What is a Control Variable?

Continuing the discussion from Why Does ID Criticize TE?:

A control variable is a condition that the experimenter keeps constant, because it can effect the results of an experiment (Control variable - Wikipedia). Experimenters manipulate independent variables to measure their ability to affect an experiment (Dependent and independent variables - Wikipedia).

We say we can’t use God as a control (or an independent) variable because we can’t do one experiment with God tinkering, and the other one where he does not. We can’t ensure he is equally tinkering in all our experiments either, or in the same way in our experiments as He did in evolutionary past. We can’t, for example, see what happens in an experiment if God does and does not do His thing.

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Thanks for these remarks, Joshua. I understand what you mean. It’s too bad, however, that you had to do the explaining, when in my view George should have done it, since he was using this notion in argument against me.

Of course we cannot control God as we can control temperature, pressure, volume, etc., because God does not submit to such control. But it’s hard to see how George thinks ID does this, when he won’t explain himself in any detail. And yes, I’m sure you could provide your own discussion on this, but again, it’s George’s responsibility to do so. For him to make an argument he can’t personally sustain, and hope some scientist here will bail him out when he is challenged, is to my mind not cricket, dialogically speaking.

I don’t understand this complaint.

Are you viewing this as some sort of mano-a-mano culture war in which you are trying to defeat George while others are ganging up against you unfairly, or are you viewing this as a forum?

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I have written my answer to this kind of question before. In fact, I am the one who first raised this particular theme!: God as an Independent Variable!

The problem is how you process logic and the English language. Perhaps you are a Jesuit, or of Jesuit training?

For you, logic is a contact sport. We can see this featured in your logic above: somehow the discussion is flawed in your eyes because @swamidass answered your question instead of me.

But most of us know that if i had used the exact same words that Joshua used… you would still be arguing the point.

This is why i avoided your question and re-framed the discussion for YOU to answer the most important part!

I avoided your question because you have already demonstrated a lack of credibility on the topic.

ID claims to detect the actions of a Designer that can only be God using methods that assume the conclusion (generally of the form "evolution is impossible, therefore God Design). You cannot control for God, but you can set aside the assumption of God and test certain hypotheses corresponding to specific forms/types of design. We have previously discussed examples of this (Theodoros 2005?).

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I agree. We do not have to assume that the Great Pyramid was designed by, say, Hermes Trismegistus, to test the hypothesis that the Pyramid was the product of design rather than of earthquakes and other natural causes that just happened to move those particular stones into that particular shape.

Similarly, Newton did not have to assume from revelation that the God of the Bible was real in order to infer that that planetary system was the result of wise contrivance.

I agree that many ID proponents, especially second- and third-rank ID proponents, argue in this way. My own view is that of the majority of the leading ID proponents, the ones who write more cautiously, i.e., that evolution through purely unguided and unplanned processes would not have produced the world that we see; therefore, if macroevolution did in fact occur (which ID grants as a possibility), there is some planning and/or guidance behind or within evolutionary change.

As far as I can tell, George Brooks agrees with my own view of guided/planned evolution, though for some reason, despite this agreement, he continues to attack everything that I write, thus turning an ally into an opponent for no good reason.

But we do assume it was built by humans and not supernatural Gods.

I don’t. That is, I don’t assume a non-supernatural origin. I infer it, based on the known capacities of human beings to move blocks using rollers and ropes and pulleys, etc. It is the most economical explanation, avoiding the difficulties posed by explanations involving supernatural powers. But there is no logical reason for excluding divine involvement; it is purely for the sake of explanatory economy that we tentatively discount that explanation.

When the case is the origin of life, however, the situation is very different, since the known capacities of simple molecules have not been shown capable of constructing life without guidance or planning. The assumption that they have such capacities is unwarranted, and is maintained, in the absence of evidence, only because of the strong bias within the culture of origin-of-life scientists toward materialism, reductionism, and atheism. Metaphysics is driving science in this case.

