in light of this fact, I thus contend that given the branding difficulties that now surround it, it may be time for the Intelligent Design (ID) movement to consider re-branding itself with a new and improved label. Indeed, perhaps it is time for the ID movement to change its main moniker to something like the ‘Science of Intelligent Agent Detection’ or ‘Agent Detection Science’. And the reasons for why this proposed change would be beneficial to the ID community are as follows:

  1. First, in making this change, there is the obvious benefit that some small part of the negative branding and prejudice associated with ID would be removed, and thus ID could gain some additional supporters merely from making this minor change to its name.
  1. Second, the label ‘Agent Detection Science’ (or the ‘Science of Intelligent Agent Detection’) sounds more professional, academic, and intellectually rigorous than the term ‘Intelligent Design’ does, just as the term ‘Forensic Science’ sounds more professional, academic, and intellectually rigorous than the term ‘Scenes of Crime Investigation’ does. And so, such a labeling change will have a positive persuasive effect at an almost sub-conscious level, which, in turn, should give ID a greater chance at a fair hearing amongst people who would otherwise disregard it without a second thought.
  1. Third, by labeling itself as ‘Agent Detection Science’, the ID movement actually links itself much more closely to other ID-type fields like forensics, archaeology, and SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Indeed, given that all these other fields are in the business of detecting the hallmarks of agent causation rather than natural causation, and furthermore, since all these fields are, quite literally, agent detection sciences, then by directly labeling itself as an ‘Agent Detection Science’, the ID movement would gain greater credibility through its clear connection to these other already-credible fields; furthermore, such a labeling “connection” would also automatically make it the case that any objections brought against the methodology and “scientific status” of ID would simultaneously be objections against the methodology and “scientific status” of such disciplines as forensics, archaeology, SETI, and so on. And since many individuals would be loath to deny the legitimacy of the methodology and scientific status of these latter fields, then such individuals might at least hesitate in their objections to ID given its similarity to these other fields.
  1. Fourth, the label ‘Agent Detection Science’ is more precise than the ID moniker, for ID, as well as all the other ID-type sciences already mentioned (like archaeology) are in the very business of using certain methodologies to detect the presence and activity of agents rather than of natural causes, and so, by changing the name from ID to something like ‘Agent Detection Science’, the ID movement would, in its very title, be clearly stating what it actually strives to do. And since what ID strives to do is in no way shocking when you consider that SETI, archaeology, forensics, and other fields strive to do the exact same thing, then in providing this clarity in its very label the ID movement would be clear that it is little different than these other sciences are.
  1. Fifth, ‘Agent Detection Science’ has the term science in its very name, which helps to immediately and directly assert that ID is a science, just like forensics and archaeology are considered to be, and so its status as a claimed science is put right into the open for all to see (and please note that if you truly deny that ID is a science, then it would be easy enough to change the name to ‘Agent Detection Methodology’ or ‘Agent Detection Theory’ or even ‘Agent Detection Analysis’).

And so, the long and short of it is this:  there are a number of excellent reasons why the ID movement should consider re-branding itself; doing so would help to take ID to the next level of its development while simultaneously dropping some of the negative baggage that is, at the present time, directly attached to the ID label. And such positive changes would be highly beneficial to the ID movement as a whole.

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Anno Domini 2017 03 07

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma

Although atheistic-naturalism—the most popular and arguably the only coherent and consistent form of atheism—is not necessarily wed to affirming and accepting the grand narrative of blind and unguided evolution, the fact of the matter is that in practice, for the atheistic-naturalist, the grand theory of naturalistic (meaning blind and unguided) evolution is the only game in town. Consequently, the atheist has little choice but to affirm something like naturalistic evolution and naturalistic abiogenesis as not only the explanation for the beginning of life and its future development, but also as the explanation for such things as human rationality and consciousness. But the fact that the atheistic-naturalist is essentially bound to such a theory presents the atheistic-naturalist with a dilemma which is highly detrimental to the rationality of his worldview as well as to his own intellectual consistency. And so, to understand the problems that arise for the atheistic-naturalist due to connection to naturalistic evolution, consider the two horns of the dilemma that the atheistic-naturalist must face.

