04 Dec 2019

Bob Murphy Show ep. 82: Why “Intelligent Design” Is a Scientific Theory

Bob Murphy Show, Evolution 37 Comments

Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, I should’ve titled this one differently. I’m actually just refuting one particular argument that ID is not a scientific theory. But that of course isn’t the same as me arguing that it is a scientific theory.

In any event, here it is.

37 Responses to “Bob Murphy Show ep. 82: Why “Intelligent Design” Is a Scientific Theory”

  1. Harold says:

    Interesting episode.

    A somewhat pedantic response is that ID is absolutely not a scientific theory because a theory in science is very close to fact.

    I understand that it is used here with the colloquial meaning, which is closer to hypothesis, or conjecture in science.

    Whilst this may seem pedantic, it is very important. We should be clear about our terms within this discussion, lest the theory of evolution is mixed up with the ID conjecture.

    Evolution is a theory because it has been tested for hundreds of years and all evidence fits, whilst no evidence is contradictory. I won’t go into that again as I discussed it at length in the previous post.

    ID is not a theory because it does not have a wealth of evidence and has not been tested sufficiently to be elevated to the rank of theory.

    ID certainly and absolutely does not have equal scientific footing with evolution. This is enough to justify not teaching it in the classroom as an alternative, so for practical purposes the argument is over here.

    On a philosophical note, can we reasonably discuss whether a conjecture is scientific or not? I am not sure that it even makes sense.

    Science is a process, starting with observation, then conjecture or hypothesis, then testing and refining the hypothesis. The hypothesis must be useful, in that it can predict new observations which may or may not be the result of experiment. Every time new evidence arises the hypothesis must be able to fit the evidence. A good example with evolution is when molecular biology became a new thing, the hypothesis of evolution had to fit this new evidence. Pretty much without exception it does. At some point there is sufficient confidence that the hypothesis will not be found false, and it becomes a theory. Are we 100% certain? No, because we never are in science.

    Any conjecture can be part of the scientific process, but a conjecture alone is not science per se. It only becomes scientific when it has been through more of the scientific process.

    Your flu example fails because the man-made origins could possibly be tested. We have the natural world to compare it to. We can look for genetic markers that would reveal genetic manipulation. We can look for DNA patterns that cannot occur in nature given our understanding of the molecular biology. No scientist would respond in the way you describe because we do have a scientific way to investigate.

    Also, there is a distinction between abiogenesis and evolution. Evolution does not explain abiogenesis, but it does explain the variety of life on Earth today. So your discussion of aliens being the cause of abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolution. If the aliens were the source of life, evolution would still be a fact. Whilst we do have hypotheses about abiogenesis, we do not understand it as well as evolution. This is why we do not have a Theory of Abiogenesis. It is still a somewhat open question. Scientists have conjectured that life came from space.

    The rocks example is not comparable to evolution because you are starting from an end point (the letters that are already defined) and saying this particular end point could not have arisen by chance. It would be more comparable to see rocks in a complicated pattern and saying this pattern could form alien letters (with which we are not familiar) and these letters could not have arisen by chance.

    Irreducible complexity has failed to demonstrate that complex form could not have arisen through evolution.

    In your conclusion, you say ID is a scientific hypothesis. I think it more conjecture than hypothesis, but even if we grant you this it does not in any way justify teaching it because a hypothesis is at best only the start point of science.

    • Very Harold says:

      Irreducible complexity has failed to demonstrate that complex form could not have arisen through evolution.

      It is not incumbent upon the world at large to prove the negative of an extraordinary claim. On the contrary, it is incumbent upon the claimant to provide sufficient evidence to prove his extraordinary claim. Every amateur scientist is taught this during basic introductory instruction. This may seem pedantic, but it is very, very important. The argument from ignorance is a logical fallacy, after all.

      • Harold says:

        From wikipedia (but use your own source if you prefer):
        “Irreducible complexity (IC) involves the idea that certain biological systems cannot evolve by successive small modifications to pre-existing functional systems through natural selection.”

        If you think it serves some other purpose in this discussion, please let us know.

