ID, Bayesian inferences and the Priors of MN

“Intelligence” really needs to be better defined in the context you’re using. It’s a bit hazy.

Still, I don’t think your assertion is quite correct. Such things go into the category of ‘unknown’, not ‘out of bounds’. And if ‘intelligence’ has properties that have regularity or some degree of predictability, it doesn’t matter if we totally understand the mechanism behind phenomena. Many areas of research make headway despite the lack of a Grand Unified Theory of physics. For example, you don’t need a GUT to do population genetics or model the chemical bond.

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It’s not the phenomena that MN debars; it’s the causal inferences from the phenomena.

The best short definition of MN that I know comes from the USA National Academy of Sciences (1998): “The statements of science must invoke only natural things and processes.” The adjective “natural” is doing the work here, and on analysis, refers to an ontology where all efficient causes in the universe derive historically from physics.

So MN excludes inferences to intelligent causation, where “intelligence” is irreducible to physics.

Folks, I must leave this thread for the time being, because of writing and editing commitments. It’s 10:30 AM in Chicago, and my work day already has a huge hole in it. My apologies for an early departure! The topic is fascinating and that’s exactly the problem. I could stay here kibitzing all day and never write or edit a single article (day job, you know).


I disagree. Archeologists aren’t discouraged from making inferences from the shape of rocks of them being shaped by an intelligent knapper.

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Personally, I don’t see ID as necessarily violating MN. I think the area is poorly developed and very immature. Not only does it have to create a positive, theoretical construct, but it also has to explain our current understanding of the history of life. The situation is worse off than the DI would admit and far off the schedule that Johnson and Dembski predicted. It suffers from a terrible lack of specificity, i.e. ‘what sort of design’ influence?, ‘design enacted in what manner’? and 'what can we infer about a designer’s intentions to understand where its actions might manifest?"


Do they use MN to do that?
They just use inductive reasoning that allows them to hypothesise human intelligence and come to the most parsimonious conclusion.

This is starkly different from MN and ID.

I’ve never thought of MN being something one “uses”, I imagine it more like a set of boundaries. Making inferences towards a particular piece of rock or obsidian being shaped by a knapper is well within the bounds of MN, yes.

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That’s good picture… and I was thinking along similar lines…
So what is the error that MN will bring about in cases where reality/the truth lies outside the boundaries of MN?
I was thinking that if theism is true and there is a creator, then the bias/error would be directly proportional to the number of inductive arguments made. Especially in fields like origins.

Right. It’s detective work too. To make a case that a piece of flint was shaped into a tool, you’ve got to make comparisons with other tools of known provenance. Information about the source of the rock (e.g. ages of the layers in which it was found), relative abundance, and whether humans actually were around at that time helps with identification.

Since Paul Nelson is here, you don’t need my help! (But for the record, I agree with most of what Paul writes in his posts above.)

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Depends on the additional attributes of the creator. For Denton’s creator, most things would look as is. For a Young-Earth creator, things would possibly look different. For an unspecified creator, who knows?

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But biologists are discouraged from making inferences about design from the structures and systems found in organic nature, and astrophysicists are discouraged from making inferences about design what appears to be the fine-tuning of the cosmos; and so on for the most of the rest of the natural sciences. So the range of phenomena for which design inferences are allowed is a narrow one.

Not just YEC, any creator who interferes in creation… like the Christian one who raised the read and splits seas…


This is where I get lost. Help me understand why it’s important those causal inferences aren’t debarred.

Is it because this limits what science can discover or is it because it limits what implications are drawn (in regards to design, or theology or …) from the discoveries of science? Or is it something else?

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Quite the opposite. Their inferences are really poor, which is why they are not accepted.


Look at Bayesian model… each new inference will be a prior to the next one… bias builds up and a worldview inline with PN will be promoted.

I’m trying to understand this position. Can you break this out more specifically. Where is this bias building up (what “categories” of people)? Who will be promoting a worldview inline with PN?

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It also promotes a reductionist view the can mislead biology.

The elephant in the room is that mind is the known mechanism behind complex functional sequences we sometimes call functional information.

There is an issue that we don’t have direct evidence of the existence of a mind prior to multicellular organisms. Why should this stop us form considering mind as an inference.

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You do not understand what MN entails. It presumes that the things we test are natural. It does not mean we cannot test things if we think they are supernatural.

Yes. No one has concluded that ancient arrowheads were made by supernatural, immaterial beings, to my knowledge.

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How do you infer a mind? What is the scientific process?

It would seem to me that a mind is capable of producing anything, so should we be inferring a mind for every phenomena we observe?