Thursday, October 26, 2006

David Hume on Intelligent Design.


The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion.

(David Hume )

This is the third sentence of his “The Natural History of Religion” 1751

22 Comments:

Anonymous Hrafn said...

Given that Hume was writing before the time of Lamark (who would have been about seven at the time this was written), let alone Darwin, it is hardly surprising that his worldview was distinctly pre-evolutionary. If his views had been otherwise, it is likely that he'd have been hailed as an early evolutionary thinker, not merely as a philosopher.

4:35 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

I posted this because I thought it was an interesting balance to those who seem to think of Hume as an atheistic thinker. It is often suggested that Hume destroyed the design argument.

6:26 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew, I asked this question on another thread and you ignored it. So here goes again:

If the design is ridiculously improbable, how much more ridiculously improbable is the designer?

A response would be apprecited?

7:56 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

appreciated

7:57 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

This is Dawkins supposed demolition of the design argument. However it amounts to a metaphysical claim that an undesigned designer is simply impossible. It is equivalent to asserting that a naturalistic worldview is the only rational approach to scientific investigation. This is to settle the ID debate based upon an untested philosophical rule.

It is equivalent to saying ID is rubbish because I don't believe in God. It is not a scientific argument. It is religion.

10:33 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

allygally said:

"If the design is ridiculously improbable, how much more ridiculously improbable is the designer?"


Andrew replied...
"This is Dawkins supposed demolition of the design argument. However it amounts to a metaphysical claim that an undesigned designer is simply impossible."

No it doesn't. It asks a simple question: you say the design is too improbable, implying you have a number for that improbability. You assert that, if you are right, there must be a designer. Dawkins merely asks: can you give us the improbability number for the designer?
He makes the sensible assumption that the designer is more complex, therefore more improbable, than the designed object.He does not say that the designer is impossible.

He takes your own logic and asks you to stick with it. If you can calculate the odds on the designed object, you can also calculate the odds on the designer. What is it?


"It is equivalent to asserting that a naturalistic worldview is the only rational approach to scientific investigation. This is to settle the ID debate based upon an untested philosophical rule. It is equivalent to saying ID is rubbish because I don't believe in God."

This may indeed be Dawkins' opinion. It may be implied in Dawkins' assumed answer: he thinks you don't have an answer and he has you in a logical trap. But the question is fair and it is neutral. You should answer it.

"It is not a scientific argument. It is religion."

It is not an argument. It is a question. Do you have an answer?

9:04 am  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew said: "It is equivalent to asserting that a naturalistic worldview is the only rational approach to scientific investigation."

It is that. That's what the whole argument is about. ID people want to introduce the religious and supernatural into scientific discourse. Scientists resist, because the basis of real science is in the rational and what we can see and test.

Your wording would seem to imply that it is possible and desirable to have supernatural irrational science.

Do you agree with Behe that we should expand the definition of science to include astrology (so as to squeeze in ID)? In which case it ceases to be science and becomes religion... the very accusation you throw at Dawkins...ironic, n'est ce pas?

9:21 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

In the sense that a civilisation increases the complexity of a designer group then a non-divine designer can be thought of as of equal in complexity to human intelligence but at a higher level of civilisation.

In other words we are no very different in complexity terms as individuals from our great gradnparents but our civilisation is strikingly different.

10:28 am  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew said: "In the sense that a civilisation increases the complexity of a designer group then a non-divine designer can be thought of as of equal in complexity to human intelligence but at a higher level of civilisation."

So it's space aliens now?

"In other words we are no very different in complexity terms as individuals from our great gradnparents but our civilisation is strikingly different."

As my old granda' used to say: Aye. But.

To return to the subject. If you accuse evolution of ignoring probability, and reduce the arguments around evolution to arguments about probability, you reduce your own argument to probability. Far from avoiding your argument, Dawkins is giving it the respect you demand. Of course, if you are unable to reveal your calculation of the probability of the designer, then he will successfully have used your own logic against you. But that's not an unfair mode of argument.

So the question remains: if the design is highly improbable,how much more improbable is the designer? Ten time more improbable? A hundred? A thousand? A trillion?

It's a simple question. The answer is a number. What is the number?

12:03 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

1. Do you think that "directed panspermia" is a scientific hypothesis?

2. Obviously no-one knows the probabilities of the origin or existence of other intelligent agents. The issue is whether we can detect intelligent activity reliably or not. It is the issue of reliably being able to distinguish between different causes.

Let us imagine that the answer was...half as likely as the origin of human intelligence....where does that get us?

It seems to me that we either say that intelligence arose by chance once, by chance more than once or that it pre-exists as a necessary reality. I cannot see how you can rule out any of those three possibilities before you start.

1:52 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"In the sense that a civilisation increases the complexity of a designer group then a non-divine designer can be thought of as of equal in complexity to human intelligence but at a higher level of civilisation."

In that case the probability would be:
P(A sufficiently large and complex biosphere develops that is capable of sustaining life)
x P(that this intelligent lifeform develops)
x P(this intelligent lifeform develops a sufficiently advanced civilisation that it can synthesis and/or radically alter lifeforms)
x P(this civilisation decides to synthesis/alter these lifeforms and then disappear from the scene, leaving no evidence of their existence, other than this synthesis/alteration)

As you can see, this probability is lower than that of life on Earth simply developing on its own. Which I believe was allygally's point.

