What is Science? (revisited)
What is science?
The 2004 Encyclopedia Britannica says science is “any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation. In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws.”
“A healthy science is a science that seeks the truth.” Paul Nelson, Ph. D., philosophy of biology.
Linus Pauling, winner of 2 Nobel prizes wrote, “Science is the search for the truth.”
“But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding.” Albert Einstein
The truth need not be an absolute truth. Truth in the sense that Drs. Pauling, Einstein & Nelson are speaking is the reality in which we find ourselves. We exist. Science is to help us understand that existence and how it came to be.
As I like to say- science is our search for the truth, i.e. the reality, to our existence via our never-ending quest for knowledge.
So how do we do that? We use our senses. We make observations. We try to figure things out, i.e. we try to understand what we observe and/ or sense. This “thing” we are trying to understand could be an object, event, structure or phenomena. (I used to think that we were the only animals on this planet that did so, i.e. tried to understand the things around us, but with first-hand observations of what indigenous wild-life do preceding an impending natural disaster common to that area, it appears that some other animals have already come to an understanding. But anyway…)
We formulate an idea as to how it works and we devise a way to test that idea. If successful we have others check our work. If they like it, it gets published. However not getting published is not a falsification or refutation of the idea or the data.
How do we test an idea? We break it down into something that is measure-able. In industry this is done via DMAIC- Define (the customer’s requirements), (Figure out how to) Measure (them); Analyze (the requirements and measuring systems); Improve (the process to reach the goal); Control (the process).
In science we define what it is we are observing. Rocks, life, populations or individual organisms, planets, stars, motion, falling, abruptly stopping, etc.
Can this observation be measured? If not how can we qualify our inference or conclusion? (This is where we figure out a way to test our inference.)
Analyze all work to date for errors and/ or improvements.
Initiate or improve a process to reach the desired goal. In science the desired goal would be to understand what it is we are observing, i.e. what we had previously defined.
Then you control that process. Documentation at each step is key throughout the process and will facilitate the controlling of said process.
Once you have completed the above and feel you have an understanding, you have others who are qualified check your work. That is why documentation is key.
From the NCSE linked to U Berkley website on Evolution:
“Science is a particular way of understanding the natural world. It extends the intrinsic curiosity with which we are born. It allows us to connect the past with the present,… (references a picture)”
“Science is based on the premise that our senses, and extensions of those senses through the use of instruments, can give us accurate information about the Universe. Science follows very specific "rules" and its results are always subject to testing and, if necessary, revision. Even with such constraints science does not exclude, and often benefits from, creativity and imagination (with a good bit of logic thrown in).”
What anti-IDists try to do is to either re-define science to only include “natural” processes, as if intelligent causes are non-natural, or try to tie ID to the supernatural. They think that if ID is tied to the supernatural then it has violated some arbitrary rule of science. Either that or they try to hold ID to some other arbitrary rules of science, never thinking that the reigning paradigm has no chance of meeting those same standards.
The origin of nature could not have occured via natural processes as natural processes only exist in nature.
However even though misguided that tactic is of no relevance:
In any case, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out, debate about methodological rules of science often forms part of the practice of science, especially during times
when established paradigms are being challenged. Those who reject the "teach the controversy" model on the grounds that ID violates the current rules of scientific practice only beg the question. The present regime of methodological rules cannot prevent the controversy for the simple reason that those rules may themselves be one of the subjects of scientific controversy.-- page xxv of Darwinism, Design and Public Education
It should also be noted that just because something is conceivable, that does not also make it possible. IOW just because the “collision theory” is the best conceivable naturalistic explanation for the formation of the Earth-Moon system, does not mean that such a scenario is even possible.
More on the rules of science:
In 1981 there was a Court case (McLean v. Arkansas) involving Creation. In it Michael Ruse testified for a theory to be scientific it must be:
guided by natural law
explanatory by natural law
testable against the empirical world
tentative in its conclusions
The contradictions are numerous:
Is the origin of life explained by natural law? No. Is all of life’s diversity owing its collective common ancestry to some unknown population of single-celled organisms via common descent/ descent with modification explained by natural law? No. Is the origin of nature explained by natural law? No. The origin of nature, by definition, could not have been guided by natural law. And yes, what about the origins of those natural laws?
