EVOLUTION, EMPIRICISM

AND

PURPOSENESS (3)
Jesús Zamora Bonilla
Presented at the symposium ‘Evolutionism and Religion’ Firenze, Italy, november, 2009 jpzb@fsof.uned.es 1

‘INTELLIGENT DESIGN’ AND REAL SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

2

1. ‘PURPOSE’ AND ‘INTELLIGENCE’ AS REAL SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS

3

In order to count as scientific concepts, ‘purpose’ and ‘intelligence’ must be given some empirical content ‘Purpose’ as a kind of processes empirically identified in nature (basically, in animals having cognitive maps and desires, both serving as causal elements in the behaviour of the animal) ‘Intelligence’ is the ability to manipulate one’s cognitive maps so that one’s desires get satisfied Hence, ‘purpose’ and ‘intelligence’ are, empirically speaking, biological phenomena (like ‘digestion’ or ‘photosynthesis’)

4

(E.g., saying that the universe is the ‘result of a purpose’ sounds scientifically as weird as saying that it is the ‘result of a digestion’) If these notions are used to refer to non biological entities, then they are metaphors, and their literal meanings (i.e., the elements in the assumed entities that are analogous to maps-desires-behaviour) should be specified, or the metaphor will be void Take also into account that we have an ‘intention attribution’ module, helping us to discover intentional behaviours (historically, with plenty of false positives) in our environment
5

2. WHAT VIRTUES DO GOOD THEORIES HAVE?

6

A good theory •Is independently testable (has evidence from separate sources) •Unifies different fields •Makes interesting predictions •Opens new areas of empirical research •Does not contradict well established scientific principles, or, if it does, points to ways of testing if they are valid
7

Modern ‘Darwinian’ biology
(i.e. the ‘theory’ that living beings have evolved from common ancestry, by non-directed changes in hereditary features, and natural selection)

•Is independently testable: evidence from experimental biology, field research, paleontology, embryology, etc. •Unifies different fields: viz., evolutionary synthesis & molecular biology •Makes interesting predictions: the basic properties of the molecular basis of heredity (Schrödinger); the coincidence of philogenetic trees (fossil record vs. DNA sequencing) •Opens new areas of empirical research: modern genetics, artificial life, cladistics, evo-devo, etc. •Does not contradict well established scientific principles
8

Intelligent design ‘theory’
•Is not independently testable: it simply consists in the cliché “look at this complex function  ID” •Does not unify anything, since it is not really explanatory •Does not make predictions: it only invents excuses to explain why we cannot actually observe (either directly or indirectly) the working of the designer •Does not open any new area of empirical research: with the exception of genomic steganography (or Kabbalah) •Is incompatible with the fact that the DNA bases have to be ‘pushed’ by physical forces, in order to obtain mutations
9

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.