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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nine predictions, if intelligent design is true

I blog at Uncommon Descent, a community blog where this question was sent to Bill Dembski by a TV chase producer:
... can you or they provide any samples of things that intelligent design theory has predicted, which researchers have later determined to be true?

I gather Dembski sent that guy some predictions, but I've been busy, so I didn't get around to compiling any suggestions till now. Figured I'd post them here.

1. No good theory will be found for a random origin of the universe, either by the Large Hadron Collider or anything else. The universe will consistently behave more like a great idea than a great machine.

Positive prediction: An end to unfalsifiable ideas about zillions of flopped universes and a focus on how we can best explore our own universe, as per The Privileged Planet .

2. No good theory will be found for a random origin of life, though there will be plenty of huffing and puffing in favour of bad ideas. All theories that exclude purpose and design fail because they leave out the key driver - the purpose that life should come into existence.

Positive prediction: We will learn more about the real nature of our universe and our place in it, and how best we can explore it when we accept the fact that it didn't "just happen."

3. Complete series of transitional fossils will not usually be found because most proposed series have never existed. Eventually, researchers will give up on ideologically driven nonsense and address the history that IS there. They will focus on discovering the mechanisms that drive sudden bursts of creativity.

Positive prediction: Discovering the true mechanisms of bursts of natural creativity may be of immense value to us, especially if we need to undo some significant harm to our environment.

4. The environment will prove far more resilient than eco-doomsayers believe. People forget that the Permian extinction wiped out 90% of the marine life forms on this planet. Life seems to want to exist on this planet, even at the South Pole (cf March of the Penguins). Note: I have no time for environment destruction, and personally gave up keeping a car, as the simplest and most economical way to reduce my environment footprint. But I am NOT waiting for enviro-apocalypse!! - I don't believe it will happen. There will be changes. That's all. Not the end of the world or anything like it.

5. No account of human evolution will show a long slow emergence from unconsciousness to semi-consciousness to consciousness, let alone that consciousness is merely the random firing of neurons in the brain. However consciousness got started, it appeared rather suddenly and it permanently separates humans from our genetic kin, however you want to do the gene numbers and however much time researchers spend coaxing monkeys to stop relieving themselves on the keyboard and type something meaningful.

Positive prediction: We will focus on what consciousness can do, especially in treatment of mental disorders. Yes, a drugged up zombie is better than a suicide, but only because the zombie isn't technically dead. Why stop there?

6. Claims that the human brain is full of "anachronistic junk" will be falsified, just as century old claims that there are hundreds of vestigial organs in the human body were falsified. The human body will be recognized as suitable for the purposes for which we exist. (Not in all cases perfect, to be sure, but in general suitable.)

Positive prediction: We will discover the functions of many brain areas whose functions we did not know before.

7. No useful theory of consciousness will demonstrate that consciousness is merely the outcome of the random firing of neurons in the brain. All useful theories will accept that the mind and the brain exist in a relationship. Research will focus on delineating the relationship more clearly. That will greatly benefit medical research, especially research on difficult mental disorders such as phobias, depression, etc.

Positive prediction: We can have a better grasp of what consciousness does and how it relates us to our environment.

8. No useful theory of free will (human volition) will demonstrate that it does not really exist. Free will (which includes using the mind to help heal bodily injuries) will become an important tool of medicine, especially for helping aging people toward a better quality of life. For example, the fact that a drug only need perform 5% better than a placebo to be licensed for use will encourage the development of mind-based treatments for people who would otherwise be forced to take antagonistic drugs.

Positive prediction: Better health care for people with complex illnesses

9. No useful theory of human psychology will be founded on claims about what happened in the caves of our ancestors (= evolutionary psychology). That is because there are no genes that simply "cause" behaviour in a clinically normal human being. The mind is real and humans create their social environment by mental effort. Information is passed on from mind to mind, not through genes or physiology.

Positive prediction: For example, if one culture decrees that "God says you SHOULD beat your wife" and another culture says that "God says you SHOULDN'T beat your wife", the observed instance of wife-beating will be lower in the second culture than in the first. Human nature may be the same everywhere, but human behaviour is predicted by culture. So culture matters.

10. I have decided to add a tenth prediction (but I am not changing the hedder for tech reasons). The ID guys will win because they are more interesting. I just got done rejecting a whack of comments by people I take to be boring young fogies with plenty of time on their hands (a problem I certainly don't have).

Goood heavens, if you are already a fogie in your thirties, don't write to me, get a life. I don't even know any OLD fogies and don't want to.

Blogging may be light this week as I will be doing media and also editing a book (someone else's). I have closed the combox on this one for time management reasons.

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