Science and Intelligent Design
(the long version)

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

some introductory comments:

This is the original version (May 2001) of Sections 7A-7G in my
Overview of Origins Questions for Science and Theology.

Our questions about Science and Intelligent Design are important, so
initially I gave them the attention (and the writing space) they deserve.
Then, in August 2001, I condensed the main ideas from this version
to make the medium-short and medium-long versions that are
14% and 29% the size of Sections 7A-7G in this page.


Added Value

  7A. What is design? 
 7B. Can we prove design? 
 7C. Can design be scientific? 
 7D. The Freedom of Open Science 
 7E. The Problems of Closed Science 
 7F. Cultural-Personal Factors in Science 
 7G. Can evolution be scientific? 

  Added Value
    Generally, in this page the topics are treated in more detail than in Sections 7A-7G of the Main Overview.  The "tips" below are for special places that I think offer "added value" in some way: with new ideas or details, a different explanation, an interesting example,...

    In Section 7A (What is Design?),
    In this page, 7A is similar to what's in the Main Overview, but here it's more detailed.
    design of the universe (connecting Sections 3 and 7A)

    In Section 7B (Can design be proved?),
  Details (and examples) to supplement design by natural process (which in the Overview was moved into 7E), distinguishing between a design theory and design, and the mental act of design and physical act of design.
    WHY a scientific theory cannot be proved or disproved and the concept of theory status.
    Theory evaluation by eliminative testing and comparative testing.
    An extreme example (with super-intelligent space aliens!) of design denial.
    Current Probability and Future Variability and two possible effects of future knowledge with "origin of life" examples.
    "The main goal of science is to find truth, but [sometimes] claims that we have found the truth should be made with cautious humility."

    In Section 7C (Can design be scientific?),
    Of the 7 sections (7A-7G), I think this section is the most worthy of a complete reading, in terms of overall added value.
    Why is design controversial? (it's metaphysics, not methodology)
    A "two worlds" example of unavoidable error. (from Paul Nelson)
    Is science a search for truth?  Although it's not the only goal, for most scientists "constructing accurate theories about nature" is an important goal.
    Historical judgments about design can be reversed.
    Is science a game with rules?  A "strong man" example from ESPN.
    Positivism, Part 1: regarding observability, with historical analysis by Laudan.
    The logic of historical science: deduction, prediction, postdiction, retroduction, and hypothetico-deduction (using agreement and predictive contrast), repeatability and controls.
    Is supernatural agency possible?
    Evidence and Testing: counterflow (from Del Ratzsch), and an unusual relationship while testing.
    Mechanisms (necessary?) and Matching (of claims with methods).
    Information (concepts, examples, details) about Supplemented Theories + Design and Creation.
    A summary of ideas from Section 7C.
    A reminder: reading this whole section may be worthwhile.

  In Section 7D (The Freedom of Open Science),
    A Goal and Strategy, Problem and Solution.
    A theory of design can improve our confidence in a theory of non-design.
    Responses to design before history and during history are different.  And severe criticism is acceptable unless design is proposed.
    More about Behe's correspondence with journals.
    Intrinsic Status and Relative Status plus Criticism, Competition, and Confidence (in non-design).
    A creative tension between perseverance and flexibility: If the keys are not in the kitchen, can you find them in the kitchen?
    What scientists can search for in the second stage of design research.
    Positivism, Part 2: Yes, "Scientists cherish their freedom of thought." (So why do they accept MN?)
    Should we ask the question?  Before we are justified in asking, do we need proof?  Mike Behe responds.
    A Process of Change: thoughts about some reasons (intellectual and practical) for opposing design.

    In Section 7E (The Problems of Open Science),
    Science as an expert witness but not judge and jury.  But does MN make science a potentially hostile witness?
    Shifting from "science is not a search for truth" to "science is our best method for finding truth."
    Converting methodological naturalism into metaphysical materialism.  Scientism and "explaining God and religion" with MN-Science.
    A more in-depth look at hidden arguments and open discussions.

    In Section 7F (Cultural-Personal Factors in Science),
    The ideas here are similar to those in the Main Outline, exept in more detail, especially in Recognize and Minimize.

    In Section 7G (Can evolution be scientific?),
    As in Section 7F, the ideas here are similar to those in the Main Outline, exept in more detail.
    And there is a subsection with details about historical science: evolutionary retroductions (including scenarios, goals, and levels), observations, and predictions.
    And a variety of topics to be written about later.


    7A. What is a theory of design?
    ( the title has been changed to "What is design?" )
    Imagine that you receive a radio signal -- 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29,... -- and you think it is extremely unlikely that this long string of prime numbers was produced by a natural cause that wasn't intelligently directed.  Your conclusion that "the cause of this feature (the signal) involved intelligent design" was reached by a scientific process, by a logical analysis of empirical data.  Your scientific thinking began with data, with observations of the signal.  Next, you creatively constructed a variety of tentative theories (by imagining various explanations involving either design or non-design) and critically evaluated each theory, then you reached a conclusion that design was the most plausible explanation.
    Your theory about the signal is analogous to other theories of intelligent design proposing that a particular feature (which is defined broadly to include any type of phenomenon, any object, attribute, system, or event) was not produced by undirected natural process, but was the result of intelligent design and directed action.  In the area of origins, design theories are being proposed to explain the origin of life and complex life and (before the history of nature began) the universe.
    Can a theory of design be scientific?  As described above, the process of proposing and evaluating a design theory involves a scientific analysis of observations.  And logic demands that, during any intellectually rigorous attempt to explain the origin of an observed feature, scientists should consider all possibilities.  The feature could have been produced by:  1) undirected natural process;  2A) design and construction with intelligent design by a natural agent (a human,...) and construction using directed natural action (such as shaping a mountainside with dynamite and chisels to make a sculptured face);  2B) design and creation with intelligent design by a supernatural agent and creation using directed supernatural action.  A basic theory of design proposes only that a feature was intelligently designed by an agent and was produced by directed action;  this "design only" theory, instead of trying to distinguish between 2A and 2B, proposes "either 2A or 2B" and makes no claims about the identity of the agent or the characteristics of the action.

    Another type of theory, design of the universe, proposes design to explain why the natural properties of our universe -- its initial conditions (amount of matter/energy, rate of expansion following the Big Bang,...) and characteristics (interactive forces, wave-particle duality, values of constants,...) -- are "just right" for features (nuclei and sunshine, water and DNA,...) that allow life.  A theory of design and natural process proposes that the universe was designed so natural process would not just allow the operation of complex physical and biological structures, such as stars and life, but would also produce some of them (or all of them) by undirected natural process, after the design-directed action that produced the universe.


    7B. Evaluating Design with Confidence and Humility
    ( the title has been changed to "Can design be proved?" )
    Proponents of intelligent design (ID) claim that, based on a logical analysis of empirical data, we can distinguish between two types of causes: undirected natural process, and intelligent design followed by design-directed action.  William Dembski (1999) describes two methods for inferring design, by elimination and competition:  A) an eliminative explanatory filter can distinguish between necessity, chance, and design, in order to identify features that have a low probability of being produced by undirected natural process;  B) a competitive inference to the best explanation compares the relative explanatory power of ID theories and non-ID theories.

    When scientists evaluate a theory of non-design, which proposes that a particular feature was produced by undirected natural process, their conclusions about the theory can range from "very plausible" to "definitely not plausible" and anything in between.  Let's examine the two extremes:


    Two Questions, Three Actions, and Mutual Exclusion
    If scientists are certain that a feature could be produced by undirected natural process, what can they conclude about design?  It depends on the question being asked.

    Two Questions
    A design question:  Was design-directed action involved in producing the feature?
    A design theory question:  Is it scientifically justifiable to claim the feature shows detectable "signs of design" indicating that design-directed action was involved in producing it?  /   Unless otherwise specified, a design theory claims there is scientific evidence (i.e., empirically detectable signs of design) supporting a theory that a particular feature was produced by design-directed action during the history of nature.  { This definition is used throughout my overview, except in rare cases where the context indicates that another meaning is intended.

    Three Actions
    To show why answers can be different for the two types of questions, re: design and design theory, consider four possible scenarios for design-directed action (or a lack of it) in producing a feature:
    2AB. The feature shows detectable signs of design, and was produced by design-action during history.  { e.g., the faces on Mt Rushmore }
    1A. The feature does not show detectable signs of design, and was produced by undirected natural process, but this natural process was possible due to design-action at the beginning of history.  { This would occur if the universe was intentionally designed so it would naturally produce the feature. }
    1B. The feature does not show detectable signs of design, and was produced by design-action during history.  { An appearance of undesign is the goal in movies when "special effects" are used to make an artifact, such as a cinematic representation of a tornado or tidal wave, look like the real thing.  Or a feature might have been produced with no concerns about whether or not any signs of design would be detectable.  If design-action is undetectable and theistic, it is normal-appearing guiding theistic action.
    1C. There was no design.  The feature was produced by undirected natural process, and the universe was not designed to naturally produce the feature, so there was no design.

    The first three scenarios (2AB, 1A, 1B) involve design, but the two requirements of a design theory -- detectability and action during history -- are met by only 2.  In 1B the characteristics of design are not detectable, and in 1A neither requirement is satisfied. {although evidence for "design of the universe"
    The table below shows the logical outcomes for two realities and two theories.  Two possible realities are that "detectable design-action in history" did occur (as in 2AB) or did not occur (in 1A, 1B, or 1C).  A design theory claims "it did occur" while a non-design theory says "it did not occur" and denies the claim for design.

DESIGN theory:
a claim for detectable
design-action in history.
NON-DESIGN theory:
a denial of detectable
design-action in history.
With 2AB,
there is detectable
design-action in history.
The claim (made by
a design theory)
is TRUE.
The denial (made by
a non-design theory)
With 1A, 1B, or 1C,
there is no detectable
design-action in history.
The claim is FALSE,
even if (as in 1A or 1B)
design-action did occur.
The denial is TRUE,
even if (as in 1A or 1B)
design-action did occur.

    The table body points out that a theory is TRUE if it matches reality, and is FALSE if it doesn't.  The purple text shows that the correct answers can differ for questions about a design theory and design.  Even if a design theory (claiming detectable design-directed action during history) is false, it is possible that design did occur, with undetectable design-action either at the beginning of history (1A) or during history (1B).
    Now we can answer the question that began this subsection, re: what scientists can conclude.  If scientists were certain that a feature could be produced by undirected natural process, a theory of design -- which claims that the evidence supports a conclusion of design -- would be scientifically falsified.  The scientists could justifiably claim that "there is no detectable design" and "maybe it was not designed," but they could not logically conclude that "it was undesigned" because the feature might have been designed in a way that would make it appear to be undesigned.
    In other words, a theory of design (claiming evidence for design-action) could be scientifically falsified, but a more general theory (claiming an occurrence of design-action, either detectable or undetectable) could not be falsified, and a theory of "total non-design" that denies any occurrence of design (either detectable or undetectable) could not be proved true.
    And, of course, we could reject a theory of detectable design for one feature, but accept detectable design as a plausible explanation for another feature.

    some thoughts about timing:  A mental act of "design" usually precedes the physical act of design-directed action.*  The timing between mental and physical acts can be small or large.  For example, a creationist who claims that design was involved in the origin of stars (with production by natural process) and the first life (with production by non-natural process) might propose that the mental act of design occurred before the beginning of history, so the properties of our universe (nuclear forces, gravity,... for stars; and for life, the chemical characteristics of carbon, oxygen, sodium, potassium,..., and of DNA, enzymes, water, nerve fibers,...) would, at a much later time, allow a natural production-and-operation of sunshine and a naturally continuing operation (following the miraculous initial production) of life.
    * a question to ponder: In situations like musical improvisation, does a mental act always precede (even if by a tiny split-second) the physical act that produces the music?  { Theologians disagree about whether God "improvises" during the history of nature, in formative history or human history. }

    Mutual Exclusion
    In Sections 7B-7D, design and non-design will refer to theories that affirm or deny a claim for empirically detectable design-directed action during the history of nature.  When this definition is used, design (in scenario 2AB above) and non-design (in 1A, 1B, or 1C) are mutually exclusive.  Either design was involved in producing a feature, or it wasn't.
    In principle, the logic of mutual exclusion is simple.  But in practice, we cannot be certain when we try to estimate the extent to which signs of design are empirically detectable, as discussed in the rest of this section.

    The following subsection is a summary (from the Introductory Overview) of the "1A-1B-1C, 2A-2B" numbering system, plus a table (from the Main Overview) summarizing the characteristics of these five theories:

    Design by Natural Process
    There are three types of design.
    Usually, a design theory is a claim for design-directed action that is empirically detectable and occurs during history.  This is the meaning in Sections 7B-7D, and in the design theories (2, 2A and 2B) of Section 7A.
    But production of a feature by "non-design" (by what appears to be undirected natural process) could be due to:  1A) design-directed action that occurred at the beginning of history (in a design of nature),  1B) design-directed action that is empirically undetectable and occurs during history, or  1C) a process that is undesigned and undirected.
    Evidence against detectable design (2A or 2B) is not evidence against design by natural process (1A or 1B). .....
    Creationists propose three types of design (2B, 1A, 1B), while theistic evolutionists propose only design by natural process (either 1A or 1A-and-1B).

    This table shows that:  a theory is a non-design theory if either condition (empirically detectable, occurs in history) is a no;  the origin of a feature can involve design even if a "design theory claim" is not justified.

occurs in



    Certainty, Confidence, and Falsification
    If all theories of non-design seem highly implausible, have we proved that a design theory is true?  No.  According to formal logic, in science it is impossible to prove any theory is true or false.  Why?  Because inductive logic cannot lead to certainty about the truth of a theory claiming that "____ never happens."  And deductive logic (if..., then...) cannot prove truth.  In principle, deductive logic can prove a theory is false, when deductive theory-based predictions differ from observations, but rigorous proof is possible only in a simple situation.  In a complex real-life scientific situation, we cannot be certain whether a disagreement between prediction and observation is caused by a theory or by one of the many other factors that are involved in making and comparing the predictions and observations.
    But a radical skeptic is wrong to imply that if science cannot claim certainty, it can claim nothing.  Even though proof is impossible, and modern science has given up a quest for certainty, scientists can often develop a rationally justified confidence that a particular theory is approximately true or is false.  Instead of demanding a formal proof, scientists are willing to settle for a high level of confidence in a conclusion, and this is the standard we should use when evaluating theories of design.
    As a reminder that the outcome of theory evaluation is an estimate of confidence rather than a claim for certainty, we can think in terms of a theory status that describes our level of confidence in a theory, which can vary along a continuum from very low to very high.  This concept of a "continuously variable status" is useful because it encourages flexible thinking instead of prematurely forcing ideas into the narrow channels of yes-or-no dichotomies (like proof or falsification) that reinforce mental rigidity and limit the options we are capable of imagining and thoughtfully considering.  But binary judgments are still available:  if the status of a theory rises above a certain level we can accept this theory as a confident conclusion, and if it falls too low we can reject the theory and consider it falsified.  A rationally justified confidence in the falsity of a low-status theory is scientific falsification.

    Evaluation by Elimination and Comparison
    To test and evaluate a theory of design, we can use eliminative logic, comparative logic, or both.
    Eliminative Testing:  One approach to inferring design is eliminative, based on the fact that ID and non-ID are mutually exclusive by definition, as discussed above.  A feature either was produced by a non-design process (an undirected natural process) or it wasn't.  This either-or relationship leads to a bold ontological deduction (that if an ID theory is true, every non-ID theory is false) and a modest epistemological corollary (that perhaps each non-ID theory will seem implausible).  If all non-ID theories seem highly implausible, can we conclude that an ID theory is probably true?  Yes, we probably can.  Although eliminative proof is impossible -- since we cannot be certain that we accurately know the implausibilities, or that we have checked all theories, or (because a true theory might seem implausible, and a false theory might seem plausible) that implausibility and falsity are linked -- we can develop a rationally justified confidence in a theory of design.
    Comparative Testing:  In historical science, a useful evaluation strategy is a comparative "inference to the best retroductive explanation" that asks whether known observations can be explained more satisfactorily by design or non-design.
    When scientists are evaluating a theory of design by using logic that is eliminative and/or comparative, when they are assigning probabilities or comparing relative explanatory power, they are using conventional scientific methods of data collection and logical inference.  Their strategies for investigating and reasoning are analogous to the methods used by detectives in forensic science.  Because the status of ID theories can be changed (either upward or downward) by a logical analysis of empirical data, these theories are empirically responsive.  This makes ID testable, and a particular ID theory can be rejected or accepted if its status becomes very low or very high.

    Confidence and Caution
    The remainder of this section takes a closer look at some reasons for confidence and caution in our conclusions about design.  It examines the difficulties inherent in evaluating design, and it explains why, despite these challenges, some theories of design should be considered worthy of serious scientific consideration.
    In principle, it is possible to confidently reject or accept design.  Based on our estimates for plausibility and/or explanatory power, an ID theory could be assigned a very low status, low enough to warrant rejection.  Therefore, ID is potentially falsifiable.  Similarly, an ID theory could be assigned a very high status, high enough to warrant acceptance.
    In reality, however, there are reasons for caution, and it may not be possible to reach a scientific consensus about the major theories of ID in the near future.  We may not live to witness either a widespread acceptance or rejection of design, due to the uncertainties in evaluation and the wide diversity of views about the philosophy of design.

    Five Logical Possibilities
    Should we consider all possibilities?  For a rational open-minded scientist, the answer seems obvious.  Yes, during any intellectually rigorous attempt to explain the origin of an observed feature, logic demands that scientists should consider all possibilities.  The feature could have been produced by:  1) undirected natural process2A) natural design and construction, or  2B) supernatural design and creation.  These three possibilities are described in Section 7A
    To acknowledge the uncertainty in our evaluations, we can expand the list to include epistemological possibilities for "what we can know."  Perhaps the feature was produced by undirected natural process and  1a) a current theory proposing an undirected natural process is true (or is at least approximately true) or  1b) a future natural theory will be true, or  1c) no natural theory that seems plausible will ever be constructed because the process was too complex or unfamiliar or improbable for our minds to propose and accept.  Or maybe the feature was produced by  2A) natural design and construction, or  2B) supernatural design and creation.

    I've constructed this list in order to emphasize two main points.
    First, doesn't it seem intellectually rational to consider all possibilities? (of course, these include design, in 2A or 2B)
    Second, even though the logical relationship between design and non-design is relatively simple (they are mutually exclusive, in the reality of "what is"), in the domain of "what we know" things are more complicated.  Yes, due to their mutual exclusivity, the status of design increases when the status of non-design decreases.  But there are three types of non-design (1a-1c), and scientists usually evaluate only current theories (1a) but not the other two categories, so "non-design as a whole" -- which includes current design (1a) and noncurrent non-design (1b, 1c) -- is not being evaluated.  Therefore, options are available if new evidence indicates that current theories (1a) are less plausible than previously believed.  A scientist can choose to increase the status of either design (2A, 2B) or noncurrent non-design (1b, 1c).  There is plenty of room for interpretive flexibility.  In addition to vigorous debates about the status of current theories (1a), there is uncertainty about future theories (1b) or no theory (1c).  Because there is so much flexibility, could the adoption of any design theory ever be logically warranted?  It will be easier to examine this question if we focus on a specific type of theorizing, our efforts to explain the origin of life.  This begins soon, following a few comments about the list of five possibilities.

