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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Intelligent design: Both unfalsifiable and falsified?

Privileged Planet authors Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez argue in the Philedelphia Inquirer that

ID is said to be unscientific because it is supposedly unfalsifiable or untestable: Nothing can count against it. Some critics even claim, in the same breath, both that ID is unfalsifiable and that it has been falsified. We recently received a set of questions from a reporter doing a story on ID. One question asked how we dealt with the fact that intelligent design was unfalsifiable. Another asked for our response to biologist Ken Miller's refutation of Michael Behe's design argument. But these objections can't both be true. If ID can't be falsified, then scientific evidence can't falsify it. And if evidence can falsify it, then ID can't be unfalsifiable. Such contradictory objections should arouse our suspicions.

Being open to evidence from nature is perhaps the cardinal scientific virtue. This is why contemporary arguments for intelligent design spend a lot of time on empirical evidence, and only then defend design as the best explanation for the evidence. Unfortunately, critics of intelligent design have mostly avoided the actual arguments and evidence offered by design theorists.

Actually, it's not so much that the critics avoid evidence as that - so far as I can determine - they do not acknowledge that evidence for design could exist. That is, if it is evidence, it cannot be evidence for design, and if it is evidence for design it cannot be evidence. Thus, no matter what Gonzalez found about the unusually favourable position of Earth in the galaxy, that could not - by definition - be evidence for design. And anyone who suggests it might be could lose their job or fial to get tenure as a prof. To the extent that the anti-ID folk see science as the accumulation of evidence that things were not designed, there is no chance of the two groups discussing evidence in a fruitful way.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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