Intelligent Design and Psychology

Blog post by Nathan Richardson on March 17, 2010
24Comments

Nathan Richardson

What do arguments against intelligent design have to do with psychology?

I’ll level with you—this post isn’t really about Intelligent Design (ID). It’s about the philosophy of science, and what rejecting Intelligent Design as a science implies about psychology. In order to make that connection, though, I have to give some background about the debate concerning ID.

Intelligent Design theory is the idea “that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”1 It has been strongly attacked in the media as an unscientific attempt to inject religion into the public schools. Regardless of the motives or politics behind it, I want to examine the question of its scientific status and some implications this might have regarding restored doctrines.

Is ID a Science?

Many criticisms of ID assert that it is not a science. In contrast, Thomas Nagel, a philosopher and an atheist, contends that ID is in fact a scientific question (and that it’s constitutional to bring up in public schools). I highly recommend his article. Whether you agree with him or not, it is a refreshing taste of clear thinking and thought-provoking argument amidst a lot of muddy arguments on both sides. Here is the main gist:

Whatever the merits [of ID and Darwinian evolution], however, that is clearly a scientific disagreement, not a disagreement between science and something else. … If one scientist is a theist and another an atheist, this is either a scientific or a nonscientific disagreement between them. If it is scientific (supposing this is possible), then their disagreement is scientific all the way down. If it is not a scientific disagreement, and if this difference in their nonscientific beliefs about the antecedent possibilities affects their rational interpretation of the same empirical evidence, I do not see how we can say that one is engaged in science and the other is not. Either both conclusions are rendered nonscientific by the influence of their nonscientific assumptions, or both are scientific in spite of those assumptions. …

I agree with Philip Kitcher that the response of evolutionists to creation science and intelligent design should not be to rule them out as “not science.” He argues that the objection should rather be that they are bad science, or dead science.2

On the other hand, many others argue that ID is not a scientific question. This includes both atheists and theists—for example, Orson Scott Card, a believing Mormon. In an equally well-reasoned and well-explained article, he says Intelligent Design theory is not a scientific endeavor because it involves intent or purpose:

Science is the process of trying to discover mechanistic causes of publicly observable phenomena. The trouble is that causation cannot be positively proven. … So the best that scientists can do is make guesses (hypotheses) about causation and then conduct experiments designed to prove those guesses wrong. … And that’s just on the subject of mechanical cause. When it comes to final cause, which we call “purpose” or “motive,” science is simply helpless. … Scientists must therefore conduct their work as if the entire universe were one big machine, in which everything that happens is caused to happen by outside forces that push on each other. …

That is why science simply cannot admit God—or Intelligent Design—into the public discussion of science. The moment transcendent forces are invoked, science ends. And that’s why I am among those who do not want to see Intelligent Design offered as a scientific alternative to Darwinism in science classes. It is, at best, a distraction; it is not that ID is wrong, it’s that it’s irrelevant to the project of science.3

I don’t know that this is the only argument against ID’s status as a scientific pursuit, but from what I’ve read, it seems to be a fairly common one.

Card brings up an interesting point about the definition of science. I am not so much interested in proving that ID is or is not a science as I am in explaining the ramifications of either conclusion. In particular, I hope to show that any Latter-day Saint who believes that ID is not a science for the reasons that Card explained cannot believe that psychology is a science. In other words, if Intelligent Design is not science, then neither is psychology. Allow me to explain.

A Logical Trilemma

Here are three propositions, of which only two can be true at the same time:

  1. Science is the study of mechanistic causation, and cannot involve the study of intent or purpose.
  2. Psychology—the study of people’s thoughts, actions, and behavior—is a science.
  3. People have agency, meaning their thoughts, actions, and behavior are largely governed by intent and purpose.

If (1) and (2) are true, (3) cannot be true, because our thoughts, actions and behavior would be determined purely by mechanisms such as genes and environment, not choices. If (2) and (3) are true, then (1) cannot be true; we would have to adjust our definition of science to include intent or purpose. If (1) and (3) are true, then (2) cannot be true; there could never be a mechanistic study of people’s intents and choices.