Horn One

Initially, consider that if the atheistic-naturalist decides not to affirm the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the atheistic-naturalist runs into two problems. First, because the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative is the atheistic-naturalist’s only live option to explain the existence and development of life, and yet given that, as even many atheistic-naturalists themselves admit, life readily looks designed, then if the atheistic-naturalist does not appeal to something like the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as his explanation for the fact that life clearly appears designed, then the option of design suddenly looms large for both the atheistic-naturalist and everyone else. Indeed, if the atheistic-naturalist cannot even appeal to something like the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as his way of trying to account for not only the existence of life but also the way in which life appears designed, then it is not surprising that people would thus readily start to affirm the fact that life looks designed because it is designed, and that some type of designer must thus exist. So denying naturalistic evolution and abiogenesis causes the design option to become the only live and reasonable option available to explain the existence of life and its apparent design.

But now, the second problem is that if the atheistic-naturalist does not affirm his only live option of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, and yet if he also does not affirm design as the explanation of life, then the atheistic-naturalist thus has such a large and gaping hole in his worldview that it could easily be objected that his worldview is irrational, or, at the very least, it would be a worldview based on blind faith. After all, if the atheistic-naturalist cannot explain something as fundamental as the existence and development of life on his worldview, but nevertheless still believes that it “somehow” occurred naturally and without design, then this is quite clearly a fideistic position. Indeed, for while an atheistic-naturalist could deny the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative without offering anything in its place and yet still technically remain an atheistic-naturalist, holding to such an overall position, especially in the face of the challenge of design and the appearance of design in life, would thus be a position which was one not based on evidence or argument, but rather on mere blind faith. After all, as even atheist and evolution-proponent Richard Dawkins says on page 6 of the 2006 Penguin edition of his book The Blind Watchmaker “…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” So without Darwin, there is no intellectually fulfilled atheism, and that, quite frankly, would be a serious blow to atheistic-naturalism as a coherent and rational worldview.

But the problem stretches even further, for most atheistic-naturalists pride themselves on not holding anything on “faith”, and especially not on blind faith; and so to an atheistic-naturalist who holds to such an anti-faith perspective, then, in order to be consistent, the atheist-naturalist should not hold to a worldview that has a ‘blind faith’ component to it, and thus the atheistic-naturalist should not be an atheistic-naturalist at all. And so this overall problem is the first horn of the dilemma that evolution presents to atheistic-naturalism.

Horn Two

Now, the second horn of this problematic dilemma arises if the atheistic-naturalist does indeed affirm the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, as he essentially must do and as he almost always does. And what this second problem is, is that it once again makes atheistic-naturalism into a worldview that is based, in substantial part, on blind faith. After all, no matter what sort of just-so stories are offered, and no matter how many appeals to “possibility” are made, the fact remains that numerous major portions of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative have not been demonstrated at all and are believed to have occurred on the basis of nothing more than faith alone. Consider, for example, the utter absence of any evidence, let alone comprehensive evidence, for a naturalistic explanation for the origin-of-life, the Cambrian Explosion, the development of other body plans, the emergence of language, consciousness, rationality, and so on; and this is not even to mention the more mundane concerns about atheistic-naturalism having little more than just-so stories as the explanation for the development of such minor things as eyes, wings, and so on. And so accepting the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative means accepting large aspects of it on faith; it is, once again, a fideistic position.

