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Monthly Archive: May 2005

May 31 2005

Science, religion, and Ockham’s razor

A few days ago I was working in my backyard when I noticed that the outdoor thermometer that I had fixed to a fence had disappeared. The mountings were still there but had been pulled away slightly. I thought that maybe the wind had blown it off and so I looked at the ground underneath …

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May 27 2005

What is going on in Kansas

A couple of months ago, I was called by a staff member at the Kansas Board of Education. He said that I was being invited to testify to speak about the nature of science before a committee of their state Board of Education. Since I feel, like most academics, a sense of responsibility to share …

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May 26 2005

Why scientific theories are more than explanations

At its heart, ID advocates adopt as their main strategy that of finding phenomena that are not (at least in their eyes) satisfactorily explained by evolutionary theory and arguing that hence natural selection is a failed theory. They say that adding the postulate of an ‘intelligent designer’ (which is clearly a pseudonym for God) as the cause of these so-called unexplained phenomena means that they are no longer unexplained. This, they claim, makes ID the better ‘explanation.’ Some (perhaps for tactical reasons) do not go so far and instead say that it is at least a competing explanation and thus on a par with evolution.

May 25 2005

Why ID is not science

In the previous posting, I pointed out that if one looks back at the history of science, all the theories that are considered to be science are both (1) naturalistic and (2) predictive. Thus these two things constitute necessary conditions. This is an important fact to realize when so-called intelligent design (ID) advocates argue that …

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May 24 2005

What is science?

Because of my interest in the history and philosophy of science I am sometimes called upon to answer the question “what is science?” Most people think that the answer should be fairly straightforward. This is because science is such an integral part of our lives that everyone feels that they intuitively know what it is …

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May 23 2005

Necessary and sufficient conditions

The problem of finding definitions for things that clearly specify whether an object belongs in that category or not has long been recognized to be a knotty philosophical problem. Ideally what we would need for a good definition is to have both necessary and sufficient conditions, but it is not easy to do so. A …

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May 20 2005

The comparison with Darwin and ID

I am a bit of a veteran of the battles that have been waged by so-called intelligent design (ID) advocates to challenge science in general and the theory of evolution in particular. Although not a biologist, I have always had an interest in both physics and the underlying philosophy of science. In the mid-to-late 1990′s …

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May 19 2005

Catholic and Protestant reactions to Darwin’s ideas

When reading and writing about the Copernican revolution and the religious opposition to it (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for that story in sequence), what immediately struck me were the similarities that that episode in scientific history had to the more recent religious opposition to Darwin’s ideas. Edward Larson in his book …

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May 18 2005

Creating the conditions for a just society – 3

According to John Rawls in his A Theory of Justice we have to get together once and for all and make the rules of operation without knowing our particular situation. (See here, here, and here for previous postings on this topic.) And once we make the rules, and then lift the veil of ignorance and …

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May 17 2005

Creating the conditions for a just society – 2

In the previous posting we saw how people tend to advocate policies based on their own particular background, situation, or preferences, and this necessarily results in perceptions of unfairness over the decisions made. The key to understanding Rawls’ idea of ‘justice as fairness’ is that people perceive fairness in terms of the process by which …

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