Thursday, June 09, 2005

Heddle on the Falsifiability of ID

David Heddle, mentioned in the previous post, likes to argue that the sorts of cosmological ID theories discussed in the last post are falsifiable. In a May 24 blog entry Heddle wrote:

I am in the cosmological ID camp. As you are probably aware, cosmological ID theory is based on two observations about our universe: its fine tuning and its uniqueness. Take either support beam away, and the cosmological ID house falls down.

If there is no fine tuning, then there is no evidence for design.

If our universe is not unique, i.e., if we are but one of perhaps an infinite number of parallel universes, then one can logically posit that our particular universe is fine-tuned only because if it were not, we wouldn't be here to talk about it. The multitude of universes, those that are not fine tuned, being sterile, contain no intelligence pondering why they exist in an ordinary, run of the mill cosmos.

Since there is active research in these areas, cosmological ID is falsifiable.

Here's Heddle from a June 8 blog entry, criticizing this book review by physicist William Jeffreys:

He then goes on to argue that assuming the multiverse hypothesis is correct, once again disingenuously implying that actual evidence exists (this “evidence”, permit me to repeat, being that multiple universes is a prediction—and he conveniently neglects to mention that it is an untestable prediction) then, surprise surprise, Gonzalez and Richards are wrong. (Emphasis Added)

Pretty blatant contradiction, don't you think?

More importantly, however, Heddle is wrong to suggest that the examples he gives show that cosmological ID is falsifiable. If it were conclusively shown either that fine-tuning is an illusion, or that there are multiple universes, the hypothesis of ID would not be falsified. Those discoveries would tell us nothing one way or the other about whether our universe is the work of ID.

What would be falsified by those discoveries is the assumption that cosmological fine-tuning requires a supernatural explanation. That's a very different thing.

Heddle has inadvertantly provided a good explanation of why ID is useless as a scientific principle. As Heddle implies, the argument in this context is never “We observe X. Therefore ID.” It is always “We observe X. There is no plausible naturalistic explanation for X. Therefore ID.”

The second premise of that argument could certainly be falsified. The conclusion of ID can not be. That is why for the working scientist there is no practical difference between “God did it,&rdquo and “We have no idea how this happened.”


At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I marvel that you never seem to tire of this game. Heddle knows that his God designed and created our universe. He doesn't assume it, deduce it, conclude it, or derive it in any way. He knows it.

The nice thing about this knowledge is, it explains everything perfectly. You see a "blatant contradiction" where there really is none. If ID is falsifiable, it's because God intended it. If it's not, it's because God intended that instead. If there are multiple universes, God made them.

Now, I'll agree with you that Heddle occasionally inverts his postulates and thus his logic, but this hardly matters when the conclusion is foregone. When all arguments prove God, there's no particular need to be fussy about their details of construction.

It would certainly be more honest of Heddle to say "I Believe, therefore logic and evidence don't matter," rather than keep trying to pretend his Belief is based on any different grounds than that he Believes it. But Heddle is a Creationist, and you cannot hope to hold him to honest or consistent standards.

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason, why do you consistently misspell Bill Jefferys's name? It is not Jeffreys. Otherwise you deal with Heddle quite aptly.

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have a partial point: Parallel universes would falsify ID, and I said parallel universes are not detectable. However, I was speaking of the specific parallel universes as postulated by the cosmologies Jefferys mentioned. There are other alternative cosmologies, some hold out the hope of testing, although it may require an accelerator the size of the known universe. So it is not a blatant contradiction, although I could have been more precise.

You write: "If it were conclusively shown either that fine-tuning is an illusion, or that there are multiple universes, the hypothesis of ID would not be falsified."

What hypothesis of ID would not be falsified? I think, like many, you are confusing ID with the existence of God.

P1: God Exists
P2: (The ID Hypothesis) Nature provides evidence of design

Experiment: Parallel universes detected or fine tuning is demonstrated to be an illusion

P1: not falsified
P2: falsified

In your other post you wrote:

"If a well-supported theory has as a consequence that entity X exists, that constitutes actual evidence that X exists."

As in the example I used on my blog: Classical E&M (a well supported theory) predicted that an electron would radiate continuously and suffer a downward spiral death dance. Did that constitute evidence that electrons, in fact, behave that way?