Now, it needs to be understood that the problem here is not that the atheistic-naturalist lacks any explanation or evidence for how things like life, consciousness, rationality, and so on, came to be naturally—although this problem is bad enough even on its own—but rather, the problem is that the atheistic-naturalist does not even know whether it is possible at all that these things could come about naturally. Sure, it is ‘logically possible’ in the broad sense that these things could come about naturalistically—after all, there is no logical contradiction in them—but this does not mean that these things are physically possible in the real world given the conditions that operate in this world. And by way of analogy, consider that it is ‘logically possible’ in the broad sense that an unassisted human being, today, could run ten thousand miles per hour, but this does not mean that it is physically possible given what human beings are today, and given the conditions of this earthly environment, etc.; and indeed, no human being could actually run that speed today even though it is logically possible that one could. And, as stated, the atheistic-naturalist has the same problem: he can claim that it is possible that life can come from non-life naturalistically or that consciousness can do the same, but making such an appeal to mere possibility in the broad sense is ultimately vacuous, for it does nothing to show that such a thing is possible in this universe. And sadly for the atheistic-naturalist, the only way to show that such a thing is physically possible, is to actually show it come about. And yet doing so in a clear evidentiary way would be very difficult, if not impossible; however, until and unless the atheistic-naturalist does so, then a major component of his worldview is, as stated, based on nothing but blind faith. Furthermore, and as with the first horn of the dilemma, for any atheistic-naturalist who normally refuses to believe anything on blind faith, then the fact that a major and critical component of his worldview is held to be true based on nothing but blind faith means that such an atheistic-naturalist, if he is to remain consistent, should cease being an atheistic-naturalist at all.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  for all practical purposes, atheistic-naturalism is wed to the grand naturalistic version of the evolutionary narrative, which is the only live option that the atheistic-naturalist can appeal to in order to explain the existence and development of all life. Yet if the atheistic-naturalist denies this connection, then he suddenly has a worldview that has absolutely no explanation for the existence and apparent design of living things, as well as having a worldview that has a critical dollop of blind faith attached to it. On the other hand, if the atheistic-naturalist ties himself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the fact that that narrative has no evidence for many of its major claims also means that the atheistic-naturalist holds to a worldview based on blind faith. And so either way that he turns, the atheistic-naturalist does not hold a worldview based on evidence, but rather he holds to a worldview where some of its most critical components have no supporting evidence at all. And since holding to certain beliefs on the basis of blind faith is allegedly anathema to many atheistic-naturalists, then this dilemma means that they should cease being atheistic-naturalists, or at least they should stop pretending to be consistent ones. Now, there are indeed objections that can be mounted against this dilemma, but those objections will be addressed in a separate essay.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 29

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Another Objection to Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Another Objection to Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma

In response to the dilemma that evolution poses to atheism, commentator Andrew offers yet another objection to this argument, and since his objection is quite interesting, it is well-worth a detailed response. As such, and before considering the objection in its various parts, let us first review Andrew’s whole objection, which is the following:

[QUOTE] Possible counter-argument:

(1) Across societies and times, and continuing to the present, there is great variety in what people believe with respect to the supernatural, including much contradiction.

(2) Given the presence of this contradiction, it is obvious that much of what humanity believes about the supernatural is false.

At this point, many atheist apologists assert “given that much of it is false, it’s reasonable to treat it all as false”. This is a stupid argument, not the least because for any given true belief it is possible to concoct a plurality of beliefs that are like to it but are false. To put an extreme example, there is exactly one true solution to “X = 2 + 2”, but the set of false solutions is infinite in the natural numbers alone. The presence of many false solutions does not disprove the existence of a true one.

But let us instead go in a different direction:

(3) Despite most societies holding false beliefs about the supernatural, most remain functional to a greater or lesser extent.

(4) Thus, while having belief in the supernatural may be a survival benefit, whether such a belief is accurate or not confers little to no benefit.

(5) In contrast, having more accurate beliefs about the natural world typically leads to a survival benefit to the peoples or societies involved.

(6) Having shown that inaccurate beliefs about the natural world decreases survival, while having inaccurate beliefs about the supernatural does not, it’s reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking the natural but not the supernatural.

I’m sure there are ways to nitpick this, but I think the core idea represents a legitimate challenge. One could answer it by showing that a particular set of beliefs about the supernatural leads to better outcomes, but I think that in this context “better” draws in more moral baggage (and thus needs more apologetic work) for the theist than “survival advantage” does for the atheist (as long as he/she avoids holding up survival as a moral good).

