Saturday, 19 May 2007

Science isn't about conflict or consensus - it's about the search for truth

From some rhetoric at Intelligently Sequenced, which doesn't allow comments;

A post at Viewpoint called 'Bad Science' reminds us of what science should be about. It should not be a search for accomodation or consensus. That can be left to politics. A spirit of challenge should be the scientific norm. Below is a quote from the linked post. It takes note that challenges are not always welcome. "Science lives with internal conflict all the time," Olivero said. "Part of what we have to do is continually challenge each other." That process, they say, leads scientists closer to truths that may be elusive for lifetimes.
I see. Science is about dissent and conflict, not consensus. Does this mean that the Darwinians on campuses all around the country who are demanding that non-Darwinians be silenced because they stand outside the scientific consensus are acting in a manner harmful to good science? Perhaps merely to ask the question is to answer it."
No they aren't and no it isn't. Let me explain.

This diagram is a pretty good description of science;

This fits in with the comments above about conflict being an integral part of science.

But what this diagram demonstrates eloquently is just what is missing completely from the "Intelligently Sequenced" post above, namely the "Does the evidence support the idea?" bit.

How is this decided? How is the conflict resolved.

Simple - through an assessment of the evidence.

Not through a measure of public support.

Not through a measure of scientific support - science has little democracy.

Not through a measure of volume. In science the quietest whisper will echo down the generations, if it is supported by the evidence.

The way science decides is through discrimination. Let me explain.

Science discriminates against ideas that don't fit the facts. It is bigoted against wrong ideas.

The reason why ID doesn't get a look-in in terms of peer reviewed papers and the mainstream of science is because it doesn't work. Simple as that.

If we wanted to somehow force science to run on the basis of conflict without any discrimination i.e. "conflict is good - period" then we end up with this kind of thing;

Courtesy of the ReDiscovery Institute

So to get back to the "Intelligently Sequenced" comments, science is actually about the truth, which is determined by the scientific consensus, contingently, based upon the evidence, and following a period of conflict between different hypothesis and theories.

If Intelligent Design advocates want to start such a debate then they need to do two things;

  • Firstly - Actually come clean about what "ID theory" is. So far all I can see is "Somewhere, sometime, somebody designed something intelligently."

I ask "When, how often, how?", "What mechanisms or methods were used?", "What predictions do ID theory make that we can test?".

  • Secondly - produce some evidence which supports your "theory".

So far we have a deafening silence, only broken by a muttering from the "Intelligently Sequenced" corner;

"Its not fair!".

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