More on macht

After writing that last post, I decided to have a look at the comments to macht’s essay. I found another delightful instance of macht being clueless.

Commenter Daniel wrote:

“if some modern scientist happened to introduce something supernatural into science and it was testable”

See, I don’t get this – ID keeps missing the point, that it’s impossible to simultaneously use supernatural explanations and have those explanations be testable. How can you test miracles and magic??

Good question. Here’s macht’s answer:

For those of you who have been following my posts lately, this is an excellent example of an argument from ignorance.

There are plenty of organizations (Randi, CSICOP, etc.) that claim they can make scientific claims about the supernatural, paranormal, etc.

The only scientific claim that the Amazing Randi or CSICOP make about the supernatural or paranormal is that they have never mainfested themselves under properly controlled conditions. They investigate claims of the paranormal, not the paranormal itself.

Daniel also made another important point in his reply:

Um, not quite there macht. There’s a big difference between ID and the organizations you mention. They’re trying to naturally explain the to-date supernatural; ID isn’t trying to decipher the “Designer’s” purposes, plans or means at all.

You might as well perpetrate already debunked claims like “ID is just like SETI or forensics or archaeology” while you’re at it too.

Well said. I think macht shouldn’t be so cavalier about using words like “ignorance.”

Comments

  1. #1 macht
    May 22, 2006

    My point in listing Randi and CSICOP where that they are open to the paranormal and supernatural being tested. I assume that if, under properly controlled conditions, they did find evidence for the paranormal, they would accept it. I take that to mean that they think these claims can be tested.

    As far as ignorance goes, he claimed that “it’s impossible to simultaneously use supernatural explanations and have those explanations be testable.” The only thing he said to support this was to ask the question “How can you test miracles and magic??” If that was his argument, then it is an argument from ignorance. If it was just a question, then I suggest he check out Randi or CSICOP. So, in either case, he gave no argument for why it’s imposible to use a supernatural explanation and have it be testable at the same time.

  2. #2 skblllzzzz
    May 22, 2006

    “if some modern scientist happened to introduce something supernatural into science and it was testable”

    In my book it would lose the “super” and become “natural”.

    Of course the reli’s would lose interest in it, or accuse science (thieving bastards) of stealing it from them……..

  3. #3 slc
    May 22, 2006

    The requirements for a scientific theory can be summed up as follows:

    1. The theory must be explanatory, that is, it must explain observed phenomena;
    2. The theory must be predictive, that is, it must predict phenomena which have not yet been observed;
    3. The theory must be falsifiable, that is, it must be possible in principal to show that it does not explain observed phenomena.

    A perfect example of this is Einsteins’ 1905 paper on special relativity.

    1. The special theory of relativity was found to explain the Michaelson experiment
    2. The special theory of relativity predicted time dilation which was subsequently observed in muon decay.
    3. The special theory of relativity would have been falsified if the predicted time dialation been observed not to occur.

    ID satisfies none of these criteria.

    1. The designer (god) did it is not an explanation.
    2. The designer (god) did it predicts nothing.
    3. The designer (god) did it cannot be falsified.

  4. #4 Daniel
    May 22, 2006

    macht – have you read a word that either I or Jason has typed, or are you suggesting that you can experimentally control, observe, measure, or otherwise study God (or a similar entity)?????

  5. #5 macht
    May 22, 2006

    All I’ve said is that I’ve seen no argument for your claim that supernatural explanations aren’t testable.

  6. #6 mark
    May 22, 2006

    Randi does indeed test claims of supernatural powers–f’rinstance, dowsing for gold or water, or reading while blindfolded. But what he’s testing is someone’s claim to be able to perform. That test certainly falls in the realm of science; one can determine if the claimant indeed achieved the result he claims. It’s not a test of the supernatural; a clever cheat could possibly win his claim (some try, but they’re up against someone who knows the tricks).

  7. #7 macht
    May 22, 2006

    “But what he’s testing is someone’s claim to be able to perform.”

    Yes. This is what science does – people make claims, models, hypotheses, etc. and people test them. Assuming the claims hold up, we generally accept the claims as tentatively true.

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 22, 2006

    macht-

    Daniel asserted that it is impossible to test supernatural hypotheses and asked how you test miracles and magic. Your reply contained two parts. First you called it an argument from ignorance, which is a misuse of that term. An argument from ignorance is when you argue, “We have no evidence to support X. Therefore, not X. Daniel wasn’t doing that. Then you said that Randi and CSICOP make scientific claims about the paranormal. Both Daniel and I pointed out that that was incorrect.

    In your first comment here you began by repeating your earlier error. Both Randi and CSICOP test claims of the paranormal. The result of one of their tests is that either there is a naturalistic explanation that accounts for the relevant facts or there is still a puzzle to be solved. In neither case do we obtain evidence either for or against the reality of the paranormal. So referring to Randi and CSICOP in no way addresses Daniel’s point.

    In your second comment here you wrote, “All I’ve said is that I’ve seen no argument for your claim that supernatural explanations aren’t testable.”

