Why the Rule?

I have informed you of a crucial rule in science as articulated by many leading mainstream scientiststhe concepts of goals or purposes have no place in biology. We have also seen that the situation becomes more clear when we focus on this rule from a sociological rather than a philosophical perspective – the rule is a feature or trait of science. It makes no sense to have debates about science while ignoring one of its core traits. So let’s now turn to why it is that the rule exists in science.

We can understand why the rule exists as a feature of science when we make another sociological observation about science:

Without independent evidence of the designers, science has no method to evaluate and determine whether or not something was designed.

When we look to science to identify the disciplines that do have methods to evaluate and determine whether or not something was designed, they invariably rely on a large set of independent evidence about the designers.  Thus, as a matter of simple sociological observation, we find science has no method to evaluate and determine whether or not something was designed when it has no independent knowledge of the designers to work with.

So why is it that science requires such independent knowledge of the designers?  At this point, let’s go back and consider one of the first entries to this blog. I am convinced that Jacques Monod has spelled out the essential aspect of any design inference:

Hence it is through reference to our own activity, conscious and projective, intentional and purposive-it is as makers of artifacts-that we judge of a given object’s “naturalness” or “artificialness.”

And as I commented at the time:

A reference to our own activity is an appeal to subjective knowledge. And maybe it is simply not possible to make such judgments without accessing this subjective element. After all, recognizing design may indeed be akin to recognizing another mind. For how do we recognize other minds if not by recognizing what they design?

This would explain why science has never come up with an objective method for detecting the existence of design. We cannot truly measure the conscious, projective, intentional and purposive activity of the mind, yet as Dan Berger notes, “crudely speaking, that’s what scientists do: number, weigh and measure.”  Since measurement is the foundational aspect of objective knowledge and science, it would mean that science cannot ever truly detect design.

So there you have it.  Since design originates as part of a conceptual reality, as explained here and here, we are not going to be able to detect it objectively unless we already have knowledge about the putative designers.  For it is the knowledge about the designers that gives us the objective anchor – something to measure, characterize, and then apply.

Let me sum it up.  The rule exists because there is no way to objectively measure goals or purposes. A goal or purpose is only recognized subjectively – we all subjectively have goals and purposes and act on them, so we can recognize it when others act accordingly. But of course, we also have a tendency to “recognize” goals and purposes when they don’t exist in other minds.  And that’s a big problem.

In order for a telic inquiry to be science, it needs a way to a) objectively detect purposes and goals and b) control for the fact that we can see purpose when no purpose exists and don’t see purpose when purpose does exist.  Since we have neither, science cannot detect design without independent knowledge about the designers.

Take the hypothesis that evolution was designed.  It is a reasonable hypothesis that has become increasingly plausible over the years (as I have shown).  But it can really never rise to the level of science.  To place this hypothesis in science, we would need controls.  For example, we would need a planet A where evolution has been designed by designer X.  We would also need a planet B, where it was independently known that the evolution occurred on this planet without any input from a designer.

If we had that information, planet A would serve as the positive control and planet B would serve as the negative control, with our planet being the unknown.  We could thus takes the measured features of both planets and use that information to probe our planet to determine the degree to which our evolution was like that of planet A or B and proceed to make an objective case rooted in measurement.

But we will never have that information.

10 responses to “Why the Rule?

  1. Here’s the your problem, Mike:

    Science has already staked out a claim on the origin of life. They’ve put up a fence around it, with signs marked, “This is for us scientists to figure out. Anyone trying to figure out the origin of life in a non-scientific way is trespassing. And that includes you, Mike Gene.”

    So go ahead and complain about how the ID movement is violating the proper domain of those poor embattled, hard-working scientists all you want. As far as the scientists are concerned, you are just as much the enemy as the ID movement.

  2. By the way, if SETI ever gets that signal, there will be scientists trying to come up with a non-teleological explanation. But nobody will be screaming that SETI has violated the proper domain of science.

    Except you.

  3. Bilbo,

    I am not complaining about the ID movement or screaming about SETI. I’m just laying out what I see as clearly as I can.

  4. It sounds like you are justifying the very people who say that what you are trying to do is completely illegitimate. Only science has the right to investigate the origin of life. You are investigating the origin of life. But by you’re own admission, you are not doing science. Therefore you are doing something you shoukd not be doing. So stop it.

  5. But who said only science has the right to investigate the origin of life? Or whether or not evolution has a goal? As I have shown for years, the ability to investigate, the ability to form testable hypotheses, and the ability to employ critical thinking, are NOT the exclusive domain of science. They occur outside of science all the time, as these are human expressions.

    People should not confuse science with scientism.

  6. Without independent evidence of the designers, science has no method to evaluate and determine whether or not something was designed.

    What does that mean?

    The evidence for design in physics is independent of the evidence for design in biology which is independent from the evidence for design in cosmology which is independent from the evidence of design in chemistry.

    The rule exists because there is no way to objectively measure goals or purposes.

    And yet forensic science does that on a daily basis- that is they find “intent” within crimes.

    They do so by figuring out what it took to do whatever was done.

  7. OK, Mike, you are disputing science’s claim that only science has the right to investigate the origin of life.

    Let’s assume your endeavor succeeds, and you demonstrate that the first cells were very probably designed. At that point science will say that you were doing science, regardless of your protests to the contrary.

    And this whole discussion will have been for nought.

  8. Pingback: The Question «

  9. If “The Question” is supposed to answer my last comment, then I fail to see how it does.

  10. Nah, it was already in the pipeline and refers to the “what would you….” questions in that entry.

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