How would you deal with this? [UNQUOTE]

So, have looked at the whole objection, let us now dissect it in detail; therefore, let us consider Andrew’s initial claim, which is the following:

[QUOTE] Possible counter-argument: (1) Across societies and times, and continuing to the present, there is great variety in what people believe with respect to the supernatural, including much contradiction. [UNQUOTE]

 Now, the first thing to note in response to Andrew’s claim is that we need to distinguish between what could be called ‘primary’ belief differences and ‘secondary’ belief differences, where secondary beliefs are those that are built upon the primary ones and which would not exist without the primary beliefs being in place first. And to understand what I mean, think, for example, of the history of the Titanic. A primary difference concerning the Titanic would be a debate over whether or not the ship actually sank, whereas a secondary difference would be whether it sank as a whole ship or broke in half before doing so. In the same way, when it comes to the variety of supernatural beliefs, we must separate primary differences from secondary ones, and when we do so, we find that there is not that much primary difference between supernatural belief systems. For example, nearly all supernatural systems believe that gods exist, that spirits exist, that these spirits can have an effect on the world and can be interacted with, that there is a life after this one, and that there is an after-life punishment for misbehavior in this life. Now, in terms of secondary differences, this is where the great deal of variety rests. For example, is reincarnation or resurrection true, or is God the greatest conceivable being or not, and so on. And so in terms of secondary beliefs, there are indeed differences.  Nevertheless, the point is that at a fundamental level, different supernatural belief systems are quite similar, and they all obviously agree that atheistic-naturalism is false.

Notice as well that if the atheist objects to the distinction between primary and secondary differences, then he runs into a problem for himself. Why? Because the same distinction applies to natural things, such as science, as well. For example, consider evolution. Though most atheists concur that evolution occurred, they differ on what the main mechanism of evolution was, whether it was continually gradual or rapid then slow, or whether such things as group-level selection occur or not. So even in the realm of evolution, we have primary agreement with secondary disagreement. And the same could be extended to other sciences as well, not to mention numerous other domains such as history, for example. So the point here that the atheist cannot object to such a distinction, nor object to the importance of this distinction, without also undermining his own beliefs about numerous natural subjects as well.

Now, Andrew continues:

[QUOTE] (2) Given the presence of this contradiction, it is obvious that much of what humanity believes about the supernatural is false. [UNQUOTE]

In the case of outright contradictions, this would be correct. And yet we must be careful here, for things can be contradictory on a secondary level without being contradictory on a primary one. Again, think of evolution: atheists agree that evolution occurs, but some might believe that group-level selection occurs while others do not, and yet these secondary-level contradictions do not negate the primary belief that evolution did occur. And the same could be true for supernatural belief systems. So, for example, two different supernatural systems could have contradictory accounts of the origins of, say, spirits—which would be a secondary belief—and yet both could be correct about the primary belief that spirits exist. So a contradiction in secondary beliefs need not be a contradiction in primary ones. At the same time, we must also be careful of claiming that things are contradictions, when, in fact, they are not. For example, Hinduism holds that hundreds and even thousands of gods exist, and yet Christianity teaches that only one Supreme God exists. However, this is not necessarily an outright contradiction, for what Hinduism considers to be lower-case ‘g’ gods, Christianity would consider fallen angels separated from God, thereby seeming to be gods in this world; after all, Christianity teaches that Satan is the prince of this world, and Satan’s power certainly makes equal to something like a lower-case ‘g’ god. And so again, we must be cautious before we claim that something is an outright contradiction rather than just being a definitional difference.

Next, Andrew states:

[QUOTE] At this point, many atheist apologists assert “given that much of it is false, it’s reasonable to treat it all as false”. This is a stupid argument, not the least because for any given true belief it is possible to concoct a plurality of beliefs that are like to it but are false. … The presence of many false solutions does not disprove the existence of a true one. [UNQUOTE]

This is true and correct. Furthermore, consider that much of past science has been shown to be incorrect, and this trend is no doubt bound to continue into the future, and yet this does not mean that we should treat all of science as false. At the same time, even though we could offer numerous different theories to account for our empirical observations, and even though most of these theories would be false and even contradictory, this does not mean that one of them is not the correct one. So again, Andrew is correct in his point above.