        • Andrew in MD says:

          You’re treating irreducible complexity as if it were a theory that needs to be proven or supported by evidence. That’s not what it is. It is a criticism of the theory of evolution and of a natural origin of life. It is one for which evolutionists have not provided a satisfying response. The claim of the theory of evolution is that “every feature of every lifeform could have arisen naturally through evolution.” The criticism of irreducible complexity points out that there are numerous features of life for which evolution has no satisfying explanation. That is a claim with plenty of backing and it doesn’t go away just because Harold or anyone else says, “nuh uh!”

          You act as if the theory of evolution has many successful predictions under its belt because a few post-Darwin discoveries fit somewhat well with the theory of evolution. But most of these discoveries were not explicitly predicted by evolutionists, they just happen to align with certain features of the evolution theory. Evolution can’t even describe the history of species in a scientific manner. Predictions much less so.

          Furthermore, you very freely expand and contract your conception of evolution as it suits your argument in the moment: very motte and bailey. At times you act as if the existence of heritable traits is evidence of evolution, when heritable traits were a well known phenomenon before evolution existed. And you seem to believe the field of genetics is a sub-aspect of the theory of evolution, rather than a well studied set of specific phenomena that exists in parallel to the more nebulous theory of evolution.

          Finally, you claim that Newtonian physics has been disproved because we’ve made discoveries that require a more nuanced understanding of bodies in motion. At this point, I feel like I’ve chased this weasel all the way around the mulberry bush. Newtonian physics has been disproved but evolution has not? Newtonian physics is a disproved theory that we should continue to teach in schools? Look, clearly evolution has come into multiple problems where it failed to explain some aspect of the procession of biological traits. And each time, evolutionists don’t say, “Well, evolution is disproved, I guess we need a new theory.” No, they say, “Ah, we discovered a new aspect of evolution and we’re adding a new mechanism to the list.” In this way, evolution is an amorphous theory that is not falsifiable. Every time it trips over a hurdle, it just adds more wrinkles to the system, just like flat earth or any other system at odds with reality.

          And here’s the underlying problem Harold. Evolution, as it is currently held, is an umbrella term for a number of mechanisms that have varying degrees of evidence supporting them. The individual mechanisms have no real problem with them. They are themselves, generally reasonable theories. Evolution, as a concept, adds nothing to the underlying mechanisms and is not a scientific theory in and of itself. Because evolution makes the claim that these mechanisms are the sole method by which all features of life arise. If that’s a scientific claim, then we know it’s probably false! Because we know, based on the history of discovery in the field of genetics, that more mechanisms of species progression are likely to be discovered! So if you’re going to say that those undiscovered mechanisms are also part of evolution, then evolution cannot be a falsifiable scientific theory. You can’t grab an entire field of study, throw all existing discoveries and all future discoveries within that field under an umbrella term, and then call that term a falsifiable scientific theory. That’s the exact kind of behavior that you rightly criticize when you detect it in your opposition.

          • Harold says:

            “[ID is a] theory that needs to be proven or supported by evidence.”  
            Well, yes.  In science we require evidence to believe anything.  Without supporting evidence it is just opinion.

            “The criticism of irreducible complexity points out that there are numerous features of life for which evolution has no satisfying explanation. ”

            No, without evidence it does not “point it out”, it just claims it.  The person making the claim needs to back it up with evidence.  Which you seem to think is not required.

            “That is a claim with plenty of backing ”  No. it has very little backing.

            ” because a few post-Darwin discoveries fit somewhat well with the theory of evolution.”  No again.  Not a few, but millions.  This includes entierly new fields of investigation such a molecular biology and genetics.    Nobody knew these would fit with evolution. For all we knew the taxonomic system assembled by studying phenotypes would fall apart completely when molecular biology came on the scene.  The opposite was the case.  The molecular picture fitted with the taxonomic picture to an astounding degree.  That is, it would be astounding if evolution were not true.

            I am not exanding and contracting my definition.  I gave my definition in my response to Bob below.

            “Newtonian physics has been disproved but evolution has not?  Newtonian physics is a disproved theory that we should continue to teach in schools?”
            see my discussionwith Josiah on this post.

            ” evolution is an amorphous theory that is not falsifiable”  I outlined above how it could have been falsified – by molecular biology.  It was not.  But this clearly shows that it is a falsifiable theory.  We find a bird with a bat-type wing.  Falsified.  There are literally millions of ways to falsify evolution.

