Recall that William A. Dembski, in his No Free Lunch (2002), posed the twin questions “Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable?” and answered, “Yes to the first question, no to the second question.” In part 1, I explained that although the questions are posed in terms of falsifiability, he in fact reformulates falsifiability as refutability (explicitly in The Design Revolution ), claims that “intelligent design” is refutable, and (implicitly) concludes that “intelligent design” is therefore scientific. But, I noted, he fails to ensure that refutability is capable of playing the same role as falsifiability in providing a plausible criterion for what is and what is not scientific. Either it is not so capable (if it is construed so as to classify Popper’s examples of non-sciences as scientific) or (if it is construed to classify Popper’s examples of non-sciences as non-scientific) there is no independent reason to believe that it will classify “intelligent design” as scientific.
It's like the ultimate movie monster: invisible, slowly creeping until it rears its ugly head, suddenly lashing out, disguised as dramatic extreme events, growing more powerful and destructive over time. It strikes fear and terror in the populace, causing some to deny its existence and others to weep and wail as they try to warn their friends and neighbors.
Last week on the Fossil Friday I gave you a really tough challenge...well, not that tough, but it was a plant, and plants are hard, apparently. So this week, I'm heading back over to the land of the animals, where we can bask in the glow of tibias and mandibles.
So what is this week's fossil?
I have a soft spot for William Paley, although his Natural Theology (1802) is regarded as helping to inspire the “intelligent design” movement. A few years ago, when NCSE was discussing the establishment of a spoof award to be conferred upon the most egregious creationist of the year, there was a suggestion that it be called the Paley, and I took strong exception.
“Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable? Yes to the first question, no to the second question.” You might think that it’s Michael Behe again; after all, he’s on the record as having asserted, “ID is quite susceptible to falsification” while “Darwinism seems quite impervious to falsification.” (He said so in his “The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis” ; I argued that he was mistaken in “Falsifia-behe-lity,” and noted in “Falsifia-behe-lity on the Edge” that he seems to have quietly abandoned the claim by the time of his second book, The Edge of Evolution .) But no. Instead, it’s William A. Dembski, the chief theoretical architect of the “intelligent design” movement, in his No Free Lunch (2002). You might think that, since Dembski, unlike Behe, is trained in philosophy, that his argument will be clearer, crisper, and perhaps even not obviously misguided. But, again, no.
Most people who have heard of Genie Scott know her as the public face, or perhaps the embodiment, of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). I can’t remember how many times over the years I’ve told someone, including teachers, scientists, or others one might expect to have heard of us, that I work “at NCSE,” only to receive a blank expression until I add the magic words “with Genie Scott.” Then they make the connection.
With the polar vortex sweeping the nation, I thought I'd bring you a little greenery to brighten your day. Well, it was green a million years ago...or five million? Ten?
You tell me! What was this festive plant, what epoch does it hail from, and if you are feeling particularly bold, where was this fossil found? First person to identify it gets bragging rights for the week!
Call me a sybarite if you must, a crazed party animal, but I spent the evening of New Year’s Eve 2013 watching Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln (2012), which I missed when it was in the theaters. I enjoyed it quite a lot, especially because a large portion of my leisure reading over the last couple of years has been devoted to the American Civil War, and consequently I was in a better position to know who the various characters were and what their backgrounds were than the rest of the people watching the film with me. Did you know that Fernando Wood (played by Lee Place), the Democratic member of Congress who so memorably sparred with Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones), floated the idea that New York City should secede from the Union earlier in the war, when he was the city’s mayor? My knowledge of the Civil War era is not prodigious, though, and I didn’t see a lot to nitpick. Until Darwin made his indirect cameo appearance, that is.