Saturday, June 03, 2006

Paul Nelson Vs Keith Miller.

Ed Brayton has kindly responded to my last post on this discussion here and John Rennie at the Scientific American Blog has waded in with his view here.

I just started reading (again) the Word document of the exchange between Keith Miller and Paul Nelson which I am finding fascinating.

Interestingly Nelson provides a context for his view of "natural regularity" early on in the exchange....

"Is it possible, using ordinary scientific methods, to detect an “intelligent” intrusional event? By “intelligent,” I mean a mode of causation not reducible to natural regularities or chance events. Is intelligent causation a legitimate scientific inference?"

Thus the frame of the discussion is whether this classification of causation is acceptable or not.
Is intelligent causation reducible to "natural regularities or chance events" (or a mixture of both)? Is it legitimate to defend another seperate class of intelligently caused events (even if we insist that they are natural and physical events through and through.)

Miller responds with the view that we can never infer an intelligent cause because we can never exhaust the possibilities of "natural regularities and chance events." A design inference he says is theological and thus outside of science.

Nelson then asks Miller if it is "religious" to infer that Miller's email had an intelligent cause.

Miller is caught between a rock and a hard place now... He tries to account for responsible intelligent causation at the level of neuronal activity plus a gentically controlled embryonic development plus past evolution ....but as a professing Christian he is obviously somewhat uncomfortable with this view of a human being....however the important point is that eventually he comes down with the final answer....

YES... it is religious to infer that his own email had an intelligent cause!

As Nelson later points out this has interesting consequences!

The inference that the man found with stolen property is the responsible intelligent cause of the broken car window is also a religious inference.

It is Nelson's frustration that a professing Christian should tie himself into such ridiculous knots that results in his unwise caricature of Millers arguments. Millers conclusion here is silly and does deserve to be laughed at. He made a mistake.

Presumably the general consensus is that Keith Miller is wrong in his conclusion here. Presumably Keith does not wish to maintain this view.
Presumably Ed Brayton and John Rennie agree that he is wrong here.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is it possible, using ordinary scientific methods, to detect an “intelligent” intrusional event? By “intelligent,” I mean a mode of causation not reducible to natural regularities or chance events. Is intelligent causation a legitimate scientific inference?"

How is natural intelligence (i.e. that exhibited, for instance, by humans) not a "natural regularity? It is governed by known and/or potenially knowable regularities in fields such as psychology, neurology, physiology, etc.

What possible justification does Nelson have for claiming that "intelligence" and "natural regularity" are mutually exclusive? If this assertion is false (and it appears to be completely unsubstantiated), then Nelson's entire line of attack falles apart. Miller's real mistake was to allow Nelson to frame the debate in this completely illegitimate manner.

10:07 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous,

You said:
What possible justification does Nelson have for claiming that "intelligence" and "natural regularity" are mutually exclusive?

You are highlighting the point of the argument which really interests me and I hope to put together a post on this.

10:13 am  
Blogger Christoph Heilig said...

Where can I get this word - document?

3:42 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Christoph,

I simply made my own word document fron the "idthefuture" page... I find it easier to read and kep track of what people are saying and put in my own comments etc...

The page I used is here

3:50 pm  
Blogger Christoph Heilig said...

thank you very much!

8:47 pm  

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