            “Because evolution makes the claim that these mechanisms are the sole method by which all features of life arise.”  
            No.  Evolution makes no mention of the mechanism.  We understand the mechanisms reasonaby well, but evolution would still be demonstrably true if we did not. Darwin did not know the mechanisms.  Finding the mechanisms is very good supporting evidence.  This undermines all of your last paragraph.
            There is no point re-hashing arguments about evidence for evolution.  I wait to see what Bob is claiming.  Maybe he is not claimig ID is an explanation for evolution, a la Behe,  but for abiogenesis.  Then all this will be moot for this post. It is pointless to go over evolution yet again only to have the goalosts shifted to abiogenesis. let us clarify if ID is being offered as an alternative to evolution or abiogenesis.

            The way I would like to play it is if evolution is back on the table we stick to your strongest refutation only. You mention all the problems, lets deal with just one of those. Only one contradiction is required to disprove a theory.

            • Andrew in MD says:

              “[W]e require evidence to believe anything.”

              No YOU don’t! You clearly believe in plenty of things that you have insufficient evidence to believe. And that’s okay. We all must have more beliefs than we’re capable of fully investigating just to make our way in this mysterious world. But this whole, “Everything I believe is a falsifiable theory supported by evidence and everything you believe is irrefutable conjecture” is an unconvincing, annoying pose. Especially from someone so incapable of following the arguments of others.

              All right. So I resolve to stop doing this because you are impenetrable and your every reply is orthogonal to what I’m trying to explain. I believe that I am a good communicator and I don’t think that you’re trying to troll me; so I’m left with the idea that we’re just fundamentally incompatible. This is a really frustrating thing for me to encounter in such a pure form. It really forces me refactor my priors.


              I wish I could leave it at that. I wish I could stop myself from writing this last part. You’re right that there’s “no point.” In fact, it’s probably counterproductive. And yet, I can’t stop myself from taking my parting shot. You said:

              “We find a bird with a bat-type wing. Falsified.”

              That’s a LIE. I KNOW it’s a lie. You SHOULD know it’s a lie. If you don’t know it’s a lie, then you don’t know yourself very well. If such a discovery were made, it would only create lots of discussion about how it came to be and where it fits in the tree of evolution. Stop pretending.

              • Harold says:

                “[W]e require evidence to believe anything.”

                You missed off “In science” we require evidence to believe.

                Individuals clearly do not need evidence, which is why I specified “in science.”

                ““We find a bird with a bat-type wing. Falsified.”

                You call that a lie, which is rather strong. If such were found it would falsify our current understanding of the diversity of life on Earth, which is the definition of evolution I have been using.

                We have no way to explain such a combination.

                I think it is reasonable to say this would falsify evolution as currently taught.

                It may result in a new explanation, but this is not guaranteed.

                Such a thing has never been found.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Harold wrote: “Evolution is a theory because it has been tested for hundreds of years and all evidence fits, whilst no evidence is contradictory. I won’t go into that again as I discussed it at length in the previous post.”

      No you absolutely did not elaborate on that astonishing claim in your previous post.

      Harold, just so I understand your claim: Would you say, for example, that the same is true for general relativity? I.e., that all evidence supports it and none contradicts it?

      Or, is this a special status enjoyed by the theory of evolution?

      • Harold says:

        From here

        I had lengthy discussions with Tel, Andrew and Mark about the evidence for evolution. I was trying to avoid a re-hash here as it something of a distraction from the point, which is that ID is a scientific theory. My language is a bit loose. There is evidence that has nothing to do with the subject at hand, so read that as all relevant evidence. In my discussion with Mark I pointed out that the evidence cited in answers in genesis that claim to contradict evolution do no such thing and he could come up with no evidence that contradicted evolution. With Tel I showed that evolution is falsifiable, could have been falsified many times with new discoveries, all new evidence matched the theory and the theory made predictions which later proved true. With Andrew we discussed some straw man arguments and I showed why they were fallacious. If we go down that rout we will just be repeating the same arguments.

        It is the same for general relativity. We have no evidence that contradicts it. As soon as we do we will have to abandon it.

        As an example, we do have evidence that Newtonian gravity is wrong. Bodies do not move as predicted. We abandoned the theory as the best explanation. We still use it for practical purposes but we are aware that it an approximation that is good enough.

