Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ID and magic

I've been enjoying my time over at ERV recently. Here is the long thread in which I've been first involved.
One interesting question was raised by the eminent commenter Albatrossity, who 17 months ago revealed to me his actual identity, biology prof at a major state university in the Midwest. I would ordinarily think that he has given over responsibility for posting his comments to some student of his, or even that he's just lying about his identity, given:
1) the general tenor, mood, and abusive nature of this commenter's posts,
2) the poor reasoning exhibited, and
3) the fact that he comments a lot at a blog such as ERV, which is not what you would call a hang-out for refined intelligentsia as no doubt a major univ biology professor must be.

However, I'd hate to charge the man with dishonesty or inflation of his credentials, especially given that his histrionics pale in comparison to those of one Professor Emeritus Vic Hutchinson (edited out my misspelling) of OU and one PZ Myers of the Univ of Minnesota. So, sadly, it is at least very possible that this man represents some of the best and brightest of American universities.

Given the fairly broad nature of my initial comments, one might expect the good Professor to respond to some of them, but such has not been the case. Indeed, he exhibits a pattern of leaving scads of questions hanging, which is disappointing. And he wasn't the first to raise the question, but it has become his mantra.
So, first off, "minimalist" said:
(Rhology said) "It's completely valid to say that if science can't explain something, then therefore MAGIC!"
I responded:
So, to you, any non-naturalist force in action is "magic"? There's no other name for it?
If so, how precisely does this argue for naturalism? Just calling the other side names doesn't mean your side is correct, as I'm sure you realise in your calmer, more sober times of reflection.
Albatrossity eventually jumped in:
Rho, can you tell us a single objective parameter that distinguishes ID from magic? Quoting your magic book doesn't count. What I want to know is how would an objective person be able to tell if something happened via ID or via magic?
My reply:
Sure. Magic is an incantation calling on the power of some mystical, barely-defined cosmic principle or power, performed out of an irrational worldview by a non-omnipotent agent, also frequently accomplishing said incantation pretty quickly. Intelligent Design is, at its base, the understanding that the characteristics of life in nature show evidence of design by an intelligent and otherwise unidentified agent, probably over the course of many hundreds of millions of years, though not necessarily. It's only in the strawman of ID that you find the major parallels to ID. A major college prof like you should know better than that. Why not just deal with ID as it is? It cracks me up to see well-established minds like you burn strawmen all over the place. Makes me think you don't have a leg to stand on and some part of you knows it.


His reply:
I think you missed the point. I didn't ask for definitions of magic and ID, I asked for objective distinctions between that two that would enable an objective observer to distinguish between them as causes of any event.


Me:
Well, let's see. I would probably look at whether said occurrence were the result of an incantation calling on the power of some mystical, barely-defined cosmic principle or power, performed out of an irrational worldview by a non-omnipotent agent, also frequently accomplishing said incantation pretty quickly.
But of course, this doesn't matter. If the evidence is that it was NOT due to an unguided process working on random mutations, then the answer lies in somewhere other than Darwinian mechanisms. If you don't like the answer or where the evidence leads, that's no one's problem but yours.


Him (#60, I'm tired of linking):
Tell me HOW you would "look at whether said occurrence were the result of an incantation calling on the power of some mystical, barely-defined cosmic principle or power, performed out of an irrational worldview by a non-omnipotent agent, also frequently accomplishing said incantation pretty quickly." That's quite a mouthful of stuff, but nothing in there tells me HOW you would show me any difference between that sort of cause, and the think-poof causality that underlies ID. How, exactly, do the results of incantations look any different from the invisible hands that ID requires? Causes leave fingerprints; different causes should leave different fingerprints.



Me:
nothing in there tells me HOW you would show me any difference

Take Scenario X on a case-by-case basis and apply those criteria. Not that hard, though it might require a bit of logical and philosophical rigor, which I've not come to expect from most Darwinians, especially not most in academia, whose writings are often rife with unaccounted-for and unjustified assumptions.

why did you argue with commenters above when someone suggested that ID = magic?

B/c "magic" carries quite a pejorative connotation. I dispute that connotation.
And again, the bare assumption of naturalism (especially ontological, and yes, I know the difference) is not convincing, if it's unargued-for. Argue for it. Start by answering my above questions (and you'll reveal it's a faith-based position or an infinite regress, the former of which is the same thing you accuse the hated creationists of, the latter of which is clearly irrational). If "magic" is the way things are, where the evidence leads, what merit is there in clinging to Darwinian-style naturalistic processes as the way things are? That's the stuff of cults.

Him:
the appearance of drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum was due to magic. You claim that the same phenomenon was due to an intelligent designer.