As a Latter-day Saint, I know (3) is true. There’s no doubt in my mind that people have agency, and that we have the final say in what we think, what we do, or how we behave. Power to choose is a fundamental doctrine of the Church. So I’m left to conclude that either (1) or (2) is false. Either we must give a broader definition for science, or we must conclude that psychology is not a true science.

Either option is fine with me; I think a Latter-day Saint could comfortably say either one. Perhaps they might say that science is not restricted to mechanistic causation. I’m a novice when it comes to philosophy of science, but I would be fascinated to hear other proposed definitions. Or perhaps a Latter-day Saint might say that psychology is a worthwhile but non-scientific endeavor. That’s fine. As Orson Scott Card says, “There are lots of subjects in this world that are worth studying, and in which true and valuable things can be discovered, which are not and cannot be science.”4 Some examples that occur to me are law, history, and economics.

My only fear is that people will try to hold all three ideas in their head, and when that becomes impossible, they will jettison agency because the other two ideas are so strongly repeated in so many venues of thought.

Conclusion

Commenters are welcome to post their resolutions to this trilemma. I would be very curious to hear how Orson Scott Card resolves it. For all I know, he agrees with this explanation and believes that psychology is not a science. If that is not what he believes, I’d be very interested in hearing how he resolves this conundrum in his own mind, or whether there is some logical gap that I have missed in my explanation that renders this not truly a trilemma.

But really I’m not concerned with which proposition, (1) or (2), people abandon, only that they understand that, as I see it, they must abandon one of them in order to maintain a belief in (3), the true doctrine of agency.



Notes


1. “Top Questions, Center for Science and Culture, discovery.org, accessed 11 Mar. 2010.

2. Thomas Nagel, “Public Education and Intelligent DesignPhilosophy & Public Affairs 36, n. 2, p. 187–205.

3. Orson Scott Card, “Intelligent Conversation,” WorldWatch column (The Rhinoceros Times: Greensboro, NC), 4 May 2008, accessed on ornery.org on 11 Mar. 2010.

4. Orson Scott Card, “Creation and Evolution in the Schools,” WorldWatch column (The Rhinoceros Times: Greensboro, NC), 8 Jan. 2006, accessed on ornery.org on 11 Mar. 2010.

24
comments so far
  1. It seems you’ve taken different levels of observation and concluded that, because they both possess intent and purpose, that both ID and psychology or either together science or together not. I agree with Card on ID not being science, but I don’t see how this equates with psychology. Psychology is not trying to understand the intent and purpose of the creator of our minds, just the minds themselves. ID is trying to explain the intent and purpose of nature’s creator, not the intent and purpose of nature itself. In fact, those fields of science that study animal behavior would be comparable to psychology. I would say what you have presented is a false comparison.

  2. I think that you have some very valid points. Organic evolution is not a science, it is an idea. It has not proven to be true science. If our world and everything on it was created by chance, then they should be able to recreate it, by discovering that perfect environment in which this occurred and duplicate it.

    As a Latter-day Saint, we have the benefit of prophets who speak to God that have told us about the Origin of Man, and that we are literally children of a Heavenly Father. We have been told that Adam was the first Man, and that each creature was created and command to multiply after its kind. We know that fish create fish and not some other creature. We are taught in the Lord’s Universities (the temples) the truth. The philosophies of men can be confusing if we have not developed a testimony of God and prophets. But you are correct, Psychology is not a science using those same limitations/definitions.

  3. Hey Skyler, glad to hear from you!

    Skyler: It seems you’ve taken different levels of observation and concluded that, because they both possess intent and purpose, that both ID and psychology or either together science or together not.

    I’m not sure whether you understood the point Card was making about the scope of science. (And if you didn’t, it’s very likely because I didn’t quote his piece as well or as extensively as I needed to to make it clear. My fault. :-) If you read more of his two articles, it’s clearer.) His definition doesn’t say science can only handle a certain level of intent or purpose; it says science cannot address intent or purpose at all. That is, anything having to do with intent or purpose is outside the scope of science. Even if there are different types or degrees of purpose, they are all excluded from science.

