Intelligent Design

ID vs. Methodological Naturalism

Andrew Rowell at ID In the UK

The basic articles of faith for a methodological naturalist go
something like this:

We have found excellent naturalistic explanations for many
phenomenon [sic] in nature.


we believe every phenomenon in nature will have a naturalistic


we make it a strict rule that science is exclusively the study of
possible naturalistic explanations for what can be observed in the

Rowell has it exactly backward. Scientists don’t pledge a blood oath
to preserve the purity of science’s precious bodily naturalism.
Rather, if you’re trying to figure out how the world works,
methodological naturalism works, and nothing else even comes close.

Not heated argument.

Not listening to the most senior researcher present.

Not quoting Aristotle.

Not divine inspiration.

When scientists investigate natural phenomena, they look for natural
explanations because that’s the only method we as a species have come
up with that works worth a damn.

But let’s grant the IDists’ wish for the sake of argument,
and see where that gets us. Let’s allow the explanation that some
unspecified supernatural being may have designed some features of the
universe or of living beings.

Okay, so where can we go from here? Some
obvious questions
are: which features? How can you distinguish a feature designed by
this being from one that arose naturally? How can you tell that the
feature in question wasn’t caused by a previously-unknown natural
cause? Who is the designer? How many designers are there? When did
they operate? How does one get from design to finished product?

Also, there’s nothing magical about methodological naturalism. If you
allow it in biology, you have to allow it elsewhere as well. Should
engineers allow for the possibility that
Maxwell’s demon
might move all of the hot air to the left side of your oven?
Should doctors consider demonic possession, and refer a psychotic
patient to an exorcist rather than just prescribe Thorazine? If
detectives discover a dead body in a room, should they consider

And if you say the designer is Jehovah, how can you be sure it isn’t
really the
Flying Spaghetti Monster?
The problem with supernatural explanations is that there are
infinitely many of them, and no way to say that one is better than

In short, allowing supernatural explanations does nothing to advance
the state of human knowledge, and actually hinders our efforts.

But you know, I could be wrong. Maybe I’ve overlooked something. Maybe
there is merit in not requiring natural explanations for
natural phenomena.

So show me.

Show me the data that shows, not that mainstream ideas about evolution
are wrong, but that ID is right. Show me a specific hypothesis you’re
proposing. Show me how you’ve tested it, or propose to test it. Show
me the steps you’ve taken to make sure you’re not fooling yourself,
and that your work isn’t bullshit. At the very least, show me how
allowing supernatural phenomena makes it easier to get at the correct
answer, the way imaginary numbers do.

Except you can’t, can you? If IDists had anything serious to
contribute, they’d have done so. The Discovery Institute makes
millions. They could easily finance some real research on ID, but they
prefer to spend it on PR and “outreach”. The Dembskis and Behes aren’t
stupid; they could propose some experiments to figure out how to
reliably detect design and learn something about how it happens, but
they haven’t.

Put up or shut up. If IDists aren’t willing or able to do the work of
supporting their ideas, the very least they could do is quit whining
about not being taken seriously.

(Thanks to crandaddy at
Uncommon Descent
for the link).