You wrote:

"It's also a bit rich for ID folks to protest that these multiple universes can not be detected empirically. Their preferred explanation suffers from the same defect, after all. As far as I know they have never produced any evidence that God exists. And if they are inclined to say the fine-tuning itself is evidence that God exists, I reply simply that actually fine-tuning is evidence that multiple universes exist."

OK, let's assume that parallel universes are not detectable. So that ID cannot be falsified by detecting one.

Sure, you can do that, reply that fine-tuning is evidence that the undetectable multiple universes exist. And the instant you do physics, like ID, is making a religious argument. (I have always stated, btw, that ID is not science and that ID without a religious component makes no sense, so I am speaking from a minority position within the ID camp.) You are absolutely correct: accepting fine tuning as evidence for multiple universes is just as good or just as bad as accepting it as evidence for design. Which is more likely is a matter of opinion, it is absolutely impossible to prove mathematically than one unfalsifiable choice is more likely than another. It is only a question of where you want to place your faith.

At 9:23 PM, Blogger Salvador T. Cordova said...

Dave I posted at pandas thumb also, but you may be interested in this development that potentially falsifies many worlds:

Also, ironically, Barrow and Tipler believe many worlds is consistent with ID. This was described in Cosmological Anthropic Prinicple. They showed many worlds, even if it exists, is not necessarily anti-ID anyway.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


In answer to your question regarding classical E&M, yes, it is evidence for the proposition that electrons behave that way. In the absence of any other evidence to the contrary, it would be reasonable to tentatively expect that electrons behave as otherwise predicted by the well supported theory. Of course, with respect to electrons, we have never been absent other, contrary evidence.

If an acquaintance of mine is murdered, and the murder weapon is discovered in the trunk of my car, is this evidence that I committed the crime? Yes, regardless of whether I actually committed the crime. Is it conclusive? No. I may not have. But the police investigating the murder will, on the basis of the above fact, have reason to suspect me. In the absence of other confirming facts, I may not be convicted, but that does not disqualify the discovery of the gun as evidence.

And on the basis of the consilience of the MWH with the current model of the cosmos, cosmologists have reason to suspect that the MWH is true. It may not be true, and there may be no further experiment that can strengthen the conclusion -- but this does not mean that the conclusion is unfalsifiable, in principle (in principle, any experiment or observation which supports the cosmological model could be shown to be erroneous, thus leading the model to be discarded along with its implications with respect to the MWH).

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flint: if Heddle knew that God designed and created our universe, he would not need to argue from evidence; he would argue from faith, instead. Evidence-based arguments are required only if one's faith is failing, or was never there to begin with.

At 11:55 PM, Blogger Jim Anderson said...

Salvador Cordova writes: "Also, ironically, Barrow and Tipler believe many worlds is consistent with ID. This was described in Cosmological Anthropic Principle. They showed many worlds, even if it exists, is not necessarily anti-ID anyway."

Exactly: ID plays on both sides of the ball.

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CD318: We may be saying the same thing. Heddle is not really arguing FROM evidence TO a conclusion, but quite the reverse: He is arguing FROM a conclusion TO the evidence. He is not presenting an evidence-based argument, but rather dressing up an argument from faith so that it gives the false impression of being an evidence-based argument. This deception leads Jason and others to focus on the evidence and the logic of the argument, which is misdirection. There's really no doubt here that Heddle's faith came first, and he's trying to make the universe(s) conform.

Whether this indicates that his faith is failing, I couldn't say. My reading is that he is instead witnessing to his faith using the terminology most familiar to him.

At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Heddle wrote: "What hypothesis of ID would not be falsified? I think, like many, you are confusing ID with the existence of God.

P1: God Exists
P2: (The ID Hypothesis) Nature provides evidence of design"

The statement denoted by P2 is neither a hypothesis in the statistical sense nor in K.R. Popper's. In the statistical sense, "Nature provides evidence of design" would be read as something like

Pr(design|Nature) > Pr(design)

with "design" and "Nature" designating some hypothesis and observations, respectively. It is incomprehensible to speak of "Nature provides evidence of design" being falsified or not.

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