    Psychology is not trying to understand the intent and purpose of the creator of our minds, just the minds themselves.

    Right. But in Card’s definition, it’s not just the purposes of God or the purpose of life that is off-limits; it’s purpose period that’s off limits. So if we believe that our minds act purposively, with intentions and choices, then our minds are also outside the scope of science.

    ID is trying to explain the intent and purpose of nature’s creator, not the intent and purpose of nature itself.

    I actually think an ID expert would disagree with this statement (he’d probably say ID doesn’t ask God’s purposes, it just concludes that things in nature have a purpose, as opposed to evolution, which assumes nature is purposeless). However, that topic doesn’t interest me as much at this point as does the trilemma. Of the two definitions of ID you mention in this sentence, Proposition (1) would rule out either of them. That is, even if ID were only trying to explain the intent or purpose of nature, it would still fall outside of Card’s definition for even proposing that nature has a purpose.

    The point of Card’s definition is that science only studies mechanisms, not goals or intent. It studies process, not purpose; how, not why. Here’s something that might make the implications of Card’s point clearer. Try substituting examples from psychology in his definition:

    [Psychology] is the process of trying to discover mechanistic causes of publicly observable [human thoughts and actions]. … When it comes to final cause, which we call “purpose” or “motive,” science is simply helpless. … Scientists must therefore conduct their work as if the [human mind] were one big machine, in which everything that happens is caused to happen by outside forces that push on each other. …

    That is why science simply cannot admit [choice or will] into the public discussion of science. The moment transcendent forces are invoked, science ends. And that’s why I am among those who do not want to see [agency] offered as a scientific alternative to [behavioralism] in science classes. It is, at best, a distraction; it is not that [agency] is wrong, it’s that it’s irrelevant to the project of science.

    When truly understood, agency qualifies as a “transcendant force” beyond the scope of science, by this definition.

    Return to Virtue: Organic evolution is not a science, it is an idea. It has not proven to be true science.

    I think I see your point, but it’s important to remember that an idea does not have to be true to be scientific. Look at these two examples using Card’s definition. If I propose the hypothesis, “The planet Mars has lichens on its surface,” whether that statement is true or not, it is a scientific question. If I propose the hypothesis, “I love my mother,” whether that statement is true or not, it’s not a scientific question.

  4. Skyler: ID is trying to explain the intent and purpose of nature’s creator, not the intent and purpose of nature itself.

    ID is in no way trying to “explain the intent and purpose of nature’s creator” nor is it aimed at explaining “the intent and purpose of nature itself.” The former is a matter of theology and the latter a concern of philosophy. ID—in its most sophisticated formulations—is the attempt to detect the possibilty of intent, purpose, or design in the operations and objects of nature. In this sense, it is not scientifically different than the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Criminal Forensics, or Archaeology, each of which entails naturalistic observation aimed at detecting non-random or intelligent/intentional causes for particular phenomena.

    I am not trying here to defend ID—though I am sympathetic to the critiques of mechanical materialism many of its defenders offer. Rather, I am just trying to clarify what it is and isn’t. Further, I see no reason (1) why science must necessarily be equated with mechanical/materialist explanation, and (2) why anyone should be persuaded that ID is not a science simply because it doesn’t endorse a necessarily mechanical cosmology. If one is going to dismiss ID because it is not science, one has to come up with an argument more convincing than (1) science requires materialism, (2) ID does not require materialism, (3) therefore ID is not Science—especially given the fact that there is nothing inherent to systematic empirical observation of the world or the testing of hypotheses that demands the assumption of a materialist ontology in our attempts to explain the world.