Additionally, note that even if we take this objection seriously, then, at best, it seems that what could be argued is that much of the secondary aspects of supernatural beliefs are false, and that it is reasonable to treat these secondary aspects as false or be agnostic about them; but that does not mean that it is reasonable to treat the primary beliefs as false. After all, think again of the evolution example: though it might be reasonable to be agnostic about whether group-level selection occurs, or whether evolution is gradual or not, or what the primary evolutionary mechanism is, this does not mean that it is reasonable to be agnostic about whether or not evolution occurred at all. Now you might have other reasons to discount certain primary beliefs about evolution, but just because there is a dispute about the secondary aspects of it should not necessarily be one of those reasons. And so again, distinguishing between primary and secondary beliefs is critical in this case.

But now Andrew moves to his main objection:

[QUOTE] But let us instead go in a different direction:

(3) Despite most societies holding false beliefs about the supernatural, most remain functional to a greater or lesser extent.

(4) Thus, while having belief in the supernatural may be a survival benefit, whether such a belief is accurate or not confers little to no benefit.

(5) In contrast, having more accurate beliefs about the natural world typically leads to a survival benefit to the peoples or societies involved.

(6) Having shown that inaccurate beliefs about the natural world decreases survival, while having inaccurate beliefs about the supernatural does not, it’s reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking the natural but not the supernatural. [UNQUOTE]

So, this is Andrew’s main argument. And as we examine it, let us look at Point 3 first. Note again that this point does not distinguish between primary and secondary differences. Indeed, this point, even if accepted, should read that most societies holding false secondary beliefs about the supernatural remain functional to a greater or lesser extent. And this will be an important issue shortly.

Next, note Point 4. Again, the difference between primary and secondary beliefs needs to be brought to the forefront. After all, it would be highly beneficial to a person’s survival to have correct primary beliefs about the supernatural, such as having the correct belief about whether spirits actually exist and can be interacted with to aid human survival; by contrast, it may not be beneficial to have accurate secondary beliefs about the supernatural, such as whether those spirits are Hindu gods or Christian demons or whether. So it can be true that being accurate in terms of primary beliefs about the supernatural may have an enormous survival benefit—for example, think about the survival advantage granted by knowing that a spirit exists who can make it rain food from the sky and knowing how to ask this from him—while at the same time, the survival advantage granted by having accurate secondary beliefs about the supernatural is minimal—such as knowing the spirit’s exact name or history. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that being accurate about certain supernatural beliefs—such as the belief in the existence of interactive and human-assisting spirits—could be much more important from a survival perspective than numerous beliefs about the natural world, such as that evolution is true or that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Indeed, if I was a human trying to survive in a harsh environment, being accurate about certain supernatural beliefs would be much more important for my survival than being accurate about certain natural facts. After all, if I am going to use valuable time and resources for a supernatural purpose, such as making offerings of food, or animals, or prayer, then it would be highly beneficial to be accurate about whether or not the use of that time and those resources for the supernatural purpose will actually have a survival-enhancing effect or not. By contrast, if I am inaccurate in my beliefs about evolution or other abstract scientific or mathematic or philosophical facts, then this does little to nothing to harm my survival chances. Thus, accuracy concerning the supernatural could be much more important, from a survival perspective, then accuracy concerning abstract and non-survival-related facts about the natural world.