        If you think there *is* evidence that contradicts evolution, please state the strongest one here. I will discuss one claim here. It only takes one piece of contrary evidence to falsify a theory.

        To avoid getting distracted by side issues, can we agree that evolution is a scientific theory in the “science” sense of the word?

        • Josiah says:


          As I understand it, relativity is inconsistent with quantum mechanisms (or at least no one has been able to yet figure out how both theories could be reconciled). So when you say that there is no evidence that contradicts relativity, are you saying that there is no evidence that supports quantum mechanics?

          • Harold says:

            Josiah, you are quite right. QM and relativity are incompatible. I don’t know that we can say QM contradicts relativity, because for the things relativity works for, QM says little. We say they apply to different things, which is a bit unsatisfactory. Neither is a theory of everything, but that is fine. Physicists accept both.

            This is a fascinating discussion, but I think we are getting off the main point.

            Let me state my position. QM is a theory. General Relativity is a theory. Evolution is a theory.

            Each fails to explaining everything. Relativity does the large very well, but fails at the small. QM the opposite. We do not yet have a theory of everything.

            Each is substantiated by a wealth of evidence sufficient for the scientific label “theory” to be applied. This is about as close to fact as we get in science.

            As with Newton, any ToE may leave QM and Relativity pretty much as they are for their respective areas of concern, but will refine our understanding and will apply to everything rather than a sub-set of stuff (big or small).

            All theories, like all models, are “wrong” in the sense that they are not yet complete.

            • Josiah says:


              My point was simply that there is evidence against relativity (eg the evidence supporting QM).

              It seems to me that “evidence” is only a useful concept insofar as it’s possible for there to be evidence against a true theory and/or evidence in support of a false one. That is particularly true when we are talking about scientific theories that are, as you note, incomplete.

              • Craw says:

                I think that stretches the notion of evidence. We can say GR and QM are incomplete and incompatible. But we cannot say QM is evidence against GR unless we say QM is correct. And vice versa. We don’t know that either is. We know they both work in their different spheres of application.

            • Harold says:

              I don’t think this is central to the issue of this post, but it is an interesting area and I am not sure about it.

              Relativity makes certain claims. QM makes certain other claims. Both work extremely well within their spheres. Is it the case that because they are incompatible, they are evidence against eachother? Or can we say that they simply apply to different things? I am not sure about this. Is evidence that is incompatible on every scale simply asking too much of a theory? All physicists accept both QM and relativity, so how can it be that each is evidence against the other? Rather, it is accepted that each is not an explanation for everything, and nobody expects that it should be. Relativity explains the movement of galaxies, and QM explains the movement of atoms. Currently we are forced to accept each has its own area of applicabilty and we just have to cope with that. I really don’t know. Is QM eviedence against relativity? My feeling is that it is not, because realtivity still works well enough for the areas we understand it is applicable and QM has nothing say about that, but I can see the other argument.

              This relates to my discussion above with Andrew in MD. Newtonian gravity has been superceded by relativity. Does this mean Newtonian mechanics has been disproved? In one sense, yes, but Newton still works for most things. Andrew asks should we teach a disproved theory in schools? On the face of it that sounds bad, but Newton was not so much disproved, as improved upon. Relativistic solutions are essentially the same as Newtonion solutions for most objects.

              So has Newton been disproved, and is QM evidence against relativity? I think they ar related questions.

              • Josiah says:


                The incompatibility of QM and relativity isn’t simply a matter of them applying in different domains. A doctor might use one blood test to tell if you have HIV and another to tell if you have cancer. The tests wold only work in their own domain, but there would not be any incompatibility between them. By contrast, QM and relativity posit different natures of physical reality.

                If the theories are incompatible, why do scientists accept both? Well, suppose that the two blood tests in the above example did rely on incompatible theories about the nature of blood, but they were both nonetheless accurate. In that case, doctors would probably continue to use both tests. And that’s more or less what scientists do as well. If they are working in an area where QM is known to produce good results, they use it, and if they are in an area where relativity works they use it. Meanwhile, there are also physicists who try to figure out how to reconcile the two theories, or who argue in favor of one of them against the other, and try to show how the evidence can be reconciled to it.