    On a related note, the contention of Brother Card (whose fiction I occasionally enjoy and whose thinking I occasionally don’t) that “the moment transcendent forces are invoked, science ends” would come as quite a surprise to someone like Isaac Newton or Galileo—though perhaps not to someone like Simon Laplace or Richard Dawkins. The notion that once transcendence is involved all science comes to an end is a historically naïve and philosophically indefensible assertion that does not stand up to careful analysis. (I think Nagel, though an atheist, gets this point.) Of course, one expects that sort of thing to be claimed by an ontological materialist/atheist or a naïve and militant methodological naturalist. It is a bit distressing, however, when it is parrotted by a believing Christian. I would hope that Brother Card would change his tune once he thought through the troublesome theological implications of the methodological naturalism he endorses.

    (I could say some more about those theological implications, but I’ve already rambled on long enough here as it is … so perhaps another time.)

  5. Interesting post, Nathan. I reject (1), sorry Brother Card. I don’t think that mechanics is necessary for science. Rather I think that the demarcation between science and non-science is not material versus transcendent explanations, but explanations that are definitively falsifiable by empirical data versus those that are not. Isaac Newton said it best:

    I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.

    Newton actually did hold such a “hypothesis” about gravity, believing that it is the result of the movement of God’s body. But he didn’t consider this explanation proper for his scientific work. This doesn’t mean that Newton didn’t believe this and other “hypotheses” to be true. Just that these hypotheses aren’t scientific.

    Along this reasoning, ID is not scientific because the theory has not yet been articulated in such a way as to make it falsifiable. Perhaps someday it will be. Organic evolution lacked this falsifiability at its inception but quickly progressed to the point that it could be disproven by empirical results and is now a full-fledged scientific theory.

    I think this talk by Physicist David Deutsch is also helpful.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/666

  6. Thank you, gentlemen. There are so many interesting threads this conversation could follow, it takes a lot of discipline for me to choose a focus. :-) I just want to pepper questions all over the page.

    So SGarff rejects (1) and would change the definition of science used, and Ed would do the same, if I understand correctly. SGarff leans toward empirical falsifiability as the definition; Ed, is that the criterion you would use? Also, would either of you categorize psychology as a science, even with that new definition? Just curious; I’m not sure what I’d do.

    Ed: There is nothing inherent to systematic empirical observation of the world or the testing of hypotheses that demands the assumption of a materialist ontology in our attempts to explain the world.

    Could it be argued that if we use systematic observation, we have to assume mechanical regularity, otherwise there’s no point in trying to eliminate variables in an experiment? Or could that be answered by saying that just because we see a pattern doesn’t mean it’s a mechanical pattern; the pattern could also be an expression of will? Is there a third option that hasn’t occurred to me?

    It is a bit distressing, however, when it is parrotted by a believing Christian. I would hope that Brother Card would change his tune once he thought through the troublesome theological implications.

    I wonder if he holds to this definition for practical purposes, not expecting it to apply to theology. That is, he says scientists treat the universe “as if” if were a machine—not because he or they believe it really is, rather because it is useful in combining the efforts of people with different beliefs to solve practical problems. Do you think that’s an OK reason for using his mechanical definition, or is it unwise? Sure, it would limit the scope of what science could be used to investigate (such as human minds), but are there other reasons to avoid that definition?

    SGarff: Organic evolution lacked this falsifiability at its inception but quickly progressed to the point that it could be disproven by empirical results.

    Is this the case for evolutionary theories of the origin of life? What I mean is, when confronted with the failure of Miller-Urey-type experiments, the answer is usually, “Well, life can spontaneously emerge from the right set of conditions; we just haven’t found those conditions yet.” That seems hard to falsify. I ask because Nagel says that either evolutionary origins ideas and ID are both science, or they are neither science. How would you respond to that?

  7. Is psychology a science? Under a falsifiability criterion, this is not actually the right question. It is almost impossible to ask whether an entire discipline could be falsified by observation. If Mars failed to appear at the right place in the sky, physics would not be falsified, just the particular theory within physics that made the incorrect prediction. Disciplines such as physics and psychology are only scientific to the extent that they are pursuing scientific (falsifiable) theories.

