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EVOLUTION,

EMPIRICISM AND

PURPOSENESS (1)

Jesús Zamora Bonilla

November, 2009

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MAIN MOTIVATION

Analysis of the use of some concepts from


philosophy of science in the arguments of
defenders of “Intelligent Design” (ID).
E.g.
-Scientific explanation and inference
-Information
-Structure and dynamics of theories, and relation to
empirical data
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DEMBSKI’S
“EXPLANATORY
FILTER”

To explain a phenomenon P,
try first through ‘necessity’,
then by ‘chance’,
and, if these don’t work,
infer that P comes out of design
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WHAT DOES ‘EXPLANATION’ MEAN IN
THE ‘EXPLANATORY FILTER’

In empirical science, to ‘explain’ is to provide a


theoretical model that allows to...

logically or statistically derive the explanandum

from assumptions about regularities and


previous contingent conditions

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In this sense, in order to be part of a REAL scientific
explanation, ‘design’ must be included in a MODEL
indicating how the explanandum FOLLOWS from the
model’s assumptions

‘Design’ (as, by the way, ‘natural selection’) has to


be seen more as a ‘promise’ of explanation than as
an ‘actual’ explanation

The scientific value of these promises depends on


their success in helping us make new empirical
discoveries 5
More importantly, ‘necessity’, ‘chance’ and ‘design’ are
by no means alternative ‘types’ of explanation.
1: ‘Necessity’ refers to the existence of a regularity
that describes the way (i.e., the ‘mechanism’
through which) the phenomenon arises
(by the way, the theory of natural selection not doing so, is what
ID defenders take as the main reason to reject it; but they don’t
demand the same to ID)

Empirically given ‘purposeful causes’ are just a


particular case of natural mechanisms of that kind
‘Design’ is a mere subclass of ‘necessity’ (i.e., of the
notion of ‘causal mechanism’). 6
Corollary:

There is no reason to infer that there are no ‘natural


mechanisms’ (besides the natural mechanisms
purposeful agents consist in) that can produce
outcomes with ‘specified complexity’, since (known)
purposeful agents are just a kind of natural
mechanisms

This does not entail that all existing purposeful


agents are natural,

only that the inference to ‘design-instead-of-necesity’


is not granted 7
2: ‘Chance’ enters in an explanation always as a
the indeterminate element (i.e., the stochastic
part) of the regularities employed (or of the initial
conditions measurement)

Any explanatory model produces a particular


statistical distribution of outcomes (i.e., it is a ‘data
generation mechanism’)

When, in other cases, we say that something is


explained ‘through chance’, what we really mean is
that it is NOT explained at all
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So, the ‘right’ ‘explanatory filter’ would look
something like this:
Phenomenon P 
Explained by some proposed mechanism
M1, M2, ..., Mn, ...?
(Mi = specific laws + specific random noise)
(some Mi’s being purposeful agents)
Yes?: OK
No? Then: P unexplained
(Nota bene: Dembski’s filter would not leave ANYTHING
unexplained, what is unrealistic as a scientific method)
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