Now, onto Point 5. Here the assumption is made that having more accurate beliefs about the natural world leads to survival benefits. But does it? Well, consider some issues with this claim. For example, at present, Western societies are much more advanced in terms of having accurate beliefs about the natural world when compared to other more primitive cultures, and yet primitive cultures, at least from an evolutionary perspective, appear to be outbreeding Western societies quite well. In fact, accurate beliefs about such natural world things as abortion and contraception do not seem to be helping the demographic survival of Western peoples but actually hindering them, thus making them less successful, at least when viewed from an evolutionary perspective. So it is not clear that having accurate natural world beliefs leads to greater survival from an evolutionary perspective; or, at the very least, it is not clear that having accurate beliefs about natural world issues not directly related to one’s survival—such as abstract science, or philosophy, or mathematics—is in any way beneficial. However, note as well that it is even questionable whether having accurate beliefs about survival-related natural-world issues does increase one’s survival chances. After all, imagine, for example, that a person believes that, for human beings, exchanging saliva through kissing for five minutes leads to reproduction, whereas engaging in actual intercourse is just a medicinal action which transfers “critical chi energy” from one person to another; now, every time that this particular person “reproduces” through kissing, he then also has intercourse to replenish his chi energy. Now these beliefs about reproduction are false, and yet in comparison to a person with true beliefs about reproduction, would the person with false beliefs be any less reproductively successful? It is not clear that they would be less successful. After all, the person’s body would engage in all the right actions to reproduce even though he had completely false beliefs about what he was doing. Furthermore, a whole society with such a false belief about reproduction could nevertheless still reproduce just as well as a society with true beliefs about the subject. So again, it is not clear that accuracy about natural-world issues is more beneficial for survival. And indeed, for a further example of this, think of a person who believes that all predators with sharp teeth also have poison in their teeth; now such a person might have a false secondary belief about predators, but if he ran from predators just as hard as someone with a true belief about predators, then the person with a false secondary belief would survive just as well. Thus, again, it is not clear that accurate beliefs about secondary survival issues are needed for a person to have a survival benefit. In fact, in some cases, having outright delusional beliefs might aid in a person’s survival; for example, a man who is objectively ugly, physically weak, and undesirable, but who falsely believes that he is God’s gift to women, may be more reproductively successful, simply through his endlessly persistent efforts to reproduce, then a similar man who has an accurate view of himself and thus never tries to reproduce because he is accurate in his assessment of his undesirability. So, in some cases, false beliefs about the natural world may actually be more beneficial than true ones!

And finally, Andrew concludes his argument by saying that since having inaccurate beliefs about the natural world decreases survival, while having inaccurate beliefs about the supernatural does not, then it is reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking the natural but not the supernatural. But, as shown, all the points leading to this conclusion are, at best, questionable, and, at worst, wrong. And so the conclusion itself is questionable.

And yet an even further problem with Andrew’s argument—at least in terms of its ability to undermine the dilemma that evolution creates for atheistic-naturalism—is that Andrew’s argument actually creates its own dilemma for the atheistic-naturalist given that a parallel argument can be made concerning the accuracy of our cognitive faculties for scientific and/or philosophical beliefs, and since atheistic-naturalism is a philosophical belief which largely draws on scientific facts for its justification, then this parallel argument serves to undermine atheistic-naturalism just as much as the original dilemma did. Not only this, but Andrew’s argument can even be flipped on its head to support supernaturalism while undermining atheistic-naturalism. And to understand what I mean, consider this argument which mirrors Andrew’s original argument:

  1. Despite most societies, in the past, as well as the present, holding false beliefs about science (biology, cosmology, etc) and about philosophy, they nevertheless remained functional to a greater or lesser extent.
  1. Thus, while having some type of philosophical and scientific beliefs may have a survival benefit, whether such beliefs are accurate or not confers little to no benefit.
  1. By contrast, having accurate primary beliefs about the supernatural world—whether it exists or not, whether the beings in it can interact with the world, etc—typically leads to a survival benefit to the peoples or societies involved in such beliefs given that accurate primary beliefs about the supernatural world will dictate whether or not to devote time and resources to dealing with this world or not. Indeed, if an interactive supernatural world exists, then having an accurate belief concerning it could literally be the difference between life and death for a society, or it could mean greater success than a competing social group who does not have such an accurate belief about the supernatural world.
  1. So, having shown that accurate beliefs about science and/or philosophy have little to no survival-benefit, while having accurate beliefs about the supernatural would have a survival benefit, then it’s reasonable to conclude that our minds are tuned towards accurately tracking primary beliefs about the supernatural world but not about science and/or philosophy. Or, at the very least, our minds are more accurately tuned to tracking primary beliefs about the supernatural world in comparison to accurately tracking beliefs about science and/or philosophy.
  1. But since atheistic-naturalism is a philosophical point-of-view largely based on the findings of science, then if human cognitive faculties are not tuned towards being accurate about such beliefs, then humans have a reason to doubt their accuracy concerning the truth of atheistic-naturalism while nevertheless having confidence about their accuracy concerning supernaturalism.
  1. And if we nevertheless do believe ourselves to be accurate concerning scientific and/or philosophical beliefs, then we have all the more reason to be more confident concerning our belief about supernaturalism, for we are tuned to be more accurate about primary supernatural beliefs then we are about scientific and/or philosophical beliefs.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  if human evolutionary survival is indeed linked to humans having reliable cognitive faculties, then evolution, in and of itself, arguably gives us a reason to trust the reliability of our cognitive faculties concerning the supernatural more than it does concerning science, philosophy, or the atheistic-naturalism that grows out of them. And so appealing to a connection between our evolutionary survival and reliable cognitive faculties will not help the atheistic-naturalist avoid Atheism’s Evolution Dilemma.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 23

