Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is there an "F" in Moron?

Steve Zara has started a conversation about whether Intelligent Design is science or not on his blog.

Someone pointed out that a specific claim that some biological structure is "irreducibly complex" can be falsified. Therefore, the common assertion that ID is non-falsifiable is wrong.

But hold on. Don't you smell something kinda fishy about this notion of "irreducible complexity"? Perhaps we ought to stop and take a closer look.

When someone declares that a natural structure is irreducibly complex, he's saying effectively, "I have no idea how the hell that got like that." Phrased thusly, it's easy to recognize an old friend: the argument from ignorance.

Notice that the argument from ignorance says something about the speaker, but actually nothing about the object of his remarks.

So yes, I concede that the statement: "I am an effin' moron" is falsifiable.

But I ask, dear reader, does the effort to challenge this hypothesis advance the cause of science?

Hmm. I think not.


  1. I kind of hoped this would turn into a blog, and not just a repository of Benway treasures :)

    I think there is something far deeper going than just an argument from ignorance, and I think it illustrates the deep religious foundations of ID. There are so many aspects of ID that are astonishingly arrogant. The idea that we are something specifically designed is one of them. Another is that we are capable of recognising design - that our puny brains are an effective filter for deciding what what nature alone can and can't achieve. It really is amazingly (although perhaps not surprisingly) self-centred.

    By the way, sorry if it takes a while for your comments to appear on that thread on my blog. I have turned on screening of comments, so I can actually implement a "three strikes and you are out" policy if required.

  2. Totally agree. It is true that we can falsify the claim that something is irreducibly complex. The problem for ID is that we constantly do that to them. Why then should it be given any time as it is as valid an explanation as the phlogiston hypothesis. It is just something that keeps shouting "I'm a crap explanation, shoot me down".
    What would be more useful would be if they could prove that something is irreducibly complex.
    All an argument from ignorance does is show that you are ignorant. It provides no positive evidence for your case.

    The Thing I notice about IDiots is that they have a model that they try and force the data into with increasingly convoluted thinking, that means they have to deny other things (like radiodating of transitional fossils) and make convoluted stories to explain others.
    It demonstrates that they are not looking to investigate, but to attempt to justify their beliefs at any intellectual cost

  3. The difference is that irreducible complexity can be falsified by thought experiments. It doesn't take a minute of bench work to test any hypothesis. Heck, Ken Miller can do it with a mousetrap.

  4. Yo brian! The orioles are here. I'm just waitin' on the hummingbirds.

  5. Good point James. Perhaps we should start a running list for the many ways one may kick irreducible complexity's ass to the curb:

    1. "I don't know" is always the default position in science. As IC = "I don't know," there's nothing special about it.

    2. IC is an argument from ignorance.

    3. And an argument from personal incredulity.

    4. IC demonstrates bifurcation or false dichotomy: even if we can't explain how some structure might result from natural selection, that doesn't prove God designed the structure.

    5. Anthropomorphism: The design inference results from human experience with things designed by humans. No reason the non-human designer would create things that seem designed to humans. H.T: Steve

    6. People have already demonstrated how natural selection can produce irreducible complexity - e.g, the eye.

    7. Mousetrap. Parts can be useful apart from their structure.