              • Harold says:

                I am aware that QM and relativity are based on different models of the universe. QM requires it to be lumpy and relativity requires it to be smooth. They cannot both be right and neither can be used to explain observations in the other domain. These theories are attemting to explain the fundamental properties and basis of the universe. We are not there yet, but as you say we are working towards it.

                Like Newton, it is probably reasonable to acknowledge that neither is perfect and will be replaced by a more all-encompasing theory. Just as Newton was replaced, but still remians very useful,QM and relativity will eventually be replaced but will remain useful. Thecontradiction is confirmation that the story is not finished.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          BTW Harold, I misunderstood when you said you had offered commentary in a previous post–I thought you meant your other comment in this very thread. That’s why I said no you had not…

          • Harold says:

            I could have made that clearer. In future I will link to the post, or at least describe which one.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Also Harold, you realize that a Christian might sincerely say, “All evidence is consistent with the theory that God created all life, and no evidence contradicts it,” right?

      So, is that the sense in which you are saying no evidence currently contradicts evolution? I.e. is that just your way of saying, “Scientists still think it’s correct” as opposed to “There is literally not one single empirical fact that is awkward for the theory”?

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Last thing: I am here using “evolution” in a very loose sense. Part of the problem with these debates is that people use the terms differently.

        So for example, Michael Behe–one of the leaders in the ID movement–doesn’t have a problem with saying all life evolved from a single cell. He’s just saying, that original supercell couldn’t have emerged from purely mechanical, non-intelligent causes.

        • Harold says:

          Reviewing the discussion so far, I see that it is necessary to argue against Behe’s position. However, it is useful to establish where we agree and differ.

          If we agree that evolution of all life on Earth from a single cell is not at issue, then we can focus on the important points without distraction.

          This puts ID into a much narrower area and we can avoid all the arguments I mentioned earlier. If proponents of ID accepted the Theory of Evolution and only talked about abiogenesis and/or the origin of the universe, we could avoid many misunderstandings, but generally they don’t.

          So, do we agree on the definitions and limits? Evolution is a red herring?

        • Harold says:

          An interesting study on how different secondary school carricula treat abiogenesis.


      • Harold says:

        Your point just below this one is important to this answer. People do indeed use terms differently and this leads to all sorts of unnecessary confusion. I am using evolution in a strict sense.

        The meaning I am discussing is:
        “the process by which different kinds of living organism are believed to have developed from earlier forms during the history of the earth.” (online dictionary)
        “Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.”

        The claim is that this explains biodiversity on Earth today.

        As such this does not include the origin of life or the universe. For this discussion I would not find it necessary to argue with Behe, although I could argue about that also.

        The difference between evolution and God as an explanation is that no evidence could contradict the God conjecture. It is unfalsifiable, Evolution could have been falsified many many times if it were wrong (and still could be). Consistency is not enough, as all evidence is consistent with magic pixies creating the world and all my memories 5 seconds ago.

        ““There is literally not one single empirical fact that is awkward for the theory”?”
        There is not one single empirical fact that contradicts or disproves the theory. I am not sure what you mean by “is awkward for.” There are empirical observations for which we do not have a complete explanation, so if I gave the impression that I was claiming complete knowledge then I apologise and hopefully my explanation has made my position clearer.

        • Harold says:

          Your point is above this, not below. I thought I was replying to your first comment.

  2. Harold says:

    Here is an article that discusses the difference between conjecture and hypothesis for abiogenesis.

    They say “Conjecture is an idea, hypothesis is a conjecture that can be tested by experiment or observation.”

    They discuss alternative conjectures.
    1) life began in salt water hydrothermal vents
    2) Life began in fresh water hydrothermal fields associated with land masses.

    It describes how each of these conjectures could be transformed into testable hypotheses.

    Now, all the tests have some assumptions about how life might have started, but still each produces a testable hypothesis. I am not sure how ID could be fitted into this mold.
    If we added a conjecture
    3) life was intelligently designed.
    I don’t see how we could construct a testable hypothesis from this.

    This is why I believe ID is more conjecture that hypothesis.

    Just to reiterate, abiogenesis is not evolution. ID probably does not even qualify as a hypothesis for abiogenesis; it is a conjecture. But even if it did qualify as a hypothesis for abiogenesis, it would say nothing about evolution. Evolution is a stand alone theory separate from abiogenesis.

