Best evidence for…

In preparing for a talk on Science and Religion, I came upon this somewhat amusing example.  I did a google search for “Best evidence for…”  and filled in one of the following 3 things:

  1. the Big Bang
  2. Evolution
  3. God

I then took the very first link to compare.  The results were:

  1. the Big Bang – http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/bigbang.html
  2. Evolution – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_common_descent
  3. God – http://www.gradresources.org/worldview_articles/evidence_for_god.shtml

What is interesting is that in the first two cases there is a very long list of evidence, direct observations, measurements, etc… In the last case there are philosophical arguments.  The differences in the amount, quality, and type of evidence shown in these sources I think is particularly telling.  When you ask for evidence for the existence of something, and you get philosophical arguments, then I think you can immediately dismiss the claim.  I would also claim (and someone tell me if there is a counter example please!) that there is not a single example of the existence of an actual thing being first or best established from a philosophical argument.  

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About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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One Response to Best evidence for…

  1. John Smith says:

    Hi Brian. Interesting post.

    I know this is late, but I’m guessing you’re still interested.

    One of the most important, relatively new arguments for ID is that it is an “inference to the best hypothesis” (IBE). I have seen that argument several times by highly educated ID supporters, and they seem to think it’s quite an impressive argument. As you may have guessed, I disagree.

    1. Giving something a new name does not necessarily change its substance. Whether you call ID a “scientific theory,” a “religious theory,” an “IBE,” or a “booga booga booga,” it still has to make empirically testable statements, otherwise it’s not “science,” as science is commonly understood, and therefore has no place in a science classroom, other than as an example of what science is NOT.

    2. ID-proponents claim that their IBE is in fact testable, because its explanatory power can be compared to the explanatory power of other theories. That is another, pretty dumb argument. Scientific theories must be testable against empirical data. Comparing theories only against other theories is not the same thing. Furthermore, the “testing against other theories” silliness is just further evidence that ID is primarily, if not exclusively, a negative argument; and we all know why negative arguments are not acceptable.

    3. Finally, IBE’s generally require something called “causal existence,” and that’s another problem for ID. I think that in most scientific theories, the existence of a possible cause is generally shown through evidence other than the mere existence of the thing whose cause is being explained. For example, in a murder case, the existence of the accused can usually be established without any reference at all to the murder victim. But in ID, causal existence is not shown through independent evidence, rather it’s inferred from the existence of the very thing whose cause is being explained. That’s a serious problem!

    ID-proponents say they’re doing science, but their actions indicate that they’re really just doing religion and/or philosophy.

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