Science: December 2005 Archives

In my last post on Intelligent Design, I argued that ID arguments are consistent with the standard evolutionary picture that most scientists accept, even if a number of its supporters disagree with that picture in terms of common descent. I wondered at the end why opponents of ID consistently misrepresent the ID argument, saying that I would leave that for a further post. I want to take that issue up now. There are two general possibilities. They understand what ID says and deliberately misrepresent it, or they simply don't understand that it's not saying what they present it as saying.

The principle of charity requires me to presume the second option. But why would smart scientists fail to see what seems to me to be so obvious? I have to think the main reason is that scientists aren't well-schooled in the metaphysical distinctions they assume regularly for their scientific work. I wonder how much of this is just ignorance of the metaphysical assumptions of science and the possible metaphysical positions consistent with our best science. I've certainly run across people who are profoundly ignorant on such matters, including some scientists whose work is widely respected. Some even assert that ID can't be science because it's philosophy, which is far closer to the truth than the ridiculous assertion that it's religion. But it's still at best misleading to make such a claim, because so much of science simply is philosophy, particularly metaphysics and epistemology. I think that's exactly the point that scientists don't seem to see.

I don't agree with all of Thomas Kuhn's conclusions, but one thing he demonstrated fairly clearly is that our metaphysical assumptions are part of our scientific theories, and the same is true of evolutionary theory. We arrived at much of our best science via philosophy, and much of our best science simply assumes metaphysical views that scientists tend to share. Some research that takes place in physics departments is almost pure philosophy, even though it usually takes its starting point from some empirical data, and many of these claims simply cannot be empirically verified or falsified. Consider:

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Christian Carnival XCIX is up at Attention Span. The 99 theme is kind of fun. One more to the big 100, which will be returning to the Carnival's founder. I didn't get Agent 99, but at least I ended up with the second best of the categories, Interstate 99, which I'd never known about before. Current plans include extending into my own state. (They violated interstate naming conventions, though, by putting 99 west of 81. I'm not sure what they were thinking. It's immoral to break that sort of convention, particularly when people put such great work into organizing it in a way that you can usually predict what an interstate's number means.)

At the Banty Rooster, Global Warming is Really Global Cooling. [HT: Blogwatch]

Eugene Volokh has an op-ed in the L.A. Times about how easy it is to get a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Previous nominees include Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Castro. Now what I'm wondering is who counts as a professor, because there are some low-lifes that I might be able to nominate if all it takes is to teach at the college level.

Jollyblogger points out a beautiful Yale prank against Harvard.

Sam's put some more pictures online. Ethan and Isaiah were wrestling this week. For some reason Ethan was really frustrated that Isaiah kept not being where Ethan wanted him, so he kept pushing him and lying on top of him to prevent him from moving. Eventually Isaiah started enjoying it, thinking it was playful wrestling. Ethan continued in his frustration the whole time. It was really weird. It was as if the world would end if Isaiah got up. There's also one of Sophia watching the boys go off to school.

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