Me:
But this is not a good experiment, as it is a false dilemma for my position; I don't contend that the evolution of drug resistance is an example of ID "at work", but rather natural, microevolutionary forces. Who's denying that? I'm more interested in your evidence for, say, unicellular organisms developing into giraffes, etc. Things that are under dispute. I don't see why engaging the topics actually under dispute is too much to ask.
Further, please explain how naturalistic mechanisms to which you'd appeal to explain this change in the organism is distinguishable from, say, karma. Thanks.

Him:
More amusingly, you ask how this naturalistic explanation for malarial drug resistance is different from karma. That's pretty easy. It is explainable by purely natural mechanisms (changes in bases in DNA resulting in changes enzyme structure resulting in changes in enzyme function resulting in changes in drug metabolism), which can replicated in other organisms by other scientists. That's the definition of objective, in case you didn't understand that word either. Let me know when you figure out a way that ID think-poofing can be replicated or explained by natural mechanisms.

Me:
OK, and how does magic operate, exactly? Give me some info about it.
Out of what worldview are you operating? What are your presuppositions? On what power does this magic draw?
...I'll explain my 'karmic' worldview if you explain your magic one.

Him, throwing in the towel:
(Albatrossity asked) Why would it be impossible for magic to leave "evidence of design"?
(Rhology answered) It wouldn't be impossible.
makes my point for me, thanks. Magic cannot be distinguished from ID.

Him, later:
The onus is on YOU, not me, to show that magic can be distinguished, as a cause, from ID. You have evaded that responsibility from the beginning. I have repeatedly asked for evidence of design that could be distinguished from evidence of magic.

Me:
We've been over this. Feel free to address what I've already said, particularly on the question of karma and on the worldview underpinnings of "magic".

Him:
you have yet to give me even ONE criteria by which an objective observer could distinguish magic from ID.

Me:
And you haven't answered my setup questions that would show that you even have any idea what groundwork is necessary before answering such a question. Get on it.
You also haven't responded to my request that you show the ways in which your precious Darwinian processes are distinguishable from karma. It's all out there.

That's pretty much where it ended. Let the reader judge who left the questions out on the table.
The point is that Albatrossity is fixated on his buzzwords and Darwinian talking points, much like the former Pres of CFI in my previous post, namely: "Peer-reviewed journal!!!!!!! AAAHHHHH!!!" For Albatrossity, he has his talking point, maybe from PZ Myers or someone like that, and it's never occurred to think it through. It's kind of sad, but it helps one understand how grown-ups can desire and act to squelch dissent in universities with respect to these questions. Take Albatrossity, PZ Myers, and Hutchinson (edited out my misspelling) as your models and you'll find it's quite believable. It is apparently too much to ask that they back up their arguments.
"Magic" isn't just an amorphous mass that one can pluck out the air and then apply, in a serious debate. You have to define your terms and show me precisely what you mean. Absent that, it's a double-edged sword, as my karma example shows. I can just apply something that sounds pejorative to ANYTHING, refuse to define it, and I'll have just as much justification as he does. So I did, with my karma example. Maybe we'll actually get a response, but I doubt it, as he's had lots of chances.

26 comments:

Dr Funkenstein said...

here are the dictionary definitions of ID and magic:

ID:

The assertion or belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected natural processes.

The intelligent being in question is (according to ID theory)

a. supernatural
b. unidentified/unidentifiable

This means that we don't know what limits if any he/she/it possesses, or how he/she/it responds to requests such as prayers or incantations.

Magic:

noun

1. The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.

2.

a. The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature.
a. The charms, spells, and rituals so used.

adj

1. Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural.

2. Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.


So in both instances, they require pointing to or invoking a perhaps unidentified/unidentifiable supernatural force that has supernatural control over the physical world, or that certain observations are the result of inexplicable supernatural forces that were in operation in the past.


I'm struggling to see any real difference in appealing to the unidentified designer of ID theory versus appealing to witches in terms of how we could explain what causes biological 'design' (without the ID crowd providing us with a means by which we identify the designer).

NAL said...

Rho:
I'm more interested in your evidence for, say, unicellular organisms developing into giraffes, etc.

A single celled giraffe embryo develops into a giraffe frequently. If you want another example of a different single celled organism developing into a giraffe then you'll have to invoke the supernatural. Evolution does claim that bacterium developed directly into giraffes. Evolution claims that giraffes and bacteria share a common ancestor. The evidence is in their DNA.

Paul C said...

Dr Funk, you're making a classic mistake in debating Rhology by providing actual definitions of words. Why should he accept your secular atheistic "dictionary" definitions, when the definition that he makes up supports his case completely?

freelunch said...