    Actually, that’s the first time you ever said that. Previously you had only accused Daniel of making an argument from ignorance and directed him to Randi and CSICOP. Daniel was not making an argument for why supernatural explanations are not testable. He was making an assertion that seems self-evident to him (and to me) and asking how you would refute it.

  9. #9 macht
    May 22, 2006

    Arguments from ignorance come in many forms, one of which you mention. Another form is “I can’t imagine how X could be. Therefore, not X.” Arguments from ignorance can take other forms, too: “I don’t see how …”, “I don’t understand how …”, etc.

    If somebody makes a claim X and then the only argument provided for X is a question of the form “How would you do X?” then that is an argument from ignorance.

    “The result of one of their tests is that either there is a naturalistic explanation that accounts for the relevant facts or there is still a puzzle to be solved.”

    Actually, Randi says that the results of his tests could be evidence for the paranormal or supernatural. See here.

    “At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. “

    It is clear that one of the results of Randi’s test could be “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.”

    “Daniel was not making an argument for why supernatural explanations are not testable. He was making an assertion that seems self-evident to him (and to me) and asking how you would refute it.”

    There is no need to refute an bare assertion. The fact that he (and you) think it is self-evident is beside the point if you are trying to convince somebody (me) who doesn’t find it self-evident.

  10. #10 kfnyc
    May 22, 2006

    “we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show”

    er the point is that they don’t have a million dollars and are sure that no one will be able to collect. Otherwise they will have to wash dishes for 100 years.

    dopey thread. as if ID has any tests for any phenomena, magical or otherwise….

  11. #11 Joseph Smigelski
    May 23, 2006

    I remember reading somewhere that Randi does indeed have the million dollars. I think the money is on deposit in a special trust account at a bank. I can’t recall any details.

  12. #12 Joseph Smigelski
    May 23, 2006

    Randi’s web site explains about the money here:
    http://www.randi.org/research/faq.html#3.1

  13. #13 Benjamin Harrison
    May 23, 2006

    It is clear that one of the results of Randi’s test could be “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.”

    Would you suggest that we invite a putative designer to replicate his performance such that we might see if there’s a trick to it?

  14. #14 mark
    May 23, 2006

    There’s nothing in science that says the supernatural cannot possibly exist. But by definition, it is beyond the “rules” of the natural world, making it pointless to try to incorporate supernatural explanations into scientific research. How can one try to understand the world if at one time, “poof” arranges things one way, but at another time, the capricious “poof” arranges things another way? One set of intelligent-designing aliens (remember–it’s not God, right?) poofs teeny-weeny Evinrudes onto bacteria. The next day, a different set of intelligent-designing aliens comes by and poofs itty-bitty diesel motors onto some other bacteria. How could anyone make sense of anything in such an anarchic cosmos?

  15. #15 Daniel
    May 23, 2006

    macht,
    Still not getting it, hmm?

    ID invokes a Designer which cannot be experimentally controled, observed, measured, or otherwise studied – so the Designer is both supernatural and untestable.

    But as I said on Telic Thoughts, prove me (us) wrong, by finding some way to test the validity of the Designer, conduct the tests, and publish your results. That’s the only way you’ll (1) actually be a scientist, and (2) be anything other than a buffoon in discussions such as this.

  16. #16 Benjamin Harrison
    May 23, 2006

    If there’s a simple way to articulate the obvious distinction macht is missing…

    Given: a professional debunker who seeks to discredit a stage show in which a performer is said to bend spoons with his mind. The corresponding claim of the paranormal/supernatural is that the mind may be used to bend spoons. The debunker demonstrates that an equivalent result may be derived through natural causes, and this is a putative “test.”

    Of course, the hypothesis of this test is NOT that minds bend spoons… rather the debunker tests the idea that the phenomenon may be accomplished through natural means. The test does not disprove the performer’s ability to bend spoons with his mind.

    If one posits that a ghost will appear at the stroke of midnight under the old oak tree, one may quite easily sit oneself down unedr said tree. Thereby one might test the claim of a specific “natural” manifestation of the paranormal claim and prove it false. The “test” does not disprove the existence of ghosts, and one might quite easily claim that it appears only to those who have their paranormal senses adequately tuned.

    Similarly, while one might demonstrate that the bacterial flagellum may come about through natural means of unguided evolution, this does not falsify the claim that an intelligent designer caused it to happen.

    The specific claim that a designer will bring about a disease that wipes out half the world’s population tomorrow will be tested, as we’ll be around tomorrow (or not) to witness it. Of course, if it doesn’t come about, we have simply tested the physical manifestation, not the putative existence of a designer.

    The supernatural indeed cannot be tested.
    It can only be made superfluous.

  17. #17 Daniel
    May 23, 2006

    Jason,
    I’m beginning to think that talking with macht is like talking to a wall, particularly when trying to press him for a way to study or test the Designer. I’m not sure how to characterize his responses – ignoring what I’m (we’re) saying, or feeble stammering of nonsense – Which do you think characterizes his devolution best?

