Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Egnor, O’Leary and Cowardly Pseudoscience Predictions

One of the most common, and piercing, critiques of Intelligent Design proponents is their unwillingness, or inability, to make testable, falsifiable predictions specific to their claims, using their theory. Two recent articles by Michael Egnor and Denyse O'Leary illustrate this problem.

Egnor waxes sophomorically about the brain and consciousness often. I shan't get into the details of brain function, that has been covered better by others more qualified than I. What caught my attention was this comment by Egnor:

"...dualists propose that the mind is in part caused by matter, and in part caused by something else. Mental causation is dual."

An interesting hypothesis, one worthy of study. Yet where in all Egnor's gibbering about materialism is a falsifiable specific prediction made by it? You won't find one. But you will find this:

"What is genuinely remarkable is what hasn't been found, and it's a real problem for materialism. "

This is the tell tale sign of a crank: refusing to discuss in detail one's own theory and instead attacking one's opponents. This is exactly what HIV denialists and global warming denialists do, and Egnor is true to form, rambling on speculatively about what has and has not been found in brain research to end on what he apparently considers a prediction that qualifies for what I'm searching:

"In fact, the inability to find a unique material cause adequate to completely account for each mental state is a fundamental prediction of dualism."

Sound familiar? It should. It is the close cousin of creationist claims that the inability to flesh out a step-by-step evolutionary pathway for the eye or the flagellum is a fundamental prediction of creationism. It has no more substance than "You couldn't prove your case to the nth degree, therefore hobgoblins exist." I could "prove" any manner of foolishness in similar manner.

Creationist cranks cannot seem to get it through their supposedly intelligently designed heads that one must predict what will be, not what will not be, to earn scientific muster.

Few illustrate this problem better than Denyse O'Leary, as her pathetic attempts to list ID predictions shows:

"1. No good theory will be found for a random origin of the universe, either by the Large Hadron Collider or anything else. The universe will consistently behave more like a great idea than a great machine."

A random origin of the universe? I never heard of anything like that in physics class. And just what does "behave like a great idea" mean? For a prediction to be scientific, it needs to be specific and objective, not some bit of pseudo poetry that can be molded to fit any preconception.

"Positive prediction: An end to unfalsifiable ideas about zillions of flopped universes and a focus on how we can best explore our own universe, as per The Privileged Planet."

An end to an idea is a positive prediction to Denyse.

"2. No good theory will be found for a random origin of life, though there will be plenty of huffing and puffing in favour of bad ideas. All theories that exclude purpose and design fail because they leave out the key driver - the purpose that life should come into existence."

"Good" here no doubt means "impressive to Michael Behe".

"Positive prediction: We will learn more about the real nature of our universe and our place in it, and how best we can explore it when we accept the fact that it didn't 'just happen.'"

Learn "more" than what Denyse? How is this to be objectively measured? And who, exactly, believes it "just happened"? No one I've ever read espoused such nonsense, well, except for creationists.

"3. Complete series of transitional fossils will not usually be found because most proposed series have never existed. Eventually, researchers will give up on ideologically driven nonsense and address the history that IS there."

There is a good reason scientists dont't phrase their theories in terms of what "usually" or "eventually" happens. One cannot falsify such claims, since "eventually", like "tomorrow", never comes.

"Positive prediction: Discovering the true mechanisms of bursts of natural creativity may be of immense value to us, especially if we need to undo some significant harm to our environment. "

MAY BE? That's worse than "usually".

The rest of her "predictions" follow the same pattern. They are cowardly pseudoscience pretending to be real science. There is not one prediction in any of her or Egnor's writings in the same league with the kinds of predictions scientists made when they found Tiktaalik right where they risked their time and efforts digging for it. Creationists simply do not understand science at the most basic level, which is, of course, why they do it so poorly.

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