Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh Dear! Again?

This time, the Curmudgeon (Groothuis) shows that it is possible for a professor of philosophy not to understand that a faulty premise in a syllogism leads, quite inevitably, to a faulty conclusion. Poor students. Here it is:

1. Scientists are mimicking naturally-occurring mechanisms in nature (such as DNA) in order to develop better design plans for various manmade technologies.

2. If (1) is true, this assumes that these naturally occurring mechanisms are themselves designed, since they evince design plans superior to human design plans.

3. Therefore, these naturally-occurring mechanisms (such as DNA) are designed, otherwise they would not be candidates for imitation by technologies.

A high school student should be able to spot the trouble with this syllogism: premise number 2 is arbitrary, and leads to faulty conclusion (3).

Here's my own example of a faulty syllogism:

1. God designed everything.
2. Microchips are designed.
3. God designed microchips.

Easy, isn't it?


John Stockwell said...

Groothuis is, indeed, employing a
syllogism, but the reasoning is still

The tacit assumption is that there is something called "design" which is intrinsic to objects, and that "design"
can only be created by "intelligence".
Think of it as a kind of juice.

Groothuis' arguments boil down to
the following

1.) Scientists find the juice in naturally occurring objects
2.) juice can only occur from intelligence
3.) therefore certain natural objects result from intelligence.

The big problems with all of this are that

a) there is no definition of "intelligence"
b) there is no evidence to show that such a thing as "the juice" exists
c) there is no cauasal connection between the presumed "designed objects"
and the "assumed designer".

Indeed, the big failing of the ID movement is that all of their "work" consists of similar empty philosophical arguments, couched in scientific sounding language.

(Meyer's Signature of the Cell" is full of the same faulty reasoning.)

Sirfab said...

Thanks John for taking the time to clearly explain things to me.

I am new to the concept of biomimicry and I find it an elegant and fascinating way to address human problems--just what you would expect from trained scientists. :-)

The thing I don't understand is how one could so non-chalantly make the leap from the fact that "scientists are mimicking naturally-occurring processes" to the entirely arbitrary and unsubstantiated assumption that this must be proof that such naturally-occurring processes are designed.

Groothuis must mean naturally-occurring as "occurring in nature" as opposed to "occurring by natural (i.e. spontaneous) means." (Otherwise, it would be a contradiction to say that something naturally-occurring was designed.) Even then, as usual, as he introduces the assumption of a designing intelligence he does so without explaning why natural adaptation would not by itself be sufficient to produce the same results. It is an entirely arbitrary assumption.

The only permissibile inference from the fact that scientists have chosen to draw inspiration from natural processes is that such processes represent better solutions to specific problems than the ones humans have produced so far on their own. It does not allow us to infer to design.

You can never really accuse Groothuis of rational thinking. ;-)

John Stockwell said...

Sir Fab wrote:
I am new to the concept of biomimicry and I find it an elegant and fascinating way to address human problems--just what you would expect from trained scientists. :-)

All engineering is "nature mimicry" and is done the same way.

1) scientists and engineers reduce
observations into "natural laws",
which are then explained via
scientific theories.
2) So-called "design" or "engineering"
is just another name for an
hypothesis and the execution of
that "design" is an experiment.
3) The results of the execution of the
design may reveal problems with the
theory, or the assumptions made in
the design (i.e. hypothesis).

Again, there is a major gulf between what scientists do, and the sort of ten penny philosophizing that the ID community engages in. ID is largely nay-saying.

Where ID attempts to say anything about the physical world, it operates by attempting to associate "presumed effects" with "assumed causes", without providing the necessary causal connection between the two of these.

Science, in contrast, concentrates on the processes of origin of objects. If we ever say that A caused B in science, we do it through the causal connection of describing the process by which A did in effect cause B.

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