  18. #18 Daniel
    May 23, 2006

    Ah, the answer to my question:

    “are you even reading my posts?”

    Not really.

    Clueless. Utterly clueless.

  19. #19 alistair
    May 25, 2006

    distinctions……..proving intelligent design via science. o.k. part of science is observation right? what about what we are witnessing in our lives isn`t miraculous, without proof, scientific or otherwise and simply staggering in it`s inscrutability? there is never going to be a machine or device to measure the miraculous yet it goes on all around us. if you can`t see a consciousness behind all of this then you will just have continue to have to pray to metrics and fall deeper into hair-splitting arguements.
    you`ll have to excuse me though, i have some miracles to watch. */*

  20. #20 Daniel
    May 29, 2006

    Alistair said:

    …there is never going to be a machine or device to measure the miraculous yet it goes on all around us. if you can`t see a consciousness behind all of this then you will just have continue to have to pray to metrics and fall deeper into hair-splitting arguements.

    Such are legitimate religious beliefs, true. But they’re also utterly nonscientific.

    If you’re going to argue that science is myopic, save it. As the quote goes, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Distorting this quote to your own end does you (and these discussions) a disservice, not to mention the disservice to both science and religion when you blur the lines between these separate disciplines of study.

    Keep your religion out of my science classrooms and labs, and I’ll keep my science out of your churches and seminaries, okay?

  21. #21 G BRUNO
    May 31, 2006

    The ID supposedly made cilia suddenly, so if you had been there with a microscope, you would see (eukaryotes?) lacking cilia suddenly produce progeny with cilia. Its not clear how mitosis would have been proceeding prior to the ‘Centriole-Miracle’.. Its also not clear if the new DNA for all those proteins was inserted from nothing (conservation of mass-energy broken) or if the ID somehow prodded existing bases to insert themselves. (2nd law of TD break)
    I am rather rusty on cilia. A few years ago, after reading Behe, I thought “if there are any known variations of cilia, then they cant be IRedComplex, because IRedComplex says NO changes are possible. A quick lit. search showed several cilia variants, so I decided “Case against Behe, Proven”
    Oddly enough, reading Lyn Margulis, it wasnt clear if centriole proteins have ever been found in prokaryotes. So they did appear rather suddenly. Maybe they have been seen since in some precursor form?

  22. #22 Sid Hartha
    May 31, 2006

    If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him.

  23. #23 Anonymous
    June 11, 2006

    I just dicovered this blog and this thread, and maybe it’s worn out, but I thought I’d add my two cents. For what it’s worth, I think that Macht is right that “supernatural” phenomena could, if they exist, be observed and tested scientifically. The difference, of course, would be that those tests would demonstrate no natural process or cause for the phenomena, and be unable to come up with a new natural mechanism to explain them. The problem macht faces is that no such phenomena have been scientifically observed.

    I’m not a proponent of ID theory, but I still keep an open mind towards the “supernatural”. Even so, this leads to another problem with ID theory and its critics, which is that both pretends that there is no positive way of confirming ID theory experimentally. I disagree. Think about it, if all our present species were designed by an intelligent being, wouldn’t evidence of that design be all over the place, at almost every level of life? Wouldn’t the DNA of each species be orderly and well-thought out, showing at least the elegant touch of an experienced interior designer? The problem with ID theory is that as one examines the “design” of the species, particularly at the level of the DNA, one does not find evidence of elegant design at all, but a strange hodgepodge of molecular strands, genes, all the kinds of residue one would only encounter if evolution were the product of millions of years of fairly disorderly change, rather than the design of a master craftsman.

    I would argue against the notion that ID theory is not a scientific theory. It is, in its own crude way, if one takes it seriously, which means looking at what the theory would predict as far as observable evidence goes. ID suggests things about the nature of the physical universe that should be observable. It’s easy to tell a pile of fallen trees from a house. One is obviously the product of intelligent design, and it shows all kinds of evidence of that design. One doesn’t have to wait for ID theorists to come up with a set of predictions about what kind of evidence one would find if ID theory were true. They won’t do that, of course, but real scientists should be able to examine the theory and see what kind of scientific evidence one should look for to detect evidence of design in biology. The absence of such evidence is just as meaningful as the presence of evidence of evolution to the debate.

    The point is that there should be evidence of design if that is how life came to be, just as there is evidence of design in a house one encounters in the forest. The common “signatures” of design should be discernable. The abscence of such signatures should mean something, just as the presence of such signatures would as well.

    ID theory rests on the naive notion that complexity itself is the “signature” of design, but that’s a very superficial interpretation. What we should really look for is evidence of buzz cuts on the wood of the house, nails inserted at regular intervals just where needed and not elsewhere, and the absence of extraneous features. The problem with our genetic code is that it appears to have been designed by a bizarre drunkard, not very intelligently at all. The results are makeshift and inexplicable at the level of design itself. Why would a genius designer capable of fabricating all living things from scratch make such slipshod products using such inprecise methods?

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