    { comments: Each possibility in the list is actually a category that contains a number of sub-possibilities which may differ in important ways.  For example, an appearance of "undirected natural process" could be due to chance in an undesigned universe, or design and natural process in a designed universe, or design-directed action that is empirically undetectable, as explained earlier.  There are also other possibilities, such as "supernatural design and natural construction," so this list is not complete.  But we can say that "Scientists should consider at least five types of possibilities, and maybe more." }

    An Opportunity for Design and Denial
    An opportunity for an empirically plausible theory of design is the origin of the first carbon-based life on earth.  Why?  Because all current theories for the natural chemical evolution of lifeless chemicals into a living organism seem highly implausible.  After evaluating numerous theories for a natural origin of life, could scientists rationally conclude that carbon-based life did not originate by undirected natural process?  Yes.  Even though certainty is impossible because we can never propose and test all possibilities for natural process, scientists could achieve a rationally justified confidence that their search has been thorough yet futile, and no promising approaches remain unexplored.  Or they might discover scientific principles, analogous to the principles of thermodynamics indicating the extreme improbability of a perpetual motion machine, that indicate the extreme improbability of a natural process ever producing carbon-based life.
    But tenacious critics of ID can always find ways to avoid this conclusion.  They can use methodological naturalism as an excuse to bypass the process of science and declare that a naturalistic non-ID theory must automatically be the scientific conclusion, whether or not this conclusion is supported by scientific evidence.  Or they can point to possibilities for a future theory (1b) or no theory (1c) in order to forever deny a conclusion of design, no matter how advanced is the state of knowledge.  For example, imagine a scientific community composed of trillions of super-intelligent space aliens (IQ = 20,000) each with a life span of a billion years, devoted to science (and using high-speed travel to explore a wide variety of environments throughout the universe) for the past 5 billion years, who have not yet constructed a plausible theory for a natural origin of life.  Even in this situation a denial of design would be possible, but would it be rational?
    In the near future, however, the actual state of humanly generated knowledge will remain much less advanced, and critics of ID will point out, with some justification, the reasons for cautious humility when making claims for design.

    Current Probability and Future Variability
    The current state of human knowledge is admittedly incomplete, compared with "everything that could be known," so there is a logical basis for defending non-design.  In fact, a perpetual denial of design seems possible because, when evaluating a claim for non-design, we use plausibility estimates that have two dimensions: current probability and future variability.
    Imagine that, for a particular feature, our current estimate for the probability of non-design is 1%.  Since non-design and design are mutually exclusive, the probability of design is 99%.  This sounds impressive, but is it conclusive?  No.  Even if proponents of non-design agree with these current estimates of probability, they can point to the potential for variability in our future estimates.  If our current state of knowledge in this area is fairly low -- if we don't know much compared with what could be known (or even if we're only missing a few key ideas or pieces of data) -- then in the future our probability estimates might be very different.  A defender of design can claim that the potential for future variability is large, so in the future the probability of non-design might be anywhere from 0% to 100%.  Perpetual denial is possible because, no matter what the plausibility of non-design is now, we don't know with certainty what it will be later.  { This probably sounds familiar, because it's just a different way to look at the four types of non-design: the current probability is for 1a, and future variability depends on the total probability for 1b + 1c. }
    If variability is unlimited, anything could happen in the future.  But in a realistic extrapolation of science into the future, we must place logical constraints on our estimates for variability.  If an estimate of future variability is to be practical and useful, it should be based on scientific estimates of what is probable, not wild speculations about what is possible.  For example, scientists can look at the specific properties (the unfavorable chemical equilibria, the biological requirements for metabolism and reproduction,...) that make a natural origin of carbon-based life seem implausible, and try to imagine specific ways in which future advances in knowledge might change our views of each property.  They can ask, "How likely is each change, and how would it affect our evaluations for a natural origin of life?"

    Improving our Estimates of Future Science
    When we are estimating the potential for future development of non-design theories, we need better ways to estimate thoroughness (of the search that produced our current state of knowledge) and possibilities (for future improvements in knowledge).  To do this we must predict the future plausibility and explanatory power of current natural theories after they are more fully developed, predict the new theories that might be developed, and consider the possibility that we may never develop a natural theory for a natural event that actually occurred.  The goal is to estimate the total plausibility of non-design, including both current non-design and (in our extrapolations into the future of science) noncurrent non-design.  As described above, we should think in a disciplined way, in an effort to estimate what is probable in reality, not just what is possible in our imaginations.
    An epistemological extrapolation to predict future scientific progress will require extensive effort with a high degree of creativity (in imagining what could be) and criticality (in making realistic extrapolations).  Doing this well won't be easy, but it should be a high priority for those who are serious about exploring the strengths and weaknesses of a particular design theory, who want to avoid the simplistic extremes of insisting that in the future either "nothing new will happen in science" or "anything could happen."

    Two Possible Effects of Knowledge
    Will increased knowledge reduce the plausibility of a design theory?  Maybe.  Future developments in science might lead to new evidence supporting non-design, or it might confirm our doubts about non-design.  Both possibilities have occurred in the history of research about chemical evolution:
    In 1953, plausibility estimates for a non-designed natural origin of life were higher than in 1952, because the Miller-Urey experiments showed that inorganic chemicals could be converted into small biomolecules such as amino acids.  Many scientists assumed that we would soon discover how, on the early earth, a reactive atmosphere had produced large biomolecules that transformed themselves into a simple living cell which could then evolve and increase in complexity.
    Since then, however, the warm glow of optimism has been cooled by the harsh reality of improved scientific knowledge.  Now we think the early atmosphere was much less reactive than originally assumed, and we recognize the many difficulties in a pre-life synthesis of biomolecules, so visions of a "rich organic soup" (or an "RNA World" or...) have been crushed.  And due to rapid advances in molecular biology, now we know more about the remarkable complexity of a "simple" living cell.  What seems possible (for the formation of biomolecules in a pre-life environment) has decreased, but what seems necessary (to produce the simplest living organism) has increased.  Therefore, the distance between what is possible (before life) and what is necessary (for life) seems much greater now than in 1953.  An increase in knowledge has strengthened the scientific support for a theory of design.  In the future, if our level of knowledge continues to improve, and if our estimates for the plausibility of a natural origin of life remain as low as they are now, a claim for design will become even more strongly supported.

    A non-design origin of life seems less plausible now than in 1953.  For similar reasons, new knowledge has also strengthened theories of design in other areas.  For example, claims about irreducible complexity are built on the foundation of our increased knowledge in molecular biology, which has opened the "black box" of the cell for in-depth critical examination.  And most of the evidence for a designed universe has been recognized in the past few decades.
    Although advocates of non-design usually imply that future science will support their own claims, this is not necessarily true.  There is nothing automatic about the effects of future science.  New research might reveal how a feature was produced by non-design, or it might reinforce our criticisms of non-design.  Which of these two scenarios is more likely?  This question should be the focal point of an intensive "extrapolation into future science" that effectively combines creativity with criticality, that begins with an open mind and tries to objectively evaluate all possibilities.

    Some Reasons for Humble Caution
    During an evaluation of design, rational disagreements among conscientious scientists can occur in three areas:  A) estimating the probability that a particular non-design process could produce a feature,  B) deciding a threshold for a "low probability" of non-design that warrants a claim for design, and  C) deciding whether it is reasonable to claim "a rationally justified confidence that the search [for natural explanations] has been thorough yet futile, and no promising approaches remain unexplored."
    Until our knowledge and skill has improved in each of the three areas of disagreement, it seems wise to adopt a humble attitude in making claims about what we know and how surely we know.  For example, bold pronouncements that a natural evolutionary development of all biocomplexity "is a fact" or "has no support" would not seem justified.  Instead, a humble recognition of uncertainty should provide a reason to express our conclusions cautiously and hold them lightly.  I think the main goal of science is to find truth, but claims that we have found the truth should be made with cautious humility, at least in areas (like biological evolution) where there is some evidence for and against each of the competitive theories.

    An Inference to a Reasonable Conclusion
    A theory of intelligent design is empirically responsive and can be falsified.  By contrast, a non-ID theory claiming "ID is wrong" could not be falsified in the mind of anyone who, with rigid tenacity and unbounded optimism for future science, would never (under any circumstance, no matter what the evidence was) abandon a claim that "They can't prove a natural cause is impossible."
    But proof is not necessary, because among scientists the standard for acceptance is a rationally justified confidence, not certainty.  Instead of asking if design can be proved using formal logic, we can ask "Is design a plausible explanation?"  We can compare the status for all competitive theories, whether they postulate design or non-design, and instead of feeling it is necessary to make an immediate yes-or-no decision either to adopt ID as the best explanation or to reject it, we can think flexibly and rationally by accepting ID as one of several medium-status alternatives, as an inference to a reasonable explanation.
    Yes, in the near future, scientists will have widely varying estimates for the plausibility status of design.  But this is not a cause for concern, because disagreement among scientists can be a healthy way to stimulate thinking and research by advocates for different points of view.  Empirically based logical analysis shows that some design theories are worthy of serious consideration, that further development of these theories is logically justified.  Therefore, it is rational to conclude that the potential of design theories to make valuable scientific contributions should be recognized and welcomed.



    7C. Can a design theory be scientific?
    ( the title has been changed to "Can design be scientific?" )
    Even though a claim for design can be supported by the methods of science, by a logical analysis of empirical observations, some people claim that a design theory is inherently non-scientific.  Why?  This section examines arguments for considering design theories to be nonscientific, along with counter-arguments.

    Why is design controversial?
    Imagine that, as in Contact (the novel and movie by Carl Sagan), scientists observe a signal containing a series of prime numbers, and they propose a design theory to explain the signal's origin.  Nobody would dispute the scientists' right to propose this theory, and there would be no controversy about whether or not their proposal is authentically scientific.
    In most ways, a design theory to explain prime numbers (or the stone faces on Mt Rushmore) is logically equivalent to a design theory to explain the first life.  In one way, however, there is an important difference, which explains why one theory is calmly tolerated while the other is a topic for intense debate.  From experience we know that human intelligence and technology can produce signals and sculptures, so for these features design-and-construction by humans (or by space aliens with adequate intelligence and technology, or...) seems plausible.  But if there was no intelligent life in nature to design and construct the first life, a theory of design seems to imply design-and-creation.  This is a cause for concern among some scientists and nonscientists, for reasons discussed in the rest of this section, even though design-and-construction theories are not controversial.

    What are the limits of science?
    When deciding how to define science and its methods, we can choose to restrict the freedom of scientists by requiring that scientific theories should postulate only natural causes.  This proposed limit is methodological naturalism (MN).  A second limit follows logically:  If MN is accepted, and if an event actually does involve a non-natural cause, then any scientific description of this event (in terms of only natural causes, as required by MN) is guaranteed to be incomplete or incorrect.  This logical conclusion is humility about methodological naturalism (MN-Humility).
    Each limit answers a question.  For MN the question is "What are the limits for what can claim to be science?", and the answer is a proposal.  For MN-Humility the question is "What are the limits for what a restrictive MN-science can claim to explain?", and the answer is a logical certainty.

    Should we accept methodological naturalism?
    In 1998, I was willing to support either of two options:  1) reject MN and include design in science, or  2) adopt MN but also adopt MN-Humility by explicitly acknowledging the limitations of MN-science.  Here is how I summarized the limits of what MN-science should be allowed to claim:
    "We can view a restricted MN-science as one aspect of a broader 'search for truth' that considers all possibilities without imposing metaphysically biased restrictions on theorizing.  In this open search for truth, what is the role of MN-science?  It can be a valuable resource that should be respected as an expert witness, but it should not be the judge and jury when we're defining reality and rationality." (Rusbult, 1998)
    The remainder of Section 7C explains why, two years later when I began to revise this overview, my views had changed.  Now I think that -- instead of accepting MN and then apologizing for its logical deficiencies -- we are behaving more rationally if we simply reject MN.  If we are serious about searching for truth, it seems wise to adopt an Open Science in which scientists always begin with MN, but do not insist that it is logical to always decide, before looking at the evidence, that we should end with MN.
    One reason for rejection is that -- in the scientific and educational communities, and in the public media -- there is a consistent disregard for MN-Humility.  Instead of explaining the logical limitations of MN-Science, there is a strong implication that the conclusions of Modern Science must be true because a non-scientific theory does not deserve serious consideration in a modern society.  This implication is widespread, despite the logical inconsistency of using MN to bypass the process of science and then claiming the authority of science as support for the unavoidable conclusion required by MN (that "according to science the history of nature was all natural") even if this conclusion would not be supported by the process of science, by a logical analysis of observations and a critical evaluation of all competitive explanations.
    But the main reason for my change is practical utility:  I've become more thoroughly convinced that, since design theories can be scientifically useful, science should include these theories instead of automatically rejecting them, as demanded by MN.

    Can design theories be scientifically useful?
    A theory of design can be scientifically useful in two main ways: by improving our search for truth, and by stimulating ideas and experiments.

    Is design useful in a search for truth?
    Our evaluations of scientific utility will be affected by our definitions for the goals of science.  In the short term, scientists are motivated by the exciting intellectual challenge of puzzle solving and by practicalities such as obtaining research grants, publishing papers, getting and keeping a job, making a profit, improving a product, or controlling our environment.  But for most scientists in the past and present, an important short-term goal, and the main long-term goal, is to construct accurate theories about nature, about what is happening now and has happened in the past.  In other words, an important goal of science is a search for truth, and an activity is scientifically useful if it helps us make progress in our search for truth.
    Excluding design from science may hinder our search for truth.  How?  If, as required by MN, all scientific theories must conclude (before the process of science begins, whether or not this conclusion would have been supported by scientific logic) that everything in the history of nature occurred due to natural causes, and if some events in history occurred due to non-natural causes, then some scientific conclusions are guaranteed to be wrong, yet there is no way to escape these false conclusions.  This does not seem rational.  On the other hand, if the history of nature has included only natural causes, and if a design theory seems to claim, either explicitly or implicitly, the operation of a non-natural cause, we can use empirically based logic to evaluate this theory and then reject it if this seems justified.
    To help us think about the question, "Is MN always the best way to do science?", Paul Nelson asks us to imagine two possible worlds:  one world has a history of nature with all events caused by only natural process, while the other world has a history of nature that includes both natural and non-natural events.  When we ask, "Which type of world do we actually live in?", we hope our science will help us, not hinder us, in our search for the answer.  But in one of the two possible worlds, a science that is restricted by MN must inevitably reach the wrong conclusion.  By contrast, in either world a non-MN science will allow (although it cannot guarantee) reaching the correct conclusion.
    a summary:  If MN is accepted, thereby producing a restrictive Closed Science, it may be impossible to avoid false conclusions.  But if MN is rejected, an Open Science is free to reach conclusions based on a logical analysis of observations, and this is what science should do.

    Is science a search for truth?
    A strong argument for Open Science is a claim that theories of design can be useful in a search for truth, since it seems irrational for scientists (if they are searching for true theories) to ignore theories that might be true.  In an effort to deflate this argument, critics of design sometimes appeal to anti-realist philosophies of science, which propose that scientists are not searching for theories that accurately describe reality, that a reality-oriented search for truth should not be a goal of science.  Instead, they want to consider only utilitarian and methodological criteria (these are discussed later in this section) and they claim that "even though design might be true, it can't be science."
    This is an interesting perspective (which I explore in more detail in another web-page), and rational arguments can be made for and against a claim that truth should not be a goal.  But when we look at real people and actual motivations, it seems clear that for most people, both scientists and nonscientists, truth is a goal of science. 
    Of course, truth is not the only goal.  Scientists are also motivated by the intellectual stimulation and satisfaction of solving problems, and by practical benefits such as obtaining grants, earning salaries, publishing papers, gaining respect from scientific colleagues and from nonscientists, and developing science-based technologies that will bring practical benefits like improved health care or new consumer products.  Yes, all of these are motivations, but usually scientists also want to construct accurate theories, theories that match the reality of what is happening in nature.
    Despite this, arguments against "truth as a goal" (and even against "truth" as a concept!) have gained popularity in academic circles, especially among scholars who are excited about postmodern theories of radical relativism.

    Can design help improve non-design?
    An activity is scientifically useful if it helps us make progress in our search for truth.  As discussed above, an Open Science can prevent unavoidable error if design-directed action really did occur during the history of nature.  In this case a theory of design can be scientifically useful because, compared with theories of non-design, it is a more accurate representation of reality and is thus more true.
    But even if a particular design theory isn't correct, it can promote a critical examination of non-design theories, encouraging a more accurate evaluation of these theories and their plausibility.  When a design theory improves the evaluation of other theories, our search for truth is advanced.
    An additional benefit of Open Science, with science evaluating both non-design and design, is that we could place more confidence in a conclusion of non-design.  Why?  A theory would be granted more justifiable respect if it had earned acceptance due to a comparison, not just with other non-design theories, but also with design theories.  We would be more impressed with a theory that had not eliminated part of its competition by insisting that we must bypass the process of science and move directly to a "scientific" conclusion of non-design that is automatic, unavoidable, and not necessarily based on scientific merit.

    Does it stimulate action or stop science?
    A design theory can stimulate experimental and theoretical research by advocates of design and by its critics.  Intuitively, we expect that when the range of scientific theorizing is made wider by including design, it will stimulate a wider range of scientific thinking and experimenting.  But is our intuition wrong?  Can the pursuit of knowledge be hindered by a claim for design?  A common practical concern is that a theory of ID will be a "science stopper" if the response to a challenging problem is to say "it is useless to search for a natural non-design explanation," thus discouraging research in this area of science.
    This is a legitimate concern, but the potential chilling effect of design is greatly exaggerated.  Most areas of science are not affected at all, because current design theorists are selective, making claims only for occasional events in the history of nature but not for most historical events, and not for the normal ongoing operation of nature.  More important, many scientists will persevere, even after they hear a claim that "perhaps this feature wasn't produced by natural process," because they think a natural explanation exists and they can find it.  Instead of giving up, "true believers" will be inspired to construct arguments defending their naturalistic theories, gather new data supporting their theories, or make revisions to improve their theories.
    In the near future, debates about design will continue, and this can stimulate action.  For example, Michael Behe (in his 1996 book, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution) asks whether a natural process of step-by-step evolution could produce systems that seem to be irreducibly complex.  This challenge has motivated creative thinking and experimenting by advocates of evolution who want to show that Behe's claims are wrong, and by proponents of design.

    When we're wondering if scientists who propose design are "giving up" too soon, we should think about our motivations:  Do we want scientists to search for truth about nature, or do we want science to be only a game in which the goal is to explain everything by natural process, even if scientific evidence indicates that these explanations are probably wrong?  { For example, consider a theory proposing that life arose from nonlife by chemical evolution.  Should this be "the scientific explanation" despite its scientific implausibility, simply because it's a natural explanation? }

    Is design destined to fail?
    In principle, theories of design can be scientifically useful by stimulating action (in response to Behe's questions, for example) and by advancing our search for truth (when criticism leads to a more accurate evaluation of non-design theories, or when a design theory seems plausible and might be true).
    In practice, have design theories actually been useful in our search for truth?  Does the history of science provide a basis for doubting the utility of design?  In the past, some claims for design (and divine action) have seemed foolish in retrospect when MN-science, although temporarily unable to explain a phenomenon, eventually found a natural explanation.  Should we conclude, by inductive extrapolation, that claims for design will always fail, now and in the future? 
    Although inductive logic does not guarantee a correct conclusion, it usually indicates "a good way to bet," so failures in the past should provide a reason for caution.  But this should be balanced by a recognition that we can learn from history, so theories can improve.  A current design theory should be evaluated based on its own merit, not the weakness of superficially similar theories in the past.
    Judging each theory individually will help us avoid two extremes.  First, we should not assume that a claim for design is always justified whenever current science cannot explain a feature in terms of undirected natural process.  Second, we should not assume that a claim for design could never be scientifically justifiable or that design has never occurred.  These extremes can occur only if we refuse to learn anything from history (so we are not cautious in making claims for design) or if we refuse to acknowledge that we can learn from history (so we assume that design theories cannot improve and therefore don't deserve to be evaluated based on evidence).

    We should also remember that historical judgments can be reversed.  The most famous apparent failure is now being revisited, but with increased knowledge and more sophisticated analyses by Behe and others, to ask whether Darwin really did refute the main claims of Paley.  In the future, historians may look back on 1859, not as the beginning of an enduring Darwinian Paradigm, but as the starting point for an interlude, a period of temporary evolutionary confidence that faded when scientists began to explore more deeply and to demand that neo-Darwinian theories should meet higher standards for explanatory detail and empirical support.  /  And for other important questions, such as the origin of the universe and the first life, MN-science has never offered answers that have seemed even temporarily satisfactory.