ID does not claim to be able to detect a property called “supernaturalness”; it claims to be able to detect a property called “design.” That design inferences are warranted in all kinds of situations in life, everybody grants. The only dispute is over whether they are warranted regarding questions such as the origin of life, the origin of man, etc. A convinced materialist and atheist is forbidden by his metaphysical/theological dogmas from considering with an open mind the possibility that design might be the “best explanation.” He must try to “explain away” all facts of nature which to a neutral person seem to hint strongly of design. (For a refreshing departure from this doctrinaire attitude, see Fred Hoyle, who though an atheist personally, was capable of objectivity on this subject, unlike Coyne, Krauss, Hawking, Stenger, Dawkins, Myers, etc.). Those of us who are freed from the intellectual tyranny of materialism and atheism are free to consider all options regarding origins, design as well as non-design ones.

You absolutely can, but no one in the ID movement is willing to do so.

I’d love to see your rankings.

“That way” clearly would apply to the argument of @agauger:

So unless functional sequences are easy to find (very common), and/or are clustered together (easily reachable from one functional island to another), explaining current protein diversity without design is impossible.

To support that premise, she offered only an argument from ignorance that is contradicted by 32 years of catalytic antibody research, even including producing beta-lactamases.

So are you saying that she is in the second or the third rank?


The only thing I criticize in your world view is the idea that design, especially divine design, can be demonstrated scientifically.

Reject that premise and a whole spectrum of new agreement between us can be developed.

But in fact… you SUSTAIN the premise that it can be scientifically sustained… which is really the only area of difference between I.D. and PeacefulScience.Org.

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Anyone who says metaphysics is driving science is clearly taking an adversarial position, and an insupportable one, regarding the status quo.

I haven’t said that divine design can be demonstrated scientifically. ID has no tools for detecting specifically divine design. Whether the God Thoth or an ancient Egyptian architect designed the Great Pyramid, the indicators of design would be the same, and ID would have to be agnostic on whether it was Thoth or the Egyptian architect. Of course, we might learn by other means (e.g., by ancient inscriptions) who the designer was, but that knowledge would come from the historian’s methods, not from ID methods.

You left out the words “in this case” and thus omitted the context which justified the claim. The claim had to do with origin of life research specifically, not science in general.

Of course, to a historian of ideas, it is nothing new that metaphysics can affect the practice of science; the metaphysics of any era inevitably affects not only its science, but its politics, its aesthetics, its social life, etc. Only people with no historical awareness can believe that our modern compartments of knowledge, our modern university disciplines, are objective maps of reality that exist outside of any social or philosophical assumptions about reality and knowledge.

Important Quibble: We DO NOT simply assume that humans existed, because we have evidence that humans were around when the pyramids were built. We have further evidence the pyramids were built using available methods. There is no need to assume supernatural assistance to explain the pyramids.

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You wrote: “I haven’t said that divine design can be demonstrated scientifically. ID has no tools for detecting specifically divine design. Whether the God Thoth or an ancient Egyptian architect designed the Great Pyramid, the indicators of design would be the same, and ID would have to be agnostic on whether it was Thoth or the Egyptian architect.”

In fact, Eddie, ID has no tools for detecting and confirming design scientifically.

And so, yet again, an ID proponent has hijacked the platform of PeacefulScience.Org to once again argue

  1. Something that is unproven, let alone possible to demonstrate;

  2. Something that is not relevant to the question of Special Creation of Adam and Eve in the midst of an evolved human population;

  3. Something that is polarizing within the Christian community; and

  4. Something that is only relevant to Creationists with political aspirations.

As for your comment about metaphysics, the phrase you say I left out is a phrase that I was already assuming. So I have no qualms about adding it now:

If I were to re-write the sentence, I would write it like this:

“Anyone who says metaphysics is driving science, in this case, is actually asserting the reverse. It is not metaphysics that compels scientists to avoid adding metaphysics to science.”

The more I read your rhetoric, the more you seem to be pursuing a kind of Jesuit-style agenda… trying to construct a massively intricate set of premises and conjectures with one end in mind: to convey to the public that I.D. is a legitimate and useful scientific discipline.

@Swamidass , you should understand that Eddie is not going to respect discussion boundaries as long as he is here. And that the energy of PeacefulScience will be regularly hijacked by Eddie and his allies to get people discussing I.D. - - and not discussing the unifying aspects of Special Creation with Evolutionary creation!