Deal with ID as it is? What is intelligent design?

Tell us the testable scientific hypothesis that intelligent design proponents are presenting and how they intend to go about testing this hypothesis. Show us what evidence exists that supports the hypothesis and why it is better evidence for ID than for evolution.

Anonymous said...

Damn ERV, why did she lead me to this troll?
Rhoblogy... you do not understand science. And while that is ok, your efforts to continue to actively not understand when people make futile efforts to help you is not. If you want understanding, be open to learning.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Dr. F
although I would not necessarily call myself an ID proponent, I would say here that you exaggerate the similarity somewhat.

Given your definitions, magic necessarily entails the supernatural, whereas classic ID theory (if it's old enough to have a "classic iteration) makes no such claim. There are atheists who accept Intelligent Design. This seems to me a fairly specific definitional dichotomy. Magic would of course be classified as an example of ID, as it presupposes an intelligent agent; but ID is not necessarily magic. (Of course, on the theory itself, there is no prima facie reason why the designer should not be a magician - it is a question that the theory doesn't ask.)

Does that clarify the matter somewhat?

Anonymous said...

rotsaP loeJ

The definition of both invoke a supernatural power.
Claiming that ID isn’t magic because..well we don’t like to call it that, is not much of an argument. And I have never ever heard of an atheist that accepts ID because it requires a god of some sort. You must have a creator to create, a designer to design …kinda goes against not believing in gods( those super powerful supernatural creators).

Your explanation ignores the basic tenant of ID, there must be a SUPERNATURAL DESIGNER. It also ignores the very history of ID, your classic ID openly admits to being CREATIONISM.

Maybe that well help clarify things for you.

Paul C said...

If Intelligent Design was a theory - i.e. it had some explanatory power - it would identify what the designer was, or at least make some effort to identify that designer. It doesn't, and it doesn't, so it isn't.

(Of course, on the theory itself, there is no prima facie reason why the designer should not be a magician - it is a question that the theory doesn't ask.)

Why doesn't the theory ask that question, Joel? I would have thought that question would have been central to the entire enterprise.

Rhology said...

Pfff, until people start answering the questions I've raised in the actual post, I won't be involved here.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Dr. F
although I would not necessarily call myself an ID proponent, I would say here that you exaggerate the similarity somewhat.

Given your definitions, magic necessarily entails the supernatural, whereas classic ID theory (if it's old enough to have a "classic iteration) makes no such claim. There are atheists who accept Intelligent Design. This seems to me a fairly specific definitional dichotomy. Magic would of course be classified as an example of ID, as it presupposes an intelligent agent; but ID is not necessarily magic. (Of course, on the theory itself, there is no prima facie reason why the designer should not be a magician - it is a question that the theory doesn't ask.)

Does that clarify the matter somewhat?


The problem with what you've said though Joel is that ID theory also states that in addition to the biological examples, the 'fine tuning' of the universe is evidence of the actions of the designer - therefore, it must have been done by an agent 'outside' of the natural world ie a supernatural agent - ID as formulated by Demsbki et al cannot appeal to a natural agent for this reason.

ID appeals to this supernatural agent that was for some unknown reason operational in the past to explain a state or states of affairs we observe today.

Magic appeals to either a supernatural force or agent, or is posited as having been operational in the past for largely unknown reasons to explain some state of affairs that we observe today.

It's being a bit generous to say there's any real difference between the two, in my opinion.

Dr Funk, you're making a classic mistake in debating Rhology by providing actual definitions of words. Why should he accept your secular atheistic "dictionary" definitions, when the definition that he makes up supports his case completely?

*adds 'Dictionary, The' to Worldwide Atheistic Conspiracy Against Christianity List (TM) in between 'Biologists' and 'Dover trial'*

Anonymous said...

Rhology said...
Pfff, until people start answering the questions I've raised in the actual post, I won't be involved here.

Tue Feb 24, 08:58:00 AM CST

How kewl is that!
We've managed to chase Rhology away from his own blog by simply pointing out there is no difference between religion/ID and Magic (although there difinately is a difference between Religion/ID and MAGIC THE GATHERING...that was a fun game....

oooops untimely reference showing what a geek I am.

Paul C said...

Pfff, until people start answering the questions I've raised in the actual post, I won't be involved here.

Has anybody else noticed that discussions on this blog are much more interesting, constructive and civil when Rhology isn't involved? Both Stacey and Pastor Joel are much more engaged with the discussion and less interested in the sort of banal antics that characterise Rhology's contributions to his own blog. Ironic.

Paul C said...

