Sunday, December 23, 2012


Who Is That Designer?

David Klinghoffer is letting cats out of the bag again (where does he live? ... maybe it was his cat that bit me).

It seems that Klinghoffer is exercised about a proposal that:
It is entirely plausible, says University of Washington physics professor Martin Savage, that our universe and everything in it is one huge computer simulation being run by our descendants.
The Sensuous Curmudgeon has already dealt with this.

Now, Professor Savage and I might have rather different definitions of "entirely plausible" but how does Klinghoffer get off calling the proposal "the premise of a creepy science-fiction movie"? After all, as the estimable Tom S notes at the Curmudgeon's place, no less a Discovery [sic] Institute stalwart than Michael Behe has stated that:
Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel–fallen or not; Plato's demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being.
Klinghoffer seems to think it unfair that people, including the scientific community, might think that Savage's proposal is legitimate while ID isn't. Again, I'm doubtful of how "legitimate" the scientific community views Savage's proposal as, but, at the least, Savage has proposed a way of empirically testing his proposal by differentiating how the highest-energy cosmic rays would travel in a simulation as opposed to how they would travel in a "real" universe.

In comparison, Willaim Dembski has said that "design can accommodate all the results of Darwinism." In other words, even if ID is true, it will look exactly the same as if evolution occurred. There is no critical test of ID that would show that it is a better explanation than evolution.

Now, the IDers might feel that it is unfair that evolution is considered the "base line" that they have to overturn in order to become the reigning scientific paradigm, but that is how science works. Evolution has proved to be a very fertile means of increasing our knowledge of the world and, therefore, deserves its place, a fact that Dembski tacitly admits by trying to avoid just such a critical test. Just so, the view that the universe is real has been very fertile and it would take a lot for science to accept that it is just a computer simulation. But Savage's test, if it indicated that it was, would at least require attention.

The important thing is that Savage is willing to propose the identity, means and methods of his designer, while the IDers are not. As Casey Luskin has said:
[I]dentifying the designer can't be done by science. It is a strictly theological question, and thus for the theory of ID to try to identify the designer would be to inappropriately conflate science with religion.
That's why it is no surprise that Klinghoffer admits the real intent of the Intelligent Design Movement:
[Y]ou have to understand that ID is plausible and testable only where it excludes a designer that overlaps with any theistic conception.
In other words, ID Creationism is out to pretend that theistic conceptions are scientific. But, like Philip Henry Gosse's Omphalos, it fails because there is no empiric evidence that could ever distinguish it from the kind of naturalism that has so enhanced our understanding of the world.

Of course, Klinghoffer and his compatriots are free to believe as they do. They just don't have the right to call it "science."

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For those of a certain age, your title would have been better as "Who Was That Masked Designer Anyway?"
... would have been better as "Who Was That Masked Designer Anyway?"

Damn! I'm old enough, Tonto, but I didn't think of it. I wish I had!
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