Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do sciences start first as "proto-sciences"?

A quote from The Design Matrix:

I should make it explicitly clear from the start that I did not write this book to help those seeking to change the way we teach science to our kids. I do not argue that design deserves to be known as science. At best, Intelligent Design may only be a nascent proto-science [my bold] and thus does not belong in the public school curriculum.
Proto. i.e. primordial. Primordial science. He makes it sound like sciences evolve from being "proto-sciences" to being real sciences. Did molecular biology start out this way? Were Watson and Crick just a couple of guys talking out of their butts for years prior to discovering the structure of DNA? Were Meselson and Stahl pushing to have the method of DNA replication taught in schools for decades prior to their actual discovery? Did Hamilton Smith talk about restriction enzymes in Sunday School 20 years prior to his discovery?

The answer to all these questions is no. New sciences don't evolve out of philosophy or religious studies or a bunch of guys in a garage shooting the shit for decades. New sciences evolve out of old sciences. New experiments done using novel techniques that get at new answers. Molecular biology evolved out of biology and chemistry and physics. Synthetic biology is evolving out of genomics and molecular biology. These are people who are working *hard* to do experiments.

Intelligent design has none of this. cdesign proponentsists don't propose experiments. They don't do experiments. They don't answer anything. They write books. That's it. At best, creationism intelligent design is a sloppy, poorly thought out philosophy. It is not science. It is not a "proto-science".



Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Chemistry did begin with alchemy, and astronomy with astrology, so in some cases, the answer is indeed yes.

But you aren't going to read Mike's book, are you?

The Factician said...


You have a point in that science did evolve from non-science. That said, I don't suppose you can give me an example of a science evolving from non-science (or proto-science, as Mr. Gene suggests) from the last hundred years, can you? How about the last two hundred?

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

I daresay the modern world is a little more interconnected than that. "Intelligent Design" is a broad category, which encompasses many ideologues and freaks as well as some genuine scientists, whose extra-curricular pondering and speculation could become actual science with discipline and time. It's a free country, and you'll always get reason and madness side by side. After all, quantum theory isn't any less scientific for the association with the "What the bleep do we know" series.

I review Mike's book here, if you are interested.

The Factician said...

May I take that as a "no"? You haven't mentioned any sciences that started out as proto-sciences. The only science you mention there is quantum theory, which emerged from physicists practicing standard Newtonian physics (which was unable to satisfy particular areas). They did experiments and made observations.

Quantum physics didn't start out being quantum proto-physics. It was physics right from the start.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Again, my point was that it's not so cut and dry as that. New sciences evolve out of the new ideas of scientists. Whether they may have some superficial relationship to wacky ideas by non-scientists is immaterial. Would if we had written off Darwin's theory of Evolution because it had some things in common with the non-scientific writing of the time?

By "proto-science", Mike means ideas that have not yet proven themselves useful in experimental science. By this definition, every new science started off as such. He isn't saying that all science starts off as nonsense.

The Factician said...

By "proto-science", Mike means ideas that have not yet proven themselves useful in experimental science.

Yep, 2 decades, and it hasn't shown itself useful as an experimental science. Merely using past evolution of sciences as a guide, it never will.

I'm not sure how to re-iterate this so you'll understand. Sciences don't spring into being from non-sciences. Such a thing hasn't happened in 200 years or more. They evolve from existing sciences.

To suggest intelligent design will evolve (pun intended) into a science is ludicrous. Saying it hasn't yet proven itself experimentally useful is the equivalent of saying "it's not science, and it never will be", whether or not you recognize it as such.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

I acknowledge that your argument is sound, given your premise:

1 - Anything falling under the broad category "ID" is complete and total trash.

2 - Trash doesn't just morph into useful science with time.

3 - Therefore ID will always be complete and total trash. Q.E.D.

Unfortunately this sounds to me an awful lot like polarized and bombastic rhetoric - not at all unlike what I hear over at Uncommon Descent, actually. In the case of Mike's book, I really think he has some very useful things to say. To refuse even to read or consider it, because he can be broadly categorized as "ID" doesn't seem very constructive.

If an idea is trash, call it trash, of course. But I would prefer to do so by engagement rather than broad sweeping categorical judgments.