How do we falsify the notion that the evolution of cetaceans from land animals proceeded via natural selection acting on random variations caused by random genetic mutations?
”As a result of such contradictions *, most contemporary philosophers of science have come to regard the question “What distinguishes science from nonscience?” as both intractable and uninteresting. Instead, philosophers of science have increasingly realized that the real issue is not whether a theory is “scientific” according to some abstract definition but whether a theory is true- that is, based on evidence. As Laudan explains, “If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science’…they…do only emotive work for us.” As Martin Eger summarized,”[d]emarcation arguments have collapsed. Philosophers of science don’t hold them anymore. They may still enjoy acceptance in the popular world, but that is a different world." “-- Ibid pg. 77 *discussing the contradictions in Ruse’s 1981 falsifiability criteria.
The bottom line is the evidence from which IDists infer ID exists in the physical world and is observable. IOW it is the same DNA, life, Earth, solar system, etc., that all scientists and non-scientists observe, research or hear about. I will discuss the evidence below.
On science & the supernatural:
”It is often said that science must avoid any conclusions which smack of the supernatural. But this seems to me to be both bad logic and bad science. Science is not a game in which arbitrary rules are used to decide what explanations are to be permitted. Rather, it is an effort to make true statements about physical reality. It was only about sixty years ago that the expansion of the universe was first observed. This fact immediately suggested a singular event-that at some time in the distant past the universe began expanding from an extremely small size.
To many people this inference was loaded with overtones of a supernatural event-the creation, the beginning of the universe. The prominent physicist A.S. Eddington probably spoke for many physicists in voicing his disgust with such a notion:
“Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator will probably consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings satisfaction to the mind”.” (Dr. Behe)
Even though what Dr. Behe is saying makes it obvious that a priori exclusion is not the scientific way, it hides the fact that all “first-cause” scenarios require something non or super natural. If it is true that everything which has a beginning requires a cause, then seeing science has told us the universe, i.e. nature, had a beginning, it also had a cause. Nature by definition could not have originated via natural processes because natural processes exist only in nature.
It also shows that there is still more work to be done even once an initial cause/state has been determined.
The point being, of course, is that it all “turtles-down” to something beyond nature/ beyond the universe. Even positing multi-verses does not get around the origins issues. And just as Ockham’s Razor would favor one designed universe over a universe constructed from unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes, Ockham’s Razor would favor one designed universe over a multi-verse, and also metaphysical, explanation.
What the above demonstrates is that one cannot define ID out of science without doing the same to any anti-ID position.
Science Asks Three Basic Questions:
The astronaut picking up rocks on the moon, the nuclear physicist bombarding atoms, the marine biologist describing a newly discovered species, the paleontologist digging in promising strata, are all seeking to find out, “What’s there?”
How does it work?
A geologist comparing the effects of time on moon rocks to the effects of time on earth rocks, the nuclear physicist observing the behavior of particles, the marine biologist observing whales swimming, and the paleontologist studying the locomotion of an extinct dinosaur, “How does it work?”
How did it come to be this way?
Each of these scientists tries to reconstruct the histories of their objects of study. Whether these objects are rocks, elementary particles, marine organisms, or fossils, scientists are asking, “How did it come to be this way?”
We exist. The verse we live in exists and since it is the only observable verse we have labeled it the universe. If the multi-verse hypothesis is held to the same standards as ID it has to be able to tell us, at a minimum, how many verses there are, where those verses exist and what number we live in. But anyway, we exist. What are the options to our existence? IOW how did the universe (and us) come to be this way?
1) Unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes
2) Intelligent, directed (goal oriented) processes
3) A combination of 1 & 2
(If other options exist I would love to hear about them so they too can be discussed.)
Only option 1 excludes the design inference.
The motives of IDists are clear- we want to know the truth, i.e. the reality, behind our existence. If that reality, i.e. the evidence, leads us to the metaphysical then so be it. We explain the evidence and we don’t have to explain the metaphysical to do so.
The great scientist Max Planck said the following during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this minute solar system of the atom together . . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind."
Years of scientific research were the root cause of that statement.