    When I say that evolutionary theory is scientific, I am making a distinction from theories describing the origin of life. Evolutionary theory has clearly made predictions about the development of species that can be tested against observation. As far as I can tell, theories describing the origin of life have not been articulated in such a way that they can make predictions or be falsified by observation. Of course, they may yet develop to the point of being testable.

  8. [...] Related Blogs on psychology: “Intelligent Design and Psychology” | ldsphilosopher [...]

  9. Nathan, this is a peculiar argument from Card then, as even biology and medicine try to understand the purpose of various parts of our biological makeup, and of the biological makeup of plants and animals.

    As for ID, I believe the “design” part implies intent and purpose. Something isn’t designed if not for a reason. Intent and purpose is the basis of ID, at least in a design level. (Yes, theology is about intent and purpose as well, both of the creator and the created.)

  10. Yeah, I think I agree with you—what is a medical researcher doing except trying to figure out the purpose of various parts of the body? Shouldn’t it be fine for an anatomical scientist to say, “I’m trying to figure out what this is for”?

    I think a purist who uses Card’s mechanistic definition would say no, he must not believe it is “for” anything. As I understand it, they’d say that body parts have functions, not purpose; the parts “do” things, but they were not “meant to do” anything. That is, they randomly end up serving some function, but it was by chance. And since the function happened to make the animal more successful at reproducing, it has the appearance of having been intended for that function from the beginning. But in reality it was not “intended” for anything. So by pretending that body parts have no inherent purpose, only coincidental functions, we’re able to call our study of them a science.

    I agree—it’s peculiar. How does acknowledging the possibility of an intended function discredit me as an anatomical researcher? I think that’s what the ID biologists are asking. Perhaps it’s what psychologists who believe in agency ought to be asking.

    Skyler: Even biology and medicine try to understand the purpose of various parts. … Intent and purpose is the basis of ID, at least in a design level.

    So would you say that two researchers, one in biology/medicine and the other in ID, are both conducting science?

  11. SGarff: Evolutionary theory has clearly made predictions about the development of species that can be tested against observation.

    That’s my understanding as well. I’d love to read more on it, but even from what I’ve read, many areas of biology qualify as hard science, like genetics. That kind of stuff is much easier for me to trust.

    When I say that evolutionary theory is scientific, I am making a distinction from theories describing the origin of life.

    OK, I gotcha. I think that’s good. I wish people would make this distinction more often.

    In conversations past on this subject, I’ve sometimes felt like people use a bait-and-switch. They show evidence for variation and then say they’ve proven “evolution,” so you have to accept undirected speciation. But that’s like saying that if you can demonstrate that there are electrons and protons, you’ve proven “atomic physics,” so you have to accept string theory.

  12. Nathan, we need to be friends. :) I met your amigo Jeff Thayne last night at a party in S. Jordan, and I think the three of us have some similar passions (just judging by the similarities in subjects and manner of writing blog posts).

    I’ll comment a bit on this subject since I recently read “Only a Theory” by Kenneth Miller, who also wrote one of my top five favorite books, “Finding Darwin’s God.” In it he identifies some of the propositions of ID and analyzes their validity. He concludes that, as currently articulated, the part of ID that is a scientific theory is merit-poor.

    PS, how do I make portions of my comment italicized, or respond to others’ comments with included excerpts? And how do you make that Notes section with references? It looks pretty sharp.

    Nathan:Here are three propositions, of which only two can be true at the same time:

    1. Science is the study of mechanistic causation, and cannot involve the study of intent or purpose.
    2. Psychology—the study of people’s thoughts, actions, and behavior—is a science.
    3. People have agency, meaning their thoughts, actions, and behavior are largely governed by intent and purpose.”

    First, I’d contend against the internal consistency of proposition 1. Intent and purpose may very well have both substance and mechanistic causation. See http://bradcarmack.blogspot.com/2010/02/intention-faith-and-net-consequence.html. An excerpted concept: spiritual creation is material because spiritual matter exists (D&C 131: 7 All spirit is matter… 8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.) Faith may be material, and intention as well, in that they organize spiritual matter. Even the agentic source that is our intelligence is likely a substance and operates materialistically. Additionally, since the resolution of intent is a decision, and a decision is a thought, and thoughts are detectable neurologically, intention/purpose is at least partly mechanistic in its temporal aspect if not also its spiritual one, and therefore subject to scientific study.

