Thursday, December 08, 2005

god said let there be snow and there was a shit ton of snow...and Dembski is still misleading!

...and it was good because I am well provisioned bitches!

Anyway, there's about 5 inches of snow on the ground right now and it's supposed to fall until midnight or so...I love snow. I wish I lived in the mountains. Anyway, luckily, I don't have to go out anywhere because I am well provisioned. I have 2lbs of chicken breast I'm going to fry up...that's right...fried chicked. And I have a bunch of potatoes I'm going to mash up...that's right...mashed potatoes. I might even put some roasted garlic in them. That's right. I even have a bit of broccoli I might steam up...that's right...steamed broccoli. Oh, yeah, did I mention I have the whole first season of the Sopranos? That's right...the whole first season. Oh, and I have a 14oz bottle of Adnam's Broadside strong Ale? That's right...english strong ale to warm me from the inside. And an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels? That's right...Tennessee whiskey mother fuckers. Looks like I'm good to go.

So Dembski is still at it. I know, I'm shocked. His latest post is really funny. It's a letter he received from a 'colleague'. Just in case he removes the whole post, which he's done before, I've reproduced the whole thing below followed by a comment I posted. I'm sure it will get deleted.


"[From a philosopher colleague:]

I am visiting Harvard, and I was reading the conservative student
paper here, and came across an interesting quote from from Richard
Wrangham, a biologist, on the gaps in science that Intelligent Design
theorists point to: “Given that everything we know about science
gives us confidence that these details either have already or will
shortly be provided, this is both an unhelpful and an improbable claim.”

Nevermind the Intelligent Design context specifically. What I am
interested in is whether there can be a good reason for a naturalist
(and this guy may not be one, though his being a biologist, alas, makes
it more likely than not given the stats) to believe of an unsolved
scientific problem that a solution will eventually be found
(”shortly” or not). The argument seems to be an induction: We have
solved so many prior scientific problems that we have a reasonable
confidence that we will solve this one.

Now, if one were a theist who believed with Descartes that God made
a world for us to get to know and understand, this would be an
eminently reasonable claim. But I wonder if a naturalist can have
reason to be confident about the solvability of currently unsolved
scientific problems. A naturalist has no _a priori_ reason to
suppose that nature is easily knowable. Wrangham, though, is making
an _a posteriori_ claim. However, even that seems unjustified. Yes,
we have solved many problems that seem insoluble, and the solutions
have tended to be relatively simple.

However that seems to be no grounds for an inductive conclusion that
all scientific problems have relatively simple solutions, as one’s
inductive sample is relevantly biased: All the problems in one’s
inductive sample are ones that we managed to solve. Moreover, we
cannot usefully say that (*) the solutions have tended to be
relatively simple. For the only sense of “relatively simple” that
makes (*) true is “simple enough to be solved by us” (after all, some
problems are very complicated–hours and hours of computer simulation
are needed, really messy equations appear, complex non-selective
“spandrel”-type evolutionary stories are given, etc.) But then all
we have as inductive data is that we have solved many problems and
these have turned out to be solvable by us. And that, of course, is
simply equivalent to the claim that we have solved many problems.
And this, in turn, at most justifies the conclusion that we will
solve many more.

Now if the data available to us said: (**) Of any set of scientific
problems humans would like answers to, most get solved eventually,
then an argument could get off the ground. But I am not sure (**) is
true or even makes sense. Counting and individuating scientific
problems is a dubious endeavor. Moreover, for many scientific
problems we only have outlines of solutions. We have a confidence
that the details can be filled in, e.g., in our knowledge of why
hurricanes happen (is that a good example?), but this confidence is
not grounded in us actually having filled in the details.

So, the question is this: Can one argue that if one is a naturalist,
one has no reason to expect currently open scientific problems to
ever get solved (maybe with the exception of some problems where our
present knowledge of the laws of nature assures us that a solution is
available in principle and it is just a matter of plugging ahead and
figuring out various parameters, and we are assured of a solution)?
And could one turn this into an argument against naturalism?"

My comment:

This is an interesting post (assuming you endorse this post which I think you do) considering that you have extensive training in the history and philosophy of science, or so at least I'm led to believe but I have no confirmation of this fact. It's also surprising because either the post is fake or, more likely, there is a huge disconnect between philosophy and philosophy of science. Notwithstanding the fact that it was a biologist who made the argument, the philosopher who made the remarks against the biologist's argument apparently isn't familiar with the fairly well known argument I'm about to recite below and it's also interesting that you take his argument against the 'optimistic induction' of the biologist to be worth something, preseumable in favor of ID.

The opposite conclusion than that offered in the post above is typically arrived at by historians and philosophers of science. As you probably well know, it's called the 'pessimistic meta-induction'. It goes something like this: all of our scientific theories in the past have been shown to be false eventhough many of them were very empirically successful, therefore why should be expect any of our theories now or in the future, even if they are empirically successful, to not be false?

Unfortunately, for you, I don't think many people use the pessimistic meta-induction (PMI) to argue that ID should be considered a rival to evolutionary biology. And even if they did, it would be a bit self defeating wouldn't it? And it reveals something interesting about ID: the PMI is an argument that all scientific theories will eventually be shown to false. Well, actually, I guess a theory has to be scientific, i.e. falsifiable at least in principle, to be possibly demonstrated to be false, so I guess ID doesn't really qualify. Ha.

Moreover, just because a theory will most likely be shown to be false doesn't mean it's not a good theory and that we should reject it, or for that matter, we should reject all theories because they'll eventually be shown to be false. However, it's also the case that evolutionary biology is a far better theory (on any account) than ID, and until the day ID becomes a better theory (which will be never, I'm pretty sure of that), than perhaps people will consider giving up evolution. And while all your 'Kuhnian resistance to revolution' crap is true to some extent, you exaggerate beyond all measure when you claim that's what's happening with ID and evolutionary biology now. And you know it.

Anywho, good luck trying to dupe people over with mis information. And it's that much worse that you know this post was mis information.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Big Daddy,
How much of that chicken breast did you end up eating?
And speaking of breasts, when's the next time you're going to feel up mine. Oh, yeah, Big Daddy I want to fuck you!
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