    As a scientific proposal, ID is separated from evolution by orders of magnitude almost to large to conceive of. The idea that ID should be taught in schools as a explanation for the diversity of life on Earth is unsupportable.

    We could discuss whether it is “scientific” in some sense, because conjecture is part of the scientific method, but that is almost beside the point when discussing this in the world today. It is clear that it should not be taught as “science” but there is some scope for discussing whether or not it is “science” in philosophy circles.

    If you wish to pursue the latter point, then I am up for it as an esoteric discussion of what is science. If you want to defend teaching ID in schools then I think I have said enough to thoroughly reject that idea.

  3. Josiah says:


    A very interesting episode, as usual. I agree that there is nothing inherently unscientific about the hypothesis that humanity is the result of intelligent design, but ID as an alternative seems undercooked. You might find this old blog post interesting.

    • Harold says:

      I agree with your conclusions, which you say are surprising surprising. I think I understand why this apparent contradiction occurs.

      You describe in section 1 that ID avoids any discussion of mechanisms and avoids questioning what the intelligence might be. This isolates the conjecture from examination, effectively making it non-scientific. As a result, when you stack it up, there is little justifiction for teaching it, even if it were true. The essential point is that we have no way to assess whether it is true or not, so even if it is true we have no real reason to believe in it.

      This applies to all conjectures. They may be true, but absent a way to investigate their truthfulness we have no rational reason to believe.

  4. Tel says:

    This does open up a bunch of partial-information statistical problems. For example: you have a suspicion that your Senator might be on the take … but you have no DIRECT proof of this. You do have his voting record and his speeches, and there seems to be some inconsistency in the voting. Maybe some of those votes were mistakes? Maybe there could turn out to be a reasonable explanation? Is it possible to determine the existence of bribes based on observing these votes? How do we calculate confidence?

    Similar problem with insider trading, you can see the trades that happen before the announcement, but hey could have just been a lucky guess, right? There’s been charts where people can demonstrate a clear jump in certain prices a few minutes before major announcements, which look pretty darn suspicious, does that count a proof?

    What if you are a company that used to be doing well in business, but now you find some other company is beating you on tenders, by coming in slightly under your price. The classic example is Nortel where this is exactly what happened to then. Could it be a spy? Perhaps you got hacked and someone is leaking your price calculations? How many “bad beats” would it take to be sure?

  5. Craw says:

    Phlogiston is a scientific theory of heat. It is a wrong theory. Theories can be wrong and still be theories. And Epstein did not kill himself.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Word for word, this is the best comment so far, Craw.

      • Harold says:

        The phlogiston bit, or the Epstein bit?

        This is interesting in the context of QM, relativity and Newton discussed above, and we can use these examples to illustrate how science develops. I am waffling a bit here, as much to get my own thoughts in order as to try to put forward an argument.

        Phlogiston was incomaptible with Oxygen as an explanaition for combustion. The theories were incompatible explanations for the same observations, and one had to win out. Oxygen won. It won because of new observations, which oxygen could explain but phlogiston could not. Principally, accurate measurements of weight gain of oxidised metals. It took something less than 20 years to overturn the theory that had been more or less accepted since Plato. Phlogiston was wrong and had to be abandoned completely because it did not fit with the new evidence.

        With Newton and Einstein,these were again looking at the same observations. The difference is that Newton’s and Einstien’s equations are very similar. For many problems there is no practical difference, so Newton was not wrong, but just imprecise. His theory gets us 99% of the way to the more complete Relativity model. Relatavistic solutions are the same as Newtonian solutions with a “fiddle factor” added on. For large bodies moving slowly relative to light in not too extreme gravity fields, the “fiddle factor” is tiny and can be ignored. Newton is an approximation to Relativistic solutions that works very well for many applications.

        Relativity can be seen as a devolopment of Newton, not a replacement. Whereas Oxygen proved Phlogiston wrong, relativity just refined the Newtonion solutions.

        With QM and relativity, in contrast to Phlogiston and Oxygen, they are not different models to explain the same observations. They each are used to describe different observations and are not in conflict as phlogiston and oxygen were.

        We know they are incomplete, and we hope to find a unifying theory, maybe a GUT or a TOE. If we do discover such a theory, it will likely be more like relativity and Newton than like Oxygen and Phlogiston. The new theory may be a development of both theories into a more precise description and will not “disprove” either QM or relativity. It will show that they are good approximations of the new, more precise description.

