Evolution - The priviledged planet and logic
William H Jefferys from the University of Texas has reviewed the Priviledged Planet, the book on which the film at the center of a Darwinist tornado for being shown at the Smithsonian. The book/film, by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, argues that the unlikely placement of earth, the makeup of the universe AND the ideal conditions that exist here for scientific discovery is evidence that it was designed that way. Dr Mobley has a longer overview of the film here.
In general zealous darwinist fashion, William makes numerous mistakes in trying to convince anyone who listens that the concept of Intelligent Design is both irrational and non-scientific. From his review...
The Privileged Planet is based upon the odd notion that the more unsuitable our universe is for producing intelligent life, the more likely it is that our universe was "designed" to produce intelligent life by a "designer" of indeterminate nature...What is 'odd' is that William fails to understand that how we determine some object is designed is by the combined knowledge of the complex and interdependent parts of that object and the knowledge that non-designed explanations are unlikely to generate the object.
It is clear from his example that he is creating a straw man of the films argument...
We know from experience that this is not how human beings, the only intelligent designers of which we have any experience, work. We know that a human designer of a factory does not design a factory so that it will only occasionally, if ever, produce a car, or a computer, or whatever the target object is; rather the factory is designed to produce the largest possible amount of product consistent with the constraints: cost, physical reality, whatever.You see, William is assuming in this analogy that the designer wants to create a universe in which life is produced in many many places. Essentially, william is deciding upon the goals of the designer (A non-scientific assumption) before evaluating the evidence as to whether something was designed. This is as opposed to understanding that precise, complex and interdependent parts are naturally thought by people to be designed. Just as in William Paley's original watchmaker hypothesis.
The fundamental error made by Gonzalez and Richards, as with most creationists (including "intelligent design" [ID] creationists),...
Once again, we see an evangelistic darwinist attempting to claim that the intelligent design movement is 'creationist'. This pitiful cry is the refrain in almost every article against ID in a transparent attempt to poison the well.
...is that they imagine that they can prove the existence of their "intelligent designer" by merely alleging evidence against a particular strawman naturalistic scenario, and, without clearly specifying an alternative model, simply assert that the only other explanation possible is that everything was created by a "designer". Under this strategy, no details are specified about what we would expect to see if the "designer" existed, or why we would expect to see that and not something else. It is, as we shall see, not a scientific theory. It is instead nothing but the usual fallacious Argument from False Dichotomy.You would think that the darwinists could come up with a better line than this. William either has no idea about what ID actually says or he is willfully spouting falsehoods. Intelligent does indeed 'specify' what we would expect to see...As can be evidenced by Dembski's specified complexity and Behe's irreducible complexity. I.e. Complex and interdependent parts that natural law and chance cannot explain. It seems the only straw man around here is the one that William is creating.
Notice how Professor William provides no explanation about how the film is alleging evidence against a particular 'straw man'. This of course seems to be his general method of operation. Unsupported claims that I can only assume are meant to be accepted because he is a Professor and we should 'trust' him. This is known as the logical fallacy of appealing to authority.
Of course, we know why ID creationists don't want to talk about the nature of the "designer". If they were to do so, they would undermine their claim that ID creationism has nothing to do with religion. They do admit the nature of their designer in private, among friends, but not before school boards or state boards of education.Ah yes. Those dastardly ID scientists. They keep the nature of who they think is the designer out of their science, so instead darwinists are forced to whine about how the ID scientists don't mix religion and science. It is quite interesting to note that ID scientists have many different beliefs about the nature of the designer and that the only people trying to bring the nature of the designer into the debate to support their case are the darwinists (See Professor William's comments at the start of this article).
Since the real point of ID is to slip religion surreptitiously into the public school classroom, they can't reveal the true nature of their "designer" in any arguments intended for public consumption (as this book is).What Professor William seems to be really concerned about is that these dastardly ID scientists are trying to bring in a hypothesis that is contrary to HIS religion.
Gonzalez and Richards don't realize that unless they can show that what we actually see is more probable, given that an "intelligent designer did it," they have no case. This is because a basic rule of inference is that one has to compare the likelihood of observing evidence E under all relevant hypotheses H1, H2, ..., Hn. Then the hypothesis that has the greatest likelihood is the one best supported by the evidence. Obviously, if you don't say what your hypothesis is -- in this case by specifically describing the nature of the "intelligent designer" and the consequences for the real world if that entity exists, so that actual calculations can be made -- then it is impossible to compute the likelihood of observing E under your hypothesis, and your hypothesis never even gets to the starting gate.
Unfortunately for Professor William, if his statement were true, then he himself could not get any naturalistic explanation 'to the starting gate' as we cannot make any sort of real calculations without knowing the initial state of the universe (before the big bang) or the possible states of the universe.
But notice also that the good Professor William seems to think that we need to know the nature of the intelligent designer before being able to calculate any probabilities. This is a somewhat ironic claim. You see the nature of the intelligent designer only has to have 1 requirement...that it is intelligent.
Of course, it seems Professor Williams has a great sense of irony, because he continues
One wonders what Gonzalez and Richards would say if the evidence were otherwise. They talk about the fantastically small probability that our universe would give rise to intelligent, inquisitive life, but what if it were the opposite? What if we had observed that the universe was actually quite conducive to the existence of intelligent, inquisitive life? Would Gonzalez and Richards then conclude that the probability of observing such a universe, given that it was designed by an "intelligent designer", was small? I hardly think so. In such a case they would surely be pointing to the fecundity of the universe as evidence for the existence of their "intelligent designer". In other words, the assertion of a "designer" is a no-lose position. Whatever evidence one observed would by this fallacious reasoning support their "designer."Unfortunately, once again, Professor William has shot himself in the foot. This is because the hypothesis that non-design explain our observations about earth would not be refuted if it was not so priveledged. It seems the assertion of non-design is a "no-lose" position. Professor William seems to be blinded by his own religion to the simple fact that any logic he uses to try and refute ID as science applies quite easily to non-design.