    As to the agency piece, I agree that individuals have agency. However, it is unclear that agency is either partly or fully independent of materialistic factors. As Don Ruiz argues in “The Four Agreements,” most of our actions, beliefs, feelings of guilt, aspirations, and intentions result from agreements we made to norms proposed to us during childhood. The reality of staggering cultural diversity historically and across the current human diaspora, and the highly conserved norms in these societies, evidence the malleability of people to the scripts they are persistently bombarded with. Couple the reality that the decisions of other biological creatures are directly affected if not determined by their environments and genes (e.g. 8% of male sheep are homosexual, or spiders that make less ordered webs when drunk) with the fact that people are at least partly biological in nature, and you have one more piece of evidence suggesting that agency isn’t as executive as we often think. Elder Wickman noted the “sophistry” that if person A has a susceptibility to behavior Y, it is not inevitable that A will do Y. I think that agency can be exercised in an executive control fashion in some simple situations- however, the vast majority of decisions and intentions people make are more subconscious and thoughtless than they are executive. If agency is the ability to choose between alternatives, and freedom defines the scope of those alternatives, it seems that many factors external to the decision-maker (ask the behavioral economists for some specific examples) determine the likelihood of selecting certain alternatives (at least in the absence of exercising executive control). Thus, to the extent that agency is fettered/inextricably commingled with material factors, it is, like purpose, subject to science.

    I think these three conclusions are internally sound:

    If (1) and (2) are true, (3) cannot be true, because our thoughts, actions and behavior would be determined purely by mechanisms such as genes and environment, not choices. If (2) and (3) are true, then (1) cannot be true; we would have to adjust our definition of science to include intent or purpose. If (1) and (3) are true, then (2) cannot be true; there could never be a mechanistic study of people’s intents and choices.

    Also, a more liberal definition of science may be appropriate- perhaps one that defines science as an “organized common sense toolkit,” or “falsifiable propositions rationally evaluated” or something similar. I think any sufficiently precise claim is testable, though perhaps not with present tools. Theoretically I think every reality can be measured, provided it is at least identifiable.

  13. Brad,

    Thanks for stopping by! I really appreciate your comments. They are insightful, and we hope you continue to frequent our site. It’ll be fun to continue to converse about these things.

    Thus, to the extent that agency is fettered/inextricably commingled with material factors, it is, like purpose, subject to science.

    I agree, but with a caveat: I personally feel as though psychologists often pre-assume that human behavior is caused by material factors, and this dramatically influences (1) the types of empirical evidence that psychologists consider admissible, (2) the way the psychologists make their observations, and (3) the theories they use to account for their observations. I personally believe the research you cite does not conclusively demonstrate that humans are “fettered” in their choices. These conclusions are not strictly warranted by the evidence, but are rather based upon the pre-empirical assumptions made by the researchers as they approach the evidence.

    This is, I believe, one of the dangers of the discipline of psychology (I’m speaking as a graduate student in psychology): based not strictly on empirical evidence, but on the philosophical interpretations of the evidence, psychologists may eventually convince we are not really moral agents at all, but merely meat machines. I think we should be extremely cautious drawing such conclusions based merely on correlational evidence, since correlation does not imply causation.

  14. I really appreciate the post bringing up Card’s viewpoints. If you don’t mind me saying so, I have written a 3-part post on the matter of ID being scientific for Latter-day Saints at http://www.mormonsandscience.com/1/post/2008/12/intelligent-designpart-3.html

    I think a great deal of people accept #1 above [mechanistic definition]. A lot of people from the hard sciences reject #2 ["psychology is science"], although they would not admit it to a soft scientist. And most scientists who accept naturalism (the dominant ontological and epistemological viewpoint in science today) reject #3 [agency]. I think the rejection of #3 is what creates a lot of tension between science and religion these days.

    Keep up the good work.