        I posit that Newton was not proved wrong, but was refined by a superior explanation of the same observations. Plogiston was proved wrong by a different explnation of the same observations

        How does this relate to ID? Is it seeking to displave or refine?

        Neither, as far as I can see.

        It offers neither a replacement nor a refinement. It offers a negative: this thing cannot have happened, but I have no alternative suggestion as to how it might have happened.

        Maybe someone can show how such an approach has been useful to science in the past. I can’t think of an example, but maybe they are out there. Maybe I have been thinking in terms of Newton sand Einstein and I am just not seeing the wider picture.

        Even if there is an example. it does not really help ID, because the claim that it could not have happened is not substantiated.

        There are two big problems with ID as science.
        1) it is not demonstrably true
        2) If it were true it is not science, because it offers no hypothesis.

        The title of this post says ID is a scientific theory. We can reject this on several levels.
        1) it is not a theory in the scientific sense.
        2) it is not a hypothesis.
        3) it is a conjecture, and I do not believe it makes sense to describe conjectures as either scientific or not scientific.

  6. Mark says:

    Evolution, n. – The naturalistic story of how the universe came to be, to which all contrary facts must submit.

    We’ve been through this before. Neither evolution nor abiogenesis (as a natural process) has ever happened.

    I spent about 15 minutes the other day having a nice chat with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses outside a public library. They’re getting high tech – they have the Bible in several versions on iPads, including their horrible New World Translation.

    We were discussing the Deity of Christ (all cults, including the JWs, deny the Deity of Jesus and salvation by faith alone.) There are many passages in the Bible that confirm that Jesus is God in human flesh. One of those is Colossians 1:15-18, which the lady went to without me asking her to do so. It was her intent to prove Jesus is not God by showing me where the Bible says He created all OTHER things, meaning God created Him first and then Jesus created everything else.

    But that’s not what it says. In four places, it says Jesus created ALL things. The JWs insert the word OTHER in each of those places so it says He created “all other things” – completely changing the meaning of the text, i.e., making Jesus a thing and not the creator. I had her check other translations on her iPad to see that only the very corrupt NWT had the word OTHER inserted into the passage.

    Even when she acknowledged that, she still denied it changed the meaning – instead she said it made it clearer. The bottom line here is that she is completely blind to the truth. She cannot see something that is right in front of her. The Bible calls people like this willingly ignorant – that they deliberately overlook facts. (2 Peter 3:5)

    Harold, you are doing the same thing with evolution. There is no evidence for abiogenesis (required for evolution) or evolution, and yet you insist they are fact. They are not fact, not good theory, and certainly not scientific.

    I think I’ve posted this once before on this site, but in case I didn’t or some new readers missed it, a while back, I put together some statements and paraphrases from others along with some comments of my own and came up with this:

    I reject the notion that everything came from nothing, life came from lifelessness, all living things came from a rock that was rained on for millions of years, and consciousness came from matter. One may choose to believe those things as part of a fairy tale religion, but you shouldn’t use the word science in a discussion of these issues because no scientist has ever observed or duplicated those events, let alone measured or studied them in any fashion.

    They are a construct of those who would have us believe that one-off fantasy processes, and an unimaginably long period of time, “scientifically” explain the origin, nature, and contents of the universe. These imaginary events, coupled with the myth of Darwinian evolution, allegedly explain all living things, and, more specifically, human beings, who are nothing more than rearranged pond scum in the fantasy world of those who desperately require a rationale to avoid answering to a Creator.

    This is not science. It is hope against hope and is not really suitable for discussion in a conversation above kindergarten level. The subjects of the Big Bang, abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution should be banished to the realm of the tooth fairy – they certainly do not belong in any serious conversation where real science (observation, repeatability and measurement) is being discussed.

    • Harold says:

      “Evolution, n. – The naturalistic story of how the universe came to be.”
      No, in this context it is the explanation for the diversity of life from common ancestors. For this discussion it is essential to keep these different ideas separate.

      “Neither evolution nor abiogenesis (as a natural process) has ever happened.” A bold claim, which requires evidence. It is often pointed out that experimenters are not able to go back in time to observe them happening, but it is equally true that we cannot go back and observe them not happening.