    Should we go with the status quo?
    Another extrapolative argument claims that we should extend scientific methods from the past into the future.  If we define science by what scientists do, and the majority of current scientists practice MN, does this make MN an essential part of science?
    In evaluating this argument, the basic question is simple:  Is it wise to assume that current methods are necessarily the best of all possible methods, in all situations?  If we say YES, then it is rational to decide that we should go with the status quo, that "what is" can tell us "what should be."  If we say NO, then we can think more carefully about our science, and we can ask "What are the best methods?" and "Is MN always the best way to do science, in every situation?"
    The question of MN can be approached in two ways, by logic or power.  We can use logic to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of MN, to consider the benefits of an Open Science.  Or we can ignore the question, thus letting it be answered by those who have the power to define "what science is" by making important decisions:  which views will (and won't) be expressed in scientific journals and textbooks, at conferences and in the public media?  what types of research, by which scientists, will be funded by grants?  who will be hired and promoted?  and who will determine the policies of scientific and educational organizations?

    Should MN get credit for everything?
    A common argument for the status quo is that "modern science is MN and is making wonderful progress in gaining knowledge and solving problems, so we should retain MN because it is so effective."  But this conclusion isn't justified if, as we have good reasons to expect, a tolerance of design would not hinder the progress of science:
    Most areas of research would not be affected.  In areas where design is being proposed, many scientists would continue to work on non-design theories.  And this work would be approved by design proponents who think, for example, that a neo-Darwinian approach is useful for exploring a wide variety of phenomena, and that many of its claims (but not all) seem scientifically justified.  In fact, Mike Behe is challenging scientists to do more, not less, in searching for evolutionary mechanisms at the level of biochemistry.  And an improved knowledge of non-design can increase the plausibility of design, as explained in Sections 7B and 7D.
    As discussed later in this section, methods of logical analysis are similar in design and non-design, except that with design the range of acceptable conclusions is expanded.  Overall, design would have very little impact on the practical productivity of science, so an argument that "a rigid MN is necessary for the progress of science" is not justified.

    Is science a game with rules?
    Some critics of design view science as an intellectual game played with a set of rules, which include MN, that have been established by tradition, approved by consensus in the scientific community, and enforced by funding agencies, journal editors, and hiring committees.
    This is an interesting perspective.  In terms of sociology, regarding interpersonal dynamics and institutional structures, it is certainly an idea with merit.  But it becomes much less impressive and less appealing when we turn to philosophy and think about functional logic and the cognitive goals of science, when we acknowledge the distinction between games and reality.
    The practical function of restrictive rules is different in a game and in reality.  To illustrate, consider the Strong Man contests televised by ESPN.  During these competitions, I've seen a man tow a semi-truck with a rope, and carry a refrigerator on his back.
    For the game, if one competitor wanted to hook the semi to a tow truck or strap the refrigerator to a two-wheeler, this would be cheating.  It would provide an unfair advantage and would not help in achieving the goal of the game, determining who is the strongest man.  In this context the rule about "no mechanical help" is useful.
    But for reality, for accomplishing a practical goal, the same rule might not be useful.  If the real-life goal of a business is to move vehicles or refrigerators quickly, over and over throughout the day, using tow trucks or two-wheelers is a more effective strategy than asking a person to do all of the work.
    It is obvious that a restrictive rule which is useful in the context of an artificial game -- such as requiring that a heavy object must be moved by a human without extra help -- may not be useful in real life for accomplishing practical goals.  When this principle is applied to science, it seems more rational to view science as an activity with goals, rather than a game with rules.  Then we can ask whether the restrictions imposed by MN will make scientists more effective in pursuing and achieving the goals of science.  More specifically, we can ask "Is MN a useful strategy in our search for truth, in our development of increasingly accurate theories about nature?"

    Is "natural science" a logical argument?
    A claim that "in natural science, natural phenomena and natural history should be explained by natural causes" is just a fallacious pseudo-argument.  On the surface, the logic seems impressive.  But when we look deeper, it vanishes into thin air.  By carefully examining each use of "natural" we see a shift of meaning that hides (but only for awhile, until we discover the verbal illusion) an illogical circular argument, produced by using the same word in two different ways.
    One meaning of "natural" -- which is used throughout this overview -- is normal-appearing, in contrast with miraculous-appearing.  In the sentence above, this meaning is used once, for natural causes.  A second meaning, pertaining to nature, is used for natural phenomena (phenomena that occur in nature), natural history (the history of nature), and natural science (science that studies nature).
    But verbal ambiguity doesn't even require a sentence.  All by itself, the term "natural science" is ambiguous because it could refer to either "a study of the natural" (in Closed Science, restricted by MN) or "a study of nature" (in Open Science, liberated from MN), since "natural" has two meanings.  But there is an implicit argument when we say "natural science" because we're implying that these two words belong together, by definition, that they are inseparable and form a logical unit, that science is natural (with "normal appearing" as the assumed meaning) so a naturalistic approach should be accepted without further critical thought.  To avoid this pseudo-argument, we must improve our verbal precision.  Instead of saying "natural science" we should use terms that are more general (science) or more specific (physical science, earth science, biological science, social science,...).
    a reminder: In this overview, "natural" always means "normal appearing".

    Could science survive a miracle?
    Would a miracle mean the end of science?  One methodological concern is that science would be impossible if miracles occur, because the logic of science depends on consistently reproducible results.  This objection is based on a sound principle, but it loses practical validity when it extrapolates from USUALLY to ALWAYS.  Yes, a world that is "usually natural" is necessary for science, but we don't need an "always natural" world.  Science would be difficult, if not impossible, if we lived in a world with frequent "Alice in Wonderland" surprises and no reliable cause-effect relationships.  But if, despite occasional miracles, the universe usually operates according to normal natural patterns, science will be possible and useful.

    Do theories of design propose miracles?
    Theories of intelligent design (ID) assume the universe usually operates according to normal natural patterns, with consistently reproducible results.  ID makes claims only for occasional events in the history of nature, not for the normal operation of nature.  And a basic design theory does not explicitly propose miracles in history, because it claims only that a feature was produced -- not by undirected natural process -- but by either natural design and construction or supernatural design and creation.
    Does a basic "design only" theory violate methodological naturalism?  Maybe.  It is difficult to answer with a simple "yes" or "no" because with ID there are two possibilities and also two interpretations.  ID allows supernatural design-and-creation as a possibility, which seems to violate MN.  But ID also allows natural design-and-construction as a possibility, so a design theory does not require miracles and therefore does not explicitly violate MN.  What a design theory does explicitly acknowledge -- and this is where it differs from a creation theory -- is the practical difficulty of scientifically distinguishing between supernatural creation and natural construction.  But if critics of ID move beyond what is actually proposed, to include what they think is the total content (both explicit and implicit) of an ID theory, they can claim an implicit violation of MN.

    Logical Methods and Design
    A defense of Closed Science often begins at a superficial level, with an assumption -- that "natural science" is natural -- which isn't questioned.  At this level, the only question being asked is whether design violates a tradition of methodological naturalism.
    But we can move to a deeper level by thinking about scientific utility, by asking "What would be the practical effects of an Open Science that includes design?" and "Does a rigidly enforced MN help or hinder our efforts to gain an accurate understanding of nature?"  Although some aspects of these questions have been discussed above, other important concerns about scientific utility -- concerns involving the logical methods used in science -- are examined in the remainder of this section.  I hope you'll find some useful ideas in the following discussion.

    Observable Effects
    When we're evaluating the methodology of design, an important principle of cause-and-effect is that an unobservable cause can produce an observable effectIf we examine a feature and observe distinctive signs of design we can logically conclude that design has occurred, even if we have not directly observed the agent who formulated the design or performed the directed action that produced the designed feature.
    During the history of science, this principle -- that an observable effect can let us scientifically infer the existence and action of an unobservable cause -- has been debated, and its logical validity and scientific utility have been accepted by scientists and philosophers.  Laudan (1977, 1984) describes a conflict between beliefs that resulted in a significant decision about the methodological foundations of science.  In the early 1700s, some interpreters of science claimed that Isaac Newton had constructed his theories only by inductive generalization from observations, and had refused to speculate about unobservable theoretical entities.  A claim that Newton's method of theorizing was based on a commitment to "no unobservable components in theories" is challenged by modern historians and philosophers, but for awhile this methodological strategy was influential in science and philosophy.  Scientists were inspired to mimic the methods they mistakenly thought Newton had used, so they tried to develop theories that -- consistent with the positivist models of knowledge being developed by philosophers -- did not include unobservable causal entities.  But by the 1750s it was becoming apparent that many successful theories, in a wide range of fields, in operations science and historical science, depended on the postulation of unobservable entities.  Thus, there was a conflict between positivist goals for science and the actual theories of science. 
    Instead of giving up their non-positivist theories, the scientists and philosophers "sought to legitimate the aim of understanding the visible world by means of postulating an invisible world whose behavior was causally responsible for what we do observe. ...  To make good on their proposed aims, they had to develop a new methodology of science,... the hypothetico-deductive method.  Such a method allowed for the legitimacy of hypotheses referring to theoretical entities, just so long as a broad range of correct observational claims could be derived from such hypotheses. (Laudan, 1984; p. 57)"
    Using this logical methodology, modern scientists often propose that observed effects were produced by an unobserved cause.  In hypothetico-deductive reasoning, the only requirement -- even if a cause cannot be directly observed -- is that effects can be observed.  This requirement is fulfilled by a theory of design which claims that a cause (the design-directed action involved in producing a feature) can be inferred if, when we examine a feature, we observe distinctive signs of design.  {more about positivism}

    Historical Science
    Theories of design are proposed in historical science (to study events in the past) but not in operations science (to study ongoing events in the present).

    In both types of science, the logic is similar.
    Scientists use a logical process of deduction when they infer from a proposed cause to a predicted effect by asking an if-then question -- If this was the cause, then what effects should we observe? -- that produces a theory-based prediction (made before the observed effects are known) or postdiction (made after the observations are known).  A prediction and postdiction are logically equivalent, if each is obtained by valid deductive logic.
    Scientists use retroduction when, after observations are known, they infer from an observed effect to a proposed cause by asking a reversed question:  These are the observed effects, so what might the cause have been?  During retroductive inference, scientists try to find a theory (by selecting an existing theory or inventing a new theory) whose postdictions will match the known data.
    Retroduction is one type of hypothetico-deduction, which is a general process of logical inference that uses degree of agreement (do observations agree with predictions?) to evaluate a theory, and uses degree of predictive contrast (what differences occur in the predictions of different theories?) to compare and evaluate competitive theories.  { For details, check Section 7G. }

    But in the two types of science, data is different.
    In operations science, in experiments (and sometimes in field studies) observations can be repeated and variables can be controlled.
    But in historical science, repeatability and controls are impossible (except for decisions about which phenomena and characteristics to observe), and a deduction must be made after an event has occurred.  { But deductions can be made either before or after event-data is known, to generate predictions or postdictions, respectively. }  Since these data limitations occur in all areas of historical science, including astronomy, geology, and evolutionary biology, they pose no special problems for design.

    Regarding the relations and timings of deduction and inference, our expectations are similar for historical scientists and for other historians.  In all areas, including science, we expect historians to construct descriptions of what happened in the past and to propose explanatory theories for how it happened, but we don't expect them to predict what will happen in the future.

    Personal Agency
    In both historical science and operations science, in some situations we must consider the effects of personal agency because "what happens" depends on the decisions and actions of individual agents.  In these situations our ability to make precise predictions will usually decrease due to the unpredictability of individuals.  But similar methodological problems exist in design and in other scientific theories that postulate action by agents.
    In the production of a designed feature, there are two opportunities for agency: in the design, and the design-directed action.  The agents for these two phases could be the same (as implied in Section 7A) or different.  For example, engineers could design an airplane, then factory workers actually build the plane.  Or, God might design a "plan for action" and then use a human to carry out the action.  In fact, this type of dual agency -- combining the supernatural and natural, with God and humans working together -- plays an important role in theology and (I think) in life.

    Supernatural Agency
    In historical science, supernatural agency and natural agency are methodologically similar.  In each case a past occurrence of design-directed action can be inferred when careful examination of a feature reveals observable signs of design, even though (since it occurred in the past) the agent and action have not been directly observed.  In each case it is difficult to make precise theory-based deductions (as either predictions or postdictions) but it is possible to scientifically justify a retroductive inference that "design-directed action by an agent has occurred."  The logical process of inference is similar, whether the agency was natural or supernatural.
    If an event involving agency was not observed, there are two possibilities.  Perhaps the agent could have been observed, but was not.  Or maybe the agent, if supernatural, could not have been observed, even by an eyewitness.  In each case, the agent has not been observed, but observable effects -- which are the foundation of scientific logic -- could be produced by either type of agent.  Therefore, it is not methodologically useful (at least it isn't useful in the "ancient history of nature" situations for which intelligent design is typically proposed) to make a distinction between agents that are unobserved and unobservable.
    But is supernatural action possible?  An atheist and deist and theist, due to their differing beliefs about the existence and activities of supernatural agents, will have different views regarding the possibility of supernatural action.  Since there is no metaphysically neutral way to decide between these views, it may be wise to adopt the non-restrictive policy of Open Science by saying "maybe supernatural action is possible, and maybe it isn't."

    Section 7G contains a deeper analysis of historical science, personal agency, and supernatural agency.  It examines cause-effect principles and hypothetico-deductive inference.  It describes how the process of retroductive inference is affected by predictive accuracy and precision, which in turn are affected by contingency and complexity, empirical and theoretical knowledge, mechanisms and agency.  It explains why, although in historical science there are reasons for caution due to inherent limitations in the available data, scientists can develop methods for reducing the practical impact of the limitations.  These methods should be critically analyzed, but we should not automatically eliminate historical science (whether it proposes design or non-design) from being authentically scientific.

    Evidence and Testing
    Careful observation, combined with intuition and analysis, can lead us to recognize distinctive signs of design, such as special characteristics (like prime numbers) or purposeful functionality (like a camera that makes a photograph).  Del Ratzsch describes design in terms of the counterflow that occurs when events "have been pushed in a direction contrary to the normal flow of nature."  He uses a diesel bulldozer as an example of an object with clearly observable counterflow marks that "cannot or would not be produced by nature."  These signs of design provide evidence indicating that the bulldozer was produced by design.
    When is it logically justifiable to make a claim for design?  There is evidence for design when production by undirected natural process (by non-design) is not a plausible explanation for a particular feature, when it seems more likely that the feature was produced by design-directed action.  A feature was produced by either design or non-design, which are mutually exclusive.  Therefore, when the evaluative status of non-design decreases, the status of design increases;  evidence against non-design is evidence for design, so we can use the predictions of non-design theories to test and evaluate a design theory.  This relationship between predicting (by non-design) and testing (of both non-design and design) is unusual, since most theories are tested by using their own predictions.  But this methodology -- of supporting a claim for design by gathering evidence against non-design -- is logically valid because the correct theory must come from within one of the two mutually exclusive categories, design and non-design.

    Testing and Falsifying
    Can design be proved or disproved?  No.  Section 7B explains why, since we cannot falsify all possible theories that claim non-design, we cannot prove design.  Similarly, design cannot be disproved.  This is not a cause for concern, however, because it is impossible to prove or disprove any scientific theory by using formal logic.  But even though we cannot formally falsify design (or any other theory), it is possible to scientifically falsify a design theory, to develop a rationally justified confidence that a theory of design is false.  Or we could be scientifically confident that a design theory is true, or that design is the best of the currently available explanations.  Or we might simply conclude that design, as a potentially plausible explanation, is worthy of further development.
    Critics of design tend to focus on falsifiability, with two contrasting concerns that form an interesting combination.  First, they worry because design cannot be formally falsified.  But non-design also cannot be falsified, so they worry because design cannot be proved.  Somehow, the lack of symmetry in their own concerns (with unfalsifiability in design being criticized, while unfalsifiability in non-design is praised) doesn't seem to be a cause for concern.
    When we're thinking about the testability of design, focusing on falsifiability is not the most practical approach.  Instead, it is more useful to ask, Can the evaluative status of a design theory be changed (either up or down) by empirical data?  This question, which is a sensitive and logically valid way to determine whether a theory is empirically responsive, can be answered YES for many theories of design, so these theories can be scientifically evaluated based on empirical data.  Critics confirm the testability of design when they try to show, using empirical evidence, that a particular design theory is less plausible than is claimed by its proponents. {example}  If the design theory was not empirically responsive, if it was immune to evidence and could not be tested, such criticism would serve no practical purpose.

    Design uses Scientific Logic
    Design theorists oppose the restrictions of MN-science, but they use the logical methods of MN-science.  They begin with MN, but don't insist on always ending with MN.  They use conventional methods of scientific analysis, such as the hypothetico-deductive reasoning (done by comparing theory-based deductions with observations) that serves as a "reality check" for empirically evaluating the plausibility of a theory.  They think that -- if scientific evaluation shows theories of non-design to be implausible -- it is rational to reject these theories instead of insisting (as in MN-science) that a non-design theory must be accepted anyway.
    Conventional scientific methods, applied with an open mind, are sufficient to provide logical support for design.  In fact, in some areas of current MN-science, logical methods for detecting design are now commonly used.  For example, theories of design are being proposed and tested when forensic scientists investigate crimes, and when astronomers search for radio signals designed by intelligent extraterrestrials.  Similar methods are being used, and further developed, by design theorists.

    Mechanisms and Matching
    For theories that propose a detailed causal mechanism, we can make detailed predictions by using deductive logic, by asking an if-then question, "If this theory is true (so the proposed mechanism is operating), then what should we observe?"  But a basic theory of design does not propose a detailed causal mechanism;  it claims that a feature was the result of design, but makes no claims about the designing agent or the directed action that produced the feature.
    Scientists generally prefer a theory that includes a precisely detailed mechanism, but this is not required for scientific acceptance.  And a mechanism is not required for scientific utility.  As discussed above, even though design theories don't propose a detailed mechanism, empirical evidence that is analyzed by conventional scientific logic can support claims for design. 
    There is no need for detailed predictions, unless in addition to expecting that a design theory should be tested for what it does claim (that design occurred), we also demand that it must be tested for what it does not claim (that it can explain the details, the "how, when, why, and who" of the design-and-production process).  This extra demand is not needed to evaluate a claim for design, and it is not reasonable.  Why?  For the same reason we don't demand that officers in a police department should never turn a case over to the Homicide Division until they already know the details and have identified the murderer.  An exploration of design in any area (in homicide, radioastronomy, origins,...) is a two-step process:  first ask "Was there design-directed action?" and then investigate the details.
    We should recognize the limited claims made by a design theory, so we can evaluate design based on what it is, not what it isn't but never claimed to be.  This recognition is important, since it will help us think about testability in a way that is logically appropriate, that achieves a match between the claims made by design and the methods used to justify these claims.

    Supplemented Theories
    As explained above, a basic "design only" theory should be considered scientifically acceptable, whether it's proposed in astronomy (where a signal containing prime numbers would be recognized as design, even if nobody knew who the designers were) or to explain biological origins.  But if we want an origins theory that is more complete, a basic design theory can be supplemented with details about the designer's identity and actions.
    For example, a theory proposing design for the origin of increasingly complex life on earth could be supplemented with proposals for old-earth creation by God, young-earth creation by God, creation by another supernatural agent, or construction by natural extraterrestrial agents.  Each of these five explanations (the basic theory and the four supplemented theories) can be evaluated independently on its own merits, to generate five different estimates of plausibility, one for each theory.  Supplementation can significantly affect the scientific content and plausibility of a design-and-creation theory, as discussed in "The Many Meanings of Creation" in Section 6B.
    Supplementation also affects our judgments about how "scientific" a theory is.  Some arguments for "design as science" also apply to "creation as science" but others do not apply.  And the question being examined in this section is whether design (not creation) is scientific.