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Science is Not Self-Correcting

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Science is Not Self-Correcting

 Let’s be blunt: the idea that science is self-correcting is bullshit. Indeed, it is a claim pushed by science-fetishists and the proponents of scientism in a self-serving attempt to give science an allure and prestige that it simply does not deserve. Furthermore, even if we ignore the fallacious personification inherent in the idea that “science” itself is self-correcting—after all, science is not some ‘thing’ or some ‘entity’ capable of action—the fact is that science is not only not self-correcting, but it’s correction method is not in any fundamental way unique or special when compared to other disciplines. And we can demonstrate this fact with a simple example.

Imagine, for a moment, a particular situation that has no doubt previously occurred in reality at some point:  namely, a scientist performs an experiment, but his experiment is flawed in some way that skews his results and renders them false, but not obviously so; or even imagine that the scientist himself has purposely but subtly falsified his experiment in order to achieve the results that he desired. Now imagine that this experiment is reported to the scientific community and accepted. It is even referred to from time-to-time in other experiments or studies, but not that often. In essence, it is a relatively obscure experiment, but nevertheless one which has been accepted and acted upon. And as is often the case with such studies, it is not replicated. No one checks the results. The error in the experiment remains undetected. Now ask yourself: has “science” self-corrected this experiment? Obviously not, and it would be absurd to suggest otherwise. In fact, if the experiment sat untouched and unchecked from now until eternity, then at no point would science self-correct it. And if no experiment was conducted which contradicted the results of the first experiment, then there would be no evidence against it, and thus again, science would not correct the faulty results of the first experiment, neither directly through replication nor indirectly through counter-evidence.

Thus, the only way that the experiment would be corrected would be if an actual human scientist examined the experiment, replicated it, and hopefully caught the error—a fact which is itself not guaranteed. But note that “science” did nothing here, a human did. But even more importantly, note that the human scientist did nothing different or more “correcting” than any other profession or field would do. Indeed, the scientist simply used the appropriate tools and techniques of his particular discipline to check the work of a fellow scientist. But the point is that an accountant or mathematician or engineer could correct another accountant’s or mathematician’s or engineer’s work in much the same way that a scientist corrects a fellow scientist’s work: namely, by using the tools and techniques appropriate to their field to check their colleague’s work. In fact, a philosopher could check the work of another philosopher for faulty reasoning or an incorrect deduction in much the same way as the scientist corrects another scientist. And the similarity here is even closer than you think, for if we are dealing with forensic or historical sciences, such as archelogy or evolutionary biology, where the scientist’s “experiment” is often little more than trying to infer the best explanation of the evidence at hand, much like a Detective does with the evidence at a crime scene, then a future scientist’s correction of such an “experiment” is little more than a correction of the initial scientist’s reasoning or a challenge to his facts. But such a type of correction is little different from a philosopher correcting a first philosopher’s inference to a best explanation about some philosophical matter or a second Detective double-checking the inference made by a lead Detective concerning a particular case under investigation.

So what is the point of all this? The point is to realize that science is not self-correcting, or if it is, then many other disciplines known to Man are self-correcting as well, for they correct themselves in the same way that science does:  namely, by individuals using the tools appropriate to their specific discipline to check the work of other individuals for errors or faulty reasoning. And so, if so many disciplines are self-correcting, then there is nothing special about science. Thus, again, the point here is to show that not only is science not self-correcting in any literal sense, but also that there is nothing special about science’s correction process, for it is the same one that numerous other disciplines use to correct themselves as well.