    Dave

  15. Thanks, Dave. I agree—science doesn’t have to just conflict with religion specifically before it starts making people uncomfortable. As science encroaches on the idea of agency, even irreligious people begin to object, because a purely mechanistic universe is a meaningless one. I look forward to reading your series when I have a moment.

  16. I can’t fairly explain in English my point of view (I’m Italian), so sorry if you’ll find some mistakes.

    The problem with this topic is that “science” is a term changing with time. For Galilei (and Newton as well), science is a matter of “phenomena” that can be reproduced with 100% of match. If only 70% of stones, left free to move, fell to ground, will there be a gravity law discover? And if planets turned 70% as ellipse and 30% as square orbit, what about cosmological law?

    When scientists discovered that science NEVER catch the true, they accepted that “scientific method” is valid and science is a continue approximation of reality. Now human science (psychology, sociology, etc.) accept statistical model. So we are living a border paradigm time. Aristotelian logic, implied in your trilemma, will be replaced by FUZZY logic that presume that there is not only two states (true and not true) but an infinite degree of true and/or not true.

    I have not enough English writing skill to explain deeply this topic. I have not read enough English books on this subject.

  17. Mariano: Aristotelian logic, implied in your trilemma, will be replaced by FUZZY logic.

    I think I understand what you mean, and I think I agree with you. I only wish every scientist out there would be this candid about the limitations of science. Science is useful, but I’m often not as persuaded that some findings should be considered indubitably true. Especially in the human sciences that you mention, I balk when someone wants to reshape society or pass a far-reaching bill, based on their conviction that science has “proven” it will be better this way.

  18. Unfortunately science divulgers seem to be more interested to atheism than science itself. Nothing to say about discussion of what is scientific and what not. I read a statement of a professor asserting that it’s scientific if it denies God!

    I think we have to set against this kind of divulger. I’m publishing a newspaper (via email) for the Italian with this goal. By the way, can I use some of your materials?

  19. I read a statement of a professor asserting that it’s scientific if it denies God!

    How’s that for cool, dispassionate logic? :-)

    That’s great that you have a newsletter. I think it might work out fine for you to use some of our materials. Let us know your plan, and we can talk.

    Oh, and what do you mean by “divulger”?

  20. It’s an English translation of the Italian word “divulgatori.” These are who try to let know to the “mass” scientific discoveries. The ones who write books, newspaper articles, etc.

    One of them, on a blog, wrote that he was concerned about teaching “creationism” to scholar. Say what? Because when this was done (as experiment), the scholar’s faith in evolution fail significantly!! So his problem was not to know Why this happen but the “fail of trust” in evolution!!!

  21. If I understand the terminology correctly, I’ve always believed that God acts according to natural, scientific, perhaps mechanistic laws and means. When we say God works by supernatural means, it only means that we do not yet understand the natural laws by which He functions.

    If God does act through natural, mechanistic means, evidence of His creation should be discoverable in the physical world, again, if we understand the natural laws involved. Just as a person from the 18th century would find a light bulb or a cell phone to be supernatural, once the science is understood, these items become a physical, mechanical reality, we find the Creation to be supernatural from our current perspective, but would eventually learn of its physical/mechanical and scientific existence.

  22. My point of view is a little bit different.

    God doesn’t “act according to,” but He established that things go according to. His work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality, etc. So He gave “instructions” (commandments, laws) to chaotic material. When we find a physical law, we understand what God has commanded to that particular “element.” So we learn the will of God!

    Reality is a little bit more complex than our brain can achieve. So the Holy Ghost comes to help us to understand, and our brain will change accordingly.

    Sorry for my bad English. It would be more easy (for me) in Italian.

  23. Bruce,

    I agree with Mariano. God isn’t bound or restrained by scientific laws, nor is He the “Great Scientist” we’ve sometimes made Him out to be. Rather, He is the lawgiver, and the author of the order we see in the natural world. I’ve written extensively on this subject, and I would be willing to send you some of the research I found, if you are interested.

  24. If you mean me the answer in yes!

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