    Design and Creation
    What is the relationship between design and creation?  They are related, but are not the same.  They are logically connected, but only partially, since a theory of origins design can be (but doesn't have to be) supplemented to form a theory of theistic design-and-action.  They are theologically correlated, but only partially, since most advocates of design (but not all) are Christians.  And design is not the same as "young earth" creation, since two different questions (Has design occurred? How old is the earth?) are being asked.  { Also, claims for design are based on scientific evidence, while defenses of yeC, especially within the Christian community, often rely heavily on Biblical interpretation. }
    Two important principles -- 1) each theory should be carefully evaluated based on what it claims, no more and no less, and  2) design can involve agents and actions that are either natural or supernatural -- are discussed in this subsection:

    1) When theories are compared, we should notice both similarities and differences.  For example, when we compare typical theories of old-earth creation and young-earth creation by carefully examining the individual components within each theory, we see some similarities (e.g., both agree that irreducible complexity seems to exist) and some differences (e.g., they disagree about young-earth flood geology).  Each of these components, irreducible complexity and flood geology, should be evaluated separately and independently.  An overall theory of creation that combines many components, that makes many claims, should be evaluated with a wide focus that includes all of the claims, as explained in Section 6B.  But a theory of design that makes one claim, such as "the design of irreducibly complex systems," should be evaluated with a narrow focus that considers only this claim.

    2) What are the implications of design?  If a feature was not produced by undirected natural process, what are the alternatives?  An agent of "design and directed action" could be a nonhuman animal (as in ant hills, bird nests, and beaver dams), a human, an extraterrestrial space alien, or a supernatural being.  For each major area of origins, design doesn't necessarily mean creation:
    a) For biological evolution, the "production scenario" most commonly imagined by naturalistic design theorists is for directed panspermia, with the evolutionary development of life on earth being stimulated and guided by natural extraterrestrials who became highly evolved before the advent of complex earth life.
    b) For the first life, current design theories claim that a natural formation of carbon-based life (involving DNA, proteins, water,...) is highly implausible.  What are the alternatives?  Maybe God designed the universe so it would naturally support life, but would not naturally produce life, so God miraculously created life on earth.  Another design theory, nontheistic and naturalistic, might propose that life did arise naturally, but it was life of a type (and in a setting) we cannot now imagine;  then this life evolved to a level where it could design and construct the familiar carbon-based life inhabiting the earth.
    c) For our universe, with its life-allowing properties, a design theorist with a pantheistic (or panentheistic) worldview might propose that a universe can somehow evolve into a unified super-consciousness that is intelligent, active, and powerful.  Perhaps this happened in the distant past, and a previous universe has already designed and constructed new universes, including the one we now inhabit.

    A basic design theory -- before it has been supplemented in ways that are theistic, naturalistic, or pantheistic -- is limited to claims that can be scientifically evaluated.  Michael Behe clearly explains the limits of his "design only" claims, in a summary of ideas from pages 245-250 of his 1996 book, Darwin's Black Box:
    Although I acknowledged that most people (including myself) will attribute the design to God -- based in part on other, non-scientific judgments they have made -- I did not claim that the biochemical evidence leads ineluctably to a conclusion about who the designer is. In fact, I directly said that, from a scientific point of view, the question remains open. In doing so I was not being coy, but only limiting my claims to what I think the evidence will support. To illustrate, Francis Crick has famously suggested that life on earth may have been deliberately seeded by space aliens (Crick and Orgel 1973). If Crick said he thought that the clotting cascade was designed by aliens, I could not point to a biochemical feature of that system to show he was wrong. The biochemical evidence strongly indicates design, but does not show who the designer was.  {from Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics}
    Here, Behe is explaining why -- even though his theory claiming that "design has occurred" can be scientifically evaluated -- he is not claiming "creation has occurred" because, based on the evidence he is considering, this claim cannot be scientifically evaluated.


    Can a design theory be scientific?
    What is science?  In the past, attempts to define demarcation criteria -- which claim to capture "the essence of science" and therefore to clearly distinguish science from nonscience -- have not been satisfactory. 
    Despite these difficulties, some critics of design want to use methodological naturalism as a decisive demarcation test.  They ask one question, "Does it violate MN?", and consider the case to be settled.  But is it really that simple?

    This section has examined the main arguments for enforcing MN and excluding design from science.  Initially, these arguments may seem credible, but when we inspect more closely the logic is less impressive, and it seems less reasonable to exclude design from science.
    Here is a brief review of the first part of the section:  a Closed Science, restricted by MN, might guarantee that science will reach false conclusions;  an Open Science allows, but cannot guarantee, reaching correct conclusions;  a theory of design can be scientifically useful (because it might be true, it can promote a more accurate evaluation of non-design theories, and it can stimulate creative thinking and action by proponents of either design or non-design);  design is not a science stopper (in the actual practice of science), should be evaluated based on what it is now (not what other theories were in the past), and should not be excluded by citing the status quo (by assuming that current methods are necessarily the best methods) or by the verbal equivocation of using "natural" with two different meanings;  there is no incompatibility between science and occasional miracles;  and since design does not require miracles, it does not even explicitly violate MN.

    When examined closely, a few of these arguments (such as those about "natural science" being "natural" by definition) seem rather trivial.  Other ideas, especially those encouraging us to think about the practical effects of an open science and a closed science, are more worthy of serious consideration, if only because they can stimulate productive thinking and interactions.  Some concerns, involving scientific methods of theory testing and evaluation, seem especially important and interesting.  These methodological concerns have been discussed in ten subsections:  Observable Effects, Historical Science, Personal Agency, Supernatural Agency;  Evidence and Testing, Testing and Falsifying, Design uses Scientific Logic;  Mechanisms and Matching, Supplemented Theories, Design and Creation.  Here is a summary of the main ideas:
    because an unobservable cause can produce an observable effect, scientific theories can postulate the existence of a cause that cannot be directly observed;
    in logical methodology and use of data, a design theory is similar to other theories in historical sciences;  strategies for coping with the uncertainties of agency are similar, whether a personal agent is natural or supernatural;
    the main evidences for design are observable "signs of design" that probably could not be produced by undirected natural process;  since design and non-design are mutually exclusive, their plausibilities vary inversely, and testing for non-design is a way to test for design;  although design cannot be proved or disproved using formal logic, scientists can develop a rationally justified confidence that design (or non-design) is the best currently available explanation, or is at least a reasonably plausible explanation;  a theory of design is empirically responsive, and is therefore testable, if its evaluative status can be changed (up or down) by empirical data;  when critics try to empirically refute a design theory, they are confirming that the theory is scientifically responsive and testable;
    scientists who propose design use the conventional logic of MN-science, but question the wisdom of restricting science to the conclusions required by MN;  in some areas, such as forensic science, methods for testing design theories have been developed and are commonly used;
    a basic design theory does not propose a mechanism for the directed action that produced a designed feature, but a mechanism is not required for scientific utility;  a design theory should be tested for what it claims (that design occurred), not for what it doesn't claim (that it can explain the details);  a basic design theory can be supplemented (with details about when, how, why, who,...) in many ways (theistic, naturalistic, or pantheistic), and each theory (basic and supplemented) should be evaluated on its own merits;  theories of design and creation can be related, but are not the same, and design does not necessarily imply creation;  a basic design theory is limited to claims that can be scientifically evaluated.

    Can a design theory be scientific?  This section begins with reasons to say YES, and then explains why reasons for saying NO do not seem logically justified.  The more closely we examine arguments for enforcing a rigid methodological naturalism in science, the better "design as science" looks.  This suggests that, instead of using MN in a futile effort to separate science from nonscience, for each theory of design we should ask, "Is it scientifically plausible?" and "Is it scientifically useful?"    These questions are explored in Sections 7B and 7D.
    7B:  Based on their analysis of observations, some scientists are wondering whether a theory of "intelligent design and design-directed action" might be a plausible explanation for the first life, complex life, or the universe itself.  Even though proof is impossible, can we develop a scientifically justified confidence about the plausibility of a design theory?
    7D:  In our search for truth, is MN always helpful?  Should we reject a theory of design before looking at the evidence, or should we consider the possibility that design is a potentially reasonable explanation that is worthy of further development?  What are some benefits of an Open Science that has been liberated from the restrictions imposed by MN?




    7D. A Proposal for Open Science
    ( the title has been changed to "The Freedom of Open Science" )
    Section 7B concludes that "the potential of design theories to make valuable scientific contributions should be recognized and welcomed."  This section looks at some responses to design -- Has there been a warm, gracious, enthusiastic "welcome to our house" reception, or is the door being jealously guarded by zealous gatekeepers of knowledge? -- and explains why an Open Science would be scientifically and philosophically productive.

    A Goal and Strategy, Problem and Solution
    A Goal:  A major goal of science is to search for truth.  When we ask, "Has the history of the universe included both natural and non-natural causes?", we hope science will help us find the truth.
    A Strategy:  Science should answer this important question without doing any science.
    A Problem:  This strategy might force science to reach wrong conclusions. 
    A Solution:  Change the strategy that is causing the problem.

    According to a strategy of methodological naturalism (MN), science must conclude -- before the process of science begins -- that everything in the history of nature happened due to natural causes.  But if some events have involved non-natural causes, some scientific conclusions are guaranteed to be wrong, yet there is no way to escape these false conclusions.  Since we want science to help us in our search for truth, instead of leading to unavoidable false conclusions, this does not seem rational.  {details}
    The essential weakness of MN is logical inconsistency:  MN claims to be logical, yet it demands that all scientists should always assume that some possibilities don't exist, even though logic demands that scientists should consider all possibilities.  Logically, an observed feature might have been produced by any of three causes:  undirected natural process, natural design and construction, or supernatural design and creation.  Consistent with this logic, an Open Science recognizes all three possibilities.  By contrast, a Closed Science, restricted by MN, demands that a theory of intelligent design (ID) must be excluded from science because it permits either natural design (allowed by MN) or supernatural design (not allowed by MN).  In an Open Science, with intellectual freedom not restricted, a scientist is free to conclude that a particular feature was produced by either undirected natural process or design.

    Should science always use the process of science?
    In open science, a scientist can always use the process of science -- a logical analysis of observations -- to reach a scientific conclusion.
    In closed science, a scientist -- restricted by a rigid MN -- must bypass the process of science and declare that, no matter what is being studied, "it happened by natural process."  This conclusion is immediate (since we won't be delayed by a process of careful scientific investigation), automatic (it is logically unavoidable due to MN), and certain (if no debate or doubt is allowed by the enforcers of MN).  Reaching a scientific conclusion without doing any science is certainly quick and efficient, but is it wise and effective?  Or will our search for truth improve if a Closed Science is liberated to become an Open Science?

    Before examining some of the characteristics of open science, let's look at theories in three areas of science, proposing a design of the universe, the first life, and complex life.

    Design of the Universe
    Much of the evidence for a design of the universe comes from astronomers and physicists.  These discoveries have been enthusiastically welcomed, partly because there is an underlying beauty and balance in the properties of nature, and this appeals to the sense of aesthetics in scientists.  In addition, the relationship between ID and MN is different for theories proposing design-directed action during the history of nature (for example, to explain the origin of life) and design-directed action at the beginning of history (to explain the origin of the universe and its properties).  Since most scientists agree about the facts, disagreements are mainly about interpretations of what happened before the beginning of history, and this is currently recognized as speculative by everyone involved.  In this area of science, theistic interpretations are allowed in scientific and philosophical journals.

    Design of Life
    As discussed in Section 5, the conventional explanation for carbon-based life is that it began with the evolution of lifeless chemicals into a living organism.  Even though current theories proposing an explanation for how life could arise by chemical evolution seem highly implausible, this is "the scientific explanation" for how life began.  Why?  Is it necessary to declare that the best available naturalistic theory must be declared "the scientifically supported proposal for truth" even if this theory is not well supported by scientific evidence?  Is this rational?  Or should scientists also be allowed to propose alternative theories?
    Consider a theory of design, based on a logical analysis of empirical data, claiming that a natural origin of carbon-based life is extremely improbable, maybe impossible.  Is this theory scientific?  If not, what would make it unscientific:  a claim that a formation of life by undirected natural process is extremely improbable?  a perception that this claim implies the operation of a non-natural cause?  an explicit proposal of a non-natural cause?  Is there any limit to the severity of criticism before a design theory becomes unscientific?
    If similarly severe criticism is accompanied -- not by a proposal for design or creation, but for a new natural theory -- does this make it scientific?  In 1991{?}, Graham Cairns-Smith wrote a devastating critique of an "organic soup" version of chemical evolution, and proposed his own "clay mineral" version.  Scientific American published his article, but I'm sure they wouldn't have seriously considered a similar article concluding that "perhaps it did not happen naturally."
    Or consider a tale of two books, The Mystery of Life's Origins (Thaxton, Bradley, & Olsen, 1984) and Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (Shapiro, 1986).  In many ways these books were similar: well written, scientifically credible, with harsh criticism of current theories.  But the reviews were very different.  Mystery, which proposed creation as a logical possibility, was criticized as scientifically naive.  Or it was ignored.  Skeptic, which hoped a natural theory would be found, was praised as scientifically astute.  { Lynn Margulis called it "imperative reading." }  It seems likely that metaphysical preferences exerted a strong influence on reviewers' perceptions of scientific quality.  Evidently, harsh criticism is acceptable, but only when it is placed in a naturalistic context.  It is all right to admit that "we are far from finding the answer," but to say "maybe there is no natural answer" is unacceptable.

    Design of Biocomplexity
    Design theorists have raised a variety of questions about the plausibility of neo-Darwinian evolution.  For example, in Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996), Michael Behe claims that some biochemical systems are irreducibly complex and could not have been produced in the step-by-step process proposed in current neo-Darwinian theories.
    Consistent with the standards of modern molecular biology, Behe is encouraging a detailed examination of evolution, at a deeper level with higher standards.  As expected, his challenges have stimulated creative thinking and experimenting among individual scientists who read his book or heard about his ideas in subsequent reviews, lectures, or internet debates.  His critical questions have served as a catalyst for action by defenders of evolution who want to show he is wrong, and by proponents of design.

    Critical Thinking in Closed Science
What has been the response from scientific journals?  Behe summarizes: "While some science journal editors are individually tolerant and will entertain thoughts of publishing challenges to current views, when a group (such as the editorial board) gets together, orthodoxy prevails." { From Correspondence with Science Journals: Response to critics concerning peer-review by Michael Behe. }
    For example, one editor described a problem, "I am painfully aware of the close-mindedness of the scientific community to non-orthodoxy, and I think it is counterproductive."  Behe's submission was sent to a senior journal advisor, who responded to Behe's critical analysis with a generous proposal for delayed publication: "Having not yet understood all of biology is not a failure after just 200 years, given the amount of understanding already achieved.  Let us speak about it again in 1000 years."  The editor, in rejecting Behe's paper, said "I would like to encourage you to seek new evidence for your views, but of course, that evidence would likely fall outside of the scientific paradigm, or would basically be denials of conventional explanations.  You are in for some tough sledding."
    With another journal, after Behe submitted a tightly focused paper (a reply to specific criticisms) the editor made an excellent proposal for an expanded project that -- consistent with the noble ideals of science -- would have performed a valuable service by encouraging the open discussion of an exciting new idea: "The notion of intelligent design is one that may warrant further exploration, even though the topic has been dealt with extensively by both practicing scientists and philosophers of science.  Should this exploration take the form of contrasting viewpoints in articles by two persons, published in the same issue, on the more general aspects of the topic, then our editorial policy of presenting current issues of significance in the biological sciences might be satisfied.  /  Recast in more general terms, your article could present the "pro" side of the issue, and in that context it could address some of the criticisms that have appeared since your book was published, but it would have to provide a much broader perspective.  In particular, it would have to assume a readership that is not familiar with your book, at least not in any detailed way.  An accompanying article could present the "con" side of the issue, again taking a general perspective.  No doubt your book would figure prominently in both articles, but the theme would be modern concepts of intelligent design rather than a specific publication.  This approach would almost certainly reach a broader readership than a detailed response to specific criticisms.  It also has the added advantage of allowing you to present a synopsis of your entire case rather than just defending specific aspects of it.  Such a paired set of articles would imply that the topic is important, and therefore would attract additional readers."
    This is an excellent "open science" approach.  But the journal's editorial board was less enthusiastic.  They protested that "it is not possible to develop a meaningful discussion" between a design theory "based on intuitive, philosophical, or religious grounds" and an evolutionary theory "based on scientific fact and inference."  And they concluded, "Our journal... believes that evolutionary explanations of all structures and phenomena of life are possible and inevitable.  Hence a position such as yours, which opposes this view on other than scientific grounds, cannot be appropriate for our pages.  Although the editors feel that there has already been extensive response to your position from the academic community, we nevertheless encourage further informed discussion in appropriate forums.  Our journal cannot provide that forum, but we trust that other opportunities may become available to you."  { all quotes are from Behe's Correspondence... }

    Comparing the Actual and Ideal
    The editors informally recognize that "there has already been extensive response to your position from the academic community," but official recognition (by publication in their journal) is denied.  Why?  They explain that, in contrast with Behe's intuitive religious philosophy, their journal contains pure science.  But the situation seems reversed.  Although Behe's ideas are based on observations and scientific logic, publishing them "cannot be appropriate" because "our journal... believes that evolutionary explanations... are possible and inevitable."  The rejection seems to be based on philosophical preferences, not scientific merit.
    But according to a noble ideal of objective science -- operating in a community of curious, open-minded scientists who are exploring freely, are thinking critically, creatively, and flexibly, and are dedicated to finding the truth -- the response should be different.  Ideally, instead of ignoring the concept of design, pretending it doesn't exist and trying to exclude it from the mainstream of science, its tough questions would be carefully examined and used as a stimulus for critical analysis, creative thinking, and productive action.

    Is design scientific?
    Section 7C asks, "Can a design theory be scientific?", and concludes that "The more closely we examine arguments for enforcing a rigid methodological naturalism in science, the better 'design as science' looks."  Section 7C began by introducing some reasons for saying YES to an Open Science, and then explained why the proposed reasons for saying NO do not seem logically justified.  Instead of re-summarizing the counter-arguments to NO, I'll just provide a link to the summary in 7C.  But it will be useful to look more closely at some reasons for saying YES.
    What are some benefits of an Open Science that is liberated from the restrictions imposed by MN?  Theories of design can be useful in two main ways: by improving our search for truth (especially in our evaluations of non-design theories), and by stimulating productive scientific action to improve theories of non-design and design.


    Intrinsic Status and Relative Status
    When we think about an important question -- Has the history of nature included both natural and non-natural causes? -- a Closed Science might lead to unavoidable error due to a serious logical flaw:  MN demands that scientists should ignore some possibilities, even though logic demands that scientists should consider all possibilities.  In an attempt to understand this rejection of logic, it is useful to think about two types of theory status: intrinsic and relative.  A theory's intrinsic status is an estimate of its plausibility.  But if science is a search for the best theory, there is competition, so each theory also has a relative status that is defined by asking, "What is the overall appeal of this theory compared with alternative theories?"
    MN-science is closed.  It restricts our search for truth to one type of theory -- the group of naturalistic theories -- and declares that the best theory within this group is "the scientific conclusion."  The focus is on relative status, and comparisons are only with other naturalistic theories, since design theories have been excluded.
    But we should also look at intrinsic status.  And if every theory in the naturalistic group has earned a low intrinsic status, we should be willing to consider the possibility that the correct theory may not come from inside this restricted group.  Maybe all theories in the group share the same flawed component, such as an assumed certainty that undirected natural process can produce the high degree of complexity and specificity required for an origin of life.
    Of course, we should ask, "Are theories of design worthy of being included in the competition?"  To illustrate this question with a sports analogy, we would not challenge the right of Major League Baseball to declare its winner "the world champion" because the winner of Little League Baseball was excluded from the competition, but if within MLB the National League tried to exclude the American League, the resulting "champion" would deserve less respect, and a claim of "world champion" should be challenged.  If design is excluded when we're estimating relative status and determining "the scientific theory of origins," is a worthy competitor being eliminated?  If we want a scientifically credible answer to this question, it seems rational to base our answer on scientific evidence, not the restrictive methodology of Closed Science.

