Since I enjoyed Ian Hutchinson’s essay so much, I decided to skip ahead and offer some more commentary.
Many of life’s most important matters simply do not possess reproducibility. History, for example, cannot be understood by appeal to reproducibility. Its most significant events are often unique, never to be repeated. There is no way to experiment on history, and no way to repeat the observations. Some parts of historical study benefit from scientific techniques, but the main mission of history cannot be addressed through reproducibility; its methods are not those of science. Yet history possesses real knowledge.
Here people will quibble about whether or not history is science (it is not). So let’s pick another example that cannot be disputed – memory.
My brain is filled with many, many memories of my life. Such memories constitute real knowledge about my life and those with whom I have interacted. They help to define who I am. Anyone who would doubt that last statement might consider the ravaging effects of Alzheimers Disease.
Yet these memories do not exist as results of scientific inquiry. They were not generated by science. So no one can say that their memories constitute science or scientific evidence. For even memories of doing an experiment do not qualify as scientific evidence. Yet each one us treats, and must treat, our memories as real knowledge. And while there are plenty examples of faulty memory, it is safe to say that for most of us, our memories ARE real knowledge of what has happened on this planet. I don’t know of a single person willing to disavow all their memories because they are not science.
Thus, it is simply false to declare that only science can deliver real knowledge. Just because science can deliver real knowledge does not mean all real knowledge must have come from science.
Or in respect of Clarity, consider the beauty of a sunset, the justice of a verdict, the compassion of a nurse, the drama of a play, the depth of a poem, the terror of a war, the excitement of a symphony, the love of a woman. Which of these can be reduced to the Clarity of a scientific description? Yes, a sunset can be described in terms of the spectral analysis of the light, the causes of the coloration arising from light scattering by particles and molecules, and their arrangement and gradient in the sky. But when all the scientific details of such a description are done, has that explained, or even conveyed, its beauty? Hardly. In fact it has missed the point. Many-layered connections and implications are intrinsically part of the significance of these subjects. We appreciate and understand them, we know them, through sharing conceptually in the interwoven fabric of their often only evocative allusions.
Even Richard Dawkins acknowledges this is true. For example, Dawkins once wrote:
Scientific theories are not prescriptions for how we should behave. I have many times written (for example in the first chapter of A Devil’s Chaplain) that I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to the science of how life has actually evolved, but a passionate ANTI-Darwinian when it comes to the politics of how humans ought to behave. I have several times said that a society based on Darwinian principles would be a very unpleasant society in which to live. I have several times said, starting at the beginning of my very first book, The Selfish Gene, that we should learn to understand natural selection, so that we can oppose any tendency to apply it to human politics.
Clearly Dawkins is trying to convey some sort of knowledge here. Yet it is a knowledge that not only comes from outside of science, but stands in opposition to science. Dawkins appeals to some sense, some power, to overcome our biological conditioning and urges – the ability to be anti-Darwinian.
When you consider what both Hutchinson and Dawkins are saying, it should become apparent that not only is science limited in its ability to deliver knowledge, the knowledge that it delivers is incomplete. In essence, science can only deliver a two-dimensional description of a three-dimensional world.
To bring this discussion more in line with the topics we discuss here, this analysis is yet another road that leads us to realize that the “detection” of design beyond the reach of science. If the ability to detect design is part of the reality that Hutchinson invokes when talking about a sunset, or Dawkins invokes when arguing how we should then live, then it is beyond the reach of science. But it is also no less important or meaningful for being beyond the reach of science. For this observation says more about science itself than it does about design. Which is why the advocates for scientism will resist this insight.