Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Price is Right for science

I just saw a game called “Pathfinder” on The Price is Right. You move from square to square, trying to make educated guesses about the next digit in the price of a car, based upon what you know of the car. When you get it wrong, you try to get another chance to make a new guess. That’s not too different from what scientists seems to do, they try to make good guesses, advance a square, and their prediction turns out to be right or wrong. Being right is always better, but even being wrong just makes it easier to be right next time.

Now, compare that to Intelligent Design/Creationism. They already have decided the path, so they say the price of the car has to change to match the path they see. They keep going on to the same squares, over and over. Not much like science at all, it seems to me.

5 comments:

iron mike tyson said...

Hi one brow,

First your handle for it "Intelligent Design/Creationism" doesn't seem very fair nor informed. If you're interested in these topics you should join us at www.telicthoughts.com.
There are significant differences between ID and Creationism. Lumping them together seems to be a way to discredit the former by associating it with the latter.

But regarding your post - Is science slowly accumulative? Gradually increasing the general knowledge and willingly ditching one theory or hypothesis when the information doesn't appear to support it? Your description seems very ideal, but it doesn't seem very realistic. But.... then you claim that IDists and Creationists perform in a way that doesn't match with this ideal and you ultimately (at the end of your post) only fault them.

Also, how do you advance from one square to the next when the best you can really do in science is show that a current theory hasn't been falsified (an initial square)? Say you then carry that reasoning into the next square and find some evidential support for square 2... but all along you still haven't proven anything with square 1. Only that it hasn't been shown to be false....yet.

In your second paragraph you claim:

They already have decided the path, so they say the price of the car has to change to match the path they see.

Okay, say I agree with you. What does the naturalist do though? Isn't a path decided in that worldview?
Or... is there entirely no evidence in the universe that could ever conceivably support the notion that just maybe this is all designed?
Again, you are using seperate standards to judge the two over the same issues.

Take care.

One Brow said...

First your handle for it "Intelligent Design/Creationism" doesn't seem very fair nor informed. If you're interested in these topics you should join us at www.telicthoughts.com.
I might just do that. Perhaps the people at the Discovery Institute have made me too jaded.

There are significant differences between ID and Creationism. Lumping them together seems to be a way to discredit the former by associating it with the latter.
I would even say there is a difference between ID, Creationism, and IDC. ID is a legitimate philosophical position with no scientific content. Creationism is a statement of fact, potentially scientific, which has been falsified. IDC is an attempt to pretend that the philosophical positions taken in ID are scientific (statements both verifiable and verified) using the arguments that Creationism uses against evolution.

But regarding your post - Is science slowly accumulative? Gradually increasing the general knowledge and willingly ditching one theory or hypothesis when the information doesn't appear to support it? Your description seems very ideal, but it doesn't seem very realistic.
300 years ago, most geologists believed in a young earth. 250 years ago, most biologists thought of species as being fixed in traits. 200 years ago, there was no germ theory of disease. 150 years ago, physicists thought energy was continuous rather than quantized. 100 years ago special relativity was brand new and Newton’s equations were still considered the best approximation. 50 years ago, most planetary scientists thought the continents were fixed in place.

Theories come from having a lot of evidence, and so they take a lot of evidence (or a new type of evidence) to overturn. It does happen.

But.... then you claim that IDists and Creationists perform in a way that doesn't match with this ideal and you ultimately (at the end of your post) only fault them.

Also, how do you advance from one square to the next when the best you can really do in science is show that a current theory hasn't been falsified (an initial square)?

Making a prediction, testing that prediction, and verifying the result is a little better than showing something has not been falsified, It’s showing you can rely on the theory for other observations.

Say you then carry that reasoning into the next square and find some evidential support for square 2... but all along you still haven't proven anything with square 1. Only that it hasn't been shown to be false....yet.
I’m not sure what you mean. We may have pushed this metaphor too far.

In your second paragraph you claim:

They already have decided the path, so they say the price of the car has to change to match the path they see.

Okay, say I agree with you. What does the naturalist do though? Isn't a path decided in that worldview?

Naturalism (no qualifier) is a philosophical point of view that can never be proven (or disproven, short of a miracle), but also requires no specific natural findings to be true.

Or... is there entirely no evidence in the universe that could ever conceivably support the notion that just maybe this is all designed?
Design inferences are made all the time in science. As far as I know, none of the criteria we use apply to the universe or life generally.

For example, excessive simplicity is a hallmark of design. We presume Mt. Rushmore is designed, while the Man in the Mountain is not, because one has smooth surfaces and simple, straight-forward styling, while the other is craggy and uneven. Generally, we think that better designers make simpler things.

Anonymous said...

They already have decided the path, so they say the price of the car has to change to match the path they see.

Okay, say I agree with you. What does the naturalist do though? Isn't a path decided in that worldview?


Although Iron Mike used the term "naturalist," I suspect that he was referrin to an alternative view of evolution...i.e., the classical "modern synthetic" theory. Your critcism of ID'ers, Eric, is just as applicable to that whole school of "thought" I put "thought" in scarequotes because, for the faithful, it is more of an ideology where one's conclusions dictate the premises and thereafter the premises dictate the conclusions.

One Brow said...

Although Iron Mike used the term "naturalist," I suspect that he was referrin to an alternative view of evolution...i.e., the classical "modern synthetic" theory.
iron mike tyson has only made a handful of posts in here, and has not told me who he is on Telic Thoughts, so I don't know enough to confirm or deny that with respect to him specifically.

However, there are many ID proponents who in fact don't really care whether you are discussing Dawkin's adaptationism, Gould's process structuralism, Margulis' endosymbiosis, or and of those other opinions. If it does not specifically recognize the necessity of a designer to create life and/or species, it is naturalism/atheism. So, on a purely intuitive note, I disagree this is what he meant.

Your critcism of ID'ers, Eric, is just as applicable to that whole school of "thought" I put "thought" in scarequotes because, for the faithful, it is more of an ideology where one's conclusions dictate the premises and thereafter the premises dictate the conclusions.
I'm not going to disagree with you there. I think an adaptationist engages in, at best, a redefiniton of events to fit them into a particular lens.

no buddy eye no said...

well I like the idea that being wrong on the first try makes it that much more likely you'll be right the next time. works for me.

oh, and bug girl sounds like a fun person.