    Criticism, Competition, and Confidence
    A theory of design can serve a valuable scientific function when it stimulates critical thinking, when it questions the methodological sufficiency of considering only relative status (with design theories excluded from the comparisons) and calls attention to the importance of also considering the intrinsic status of naturalistic non-design theories.
    Even if a theory is "best in the group of naturalistic theories" and therefore has high relative status according to MN-science, it can have low intrinsic status if it has a low plausibility.  In this case we should not be impressed with the title of "best theory" since this just means it is the least flawed in a group of seriously flawed theories.  { For example, when we evaluate all current theories for a "chemical evolution" origin of life, a scientifically justifiable conclusion is that the strongest of these weak theories deserves to be assigned a low intrinsic status. }  By contrast, if science was more open, if it was willing to evaluate theories proposing both non-design and design -- and if all evaluations were based on a process of logic, not an assumption of naturalism -- we could place more confidence in a conclusion of non-design.  An open competition would produce a more impressive winner.
    In a closed science, restricted by MN, some naturalistic theory will inevitably be the conclusion, whether or not it has earned a high intrinsic status, since there is no acceptable alternative.  This lack of options can lead scientists to over-estimate the status of naturalistic theories.  By providing another option, a design theory encourages a more objective evaluation of non-design theories, and this can improve our search for increasingly accurate theories about nature.

    Design can promote critical thinking about current theories.  And design can provide balance when we're thinking about future theories, to insure that our imaginative extrapolations into the future of science are not just creative, but are also appropriately critical.

    Theories of design can be scientifically useful by encouraging a more accurate evaluation of non-design theories, as described above, and by stimulating ideas and action that improve theories of non-design and design, as described below.

    Criticism can inspire Creativity
    Throughout the history of science, proponents and opponents of controversial scientific theories have proposed arguments and counter-arguments.  For example, in the mid-1800s the merits of germ theory and spontaneous generation were vigorously debated by Louis Pasteur and other scientists.  And in the late-1920s, eminent scientists (especially Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein) held energetic yet respectful discussions about the assumptions, interpretations, and implications of quantum mechanics.
    Interactive disagreements among scientists can stimulate productive thinking and research, especially when discussions occur in an atmosphere of open minds, precise communication, and respectful attitudes.  The challenging questions posed by a theory's critics can inspire creativity by its defenders, leading to clever counter-arguments that defend the theory, new experiments that support the theory, or modifications that improve the theory.

    Perseverance and Flexibility
    Perhaps the search by Closed Science is occasionally futile, like trying to explain how the faces on Mt. Rushmore were produced by undirected natural process (erosion,...) even though, when scientists are restricted in this way, the finest creativity and logic will fail to find the true origin.  Perhaps MN is putting scientists in the position of a man who is diligently searching for missing keys in the kitchen when the keys are sitting on a table on the front porch.  No matter how hard he searches the kitchen, he won't find the keys because they aren't there!  On the other hand, if the keys really are in the kitchen, they will probably be found by someone who believes "the keys are in the kitchen" and is diligently searching there, not by a skeptic.
    In Section 7C, I ask a question: "Can the pursuit of knowledge be hindered by a claim for design?"  Then I answer "no" because "many scientists will persevere" but this depends on a variety of factors, inside and outside science, including the psychology of perseverance.  In the complex blend that generates productive thinking, "There can be a tension between contrasting virtues, such as persevering by tenacious hard work, or flexibly deciding to stop wasting time on an approach that isn't working and probably never will.  A problem solver may need to dig deeper, so perseverance is needed;  but sometimes the key to a solution is to dig in a new location, and flexibility (not perseverance) will pay off." {from A Detailed Examination of Scientific Method}

    Two Stages of Design Research
    A basic "design only" theory is like the first stage of an investigation by forensic scientists.  The initial goal of a forensic detective might be to determine whether a death was caused by undirected natural process or by design.  If the data indicates design, as in a suicide or murder, further research can investigate questions involving details of the design and the design-directed action, such as what, where, when, how, why, and who.  Of course, there are connections and overlaps between stages, since ideas and information generated in the first stage will be useful in the second stage, and speculative theories about "second stage questions" are being formulated during the first stage.

    During their design-oriented extended research, scientists might: 
    learn more about the "what" of a feature's characteristics and history; 
    think about mechanistic possibilities for the "when, where, how, or who" of design-directed action, or for combinations of designed action and non-designed natural process; 
    search for ways to improve the methodology of design, to develop better methods (with increased sensitivity and accuracy) of logically strengthening or weakening a claim for design; 
    think about what our observations can reveal about the "why" of a designer's intentions (for functionality and purpose, optimality and aesthetics,...) by searching for answers to questions like "What function(s) was the feature intended to accomplish?" or "In what ways was the feature designed to be optimal, or to appear optimal?" or "Was the object's designedness intended to be easily detectable, or detectable with effort and ingenuity, or not detectable?"; 
    determine the characteristics of the intelligence (and actions) that could design (and produce) a feature; 
    develop heuristic strategies for finding potentially fruitful areas of experimental or theoretical research.
    In addition, we can ask interesting questions about how we should interpret "animal instincts" when -- for the purpose of trying to define what is and isn't "intelligent design" or "undirected natural process" -- we're thinking about the levels of intelligence and undirectedness involved in various situations in nature.

    These extensions are possible, but are not necessary.  A basic design theory claims to answer only the question of whether design was involved in producing a particular feature.  If design-oriented research is also useful in generating knowledge about the details of design (how,...) this is an extra bonus.  But these extensions are not an intrinsic part of a design theory, and are not necessary for the scientific utility of design.

    Is design a science stopper?
    When we're thinking about the scientific usefulness of design, we can ask two questions:  Would design make a positive contribution?  Would design make a negative contribution?
    Some beneficial effects of design, in guiding a search for truth and stimulating scientific action, are discussed above.  Some potentially harmful effects that, although possible, should not be a cause for concern, are discussed in the two paragraphs below.

    Design is not a science stopper.  This is not the intention, and it would not be the result.  Proponents of design want research for competitive non-design theories to continue, since the main goal is to search for truth.  Also, an increase in our knowledge about non-design can result in either an increase or decrease in the status of non-design.  Yes, improved knowledge about non-design can support design, since the strongest defense for non-design is often a "plea for patience" because "we're just beginning to explore this area in an effort to construct non-design explanations."  For this reason, and because finding truth is the main goal, design theorists support the continuation of research in areas where design theories are being proposed.  But they want the freedom to also do research and to think in ways that may challenge the naturalistic assumptions of MN.
    Logically, theories of design and non-design are mutually exclusive.  But the scientific studies inspired by design and non-design are not mutually exclusive.  We can explore both design and non-design, so there is no need for an either-or choice.  Advocates of an open science don't want to eliminate MN research, they want to supplement it.  They use the logical methods of conventional science, and think MN is a good starting point, but they question whether MN should always determine the ending point.  Instead, they think scientists should be able to follow the data wherever it leads.  They want a metaphysical tolerance that allows mental and methodological flexibility, with the freedom to shift between MN and non-MN modes of thinking, to consider a wider range of possibilities that include both non-design and design.


    Two Models of Science
    In an open-minded free science, Mike Behe's perceptive thought-provoking ideas about irreducible complexity would be enthusiastically welcomed as a productive contribution, an opportunity to increase the range of conceptual diversity, an invitation to move "beyond the black box" in order to gain a more complete and detailed understanding of evolution at the molecular level.  In a curious, flexible, tolerant community, the scientific journals -- fulfilling their potential as a haven of free thinking -- would be eager to host invigorating debates about exciting new ideas, to stimulate and facilitate interactions between critics of a theory and its loyal defenders.  Instead, these questions are rejected because an editorial board "believes that evolutionary explanations... are inevitable."
    This "closed science" response is consistent with a picture of a scientific community defending the reigning paradigm at all costs, in any way possible.  But is this the way science should be?  Do scientists want to behave in the ways portrayed in cynical models of "science driven by culture" that have been constructed (based on a significant amount of historical data) by those who study science?  Or do scientists want to behave in a way that is more worthy of their own lofty ideals, that is consistent with their own model of science as an intellectually free, objective pursuit of truth?

    Scientific Freedom
    Scientists cherish their freedom of thought.  They don't want to be restricted by "rules" for doing science.  They do want the freedom to pursue explanations in any way they think will be effective.
    Consider, as an illustration, the methodological philosophy of positivism, and how scientists in the 1700s responded to these proposed restrictions.  A central principle of positivism is the assertion that an authentically scientific theory should not propose the existence of entities, actions or interactions which cannot be directly observed.  For example, behaviorist psychology avoids the concept of "thinking" because it cannot be observed.  A positivist would approve.  And in the early 1900s, Ernst Mach urged the abandoning of atomic theory because it proposes the existence of "electrons" and other unobservable entities.
    What has been the modern response?  Although behaviorism was dominant in American psychology for several decades, since the 1950s its influence has been surpassed by a less restrictive cognitive psychology (whose focal point is the process of thinking) that provides a liberating perspective for scientists.  And atomic theory is alive and thriving.  Most modern scientists believe that thoughts and electrons exist, even though they cannot be observed, because effects that can be observed are most satisfactorily explained by proposing the existence of thoughts and electrons.  { In the same way, scientific logic could lead us to infer that an observed effect was produced by the action of an unobserved designer. }  Many modern scientific theories include unobservable entities (photons, electrons,...) and interactions (electrical fields and forces,...) among their essential components.  Faced with a choice of "behaving as they should" (according to positivists) or being effective, scientists have chosen effectiveness and freedom.

    When this "freedom of thought" principle is applied to open science and design, an important question arises:  If scientists prefer freedom, why is MN -- which restricts freedom -- a commonly used methodology?  There is a simple explanation:  Most scientists work in areas that are not affected by MN restrictions;  in the few areas that are affected, those favoring the status quo hold positions of power, and they have a vested interest in maintaining MN so they can use it to censor their critics in an effort to protect their paradigm and its core theories.

    Should we ask the question?
    In an open-minded search for truth, Michael Behe's critical questions about irreducible complexity would be included in the mainstream of science.  Instead, design questions are dismissed by saying, "Let us speak about it again in 1000 years."  This rejection is based on a claim that design has not proved a natural cause of irreducible complexity is impossible.  Behe agrees, but says "So what?":
    "I acknowledge that I cannot rule out the possibility future work might explain irreducibly complex biochemical systems without the need to invoke intelligent design. ...  But the inability to guarantee the future course of science is common to everyone, not just those who are supportive of intelligent design. ...  I strongly disagree with the contention that, because we can't guarantee the success of intelligent design theory, it can be dismissed, or should not be pursued.  If science operated in such a manner, no theory would ever be investigated, because no theory is guaranteed success forever.  Indeed, if one ignores a hypothesis because it may one day be demonstrated to be incorrect, then one paradoxically takes unfalsifiability to be a necessary trait of a scientific theory.  Although philosophers of science have debated whether falsifiability is a requirement of a scientific theory, no one to my knowledge has argued that unfalsifiability is a necessary mark.  Because no one can see the future, science has to navigate by the data it has in hand.  Currently there is only one phenomenon that has demonstrated the ability to produce irreducible complexity, and that is the action of an intelligent agent.  It seems to me that that alone justifies pursuing a hypothesis of intelligent design in biochemistry."  { Behe, Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics}

    Yes, when we study a particular feature, it may be difficult to objectively and confidently answer the question, "Was design involved in producing this feature?"  But it should be easy to decide, "Should we ask the question?"  A curious, thoughtful, open-minded scientist will say YES.  Why?  Because, when all arguments and counter-arguments are studied carefully, away from the pressures of group conformity (when there is an opportunity to think deeply about what is wise), the calm logic of rationality clearly indicates that free inquiry is the best approach, that it would be foolish, in the long run, to let our search for truth be restricted by inflexible advocates of Closed Science who insist that we must say "No, we should not even ask the question."  When we're deciding if science should be open or closed, and if design is a concept that seems worthy of serious consideration and further development, there are many reasons to say "Yes, of course we should ask the question."
    And, regarding the acknowledged difficulties that we face when deciding, "Was design involved...?", we can phrase the question in different ways, thereby defining different criteria and standards for theory evaluation.  Section 7C explains why it is futile to ask, "Can design be proved with absolute certainty?"  Instead, scientists should ask, "Can we develop a rationally justified confidence in the plausibility of this particular theory of design?", or "When we compare it with other current theories, is design the best explanation?", or "Is it one of several reasonably plausible explanations?", or "If we continue to develop this theory, does it have the potential to become a reasonably plausible explanation in the future, or to stimulate interesting ideas and action during its development?"


    Should science be open?
    Is a rigid enforcing of methodological naturalism always wise?  Should science be closed by MN, or open to design?  This section has examined some reasons for thinking that theories of design are worthy of serious consideration and further development, and should be included in science.  Here is a brief review:
    If one goal of science is to search for truth about nature, a theory of design can be useful because it might be true, and because it can improve our evaluations of current non-design theories and our speculations about future theories.  When critical thinking about non-design is allowed and encouraged, defenders of non-design can be inspired to modify and improve their theories.  An open science would promote interactive discussions, and would stimulate productive action (theoretical and experimental) by proponents of design and non-design.  And a non-dogmatic attitude of metaphysical tolerance, willing to ask questions about design with an open mind, would be consistent with a noble vision of science as an objective pursuit of truth, and with the preference of scientists for minimal restrictions on their intellectual freedom.
    When all things are considered, it seems easy to say YES when we ask the central question for defining scientific utility: Can a theory of design help improve our understanding of nature?

    A Process of Change
    During the process of considering any reform, we're asking two questions: "Should we change?" and "How can we change?"  Sections 7B-7D are devoted to the first question, deciding whether we should change.
    But even if, as I'm recommending, we decided that an open science would be beneficial, it would not be easy to change the habits of scientists.  It would take more than a verbal declaration that "MN will no longer be strictly enforced, so a scientific theory can now question the sufficiency of natural causes."  Even if there was a way to "officially" include design in science, many scientists would still be unable to impartially evaluate a theory of design whose claims differ from their usual way of thinking.  Why?  One set of reasons is intellectual, another is practical.

    Intellectual Reasons
    In the current academic community, in science and other areas, many scholars, including both nontheists and theists, think MN is the best way to do science.  But the depth of their commitment varies widely, ranging from vigorous opposition to a passive acceptance of the status quo.  And throughout this range, opinions are often based on a shallow understanding of the issues.
    In this setting, improved education can promote change because for most people, the more they learn about open science, the better it looks.  Therefore, a major goal of reformers is helping people learn more about design, encouraging them to think deeply about the different perspectives, to delay their decisions until they have carefully considered all of the main arguments and responses.
    The first step in improved awareness is simply recognizing the existence of options.  Instead of assuming, without much thought, that natural science requires naturalism, we can ask "Is MN always wise?" because MN is a choice.  We are not forced to declare that the best naturalistic theory is "the scientifically supported conclusion about truth" even if this theory is not well supported by scientific evidence and logic.
    Another choice is how to frame the issue, how to define the factors that should be considered (and weighed most heavily) when we're evaluating the utility and wisdom of MN.
    One approach is to emphasize the implications of miraculous action in design.  For purposes of persuasion, this is more effective when combined with exaggerated imaginary scenarios -- like scientists explaining the results of their lab experiments by appealing to miraculous intervention, and stopping research by claiming "God did it so we don't need to study it" -- even though design would have little overall impact on the practice or productivity of science.  A focus on miracles can arouse feelings that those who propose design are cheating, that they are not "playing fair" and are not obeying the rules of science.  And an argument that "MN keeps miracles and metaphysics out of science" seems to be supported, if we choose to ignore the possibility that metaphysical perspectives are being smuggled into science along with the methodological constraints of MN.
    An alternative approach, which makes design appear more favorable, is to emphasize the value of intellectual freedom.  Should we enforce MN to produce a Closed Science in which some ideas are censored, or allow free thinking in a tolerant Open Science?  Will our search for truth about nature be enhanced by demanding that some ideas must be ignored?
    An intermediate approach might focus on logical methodology.  When this is done thoroughly and objectively, it highlights some weaknesses of design, and also areas where it is surprisingly strong.
    Which perspective is best?  Should we frame a debate in terms of miracles and metaphysics, freedom and tolerance, or logical methods?  In my opinion, it is best to consider all relevant arguments from a wide range of perspectives, instead of distorting a complex reality by oversimplifying it, by focusing too narrowly on any particular aspect of the overall picture.

    Practical Reasons
    An important factor opposing change is the fact that in general, in most life situations, the status quo has a powerful stability due to inertia.  A variety of factors -- operating at the levels of individuals, groups, and institutions -- work to resist change.  An academic community can exert strong pressures that encourage conformity with the intellectual preferences of the majority.  Especially in areas that are most directly affected, such as biology and education, actions have consequences.  A scholar who is weighing the advantages and disadvantages of publically supporting open science may see no personal benefits arising from this act of nonconformity, but can imagine that it might have negative effects on professional rewards such as publications and prestige, funding and influence, positions and power.  Most scholars care about these things, but would not be directly affected by an inclusion of design and a liberation from MN.  Most individuals, therefore, can imagine practical personal reasons to conform, but have little practical motivation to actively support a change.
    When we recognize the effects of cultural influence, this could lead to pessimism in those who, like myself, want science to be dominated by logic rather than power.  But I continue to have faith that, in the long run, the cumulative effects of improved education will be productive.  It seems that the most likely mechanism for change will be the "bottom up" influence that individual opinions can exert on group dynamics and institutional structures.  But I could be wrong, and positive responses by leaders in the scientific and educational communities may have a favorable impact.

    In Sections 7A-7D, I explain why it seems rational to conclude that -- by contrast with a closed science, restricted by methodological naturalism -- an open science, free to consider the possibility of design, might be scientifically useful in a search for truth about nature.  But I also recognize the rationality of arguments for retaining MN in science, and can respect the intellectual integrity of people holding this view.  Section 7E examines the question, "If we decide to adopt MN, what should we do in order to improve the logical precision and metaphysical neutrality of our thoughts and actions in science and education?"


    7E. Logically Appropriate Humility
    ( the title has been changed to " The Problems of Closed Science" )
    {{ a note to the reader: In this page -- but not in the Short Overview and Main Overview, which during the condensation have been carefully reorganized and rewritten -- Sections 7E, 7F, and 7G are currently unfinished: 7E is a rough draft, and 7F-7G are incomplete.  I'm leaving these sections "unfinished" for awhile because I want to make the main ideas available for you, but I also want to invest more time in developing other aspects of the ASA website for Education in Science & Faith.  Therefore, some transitions don't flow smoothly, and some ideas are duplicated (in 7E) or undeveloped (in 7F & 7G).  Later, I'll return to these sections and will "smooth over" the rough spots, improve the style, shorten 7E, and lengthen 7F-7G.  But despite the rough edges, it should be easy to understand the main ideas, and I think you'll find them interesting and thought-stimulating. }}

    The Limits of Science
    A strategy of methodological naturalism (MN) requires that scientific theories should postulate only natural causes.  If we decide to accept the restrictions imposed by MN, a second limit is logically necessary:  If an event really does involve a non-natural cause, any explanation of the event by MN-Science (in terms of only natural causes) will be incomplete or incorrect.  This limit, a logically appropriate humility concerning the potential for inescapable error in MN-Science, is MN-Humility.
    Each limit answers a question:
    For MN the question is, "What are the limits for what can claim to be science?", and the answer is a proposal that is submitted for our evaluation and decision.  Section 7D explains why, if we want an Open Science that can more effectively search for truth, we should decide to reject MN and the restrictive Closed Science it produces.
    For MN-Humility the question is, "What are the limits for what MN-Science can claim to explain?"  Although the answer is a logically valid conclusion, it is rarely acknowledged in discussions of origins, in science or education.  Why?  This section examines some intellectual habits that encourage scientists and educators to ignore the logic of humility.
    A Change of Mind
    A change from Two Options to One Proposal:  In 1998, I was willing to support either of two options:  accepting MN (and acknowledging MN-Humility) or rejecting MN.  Two years later, when I began revising this overview, I had become convinced that it was more rational to reject MN.  The main reason for my change of mind is that, as explained in Sections 7B-7D, I've become more thoroughly convinced that an open science can be a better science.  But another important reason, which is examined in this section, is that an acknowledgment of MN-humility is rarely attempted;  and even when there is an honest effort, it seems impossible to be truly and effectively humble.
    Before turning to MN-Humility, here are some brief reminders about why an open science, in which design theories are considered worthy of serious consideration and further development, has the potential to be a better science:

    The Benefits of Open Science
    The difference in responding to a question -- Was the history of nature all-natural? -- is the difference between science that is open and closed.
    In an open science (not restricted by MN) this question is a topic for investigation, to be evaluated based on scientific evidence.
    In a closed science (restricted by MN) the inevitable conclusion, no matter what is being studied, is that "it happened by natural process."  Therefore, a scientist can know -- without doing any science -- that science will declare a naturalistic theory to be "the scientific explanation."
    An open science says "Yes, we can ask the all-natural question, and then try to answer it by scientific research."  A closed science says "No, we shouldn't even ask the question, since the issue has been decided by MN."  In a science closed by MN, although it seems very strange, a scientist must bypass the process of science in order to reach a scientific conclusion about the "all natural" question.  Due to circular reasoning, with MN the assumption becomes the conclusion: naturalism in, naturalism out, with no need for science.
    An open science always begins by assuming MN, but this MN is flexible (in contrast with a rigid MN) and is open to reaching a non-MN conclusion if this seems justified by the evidence.  An open science evaluates each theory based on its own merit, whether it criticizes or defends naturalism, and allows free inquiry with individual and communal freedom of thought, with scientists free to follow the data wherever it leads.
    In a search for truth about nature, in either of two possible worlds (with an all-natural history, or with some non-natural process) an open science will allow, but cannot guarantee, reaching correct conclusions.  But in one of these two worlds, a science that adopts MN must inevitably reach some wrong conclusions.  If we're not certain about which type of world we live in, the logical conclusion is that a rigid MN might lead to unavoidable error.  Therefore, when we ask, "Is a rigid MN always an effective scientific strategy for seeking the truth?", the answer is NO, so it seems rational to reject a rigid MN.
    { For an in-depth examination of arguments for and against MN, check Sections 7A-7D. }

    Science as an Expert Witness
    In 1998, here is how I summarized the limits on what MN-science should be allowed to claim:  We can view a restricted MN-science as one aspect of a broader "search for truth" that considers all possibilities without imposing metaphysically biased restrictions on theorizing.  In this open search for truth, what is the role of MN-science?  It can be a valuable resource that should be respected as an expert witness, but it should not be the judge and jury when we're defining reality and rationality. (Rusbult, 1998)
    This metaphor has two aspects:
    First, we want science to be an "expert witness" that will help us in our search for accurate theories about nature.  The comments above explain why -- if we want to avoid a "hostile witness" that might be forced to give false testimony -- we should want the conclusions of science to be based on the process of science (on a logical analysis of observations), not dictated by the assumptions of MN.  For science to be a better witness, we need better science.
    Second, if we want science to be just a witness, not the judge and jury, it should not be the only factor that we seriously consider when we're deciding what is real and rational.  Whether science is open or closed, many people in modern society will tend to assume, due to the cultural authority of science, that science is "the final word" when we're debating various views of nature.  It can be very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to effectively neutralize this assumption, as discussed in the remainder of this section.