And as I have pointed out, since you are using a different definition of the word "magic" in your post, rather than the word as it is used by everybody else in the entire world, most of your points are not worth responding to.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Paul,
You are very kind, but it's Joel Pastor - a surname, not a title. I am not half clever enough to be a clergyman.

My guess as to why they don't engage the issue of the designer's nature is because that would require a priori knowledge - I can observe that the tower of Pisa was made by an intelligent agent (okay, bad example... at least a somewhat intelligent agent) even if I know nothing about who or what lived there during the Renaissance.

Anonymous,
You say that classic ID proponents openly admit it is creationism. I am rather skeptical. What's your source?

I don't suppose you really mean to advance your own ignorance of atheist IDers as a serious argument, do you? What if I tell you I have never been to London, does that settle anything? Anyhow, I did a google search and found a couple of blogs and whatnot. Here's one: http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com/oe/blog/ej_klone/an_atheist_in_support_of_id

Dr F,
I am not sure what you mean by "magic" - you seem to be referring to it as an explanation, rather than a means. ID, as I'm sure you're aware, purports to be the former. Magic is certainly an admissible means, from what I understand of ID in general, but they seem to me categorically distinct.

I do concede that when you apply ID to the entire natural order, it will require a supernatural designer; but I not was aware that this was a main avenue of debate. You are welcome to correct me, but I had thought the main thrust of it concerned life developing on earth, and not, for example, the existence of matter. If Demsbki wants to apply it to the entire universe, then I suppose he would need a supernatural agent. But I know that not everyone goes so far (some identify the agent, in the case of life on earth, as some variety of alien, for instance); atheists regard it as a simple question of fact - is there, or is there not, evidence to suggest design in case N. The thrust of ID as I understand it is strictly binary: either N has come to be via some intelligence, or it has not.

ABnormal said...

Just now jumping in... Personally, I am interested in seeing how the commenting atheists would actually reply to the questions posed so that Rho can continue the discussion. Instead of stroking each other’s egos, try to answer the questions presented. If you are not answering because you don't understand the question, which is understandable given your state of mind, ask him to rephrase.

Please answer:
Out of what worldview are you operating? What are your presuppositions?

freelunch said...


Pfff, until people start answering the questions I've raised in the actual post, I won't be involved here.


You assume that your questions are meaningful. Since you still haven't defined intelligent design and shown how it can be tested, there's no way to answer your questions.

Paul C said...

Joel: my mistake, but you should think about becoming a pastor, it would be very Joseph Heller.

My guess as to why they don't engage the issue of the designer's nature is because that would require a priori knowledge - I can observe that the tower of Pisa was made by an intelligent agent (okay, bad example... at least a somewhat intelligent agent) even if I know nothing about who or what lived there during the Renaissance.

If I understand correctly, you're arguing that we need a priori knowledge of the designer in order to identify design in the first place - in this case, we know that towers are generally built by humans. If that's the case, how is it possible that proponents of ID opinions can identify design without any a priori knowledge of any intelligent designers?

Paul C said...

Out of what worldview are you operating? What are your presuppositions?

I'm not operating out of any "worldview" because the concept as used by presuppositionalists is meaningless. I don't have any "presuppositions" because the concept as used by presuppositionalists is meaningless. Neither of these points are relevant to this discussion - they are merely diversionary tactics used by presuppositionalists to divert attention from the failure of their arguments.

Anonymous said...

rotsaP loeJ said...

"Anonymous,
You say that classic ID proponents openly admit it is creationism. I am rather skeptical. What's your source?"

Look up the WEDGE document and who founded the Discovery Institute.
And there it is nicely pointed out, Intelligent design is about getting creationism taught in the class.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
I don't suppose you really mean to advance your own ignorance of atheist IDers as a serious argument, do you? What if I tell you I have never been to London, does that settle anything? Anyhow, I did a google search and found a couple of blogs and whatnot. Here's one: http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com/oe/blog/ej_klone

Actually I did advance my own ignorance of atheist IDers. Thanks for the link. So he claims to not believe in supernatural powers, but believes things are designed, but doesn’t provide what designed it. Hrmmmm how does one even begin to counter such a suggestion. Life is obviously designed…can’t come up with anything that did it, or any reason for deciding life was designed…but obviously it is…see its complex.

Again, I’ll stick to my original argument that Atheist cannot believe in Intelligent design, and argue either these “atheist IDers” have not explored their thought pattern very well, or are just hiding a belief in a supernatural being or force, or they believe aliens did it. In which case who created the aliens..or did they evolve. All the last idea does is move the location, and make things more complicated unnecessarily.

freelunch said...

rotsaP loeJ, have you read Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.? Judge John E. Jones III, a GWBush appointee, did an excellent job of learning about the book, the cdesign proponentsists, the history of ID/Creationism, and the dishonesty that the ID/Creationsts brought to bear, both in front of the school board and in court.

