Thursday, August 20, 2009

ID is NOT Falsifiable

The Discovery Institute (DI) is the main spokes groupfor Intelligent Design.

On the DI web page at a physcist named David Heddle gives this example ofsomething that would falsify ID:

"Find complex life where they [ID advocates] claim you won't find it - say on a gas giant, or near a x-ray emitting star in the galactic center or on a planet without a dark night, etc."
Let's examine this claim.
First of all, how would you test this? No planets in our own solar system meet these requirements. So the only way to test it would be to visit another solar systems.

So all you need to test this hypothesis is possess the ability to engage in interstellar space travel.
No problem, right?
We might get there in a few centuries.
Moreover once you've invented the technology you still need to travel to that other star.

Let's say that you find a good candidate fairly close to Earth - say 100 light-years. If you can travel at10% of the speed-of-light (which we very well may not be able to do) it would take 1000 years to get there and 1000 years to return.
So the first problem - it is utterly impossible that anyone now alive will live to see such evidence. Therefore it is an utterly safe prediction to make. No one will ever live to have to apologize for being wrong about a prediction such as that. In essence,therefore the hypothesis is untestable as a practical matter if not theoretically.
Moreover, the claim is very vague. What is "complex life"? ID advocates say that ALL life is "complex". Their very argument for Intelligent Design dependson that premise.

Now they add "complex" as an adjective. Isn't that like saying "complex complex life"?
But how do you define "complex" in that context? Is a single-celled organism "complex"? Or does it have to be multi-cellular? Or does it have to be intelligent?
Moreover, what is "life"? Scientists debate whether or not viruses are alive. If we find something like a virus on this distant planet is that alive?

So the second problem is that if some distant ancestors of ours DO find something you could call "life" under those conditions, the ID advocates could always say "that's not complex" since "complex" is not a well-defined term.

Contrast this with a typical falsifiable prediction for evolution: finding a mammalian fossil in pre-cambrian rock. Mammals have well-defined characteristics. A reasonably complete mammalian fossil would be identified with no real debate. The same thing istrue for aging the rock. Radiometric dating would objectively determine the age of the rock. (Note that while some creationists argue against the integrity of radiometric dating, that is basicallyirrelevant in this context because mainstream scientists would do the dating and they accept radiometric dating as a valid way of determining the age of a rock.)

Note also that such a find doesn't require any newtechnology that is thousands of years away. Paleontologists have already examined pre-cambrian rocks for fossils. If such a fossil exists, ascientist could be discovering it as I write this.
But, more to the point, why would Dr. Heddle's claim actually falsify ID? I know that this physicist says that it would, but he offers no explanation for that claim.
While ID advocates say that you can't identify the designer, surely they don't disagree that one possibility is that the designer is an omnipotent, omniscient God. An omnipotent God, by definition, could do anything.

Therefore, if anything, such a find would endorse ID rather than falsify it since mainstream science doesn't believe that life can exist under thesecircumstances. Such a find would tend to imply thei ntervention of some intelligent being.

So ID, yet again, demonstrates what a total, complete intellectual and scientific fraud it is.

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