    The Necessity of Humility
    Most of Section 7E examines a question:  What should we do when, instead of receiving a warm welcome, open science (with its invitation to free thinking) is resented and rejected?
    When someone adopts MN, they should also adopt MN-Humility.  But is this enough?  Does it make MN satisfactory?  Basically, the combination of "MN plus MN-Humility" is a decision to first use an approach with logical limitations, and then apologize for the logical deficiencies of this approach.  I think it seems more rational to fix the logical deficiency by rejecting MN, as discussed above.  But if others think MN should be accepted, they should acknowledge its logical weakness -- that MN bypasses the process of science, and may lead to unavoidable error -- by explicitly acknowledging MN-Humility.  In principle, "MN plus MN-Humility" could be an adequate combination, but in practice the result is rarely satisfactory, as described in the three subsections below.

    The Rarity of Humility (Part 1)
    In the scientific and educational communities, and in the public media, there is a consistent disregard for MN-Humility.  Instead of explaining the logical limitations of MN-Science, there is a strong implication that "the conclusions of Modern Science" are true, that since a non-MN theory has been labeled nonscientific (or unscientific, pseudoscientific,...) it cannot be plausible and does not deserve serious consideration.  Overall, it is an interesting situation:  MN is used to bypass the process of science, and then the authority of science is claimed as support for the unavoidable conclusion required by MN -- that according to science, the history of nature was all natural -- whether or not this conclusion seems to be supported by science, by a logical analysis of observations and a logical evaluation of all competitive explanations.  Ironically, the authority of science is used to prevent the process of science.

    The Rarity of Humility (Part 2)
    One reason to reject MN is its arrogance.  The introduction to this section explains the logic of MN-Humility:  We should explicitly acknowledge that if an event actually involved a non-natural cause, then any explanation in terms of only natural causes will be incomplete or incorrect.  Section 7E describes the reality of MN-Arrogance:  Instead of humbly explaining the logical limits of MN-Science, there is a strong implication that "The Grand Conclusion of MN-Science" is true, that a non-scientific theory does not deserve serious consideration in a rational modern society.
    Of course, The Grand Conclusion -- that no matter what is being studied, "it happened by natural process" -- is actually the preliminary assumption of MN, not a conclusion reached by the process of science.  But even though there has been no science, the authority of science is claimed as support for The Grand Assumption of an all-natural history of nature.
    Reaching a scientific conclusion without doing science is fast and efficient, but is it rational?  Should we adopt MN and then try to explain why MN-science may lead to unavoidable false conclusions?  This was one of two options I recommended in 1998 when I said, "MN-science... can be a valuable resource that should be respected as an expert witness."  But MN demands that when we ask "Was history all-natural?", we must reach a conclusion before doing any science, so MN-science isn't an expert witness for this question.  In fact, the rigidity of MN might lead to unavoidable falsity when we're searching for truth, so MN-science is a potentially hostile witness.  The second option, which seems more rational, is to reject MN and let scientists think freely with an open mind, so they can reach scientific conclusions based on scientific evidence and logic.

    The Futility of Humility
    To see why MN-Humility is usually ineffective in being truly humble, think about what will happen when a naturalistic "scientific" non-design theory and an "unscientific" design theory both claim to describe the same event, such as the origin of life.  In this situation, the cultural authority of science will almost always guarantee that the unscientific theory is not respected and is not evaluated fairly.  Instead, the scientific theory (that life was produced naturally from non-life) is assumed to be more plausible and more worthy of consideration, whether or not the scientific evidence supports it.  And in a science classroom where "only science is taught" only the naturalistic theory will be taught.
    Thus, even if MN-Humility is acknowledged (which is rare), its effectiveness will be greatly diminished because -- due to the powerful cultural influence of science -- there is a strong implication that "not scientific" means "not true."  This result seems very strange when we consider the fact that MN provides a way to bypass the process of science, yet still claim the authority of science, for all conclusions about origins.  Instead of allowing this to continue, doesn't it seem more rational, as explained in Sections 7B-7D, to reject MN and let scientific logic determine scientific conclusions?  Timing is important.  Instead of reaching a conclusion first, and then explaining (with MN-Humility) why it might be wrong (but probably isn't wrong, since we should trust science rather than nonscience) it seems better to depend on scientific thinking (a logical analysis of observations), not methodological naturalism, when we're reaching scientific conclusions.

    Science and Truth? (a shift from NO to YES)
    If a rejection of MN-Humility is not logical, why is it so common?  One reason is that, since MN is very useful for protecting a naturalistic paradigm in science, all arguments for adopting MN are embraced, even if this requires a toleration of logical inconsistency.
    One strategy for making MN look good is to attack arguments that make MN look bad.  For example, if we accept a claim that Open Science would be useful when we're searching for truth about nature, this provides a reason to reject MN.  Some scholars challenge the foundation of this claim by arguing that "a search for truth" should not be one of the goals of science. {details}  In the arena of rhetoric, this anti-realist view can be useful in a two-step shift (from NO to YES) which has the effect of convincing people that they should accept MN even though they will be rejecting MN-Humility.
    When we ask, "Do scientists search for truth?", how does a shift from NO to YES occur?  First, a claim that "truth is not a goal" is used to weaken arguments for Open Science.  Second, there is a strong implication (or even an explicit declaration) that a scientific theory about nature -- not a nonscientific theory about nature -- is most likely to be true, and MN-Humility is rejected.  This second step is usually easy and effective because most people, both scientists and nonscientists, think that searching for truth is one goal of science, that scientists are trying to accurately describe what is really happening in nature.  { Whether scientists search for truth is one question, whether they have actually found truth is another.  When we're thinking about the second question, critical thinking is always appropriate, and humility is sometimes justified. }
    Typically, the two claims -- that truth is not a goal of science, and science is a way to find truth -- are separated in time, or they are made by different people, so the logical inconsistency is hidden.  Or perhaps only the first claim is made explicitly, because even when the second claim is not explicit, even when nobody call attention to it, it is assumed by almost everyone.

    Two Humilities (re: non-natural and natural)
    The limits of conventional MN-science should be explicitly recognized, so we don't claim to know more than we can know.  Humility is logically justified on two levels:  1) if MN is adopted, we need MN-Humility (regarding the possibility of miraculous-appearing events that we define as non-natural);  2) with or without MN, we need Interpretive Humility (regarding our interpretations of normal-appearing natural events).
    First, we should recognize that, even if we adopt MN and therefore limit science to natural explanations, the claims of science should be correspondingly limited by MN-Humility (by explicitly recognizing that a natural explanation for most events is logically compatible with miraculous-appearing supernatural action for occasional events).  MN-science should explicitly acknowledge the possibility of miracles (this could be done quickly and easily, by simply describing the five logical possibilities) even though MN-science does not allow miracles in explanations.
    Second, we can explain that "natural" does not mean "without God";  "natural" just means "normal appearing," which neither affirms nor denies supernatural action because empirical evidence cannot let us decisively distinguish between different interpretations of natural events.  { It is necessary to say "decisively" because empirical evidence for a design of the universe supports a claim that the natural properties of nature have been cleverly designed.  And there can be a claim, for a particular feature or the entire universe, that a designer never would have made it the way it is.  In each case, empirical evidence is the basis for a claim, but is the evidence logically decisive? }

    Metaphysical Materialism
    According to a theory of metaphysical materialism (Materialism), matter is all that exists.  More precisely, Materialism claims that matter/energy (and its natural operation due to interactive forces,...) is all that exists.  This atheistic worldview denies the existence of God and all types of theistic action.
    Even though they are not the same, there is a strong tendency for Methodological Naturalism to promote Metaphysical Materialism.  This can occur, in the mind of a person, in a 3-step process:  1a) MN-Humility is rejected, and MN (a "methods" claim that science should try to explain everything in terms of natural process) becomes a "reality" claim that science is able to explain everything because it all happened naturally;  1b) "everything" is defined to include everything (not just the pre-human formative history of nature, but also human history); and  2) Interpretive Humility is rejected, so "natural" means "without theistic action."
    In these three steps, methodological naturalism becomes metaphysical naturalism (with 1a and 1b) and then atheistic metaphysical materialism (with 1a-1b plus 2).  To avoid a worldview of Materialism, we must challenge one or more of these steps.  Steps 1b and 2 are challenged by a theistic evolutionist who thinks that miracles have occurred during human history, and that God designed natural process and is actively involved in it.  A creationist challenges all three steps.

    { note: Some people define "naturalism" and "materialism" to mean the same thing, but I think it's important to make a distinction, because Interpretive Humility is important.  There is a discussion of terms (methodological, metaphysical, naturalism, materialism,...) in the Appendix [in the original page].  And different worldviews (theism, deism, atheism,...) are discussed more fully in Section 7F. }

    Evolution and Atheism:  Some people, both atheists and theists, try to link evolution with atheism by implying that "if evolution is true, God either does not exist or is not active in history."  This claim should be challenged.  Yes, it is true that Total Evolution (astronomical, chemical, and biological) is an essential foundation for an atheistic belief in a universe without God, so "if atheism then evolution."  But a claim that "if evolution then atheism" is not logically justified, as explained in Sections 2C and 2E of the Main Overview.

    Can MN-Science be Metaphysically Neutral?  Although advocates of losed Science claim that "MN keeps miracles and metaphysics out of science," we should see that MN imposes its own metaphysical structure onto science, and from here the influence can diffuse into society.  Is there any practical way to minimize the practical effects of MN on our worldviews?

    Can science explain everything?
    Even though MN-Humility is logically appropriate, it tends to be consciously rejected or, more commonly, just ignored.  One reason for the rarity of MN-Humility is because it requires an open-minded willingness to consider the possibility, for a particular event in the history of nature, that maybe there is no scientific explanation, that a nonscientific theory might be true.  But scientists rarely want to admit that MN might guarantee that the correct theory will be nonscientific, even though this admission is logically warranted.  Although our attempt to construct a total science (that can explain everything in the history of nature) is a noble effort, we should do this with humility by explicitly acknowledging that MN might make it impossible.

    Scientism: An Exaggerated Trust in Science
    According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1977), scientism is "an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science to explain social or psychological phenomena, to solve pressing human problems, or to provide a comprehensive unified picture of the meaning of the cosmos."
    Defining scientism as "exaggerated trust" is a reminder that tendencies toward scientism form a continuum.  For example, even though I think scientism is not wise, I have a high respect for science because scientists usually show good judgment in estimating the plausibility of scientific theories, and science is usually effective in helping us develop a better understanding of nature.  This confidence in science is a limited form of scientism, which seems justified.
    But when there is too much confidence, it produces an extreme scientism (which I'm calling Scientism) with an unskeptical assumption that science is always the most effective method for attaining reliable knowledge about nature, that all answers offered by contemporary science are necessarily our most plausible theories about "the way things are."  According to Scientism, science is our best method for seeking truth, so "if a theory is not scientific, it probably is not true."

    Although the intellectual imperialism of scientism is a cause for concern in many fields of knowledge, this section will focus on a belief that science can "provide a comprehensive unified picture of the meaning of the cosmos," that science is the most effective method for constructing a rational metaphysical worldview about "the way the world is," including what is and isn't real.
    According to MN-Scientism, theistic action is not included in science (due to MN), so (due to Scientism) it is not real.  And if theistic action isn't real, our religious beliefs should be scientifically explained by naturalistic theories of psychology and sociology which propose that God is a product of the human imagination, and religion is a comforting delusion.  But if theology is based on illusion, it cannot help us understand reality.  For seeking non-illusory truth, we can depend only on science, so Scientism is justified.  { Do you see the circular reasoning? }
    As a logical corrolary, a theory of functional compartmentalization -- which has the effect of marginalizing religion and minimizing its effects -- claims that science and religion can never be in conflict because science describes physical reality (including the "spiritual" aspects of humans and human experience), while religion (which is a product of human thoughts, emotions, and group dynamics) is our attempt to construct a meaningful philosophy of life, so religion should not attempt to describe any reality (except for the ideas we are constructing inside our own minds).
    If MN-science is given the responsibility for explaining what is real, and there are no limits for what science can claim to explain, then naturalistic science is able (at least in principle, if not in practice) to explain everything.  Due to mutually supportive relationships that are based on circular reasoning -- which is faulty but is useful for laundering the logic (for disguising the fact that "scientific conclusions" about naturalistic metaphysics are just the deductive consequence of assumptions) -- there are deep connections between MN-Scientism, a lack of MN-Humility, and a worldview of Materialism.


    MN-Humility is Not Sufficient
    At the end of Sections 7A-7D, I draw a conclusion and acknowledge a practical reality: "It seems rational to conclude that -- by contrast with a closed science, restricted by methodological naturalism -- an open science, free to consider the possibility of design, might be scientifically useful in a search for truth about nature.  But I also recognize the rationality of arguments for retaining MN in science, and can respect the intellectual integrity of people holding this view.  Section 7E examines the question, "If we decide to adopt MN, what should we do in order to improve the logical precision and metaphysical neutrality of our thoughts and actions in science and education?"
    In this overview, I'm making two proposals:  1) Ideally, we should adopt an Open Science.  2) Since in the near future some people will reject Open Science, in situations where a Closed Science (with MN) is assumed, there should also be an explicit acknowledgment of MN-Humility.

    Are both proposals equally satisfactory?  Everyone should recognize the logical sufficiency of the second proposal: MN plus MN-Humility.  Many people, including some theists, think this makes it acceptable.  But when we look carefully at real-life applications and practical results, we see the futility of humility and the advantages of rejecting MN.  When we consider how it is actually used, MN-Humility is almost always ineffective, because if design is labeled a "nonscientific theory" it will not be able to compete fairly, on a level playing field, with a "scientific theory" that is backed by the cultural authority of science.  When all things are considered, it seems much better to adopt an Open Science in which all theories, whether they propose design or non-design, are evaluated based on scientific evidence.  The alternative is to bypass the process of science and then proclaim that the conclusion of science is non-design.
    In situations where MN has been adopted, of course we should insist that, since MN-Humility is logically justified, it should be explicitly acknowledged.  But there are many reasons to realize that "MN plus MN-Humility" is not a satisfactory solution, that Open Science is a better option.

    The two sections below, Hidden Arguments and Open Discussions, describe some ways to minimize the negative impacts of MN when (as is common) it has been adopted in science and education.

    Hidden Arguments
    Occasionally a Materialist conclusion is stated explicitly, as when Carl Sagan (winner of awards for science education) opened Cosmos with the nonscientific assertion, "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."  Or when the National Association of Biology Teachers declared (in a policy statement retained for 2 1/2 years, ending in 1997) that "natural" means "no theistic action" by insisting that evolution is an "unsupervised" process, thereby endorsing (even though it isn't scientifically justified) an atheistic view of the history of nature.
    Usually, however, a worldview of Metaphysical Materialism is not explicitly stated.  But it can be implicitly communicated, whether or not this is intended.  For example, an observation that "there is no theistic action in scientific descriptions of the universe" can imply a conclusion that "there is no theistic action in the universe" unless a teacher or textbook explains why this conclusion is not logically justified.  But there is rarely an explanation.
    Unfortunately, implicit "hidden arguments" can be very persuasive because only one viewpoint is presented, with no opportunity for counter-argument.  Since the arguments are hidden, the logic is not examined and analyzed.  And without awareness and critical analysis, fallacious reasoning (such as circular logic and unwarranted extrapolations) can survive and thrive.

    Open Discussions
    In contrast with hidden arguments that hinder awareness and discourage critical thinking, open discussions will encourage and facilitate an intellectually free search for truth.
    Possible topics for discussion include arguments for and against using MN to restrict science, the logical reasons for adopting MN-Humility, the goals and methods of science, the limits of science (so we can recognize and minimize claims for knowing more than we can know), the distinction between science (which usually helps us develop a better understanding of nature) and an extreme scientism which claims that science should be used to explain all aspects of "the way the world is," including what is and isn't real (in the world) and rational (in our thinking), and the scientific evidence for and against theories of design and non-design.
    In an open discussion of any or all of these ideas, a basic guiding principle is to have the major ideas (from the major viewpoints) expressed openly in a strong-and-clear form (with no weak-and-distorted "strawman" caricatures), in order to construct a level playing field where ideas can be evaluated based on their intrinsic merit.  The goal is to minimize the bias that occurs when there are important omissions or distortions.
    Unfortunately, opponents of design theories recognize, as emphasized in Section 7C, that "the more closely we examine arguments for enforcing a rigid methodological naturalism in science, the better 'design as science' looks" because "when we inspect more closely, the logic [in arguments for excluding design from science] is less impressive."  And if design theories are included in science (and education), instead of just censoring design with MN, our evaluations can be based on scientific evidence, and this will generally improve the perceived plausibility of design theories.
    Therefore, opponents of design usually don't want to allow open discussions of the major issues (regarding the inclusion of design in science and the plausibility of design theories) in science and education.  Instead, they want to continue the persuasive rhetoric of hidden arguments and the forced exclusion of design theories.  Some reasons for using hidden arguments, and some strategies for avoiding open discussion, are outlined below.

    Teachers and Controversy
    In the United States, teachers have lots of freedom in the classroom.  But they are also worried, with some justification, about negative consequences -- due to the potential for undesirable effects in their professional and personal lives, including threats of legal action aimed at themselves and their school districts -- if they try to engage in open discussions such as those described above.  And it would be very difficult to do an open discussion well, due to the wide range and inherent complexity of the many issues involved, and the lack of useful resources in current textbooks.  Teachers are confused, wondering how they can cope with the challenges (legal, political, logical, and pedagogical) of teaching science effectively in a climate of intense controversy.  Many skilled, well-meaning teachers have decided that their wisest strategy is to avoid any potentially controversial discussions of issues in the "hot" areas of origins and science/religion relationships.
    It's easy to understand why a teacher might choose a strategy aimed at minimizing the potential for unpleasant controversy.  Teachers are in a tough situation, so we should be gentle in our judgments about those who may appear to be using "hidden arguments" in the classroom.  Often this is unintentional, and the problem is not their intentions, but their lack of information about better options, combined with a lack of support (if they did want to implement these options) from educational organizations, administrators, school boards, and local communities.