2:06 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

I said:"It is equivalent to asserting that a naturalistic worldview is the only rational approach to scientific investigation."


You said "Your wording would seem to imply that it is possible and desirable to have supernatural irrational science."

Not at all.
I merely assert that other worldviews are at least as rational as naturalism as an approach to the scientific endeavour. Many great scientists have been and are theists. Ken Miller for example is a theist as is Francis Collins.

I happen also to be of the view that the New Scientist took a very cheap shot with the astrology line on Behe. It was a history of science argument that Behe was involved in not an argument for including astrology in science now.

2:13 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Obviously no-one knows the probabilities of the origin or existence of other intelligent agents."

Yet ID-Creationists continually claim to know the probability that evolution occurred, in spite of the fact that the experts claim that this is impossible to calculate in a meaningful way.

IDers are happy to claim, without any legitimate statistical foundation, that evolution is impossibly improbable, but balk when it is pointed out to them that a designer having done it would have to be even more improbable.

2:14 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I merely assert that other worldviews are at least as rational as naturalism as an approach to the scientific endeavour. Many great scientists have been and are theists. Ken Miller for example is a theist as is Francis Collins."

To the best of my knowledge, both Miller and Collins apply strict Methodological Naturalism in their "scientific endeavour."

Would you like to provide evidence to the contrary, Andrew?

"I happen also to be of the view that the New Scientist took a very cheap shot with the astrology line on Behe. It was a history of science argument that Behe was involved in not an argument for including astrology in science now."

The question that Behe was asked was:
"Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?"

"Is" means that the question was asked in the present tense, about the present. This was not a "history of science" question! Behe attempted to drag history of science into his answer in an attempt to disguise how vacuous his definition of science was.

So the lawyer asked again:
"But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?"

To which Behe answered:
"Yes, that s correct."

The question was asked in the present tense, and Behe answered in the current tense.

Behe was asked, and admitted, that under his definition, Astrology would CURRENTLY be considered 'science.'

2:31 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew said; "Do you think that "directed panspermia" is a scientific hypothesis?"

It's a hypothesis. I have no idea of the level of scientific evidence for it.

"Obviously no-one knows the probabilities of the origin or existence of other intelligent agents"

You could make a stab at the odds of alien intelligence. The odds against God would be a different matter.

"The issue is whether we can detect intelligent activity reliably or not."

Surely we can detect human intelligence fairly easily. If I see a watch upon the ground....

"It is the issue of reliably being able to distinguish between different causes."

The watch was dsigned by a human. The flagellum was designed by evolution.

"Let us imagine that the answer was...half as likely as the origin of human intelligence....where does that get us?"

Somewhere - if we know the probability of the origins of human intelligence, i.e. we have a number for that probability. If something is "half as likely" we would also have that number. You say you can tell the probability that an object is designed. I.e.you have a number. If the probability of the designer was half (or twice) as probable, then you would have another number. That would answer the question.

"It seems to me that we either say that intelligence arose by chance once, by chance more than once or that it pre-exists as a necessary reality. I cannot see how you can rule out any of those three possibilities before you start."

Intelligence could have evolved. Then it would have been the result of a process, not chance.

And none of this answers Dawkins' question. You would have us believe that a particular design is trillions against, in your opinion too improbable to happen without a designer. So what is the probablity of a designer capable of producing a design of which the odds against is trillions?

And if you cannot believe in a design of trillions against, how can you logically and honestly believe in a designer the odds against whose existence is orders of magnitude greater?

2:51 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

So do you understand from this quotation that Behe considers the various aspects of currently practised astrology as legitimate science? Is that a fair reading?

3:26 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

I don't know what Behe thinks.

Under oath, Behe presented his favoured definition of science.

Again under oath, he admitted that this definition would include Astrology.

Whether that means that Behe thinks that Astrology is Science, that his definition is flawed or doesn't know what he thinks, I don't know.

However, given that he presented this definition and made this admission under oath, it is not unreasonable to infer (lacking a repudiation of either definition or admission) that he believes that Astrology is Science.

Another, probably more accurate, inference would be that Behe was foolish enough to testify about a number of issues well outside his field of expertise and, because of this, got repeatedly demolished on cross-examination, and got trapped into making this admission.

This is why we allow cross-examination of expert witnesses - to test whether their testimony is sufficiently knowledgeable, credible and consistent to be relied upon.

I again point you to the SCOTUS Daubert Standard.

3:51 pm  
Blogger Guy Barry said...

I think Hume could never be an evolutionary thinker,by the way Darwin repented of Evolution before he died.
?

11:27 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"...by the way Darwin repented of Evolution before he died."

Guy Barry:

Would you be prepared to substantiate this absurd assertion, or should I just start laughing at you now?

Darwin's statements in latter life at times express a certain wistfulness for the simplicity of the Creationism of his youth, but as far as I know he never rejected Evolution by Natural Selection intellectually.

2:47 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

I have never seen any evidence that Darwin changed his views on his deathbed or anywhere else.

I have heard that he was impressed with missionary work and supported missionary organisations.

2:03 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Francis Collins believes (I think) that cosmological fine tuning is evidence for theism.

2:04 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Francis Collins believes (I think) that cosmological fine tuning is evidence for theism."

This belief is not a "scientific endeavour" however. For one thing, Collins is not an astrophysicist - so is speaking as an educated layman, not as a scientist, on cosmological matters.

6:28 am  

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