      “There is no evidence for abiogenesis (required for evolution) ” No, it is not required for evolution. It is a separate thing.

      If you wish to accept evolution as currently understood and discuss ID only in terms of abiogenesis, then we can do this and we know what we are discussing.

      So far, I have mainly been discussion evolution. Evolution is about as close to a fact as we get in science. It does not attempt to explain abiogenesis, but states that all life on Earth descended with modification from ancestors. Abiogenesis currently has some hypotheses, we have nothing that I believe is close to fact. The hypotheses we do have are backed by some evidence, but nothing is yet conclusive. If there is a better hypothesis, there is room for this.

      “I reject the notion that everything came from nothing…” we do not even know if nothing is possible. There is certainly no “nothing” we can experiment with today. So I agree here – this is an open question and certainly not something I claim to know.

      “… life came from lifelessness, all living things came from a rock that was rained on for millions of years,” Nobody suggest life came from a rock that was rained on for millions of years, so we are in agreement there.

      “…and consciousness came from matter.” I see no reason to believe otherwise, but we do not claim to understand consciousness very well. There is no fundamental reason I know of why consciousness cannot be an emergent property of brains. Again, the origin of consciousness, and even what it is is an open question.

      ” but you shouldn’t use the word science in a discussion of these issues because no scientist has ever observed or duplicated those events, let alone measured or studied them in any fashion.”

      This is wrong. Science does not require the duplication of events to study them. It requires the prediction of future observations. These may be the results of experiment, but they do not have to be. There is observation, prediction, repeatability and measurement in the study of evolution.

      Science works by “If…then” statements. If this hypothesis is true, then such-and-such will be observed. For example, IF Newtonian gravity is true, THEN the orbit of mercury will be such-and-such. New observations showed that the orbit was not such-and-such, so we conclude that Newtonian gravity is not the whole explanation. That is science, but nobody made a new Mercury – we just observed the one that was there.

      IF evolution is the explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, THEN fossils will be found in a particular order. Indeed, microscopic fossils were predicted before they were ever observed, in the rocks where their presence was predicted.

      IF evolution is correct, THEN all tetrapods will have similar bone structures in their limbs, all birds will have similar bone structures in their limbs and there will NEVER be a case with mixed bone structures – tetrapod legs and bird wings, for example. So far, all observations fit.

      IF evolution is true, then differences in DNA between organisms will be similar to the closeness of their morphology. We won’t find fish with DNA similar to birds. We won’t find marine mammals with DNA similar to fish. So far, all observations fit.

      These are a few examples of how prediction are made and observations fail to falsify the predictions in the Theory of Evolution. There are millions of these.

      Evolution has massive predictive power, leading to countless IF…THEN statements that could undermine the theory. None has yet done so.

      For abiogenesis, we do not have a Theory. We have hypotheses.

      I have mostly stuck to evolution, because that is relevant in the context of teaching ID. If we were to accept that ID is not a competing theory of evolution, but of abiogenesis, then the arguments for teaching it are not so good, even if we were to accept the premise. Abiogenesis is not included in the carricula of many countries, and where it is it is generally only briefly mentioned.

      I do not accept that ID is a competing hypothesis to those we currently have for abiogenesis, but it would be good to nail down the evolution bit first as this argument has the most direct consequences.

      • Mark says:

        Harold – I didn’t notice until recently that you had replied. When I get a minute, I’ll respond specifically to some of your comments. In the meantime, you may appreciate this just published article that shows the definition of evolution has been changed again (because it is such a scientific failure.)


      • Mark says:

        Harold – I’ve been sick for a while and completely forgot about replying to your comments. And now this thing is so old, I’m sure no one is paying attention. I saved your post and will gradually make some comments that I’ll save for now – I’m sure the subject will come up again and we can pursue it then.

        • Harold says:

          Hope you are feeling better now.

  7. Mark says:

    Coincidentally, someone wrote into CMI (Creation Ministries Interntional) asking “do you have an idea which scientific facts have the greatest influence on young people who believe evolution is true such that they start to question that belief and/or start to consider that creation (even Intelligent Design) is or might be true?”

    Their answer was published just three days ago: https://creation.com/most-influential-facts-for-creation

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