The Discovery Institute ran away before they had to take responsibility for their ideas, but they lost because it was their doctrines that lost.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Paul,

No, I'm arguing that design may be detectable even without the first idea of who the agent is. That, at least, is what design theory suggests. Of course, a second moment of the discussion might be inductive arguments from the nature of the design to the nature of the designer: I see a doorway and might reason that whoever designed it is less than eight feet tall and three wide. But the two questions are at least capable of distinction.

I don't profess to follow the mathematical arguments of specified complexity - my career ended with high school trig. But that separation of the fact of design from the identity of the designer seems to be one of ID proponents' key moves.

Anonymous,

So wait, is this the "no true atheist" fallacy? The man says he's an atheist, but you are telling me he isn't because he doesn't meet your standards of orthodoxy? He apparently feels that design and atheism are compatible. Is there some higher authority to which both of you can appeal, or is the only way to settle this the old ad baculum?

Yeah, I've read the Wedge Document. I've also read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It's all a tremendous conspiracy, you're right.

Anonymous said...

So wait, is this the "no true atheist" fallacy? The man says he's an atheist, but you are telling me he isn't because he doesn't meet your standards of orthodoxy? He apparently feels that design and atheism are compatible. Is there some higher authority to which both of you can appeal, or is the only way to settle this the old ad baculum?


he says he believes there is design
If there is design there must be an intelligent designer, after all that is the whole point of ID.

That designer is either A) some form of god or B) aliens.

If it is some form of a god, then he is a theist

if it is aliens, then who designed the aliens?? Which only moves the question of how life arose for the aliens? Was it purely natural or designed by a supernatural force. This is an unnecessary complication, better to answer the question with the life we can observe then postulate on the life we assume exists because things appear designed.

there is no higher authority.. .that’s the point, if you believe there is a higher authority a god to resort to for the answer... then your a theist not atheist.

As I said either they are hiding their theist beliefs, or they have not thought out their position very well.

Unless of course you can explain to me how you can argue for intelligent design...guided design... without having the intelligence guiding it?

but then that would simply be the APPEARANCE of design, which is nicely explained with the good old fashioned TOE, and has no intelligence required.

This isn’t about orthodoxy it is about consistent reasoning. You can’t argue for design without arguing for how that design arises. If you believe it is intelligent design, therefore there is an active intelligence behind it you must ascribe that intelligence to something. That something is either an unintelligently designed life form that arose to design, or a god…Unless you have something else to offer

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
You say that classic ID proponents openly admit it is creationism. I am rather skeptical. What's your source?"


rotsaP loeJ, have you read Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.?

“Yeah, I've read the Wedge Document. I've also read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It's all a tremendous conspiracy, you're right.”

So When I offer you the answer to my source, the founder of the Discovery Institute, writer of the wedge document which points out that Id is simply window-dressing for creationism, and Freelunch reminds you of the poor search and replace done in Of Pandas and People replacing creationism with ID, you sarcastically reply with It’s all a tremendous conspiracy.

But it is, that’s the point. You see ID, isn’t new, its just the new face of Creationism, putting forth the argument that everything was designed, leaving out the for a higher purpose by god. And this is the argument put forth by all religions. TOE shows how the appearance of design arises without a guiding force, without a god. You can still believe in a god if you so desire, but it is irrelevant to life as we know it.

rotsaP loeJ said...

I wonder what your argument would be for prescriptive, as opposed to descriptive, rationality? The former is impossible without some a priori universal teleology; yet here you go telling me that this fellow's atheism is invalid unless he holds it in a rational manner. Why is that a rule? I would say that it's impossible to hold atheism in a rational manner - if the universe is not fundamentally rational, there's no particular reason we ought to be so. But perhaps you have an argument anyways...

Paul C said...

No, I'm arguing that design may be detectable even without the first idea of who the agent is.

What is the actual argument for this? Because I'm having a hard time finding it. I've explained how I think we recognise design - because we recognise patterns that we associate with our own design - but I can't see how you feel able to argue that we can recognise design without that.

Of course, a second moment of the discussion might be inductive arguments from the nature of the design to the nature of the designer: I see a doorway and might reason that whoever designed it is less than eight feet tall and three wide.

The problem with that argument is that if you didn't know what a door was, you wouldn't necessarily be able to make any inferences about any designer. So it falls in the same way.

I don't profess to follow the mathematical arguments of specified complexity

Apparently they're fairly rancid, according to professional mathematicians.