    Asymmetry and Neutrality
    There is inherent asymmetry between expressions of theistic and nontheistic views.  A viewpoint cannot be expressed (and an event cannot be described) from a theistic perspective unless this is done explicitly, but "not theism" can be communicated implicitly yet strongly in a wide variety of ways.  For example, if a curriculum always assumes "there is no theistically active God" and omits the possibility of theistic action from every description of every event, does this achieve an appropriate neutrality?  Does the absence of a theistic perspective in education produce a balanced treatment of that perspective?
    Due to this asymmetry in expression, trying to ignore religious perspectives -- as proposed in a currently popular slogan of "teaching only science" -- seems to produce an implicit hidden curriculum that teaches more than just science.  { It is easy for non-religious perspectives to sneak in "under the radar" of constitutional concerns, especially when there are personal reasons to prefer these views, as described below. }

    Advocating a Worldview
    As explained above, a teacher's desire to avoid controversy, when combined with the inherent asymmetry in expressions of theistic and nontheistic views, can produce an unbalanced non-neutrality, even when this is not intended.
    But for some people, there are metaphysically based (or politically based) reasons for intentionally promoting non-theistic worldviews in the classroom, even in public schools where such advocacy (of either religious or anti-religious views) is not supposed to occur.  Although it's difficult to accurately determine the extent of such advocacy, and the motivations for it, I think advocacy is probably more common in groups (such as educational organizations, especially among activist leaders) than in individuals, and is more common in classrooms for older students, especially at the college level.

    Implicit Criticisms of Religion
A strongly implied criticism of religion can occur in many ways:  by providing historical examples of "warfare" between science and religion;  by describing foolish "God of the gaps" theories from the past, while applauding "the triumph of science over superstition";  or by an overly simplistic analysis of complex science-religion relationships, such as casually referring to "faith versus reason" as if these were mutually exclusive and inherently antagonistic;  or by implying that all religious beliefs and experiences can be scientifically explained in terms of naturalistic psychology and sociology.  These techniques, and others, can be used to indirectly criticize theories associated with religion (and also the religion itself) without directly engaging their content, to culturally marginalize these theories or interpretations, to weaken any claim that they should be seriously considered.

    Building Respect for Science
By contrast with this lack of respect for religion, a complex sociocultural process (involving education, popular media, advertising, social institutions, politics,...) amplifies the prestige and authority of science, which is now the most widely respected form of knowledge in modern society.  In many situations, the authority of science can effectively restrain a questioning of the knowledge claims constructed by scientists.  In this atmosphere, even if MN-Humility is explicitly acknowledged, the "prestige of science" will exert a powerful influence when a scientific theory is compared with a nonscientific theory.  For this reason, critics want to attach a label of "nonscientific" (or unscientific, or pseudoscientific) to theories of design, even though (as outlined in Sections 7B-7D) claims for design are based on a logical analysis of observations, which is the essence of scientific reasoning.

    In all areas of life, including science and education, we need an atmosphere of respectful open-minded tolerance toward religion and science.  Among careful thinkers, there is no place for theories of history based on a principle of "intrinsic conflict between science and religion," and an either-or approach that says "faith versus reason, you have to make a choice" is intellectually inappropriate.  Without respect, an open discussion of important issues will be harmful, not educationally productive. 

    Minimizing the Depth of Discussions
Typically, there is very little discussion about the many meanings of evolution (this omission allows an unwarranted transfer of support from some aspects of evolution to other aspects) or the many meanings of creation (this allows an unwarranted transfer of criticism from "young-earth creation" theories to "design only" and "old-earth creation" theories).  When evolution and design and creation are discussed, it is at a low level of sophistication.
    And if the nature of science is examined, this also occurs at a low level, without sufficient depth.  For example, usually there is no in-depth discussion about the goals and methods of science, such as our reasons for thinking that a rigid methodological naturalism will (or won't) always be an effective strategy in our search for truth about nature.  The overall effect of this low-level approach is to make theories of design seem less satisfactory as explanations, and less worthy of inclusion in science.  This effect can be especially strong when the framing of issues is done in a simplistic way, by exhorting students to "imagine what could happen if we let miracles into science," or by declaring that "of course, natural science should explain natural phenomena in natural history by natural theories," or by scoffing at a foolish belief in miracles (using analogies with tooth fairies and other childhood fantasies that are abandoned by mature adults) and explaining how modern science has replaced ignorant superstition with enlightened rationality.  { There is an in-depth examination of these ideas in Sections 7A-7D.  Too often, however, the logical arguments for including design in science are simply ignored. }
    Typically, there is very little discussion about:  the faulty circular logic of MN (which bypasses the process of science during its quick-and-automatic deductive conversion of a naturalistic assumption into a naturalistic conclusion, and then claims "the authority of science" for these pseudo-conclusions);  the logically valid justifications for Interpretive Humility (regarding our interpretations of natural events) and MN-Humility (when we ask whether "not scientific" means "probably not true");  the relationships between methodological naturalism and metaphysical materialism (regarding the extent to which "no theistic action in science" has the practical effect of implying "probably no theistic action in nature").  /  In biology textbooks, for example, usually there is no discussion about the limits for what MN-science can logically claim to explain.  Instead, the book simply states with bold authority (in defiance of MN-Humility) that "this is the way it all happened," and lets a reader draw the intended conclusions. 
    Textbooks never take advantage of genuine opportunities for well-deserved scientific humility, such as the origin of life, even though this could be done quite easily by just describing the five logical possibilities.
    In all of these cases, an improved level of discussion (leading to an improved level of knowledge) will usually help design theories seem more plausible and more worthy of inclusion in science.

    Conclusion (later)
    {{ to the reader: Eventually there will be a conclusion/summary for 7E, but not now. }}


    7F. Cultural Factors in Science
    ( the title has been changed to " Cultural-Personal Factors in Science" )
    {{ to the reader:  Section 7F is incomplete.  I have similar motives (as explained earlier) for leaving 7E and 7F-7G unfinished, but "what needs revising" is different.  In 7E there is duplication, with similar ideas being expressed in several different contexts and combinations.  By contrast, 7F and 7G are mainly just incomplete;  they are truncated, with several sections missing (to be finished later), but what is here is in fairly good shape. }}

    Harmonizing Metaphysics and Science
    Most people, especially those who care about ideas, want their own ideas to be logically consistent.  Because a desire for personal consistency involves everything a person believes, during a study of origins there will be mutual interactions between two types of theories, metaphysical and scientific;  each influences the other, and either or both can be adjusted in an effort to achieve consistency.

    An atheist, who believes there is no God, has no scientific freedom in the area of origins because only one conclusion is acceptable: some type of materialistic Total Evolution (astronomical, chemical, and biological) with no theistic action.
    An open-minded flexible agnostic who simply says "I haven't decided yet" has a large amount of freedom.  But a closed-minded rigid agnostic who claims "it is impossible for anyone ever to develop a rationally justified confidence about the existence and activity of God" will be heavily influenced.  For example, if an agnostic concluded that a natural origin of the first life is so extremely improbable that it was probably impossible, remaining agnostic would depend on tolerating the personal inconsistency between a scientific belief (based on evidence that natural process cannot produce life) and a metaphysical belief (an agnostic refusal to acknowledge the evidence for a miracle-working God).  Since this inconsistency would be psychologically uncomfortable, a rigid agnostic (who is basically an atheist) will be strongly motivated to underestimate the plausibility of a theistic explanation for the origin of life, because if this theory is rejected the agnosticism is protected.
    Many non-theistic religions (involving polytheism, pantheism, panentheism, animism,..., but not the monotheism for which I'm reserving the term "theism") are based on a metaphysics that allows flexible adjustments and significant scientific freedom.  But a nontheistic religion will produce a preference for nontheistic theories and interpretations.  And religions that claim "eternal cycles of the universe" are inconsistent with modern Big Bang theories in astronomy. 
    In principle, a theist who understands the wide range of theistic options (yeC, oeCi, oeCm, TE) can freely follow the evidence and logic of science to whatever conclusions seem most plausible.  But in practice each theistic position requires some adjustment to achieve harmony between theology and science. 
    For a Jewish or Christian theist, five variables that can be adjusted are:  scientific interpretations of observations;  theological interpretations of the Bible;  theological theories about the frequency of various types of theistic action (with different combinations of appearance, degree of theistic control, and context);  willingness to use miraculous-appearing theistic action for scientifically explaining events in the history of nature;  relative emphasis placed on observations and on the Bible.

    What do I think?  My position -- that the best combination of science and theology is a miraculous creation of the first life, followed by a combination of oeCm (miraculous old-earth creation by macromutation) and natural evolution for biological development -- is described in Section 2F.

    Cultural-Personal Factors in Science
    Scholars who study science recognize the existence of "cultural factors" in science.  These factors are described in three parts of a model for Integrated Scientific Method that I developed as part of my PhD project:

    3. Cultural-Personal Factors in Theory Evaluation
    During all activities of science, including theory evaluation, scientists are influenced by cultural-personal factors.  These factors include psychological motives and practical concerns (such as intellectual curiosity, and desires for self esteem, respect from others, financial security, and power), metaphysical worldviews (that form the foundation for some criteria used in conceptual evaluation), ideological principles (about "the way things should be" in society), and opinions of authorities (who are acknowledged due to expertise, personality, and/or power).
    These five factors interact with each other, and operate in a complex social context that involves individuals, the scientific community, and society as a whole.  Science and culture are mutually interactive, with each affecting the other.
    Some cultural-personal influence is due to a desire for personal consistency between ideas, between actions, and between ideas and actions.  For example, scientists are more likely to accept a scientific theory that is consistent with their metaphysical and ideological theories.

    4. Theory Evaluation
    Inputs for evaluating a theory come from empirical, conceptual, and cultural-personal factors, with the relative weighting of factors varying from one situation to another. ...

    8. Thought Styles in Science
    All activities in science, mental and physical, are affected by thought styles that are influenced by cultural-personal factors, operate at the levels of individuals and sub-communities and communities, and involve both conscious choices and unconscious assumptions.  A collective thought style includes the shared beliefs, among a group of scientists, about "what should be done and how it should be done."
    Thought styles affect the types of theories generated and accepted, the problems formulated, experiments done, and techniques for data interpretation.  There are mutual influences between thought styles and the procedural "rules of the game" that are developed by a community of scientists, operating in a larger social context, to establish and maintain certain types of institutions and reward systems, styles of presentation, attitudes toward competition and cooperation, and relationships between science, technology and society.  Decisions about which problem-solving projects to pursue -- decisions that are heavily influenced by thought styles -- play a key role in the mutual interactions between society and science by determining the allocation of societal resources (for science as a whole, for areas within science, and for individual projects) and the benefits that may arise from investments in scientific research.  Thought styles affect the process and content of science in many ways, but this influence is not the same for all science, because thought styles vary between fields (and even within fields), and change with time.

    These culture-and-science ideas are described in more detail on another page.  And the entire 9-part model of science is available in two versions: an introductory outline (from which the excerpts above were taken) and a detailed description.

    Models of Science: Descriptive and Prescriptive
    During a study of science -- by historians or philosophers, psychologists or sociologists, physicists or biologists -- the approach can be mainly descriptive (trying to understand what science is) or prescriptive (thinking about what science should be), or it can involve some combination of the two.  My opinions about description and prescription are that we should recognize (and try to accurately characterize) the influence of cultural-personal factors in science, without underestimating or overestimating their effects.  And we should try to minimize the influence of these factors if we want to maximize the effectiveness of science in a search for truth.  In other words, I think the effects of cultural-personal factors should be recognized and minimized.

    Descriptions of Science
    The existence of cultural-personal factors is recognized by everyone who studies science, but the effects of these factors, on the process and content of science, is a topic for intense debate.  Even though extreme views are popular in some academic circles, I don't think these descriptions are accurate.  It seems wise to avoid being naive ostriches (by ignoring cultural effects) or silly skeptics (by exaggerating these effects).  In another paper, my own views are expressed:
    "In this page, I will make modest recommendations, based on a simple principle (that if a good idea is taken to extremes without sufficient balance from rational critical thinking, there may be undesirable consequences) and an assumption that undesirable consequences should be avoided. ...
    A critical thinker should know, not just the limits of logic, but also the sophisticated methods that scientists have developed to cope with these limitations, to minimize their practical effects.  By using these methods, scientists can develop a rationally justified confidence in their conclusions, despite the impossibility of proof or disproof.  We should challenge the rationality of an implication, made by radical skeptics, that "if we cannot claim certainty, we can claim nothing."  Modern science has given up the quest for certainty, and has decided to aim for a high degree of plausibility, for a way to determine "what is a good way to bet." ...  Although some skepticism is good, too much of this good thing -- without sufficient balance by thinking critically about the claims of skeptics -- can be detrimental to science and rationality." 
{quoted from "Should Scientific Method be EKS-Rated?" where EKS has replaced X in order to fool the filtering programs}

    Prescriptions for Science
    Is cultural-personal influence desirable?  Should it be encouraged and increased?  Do we want scientific theories to reflect what happens in society, or what happens in nature?
    To me, it seems obvious that heavy cultural-personal influence does not help us produce good science, especially in a search for truth when scientists should be aiming for an objectively logical evaluation of empirical evidence.  Specifically, I think that we (as scientists who practice science, scholars who study science, and educators who teach science) should not be "cheerleaders" who encourage an abuse of cultural power that produces bias in science.  Ideally, the content of scientific theories should be determined by a process of thinking that is objective and logical, not biased and sociological.
    Of course, we should not be naive by ignoring the reality of what science is.  But we should be willing to question "the way things are" instead of being intellectually lazy by assuming that the status quo is always optimal, that "what is" equals "what should be."  We can respect the rationality of scientists and their reasons for adopting the current customs in science, while retaining the right to challenge these customs in an effort to improve them.  There is value in using both of the general approaches to studying science -- description (of what is) and prescription (of what should be) -- but remembering the distinction between them is important.

    Nonscientific Influences in Origins Science
    So far, I've discussed only "science" in general.  But different areas of science are affected in different ways by cultural-personal factors.  For example, a psychologist with theories about sociobiology can be culturally controversial, but when a chemist studies the kinetic effects of groups attached to a benzene ring, very little societal politics is evident. 
    Typically, cultural influence is stronger in origins science than in most other fields, and it can exert a powerful influence on opinions.  In fact, many people refuse to engage in the process of science with an open mind because they already have decided, without doing any science, either to reject or adopt a particular theory of intelligent design.  There is often a strong preliminary assumption that is "almost a conclusion" before a careful examination of empirical evidence has begun, and that continues during an evaluation of evidence.

    Bias and Falsity
    It is important to distinguish between evaluation bias and theory falsity.
    Even if the evaluation of a person, or a group of people, is biased (by metaphysical beliefs or by other nonscientific factors) in favor of a theory, this does not mean the theory is necessarily false.  But when we recognize the existence of bias, this does indicate that an independent evaluation is warranted, that we should not simply accept the conclusion of this person (or group) about the theory's evaluative status.

    Authority and Bias
    We accept the claims of physicists about their theories.  Should we also accept the analogous claims of biologists about their theories of evolution?  If not, why should the authority of scientists be respected in one case, but challenged in the other?  This question deserves our careful attention:
    First, we should ask if there are logically justifiable reasons for caution.  Although in physics there is little reason to doubt many theories, such as the basic theories of motion, there are legitimate questions on the frontiers of knowledge, in areas like elementary particle theories.  Similarly, some scientists are asking whether evolution (E) can produce irreducible complexity and whether mechanisms for gradual E (or punctuated equilibrium E) are consistent with the fossil record.  When a scientist describes evolution as "fact" we should ask, What do you mean by evolution?  Is it fossil E, common descent, micro-E, macro-E, or Total Macro-E?  If the answer is "all of these," we should challenge a claim that a status of "fact" is scientifically justified.
    Second, we can think about the cultural-personal influences operating in the lives of scientists.  In the current institutional structure of evolutionary biology, an uncritical acceptance of all aspects of E-theory (including a confident extrapolation from micro-E to Total Macro-E) offers many professional advantages, making it much easier to obtain employment and promotions, funding for research, publication of papers, and respectful acceptance from colleagues.  A philosophical commitment that leads to bias is the methodological naturalism which guarantees, no matter what the evidence indicates, that a naturalistic theory will be the accepted scientific theory, and non-naturalistic theories won't be seriously considered.

    If there are reasons to suspect that objective evaluation is being hindered by the institutional structure and interpersonal dynamics within a scientific discipline, there are reasons to proceed with caution and questions, to wonder whether we should uncritically accept all conclusions offered by this discipline.  If cultural-personal factors and thought patterns seem to be hindering the internal self-checks that, in an ideal science, would be supplied by the critical thinking of experts within a discipline, it seems wise to listen with an open mind to critics of the "consensus conclusions" offered by this discipline.
    When all things are considered, it seems wise to ask whether cultural-personal influence has led to bias in evaluations of Total Macro-E.  Has this theory been given a status that is unjustifiably high, based on an overly generous transfer of empirical support (compared with what would be justified based on a rigorous logical analysis, done without bias) when extrapolating from micro-E, through various levels of macro-E, to Total Macro-E?

    As a strategy for estimating the effects of cultural-personal bias, we can try to imagine what the evaluation status of Total Macro-E would be if there were no external factors influencing an objective analysis and evaluation of the empirical evidence.  This analytical technique is described in another web-page,
    "Just as Newton tried to imagine the characteristics of "motion without friction," we can try to imagine the characteristics of "science without cultural-personal influences."  By comparing this idealized science with actual science, we can estimate the influence exerted by various types of cultural factors, and how these affect the process and content of science, in the short-term and over longer periods of time. ...  But how does one try to imagine what science would be like, in a certain field, without the thought style that operates in this field? ...  One strategy for characterizing "the effects on theory evaluation" of a thought style is to imagine several models of science, each with a different thought style, and then compare the results of theory evaluations (made by scientists operating in the context of each model) with each other, and with the actual theory evaluation in the situation being analyzed." {Tools for Analysis: Idealizations and Range Diagrams}

    What is missing from this section?
    to the reader:
As mentioned above, this section is incomplete;  its content will be expanded later.  Of the unfinished parts outlined below, the first to be finished will be Chemical Evolution as a Test Case because I think it's an exciting idea.  Eventually, but not quickly, I'll get around to working on Theistic Science and then the others, but in the near future these parts won't be a high priority.

    Summary of 7F (to be written later)
    The section will end with a brief summary/review, to organize and emphasize the main ideas.
    Before this concluding summary, however, there will be an exploration of other topics:

    Chemical Evolution as a Test Case (to be written in extended form later)
For judging the depth of commitment to "a universe without miracles," the origin of life makes a fascinating test case due to its simplicity:  a) scientific analysis reveals the implausibility of current theories for pre-biological "chemical evolution";  b) nobody claims that chemical E plays an important unifying role in biology, so (unlike the situation for biological E) this is never claimed as a motivation for supporting chemical E in science or education;  c) a theory proposing "a natural origin of life somewhere in the universe" is a vital component for a metaphysical belief in "a nature without miracles."
    But major textbooks never take advantage of this easy opportunity for humility.  A book may admit that we don't yet know how life became alive, but it never questions whether life originated by a natural process, even though it would be easy to pose this intellectually honest, open-minded question by simply acknowledging MN-Humility and discussing the five logical possibilities.