And note that if the science-fetishist tries to argue that in science, very prominent and popular experiments are indeed often replicated, and so, in this practical way science is somehow “more correcting” than other disciplines, well, there are three responses that can be given to this point. First, the practical fact—admitted for the sake of argument—that scientific results are checked more often than other disciplines has nothing to do with science being self-correcting or with science having a unique way of correcting itself, and so this is a largely irrelevant point. Second, it is rather questionable if other disciplines are not subject to the same amount of correcting as science is; for example, popular philosophical arguments are often challenged, argued against, and corrected. So the claim that scientific results are more often checked than other disciplines is in no way certain, and clear data would be needed to show that this is the case. And finally third, we have some data which tentatively shows us that scientific experiments are rarely replicated, so the claim that they are is, again, questionable. For example—and this is just one example, so it needs to be taken with skepticism—note that a study by Matthew C. Makel, Jonathan A. Plucker, and Boyd Hegarty, titled “Replications in Psychology Research: How Often Do They Really Occur” and published in November 2012 in the Perspectives on Psychological Science Journal found that there was only a 1.07% replication rate of previous scientific experiments. So even if these researchers were incorrect by a factor of ten or twenty, and thus the replication rate was 10% or 20%, that rate would still be horrendously low for a discipline, namely psychological science, which supposedly prides itself on self-correction and replication. So the idea that science is a “more” self-correcting discipline than others is, once again, questionable at best.

Now, if someone tries to claim that science is unique in that its correction occurs through the use of experiments, and thus it is a more accurate and accountable process than other disciplines that correct themselves, the fact is that this objection also does not hold water. First, corrections in math, for example, are as accurate if not more so than an experiment, so some disciplines are arguably even more accurate than scientific correction. Second, scientists, being humans, are also susceptible to error, and so a replicated experiment, given its human factor, is prone to error as well; and this, of course, means that there is no guarantee that the replication is correct either. So the replication of a scientist is as potentially prone to error as that of a mathematician, engineer, or philosopher. And this is especially the case for the historical sciences were the science is largely done by inference to the best explanation, and thus is little different from other disciplines. And so while a scientist’s use of a replication experiment is a good way for that scientist to check a fellow scientist’s original experiment, and it is the appropriate way for him to do so given that experiments are the tool that a scientist is supposed to use to conduct his work, the use of such replication experiments is by no means the most accurate or fool-proof way of checking someone else’s work, and so even in this respect the sciences are not particularly unique or special in comparison to other disciplines.

But, one may ask, what if the objection is made that the corrective method of science must be, somehow, special, for it leads to results that are usually agreed upon by the wide consensus of scientists. Well, how a scientific consensus is reached, and whether that consensus is solely or even mainly based on the state of the evidence, rather than other factors like social pressure, career considerations, and so on, is a topic all its own, but in this case, all that will be mentioned is that science, again, is not unique in reaching a consensus, for disciplines like math, accounting, engineering do so as well. Furthermore, science often reaches consensus because, unlike philosophy, science, in the quest for knowledge, simply cheats in that it accepts a number of easily questionable assumptions and then operates as if those assumptions are not questionable. For example, present science embraces methodological naturalism, an idea which automatically restricts the types of theories that are deemed scientific and thus automatically creates a type of consensus by narrowing the range of options that a scientist can choose from. Additionally, scientists largely ignore the question of whether scientific realism or anti-realism is correct, but a person’s views on which one of these positions is correct will have a large effect on the evidentiary weight that a person gives to the scientific theory under consideration. And so if science had to drop its presently operative assumptions, and if certain social pressures and career worries were removed, one wonders just how consensus reaching the scientific community would be. And while this is speculation, the point is that the consensus in science is not necessarily based solely on an objective assessment of the evidence, but on a number of outside pressures and restrictive axioms which create the conditions where a consensus can be banged into place much more easily than if the conditions were not there.

And so, the long and short of it is this: science is not self-correcting, and the way that it corrects itself is in no significant way different from the other disciplines. Science, therefore, is not particularly special in its correction method, and so it is time to put the myth that science is self-correcting to bed.

Anno Domini 2016 11 22

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam