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No Free Hunch


  11:12:26 am, by Nimble   , 521 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

No Free Hunch

In following the "Intelligent Design" debate, when I'm not getting a bit sick to my stomach, I must admit to being thankful for the occasional humourous distraction.

The No Free Hunch list (a take off on Dembski's paper "No Free Lunch", which I've dissected elsewhere) is a great, dripping sarcastic list which despite its humour really does identify what's wrong with Intelligent Design, its proponents and Creationism in its various guises.

One of the lines stands out due to recent events:

Methodological naturalism is an unfair rule that keeps us from considering supernatural explanations. But this would mean that detectives couldn't consider an intelligent agent in a person's death, because as we all know, murderers are supernatural.

A lot of Intelligent Design's misdirection revolves around bad analogies between intelligent beings we know about and an "Intelligent Designer" we don't. It's Paley's Watchmaker Analogy refried with a little Spanish rice.

There's a kerfuffle[1] going on at the moment (see here and here) with Paul Nelson, an Intelligent Designer that many thought above blatantly misrepresenting his opponents, caught it a lie.

An excerpt from Nelson's presentation at Rolling Hills Covenant Church:

So I posed him a thought experiment. I said suppose you went to a movie and when you came out and you discovered the driver side window of you car was broken, and there was glass everywhere. And you looked inside the vehicle ah, and ah, the McDonalds bag was still there, and the road atlas was still there, the tattered road atlas of Kansas where he lives, but your digital camera was gone and your CD player was gone.

Now what would you infer from that pattern, I put the question to Keith. And rather than do what everyone in this room would do, namely get out your cell phone and dial 911 and infer that someone had broken into his car, rather than say that event, that intelligently cause event had happened, Keith said a natural regularity occurred.

An excerpt Troy Britain's transcript of the original actual thing that Keith Miller said to Paul Nelson (follow the above links for a more complete quote):

Such analogies are completely inappropriate. The thief is a natural causal agent. Humans are part of nature - in fact a part of nature that we know a considerable amount about. As a paleontologist I can similarly infer the action of long extinct animals. We can study the patterns of breakage on shells or bones to infer the likely predator. We can infer much about the interactions of organisms from the fossil record - that is in fact one of my research interests. But you are proposing that science can infer the action of a cause external to the physical universe.

So we have the bad evidence-from-a-car-break-in to the evidence-for-a-supernatural-designer analogy from Nelson, followed up with an amazing misrepresentation of some extremely good arguments to the contrary.

Oh boy.

The other great thing about the No Free Hunch list is a really good reference page, lest you think that the sarcasm is unwarranted, or that Intelligent Design is being somehow systematically misrepresented.

[1] There you go, Adam! Your favourite variant :)

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