    Methods and Origins and Culture (to be written in extended form later)
    Methods:  How are the methods used in science, including methodological naturalism, influenced by cultural-personal factors?  Questions like "Who bears the burden of proof when, as explained in Section 7B, there can be no proof?" will be examined.  { Of course, this topic will be connected with the examination of "theistic science" above. }  What are the interpersonal and institutional mechanisms that are used to define and enforce the thought styles of a scientific discipline? }
    Origins:  There will be a more detailed discussion of ideas from Harmonizing Metaphysics and Science earlier in this section, including a consideration of the practical and political effects of various origins views, and the willingness of people proposing different metaphysical views to allow their "origins theories" to be falsified.
    Theistic Science:  Sections 7A-7E explain the benefits of an Open Science.  A concept that is related, yet different, is a Theistic Science in which a scholar's approach includes a Christian metaphysical perspective.  As Alvin Plantinga explains, "a Christian academic and scientific community ought to pursue science in its own way, starting from and taking for granted what we know as Christians." {from Methodological Naturalism by Plantinga}
    Evolution and Religion:  What are the religious implications of evolution?  { This will be an extension of discussions in other parts of the overview, including "Origins and Culture" above, and theistic evolution in Section 2E. }  What are the implications of how we interpret "natural" events. (distinctions between events that are undirected and unguided, and between detectability and randomness, and more)



    7G. The Methods of Historical Science

    ( the title has been changed to "Can evolution be scientific?" )
    {{ to the reader:  Section 7G is incomplete, as explained earlier. }}

    The Methodologies of Historical Science
    The basic differences between the logical methods used in historical science (to study events in the past) and operations science (to study ongoing events in the present) are introduced in Section 7C.  This section is a deeper examination of the methodologies used in historical science.

    Are theories of EVOLUTION scientific?
    Critics of biological evolution (bio-E) sometimes claim it is not truly scientific because:  we have never observed major bio-E;  E-theory does not make predictions;  E-theory cannot be falsified.  Are these criticisms justified?
    OBSERVATIONS:  Can a theory of Total Macro-E be scientific, even though it postulates a historical process that occurred over long periods of time, in the distant past, so the historical events cannot be directly observed?  Yes.  Both historical science and operations science can be done using similarly scientific methods, adapted to be effective in their differing contexts.  In historical science there are reasons for caution about conclusions, due to the inherent limitations of historical data, but scientists have developed methods for reducing the practical impact of these limitations.  Although these methods should be critically examined, they do not provide a reason to automatically exclude bio-E from being authentically scientific.
    PREDICTIONS:  In a historical science it is difficult to make predictions that are both precise (with specific details) and accurate, especially over long periods of time, due to complexity, sensitivity, and randomness:  evolutionary contexts and causal factors are complex;  outcomes are sensitive to small variations in the initial conditions;  all bio-E processes involve some randomness, and some factors (like mutation and genetic drift) are extremely random.  These elements combine to produce historical contingency:  if 10 situations with similar initial conditions were "allowed to run" 10 times, there would be 10 different results.  But even though E-theory could not precisely predict these results, it claims the ability to retroductively explain each already-known result if scientists can construct a historical scenario (connecting the initial and final historical situations) that is consistent with the causal mechanisms of E-theory.  /  The goals of scientists, during their studies of bio-E, may be to reconstruct past contexts, to estimate the rates of evolutionary change or the importance of various causal factors (selection, drift, isolation,...), or to build models for large-scale and/or long-term changes.  { At the end of this section there is a deeper exploration of observations, predictions, and the process of constructing evolutionary historical scenarios. }
    FALSIFICATION:  Could a theory of natural Total Macro-E (which is the grand conclusion of bio-E) ever be rejected by scientists?  Maybe, but it would require a change of thinking, since a rejection would be impossible if scientists continue to obey two currently conventional "rules" of science:  (1) scientific theories can postulate only natural mechanisms;  (2) a theory cannot be rejected unless it is replaced by another scientific theory.  If these naturalistic rules are accepted (*), it is logically impossible to avoid a conclusion that naturalistic Total Evolution -- astronomical, chemical, and biological -- must be the scientifically accepted theory, whether or not the scientific evidence supports it.  {* Acceptance of MN is a choice, since there are rational reasons to reject naturalistic restrictions on science, as proposed in Section 7D. }

    Does the evidence support evolution?
    Based on current scientific evidence, current theories of chemical E (the second phase in a historical theory of Total E) seem highly implausible.  But in spite of this, there isn't much support within the scientific community for humbly considering, as one of the five logical possibilities, that "maybe it never occurred."  Acceptance of chemical E seems mainly due to philosophical preference, not empirical evidence.
    For bio-E the situation is different.  Why?  First, the increase in complexity is much greater in moving from nonlife to life (during chemical E) than in any step proposed for bio-E.  Second, at the starting point for bio-E, but not chemical E, there is heredity that allows natural selection.  Third, a large amount of evidence supports many subtheories of bio-E.  Fourth, in bio-E there are powerful explanatory resources (linked genes, changes of function, developmental genes, statistical bottlenecks,...*) that -- when combined with the creative imagination of a highly motivated scientist, plus plenty of time for evolution to occur in a variety of environments -- provide lots of flexibility for developing scenarios to explain a wide range of observations.  Due to this explanatory flexibility, it is difficult to determine whether the extrapolations inherent in E-theory (from micro-E through minor macro-E to Total Macro-E) are true.  And since any difficulties with E-theory (such as questions about irreducible complexity or the fossil record) can be dismissed by just saying "please be patient and eventually we'll find an explanation," it would be extremely difficult to falsify bio-E, even if some of its major claims (such as Total Macro-E) were not true.
    {* details: If genes are linked, an unfavorable gene (producing a disadvantageous characteristic) can "hitchhike" along with a favorable gene if these genes are located close together on the same chromosome;  or a characteristic (at any level, from biochemistry to structure or behavior) can serve a temporary function before being transformed into a different function that we now observe;  or a minor change in a gene that affects a developmental pathway can produce a major change in the organism;  or large shifts in gene frequencies can occur quickly in small populations;  and more. }
    When we're wondering if E could be rejected because it has been scientifically falsified (which differs from a formal falsification using rigorous logic), we should remember the many meanings of evolution because "evolutionary theory" is a broad umbrella that incorporates many sub-theories -- fossil E, common descent, change in a gene pool, micro-E, macro-E, Total Macro-E, and E by a specific mechanism -- each with its own evaluative status.  In the past, some sub-theories (especially regarding mechanisms) have been rejected by scientists.  But instead of wondering whether to reject, scientists are usually asking "what role does this mechanism play, in what situations, and how important is it in a particular historical episode or in overall evolution?"

    Can we predict how God would design?
    In 1859, one part of Darwin's challenge to Paley's natural theology, which claims that nature reveals the designs of God, was the existence of "imperfect adaptations" in nature.  According to Darwin, these showed that what Paley thought were actual designs, created by God, are just apparent designs produced by evolution.  More recently, Stephen Jay Gould, pondering the implicit theological significance of the panda's thumb, concludes that "If God had designed a beautiful machine to reflect his wisdom and power, surely he would not have used a collection of parts generally fashioned for other purposes. ... Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution -- paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce." { Stephen J. Gould (1980), The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History, pp. 20-21. }
    In this declaration of normative theology, Gould confidently asserts that God "surely would not" and "would never," as if he really knows what God would have done, and why.  But when we look carefully at the Bible, it seems that God is not trying to produce a history that will be viewed as maximally optimal by all humans, and does not want the role of theistic action to be maximally obvious.
    This humble theology is not welcomed by advocates of evolution, for whom the ideal competitor is a theory with predictions that are:  (1) distinctively different from E-theory, and  (2) easy to falsify.  When we look at the four major theistic options we see that the young-earth aspects of yeC meet both qualifications.  When we turn from "age of the earth" issues to questions of design, with independent creation (as in yeC or oeCi) there is some justification, although not enough for the bold assertions of Gould, for expecting designs to appear independent and optimal.  By contrast, oeCm predicts that new species -- whether they are produced by a natural evolutionary process or by miraculous macromutational creation -- will appear to be modifications of old species, because this is what they really are!  It's easy to see why yeC is often the only alternative to evolution that is acknowledged by advocates of evolution.

    Do we need a high predictive contrast?
    Because oeCm proposes occasional miracles that by definition would be observable, is it possible to empirically distinguish between oeCm and evolution?  Maybe, and maybe not.  It depends on the precision and completeness of the available data.
    Imagine the existence of extremely detailed data -- such as complete, accurate, precise lab reports (for physiology, structure, DNA,...) and fossils, and maybe even VCR tapes -- for all organisms throughout an evolutionary episode.  In this imaginary situation, the highly informative data would let us distinguish between normal-appearing natural evolution (either gradual or punctuated) and miraculous-appearing macromutational creation.  But in reality the historical data is far less informative, so it could be difficult to distinguish between these theories.
    The potential for decisive contrast is further reduced by the flexibility of oeCm.  A single theory of oeCm might postulate the operation of several mechanisms:  continual natural evolution with rates ranging from gradual neo-Darwinian to faster punctuated equilibrium;  and occasional miraculous macromutations, with all genetic changes occurring at once or spread over many generations, and occurring in all members of a species (so the whole population is instantly changed) or in only one or two organisms (so the effects take time to spread through a population).  In addition, theories of oeCm can vary from one scientist to another.
    This flexibility is not welcomed by opponents of creationism, who (as explained above) prefer a competitive theory with precise predictions that contrast sharply with those of E-theory, and are easy to falsify.  But there is a low predictive contrast between oeCm and E-theory, since oeCm is consistent with most evidence for most aspects of evolution: for micro-E, minor macro-E, common descent, fossil-E, and mechanisms of E.  The major difference is that oeCm challenges the conventional conclusion that this evidence provides strong support for Total Macro-E, and raises questions (involving irreducible complexity and rates of change and...) about whether undirected natural process was sufficient to produce all existing biocomplexity in the time that was available.
    For critics who complain that, compared with evolution, oeCm isn't different enough, we can ask "Is this necessary?  Is radical differentness an essential attribute of a theory that is challenging the status quo?"  Consider Einstein's theory of motion.  In almost all ways, its observable consequences are identical to those of Newton's theory of motion.  The only differences occur at extremely high speeds.  Should we criticize Einstein's theory because it is so similar to Newton's theory in so many ways?  Should we demand that, if we are to take Einstein's theory seriously, it must be modified so it will differ from Newton's theory in other observable ways, so there will be a higher predictive contrast?

    note to the reader: The remainder of this section is about "details of historical science" and "what is missing from the section."


    Evolutionary Retroductions and Predictions (details)
    Evolutionary theory can be used to propose a theory-based scenario for a particular historical period that spans time in a series of historical situations.  An initial situation, analogous to the initial conditions for an experimental system in a laboratory experiment, includes the initial environments and characteristics of one or more species.  Intermediate situations and a final situation are similarly defined.  The entire episode involves a sequence of situations: initial, intermediate(s), and final.
    RETRODUCTIONS:  In contrast with deductive logic that predicts by asking "If this is the initial situation and theory, then what will be the observations for the final situation?", retroductive logic asks a reversed question in the past tense, "These are the observations, so what could the scenario (composed of situations and theories) have been?"  Historical retroduction is a creative-and-critical thinking strategy, with imagination guided by deduction, whose goal is to generate a historical scenario, constructed by combining situations with theory, that would produce the known observations for a historical period.  During retroduction a scientist can adjust either of the sources, situational or theoretical, that are used to construct a scenario.
    SCENARIOS:  For a period in the history of nature, evolutionary theorists try to construct a sequential scenario -- for the environments and characteristics of species in initial, intermediate, and final situations -- that is consistent with the causal mechanisms of E-theory.  Part of the challenge is to decide how to use available observations to reconstruct, as completely and accurately as possible, the details of situations at various times.  And because the Modern Synthesis of E-theory contains a variety of mechanisms (for producing and expressing genetic variability, and for changing the gene frequencies in a population), scientists also must decide which causal mechanism(s) to propose for the "changes in situation" they have proposed.  Due to the flexibility in proposing situations and mechanisms, for one episode it may be possible to construct a number of competitive scenarios, all consistent with the core concepts of E-theory.  Each scenario can be compared with available data, to check for degree of agreement and, when necessary, to make adjustments in the components (the postulated situations, mechanisms,...) used in constructing the scenario.
    GOALS:  In analyzing an episode, the primary goal(s) of scientists might be descriptive and/or theoretical.  /  descriptive goals: Scientists can use observations and theory-based analysis in an attempt to reconstruct the characteristics of a past situation in a way that is more detailed and accurate.  /  theoretical goals: Scientists can analyze the observation-based situations they have proposed, in an effort to estimate the rates of change for genotypes and the resulting phenotypes, or the roles played by various factors (natural selection, random drift, geographic isolation,...) in a causal mechanism, or the importance of genes that control developmental pathways, or...
    LEVELS:  An evolutionary study can involve different levels of time, change, and space.  /  Levels of Time:  Scientists can try to construct scenarios for periods that are short or long.  /  Levels of Change:  The changes being studied can be small (within one species or a group of closely related species) or large (involving major changes between widely divergent species).  /  Levels of Space:  Scientists can focus on a small area, or they can do a large-scale biogeographical analysis that integrates the analyses already done for smaller areas.  /  A wide variety of evolutionary research projects are possible, involving analysis and synthesis for various combinations of time, change, and space.  /  { Critics of evolution question the logical validity of extrapolating from small-scale studies of micro-E and minor macro-E (which have solid empirical support) to large-scale theories of Total Macro-E (which have far less empirical support). }

    OBSERVATIONS:  Most information about evolution comes from field studies of past events, with data about species preserved in fossils.  But scientists can also gather information in other ways, including detailed examinations of different modern-day species (to compare their physiological, structural, and behavioral characteristics, and the composition of their proteins and genes) and current events (such as observing natural selection in bacteria or mutations in fruitflies, analyzing current biogeographical patterns, or exploring an ecosystem to learn more about the interactions of species with each other and with their environment).  Usually scientists are working with data they already know, but not always.  Sometimes predictions can be made about data that will be observed in the future, whether this data is from events in the distant past (like old fossils that are newly discovered) or in the future (such as lab data about gene sequences, to be used for comparative analysis).  The inherent limitations of historical data are that for the major events in macroevolutionary history there can be no direct observations, and there can be no rigorously controlled experiments with reproducible data.

    PREDICTIONS:  In most historical sciences, including evolution, it is difficult to make predictions that are both precise (with specific details) and accurate.  Generally, accuracy decreases when precision increases, and when time-duration increases the accuracy and precision both decrease.  In making predictions the main obstacles to achieving "precision with accuracy" are complexity, sensitivity, and randomness:  evolutionary situations and causal factors are complex;  outcomes are sensitive to small variations in initial conditions;  all processes involve some randomness, and some factors (like mutation and genetic drift) are extremely random.  These three elements combine to produce historical contingency:  if similar initial situations were "allowed to run" 10 times, there would be 10 different results.  But even though E-theory could not precisely predict the results, it claims the ability to retroductively explain each result if scientists can construct a scenario (connecting the initial and final situations) that is consistent with the causal mechanisms of E-theory.  And despite a typical divergence in results for long-term runs, sometimes there is convergence such as similar environmental niches being filled by species with similar characteristics.
    Some of the uncertainties in evolutionary prediction (re: complexity, sensitivity, randomness) are roughly analogous to those in weather prediction.  And relationships for time duration are similar;  as time increases, accuracy decreases.  The scientific principles of weather forecasting allow precise short-term predictions, such as what will happen in the next hour in a specific location.  Consistencies in seasonal weather patterns allow nonprecise long-term predictions (in Wisconsin it will be cold with occasional snow in January, and hot with occasional thunderstorms in July) and probabilistic predictions such as the total snowfall in January or the probability of snow on January 16.  But it would be impossible, a month in advance, to make accurate long-term predictions about the precise times when snowfalling or thunderstorming will occur.
    When these phenomena do occur, however, they will be consistent with theories of meteorological science (which are applications, for complex situations, of conventional theories in physics,...) and they can be retroductively explained using these theories.  Similarly, evolutionary theories can be used to make precise short-term predictions (sometimes), nonprecise long-term predictions, probabilistic predictions, and (most important for historical science) theory-based retroductions.

    What is missing from this section?
    Here is a description, from Section 7C, for some of what is (or will be) in this section:
    Section 7G contains a deeper analysis of historical science, personal agency, and supernatural agency.  It examines cause-effect principles and hypothetico-deductive inference.  It describes how the process of retroductive inference is affected by predictive accuracy and precision, which in turn are affected by contingency and complexity, empirical and theoretical knowledge, mechanisms and agency.  It explains why, although in historical science there are reasons for caution due to inherent limitations in the available data, scientists can develop methods for reducing the practical impact of the limitations.  These methods should be critically analyzed, but we should not automatically eliminate historical science (whether it proposes design or non-design) from being authentically scientific.

    Some of this is here already, other parts will be written later.  There will be discussions about the following topics:
    the principle (from 7C) that in order to do empirical science, the effects (not the causes) must be observable, because an unobservable cause (such as gravity, or theistic action?) can produce observable effects;
    the ways in which design theories are (and are not) analogous to Newton's theory of universal gravitation;  basically, they're similar in lacking a detailed causal mechanism (Newton just said "this is what happens" but didn't try to explain how or why by proposing a mechanism) and because both propose that an observed effect is produced by an unobservable cause, but they're different in level of descriptive detail and predictive precision (unlike design theories, Newton's equation, F = GMm/rr, is a detailed description that allows precise predictions);  one is an operations theory, the other is a historical theory;  because Newton's theory has been accepted (for centuries) as authentically scientific, this is evidence that a mechanistic explanation is not required for science (in fact, positivists prefer a theory that limits itself to a "description of observables" rather than speculating about unobservable causes and mechanisms);
    more about mechanisms and matching and the principle that we should "think about testability in a way that is logically appropriate, that achieves a match between the claims made by design and the methods used to justify these claims";  the types of predictions and postdictions/retroductions that typically are (and aren't) made by historical theories (in general) and various design theories (in particular);
    historical science can involve retroductions about recent history, not just ancient history;
    more about "future science" and "proving a negative" (re: the impossibility of proving an impossibility?) and how we should define (and use) evaluation criteria for deciding the extent to which a claim that "it's impossible" is scientifically justified;
    different types of evaluative status (intrinsic and relative, for pursuit and acceptance, for truth and utility) and interpretations (realist and instrumentalist) for the goals of theory construction;
    an in-depth analysis of irreducible complexity (what it is and how it differs from non-irreducible complexity, some arguments for and against its existence,...) plus links to a page that will connect you to analyses (by others) about these questions;
    a claim that E-theory would be empirically falsifiable if we found clear evidence for out-of-order origins, such as finding human fossils below trilobite fossils in a pre-Cambrian geological formation;  even though this claim is logically true and it does make E potentially falsifiable, it is irrelevant if E is wrong in other ways (involving irreducible complexity or rates of change or...) and if, regarding these other ways to falsify E, advocates of E insist on perpetual denial by continuing to use "unrealistically imaginative scenarios" or requests to "be patient and eventually we'll find an answer";
    more about the two stages (or more) of design investigation;  first determine whether design occurred, then investigate the details (of how, when, why, who,...);  one general question about design is "How much intelligence is required for intelligent design?" --- Is there design-directed action when animals (or humans) choose who to mate with, who to kill (for a predator seeking prey), or in the choice of strategies during a competition (with or without cooperation) for scarce resources?  Is it intelligence when animals "control and change their environment" in ways that affect the evolution of their own species or other species?  Is there design in the construction of a skyscraper, beaver dam, bird nest, ant hill, or coral reef?  What distinctions should we make, using what criteria?  What are the functional roles (and defining characteristics) of cognition and instinct?

    And there may be more.  I'm not sure when the "unfinished topics" outlined above will be written, or even (when they are written) whether they'll be in this section or in another page that is an "appendix for interesting (but not essential) methodological details." (note: Since I wrote this, the original "Section 7G" (which you're now reading) has been moved into another page!)


Most of the topics below are also in the corresponding sections of the Introductory Overview.

The topics below are in other pages:

Anthropic Principle & Fine Tuning: Multiverse and/or Intelligent Design?

simple life? The Origin of Life (by Chemical Evolution?)
complex life?  Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creation) and Theology

Divine Action by God

Why isn't God more obvious?  Can we have Proof for the Existence and Activity of God?

Logical Evaluations of Evolution, Creation, and Intelligent Design

My Views about Origins

Irreducible Complexity and Evolutionary Rates of Change

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