My Inner Felix

In the comments section of a previous entry, chunkdz posed an excellent question to me.  So let me use this opportunity to stand on my soapbox.

First, you are asserting that your approach is not science but simply “open-ended curiosity, guided by critical thinking and intellectual honesty”

But you simultaneously acknowledge Haack’s assertion that science is not limited to the scientific method but that it should include “everyday modes of inquiry”:

“…scientific inquiry is contiguous with everyday empirical inquiry. Everyday knowledge is supplemented by evolving aids that emerge throughout the process of honest inquiry. These include the cognitive tools of analogy and metaphor that help to frame the object of inquiry into familiar terms.”

Sounds like a description of your own Design Matrix. An “everyday mode of inquiry”, as the article says, which relies upon analogy, metaphor, and honest inquiry.

If Susan Haack says your approach is contiguous with scientific inquiry and therefore part of science – then why should you so vehemently disagree?

Yes, Haack’s description is very close to what The Design Matrix is all about and I am delighted that chunkdz sees this.  But I don’t think she is saying science is not limited to the scientific method but that it should include “everyday modes of inquiry.”  If she is, I am not.  What I am saying, and I think she is saying, is that the scientific method is not limited to the domain of science as the scientific method is part of everyday modes of inquiry.  That is, since we can all employ the scientific method in everyday modes of inquiry, we should not fall victim to the message of those who preach scientism  – “Either your views are part of science and of great value or they are little more than subjective fantasy and of little value.”

So why is it that I do not consider my approach as part of science?

First, there is my inner Felix.

(the guy with the cigar goes by the screen name “Rock”)

Here’s my inner Felix layin’ down the law to science’s #1 blogger.  What’s that?  I’m not supposed to practice what I preach?  I think not.  Speculating about design in a book or on a blog no more rises to the level of science than Richard Dawkins arguing against the existence of God in a book or magazine article.  I think we live in a society that all too often uses the word ‘science’ and ‘scientific’ in sloppy and reckless ways and this simply plays into the perpetuation of scientism.  So I’m trying to do my part to tidy things up a bit

Second, as I have been pointing out for some time now, the ability to detect design entails a subjective judgment call, while science must be anchored in objective measurement.  Consider, for example, the criterion of Rationality as laid out in The Design Matrix.  I happen to think it is an important criterion that gets us closer to design than any of the popular Complexity arguments out there.  The problem is that Rationality is subjectively perceived and cannot really be objectively measured. How would one measure rationality such that nearly everyone would come to the same conclusion about the rational content of any system?  What would be the units of measurement for Rationality?  Lepus?  System X is likely to be designed because our Rationality-Meter scores it at 4.6 Leps? I don’t see it.  Can rationality truly be housed in some reductionist framework?  Again, I don’t see it.

If someone wants the Design Matrix to become science, they would need to come up with ways to objectively measure  the four criteria.  Until that is done, it’s simply not science.  Of course, that does not mean the Matrix is useless and a waste of time.  Only someone beholden to scientism would think that.

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4 responses to “My Inner Felix

  1. Mike-

    Do you think that universal common descent is science?

    There isn’t any way to objectively measure it.

  2. Michael: What I am saying, and I think she is saying, is that the scientific method is not limited to the domain of science as the scientific method is part of everyday modes of inquiry.

    I suppose you are right about this. Here’s a quote from Haack:

    “[Science] has managed to discover a great deal about the world and how it works, but it is a thoroughly human enterprise, messy, fallible, and fumbling; and rather than using a uniquely rational method unavailable to other inquirers, it is continuous with the most ordinary of empirical inquiry, ‘nothing more than a refinement of our everyday thinking,’ as Einstein once put it.

  3. Thanks for that quote. I’m going to have to read her book some time.

  4. Sheesh! Looka the size of that blunt!
    That explains a lot, doesn’t it?

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