Unfortunately, it means that the ancient argument from design (of which this book is just a modern example) is scientifically useless. There is no conceivable evidence that could, even in principle, refute the notion that everything happens as a result of an unconstrained, very powerful "designer". This is because such an entity can be invoked to explain any evidence whatsoeverIt seems William has gone back to his Straw Man again. ID does not suggest that we should conclude design in every instance, but only in instances where there is strong evidence that make non-design extremely unlikely. Most ID scientists who I have read are quite willing to accept that many things were not necessarily intelligently designed (i.e. that chance and natural law probably caused them). Professor William cannot seem to understand this simple reality or prefers to attack straw men.
But notice again how this argument can also be applied to non-design. If we cannot conclude design scientifically, then obviously everything must be explained by non-design. If everything must be explained by non-design, then there is no evidence, which in principle, can make us scientifically refute non-design. (Of course, one has to wonder at things like SETI, forensic science and archaeology. If we are unable to scientifically detect design, then what do these people do?)
Real scientific hypotheses have to be vulnerable to evidence. It must be possible to imagine evidence that would undermine themAgain, I have to ask. Why does this not equally apply to non-design? Clearly is seems Professor William is not really worried about science here, but about his own cherished philosophical assumptions. This is even more obvious as he continues...
Sober and Ikeda and I pointed out that the relationship fails to take into account our own existence. In other words, we are here (we know this, and could not be making any arguments if it were not so), so any discussion must take this fact into account. Thus, the correct comparison is between (A) the probability that "the constants are right" given design and our own existence, versus (B) the probability that "the constants are right" given a naturalistic universe and our own existence. Since in a naturalistic universe our own existence implies that the constants must be right, this means that (B) is equal to 1. What about (A)? Clearly, since probabilities are always less than or equal to 1, (A) cannot be larger than 1, so the ratio of (B) to (A) must be at least 1. This means that observing that "the constants are right" cannot undermine the naturalistic hypothesis.Notice how the non-design (naturalistic by his own words) hypothesis is given a probability of 1. Essentially, Professor William is saying that no matter how complex and purposeful the universe appears to be, his philosophical assumption will never be refuted. Essentially he is saying that as we exist, we must have come into existence naturally...pure philosophical assumption, not science. For an indepth refutation of Professor Williams point you can check out Dr Willliam (how many william's can we cram into one post?) Lane Craig's response to almost this exact point. It is also important to note however that the Priveledged Planet goes past simple fine tuning arguments and focuses on how the earth seems placed in such a way as to facilitate scientific discovery. As such, Professor William's criticism of the argument from fine tuning does not apply.
Professor William does attempt to address this point near the end of his article where he says
Finally, I turn to Gonzalez and Richards's notion that our earth is uniquely designed for its inhabitants to do scientific exploration, and that the universe is similarly designed for us to do that scientific exploration. They point to a number of phenomena that have aided our scientific enterprise, such as the transparency of the earth's atmosphere, the fact that we have a moon that is just far enough from the earth to produce spectacular solar eclipses, and so on. Of all the arguments in the book, I find this the weakest.Hang on a second? If this is the weakest argument, then obviously the other arguments have more strength (and so have some strength?). Yet Professor William seemed to indicate the other arguments had no strength at all.
It puts the cart before the horse. For suppose it were not so; if we existed on another world very different from the earth, then we would surely be doing something. We would be doing whatever was possible for us to do under the circumstances in which we found ourselves. If we accepted the Whiggish reasoning of the authors, we would be just as justified in concluding that our planet -- and our universe, if we could see it in this alternative reality -- was designed so that we would do whatever we happened to be doing at the time or find interesting at the time (as diverse human cultures have always done).And yet Professor William provides no likelihoods of the various features from which to peform this analysis and yet concludes quite happily that there is nothing to see here..move along. In effect he is stopping investigation that could explain why a series of unlikely occurances.
To summarize, the little that is new in this book isn't interesting, and what is old is just old-hat creationism in a new, modern-looking astronomical costume. It is the same old shell game. It's too bad that Guillermo Gonzalez (whom I know from his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Texas's Astronomy Department) has allowed himself to be sucked in as an advocate for this ancient argument. The Argument from Design is 200 years old, if not older, and it has not improved with age. It hasn't resulted in any new knowledge in all of those years. Modern astronomy is constantly producing new knowledge and understanding of the universe. Guillermo is a promising young astrophysicist, and I hope that he doesn't throw away his career on such nonsense.
Finally, Professor William's ironic statements take an even more amazing bent. EVERY new bit of scientific knowledge in the last 200 years was caused by the belief that the universe was designed. Science arose out of the Judeo-Christian worldview and as such, his 'modern astronomy' is built on that foundation. (Of course, one has to wonder who good his new 'knowledge' really is if his theories require to invention of 96% of the mass of the universe to make the equations work.) I think Professor William should take his own advice to the authors and apply it to himself as the author of this horrible piece of logic he calls a review "The authors could learn much by studying a little anthropology and a little history."