George, I didn’t “hijack” anything. I did not argue anywhere on the original thread this started with (“Why Does ID Criticize TE?”) that ID inferences are valid, or that anyone should accept them. I already told several people here that I have no intention of repeating ID arguments such as one can find in the works of Behe, Dembski, Meyer, etc. If people want ID arguments, they can read such authors. (I know that you will never read them, but will continue to regard entirely on rumor and hearsay regarding their contents.)

You are the one who keeps bringing the subject back to ID inferences and why they supposedly aren’t possible. I have merely responded to errors in fact and reasoning you have presented in your discussions. If you want me to stop talking about ID, stop talking about it yourself!

As for your comment on metaphysics, it’s clear that you didn’t grasp my point about origin-of-life research, which, unlike most scientific research, is driven almost completely by metaphysical commitment – the commitment to ruling out intelligence in considering the various possibilities for the origin of life.

ID isn’t polarizing within the orthodox, traditional, American Protestant Christian community. It is quite popular within that community. It is unpopular mainly among liberal Christians, whether mainstream or evangelical. There are a few exceptions among Protestant evangelicals, such as Joshua, but for the most part it is liberal Christians, plus a few so-called “Thomist” Catholics (who actually deviate from explicit statements of Thomas Aquinas), who viscerally dislike ID. I’d call virtually everyone associated with BioLogos a theological liberal, and most of the ASA TEs are liberals as well, in my view, with the exception of Ted Davis and Terry Gray. And of course, all Unitarians are by definition ultra-liberal, to the point of leaving Christianity itself behind, so their dislike of ID is irrelevant if we are talking about the Christian community.

This from the guy who both on BioLogos and here has regularly hijacked discussions to lead them back to his pet set of concerns! The chutzpah is amazing.

In my opinion, the energy of Peaceful Science is not being dissipated by Christians such as myself or Jon Garvey, but by the Unitarians, atheists and agnostics here who deep down have contempt for historical Christian faith, such as is held by Joshua, Jon Garvey, Daniel Ang, myself, and others here. This site would do far better, in my view, if it became an explicitly Christian site, for the purpose of finding peace among Christians (not between Christians and infidels) regarding questions of origins. The problem is that the Christians here (OEC, YEC, ID, TE), in trying to have serious theological dialogue with each other over questions of origins, are constantly sidetracked by side-attacks from people who in their heart of hearts wish either that Christianity would die, or that it would become so liberal as to be indistinguishable from secular humanism.

I don’t object to those who openly oppose Christianity, such as Patrick – they play a clarifying role. I always know where Patrick stands and what his motives are for writing what he writes. I do object to those who aren’t Christian themselves continually trying to get Christians to water their Christianity down in order to harmonize with various claims of modern science. What are their motives, when they claim to be acting in the best interests of good Christian doctrine, yet haven’t darkened the doorway of a Christian church for years, if ever?

Your own role here is logically and rhetorically unsustainable. You write as if you are really trying to help out Christians, by pushing them to accept “Genealogical Adam”, even though you personally think that the whole story of Adam and Eve is a crock of ---- and that the Bible is not the revealed word of God but merely the word of man, and often a very flawed word of man at that. You want Christians to accept a modified Christian theology so that they can accommodate evolution, but you couldn’t care less personally about the Christianity part, only about the evolution part. You are happy if they accept any old story that reconciles them to evolution. Your whole position thus reeks of insincerity.

More generally, I have grown deeply disenchanted with Peaceful Science. When I started posting here, intelligent folks like Daniel Ang and Philosurfer were making useful contributions, but increasingly, we are witnessing a rehash of BioLogos, with you sounding your same non-Christian notes over and over again, and the atheists needling the ID proponents and creationists time and again. Even Fruitfly is back, though under a different name here. I likely will soon cease posting at Peaceful Science, because I’m tired of walking this endless treadmill, seeing non-Christians team up with liberal Christians against traditional Christians and against ID supporters. BioLogos is already moribund because that was all it had to offer; unless Peaceful Science changes directions soon, it will become BioLogos 2.0. And there’s no point in that. So I would give Joshua the opposite advice from yours; I would advise him that PS will never serve Christian ends until the people who are merely using Christianity, for their own personal, non-Christian agendas, are prevented from dominating the discussions here. As it stands, this site is sending a very mixed message to its Christian readers, and unless that changes, it will harm rather than further the acceptance of Christian faith.

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Hilarious. I grasped your point perfectly well. You are trying to say that, in this case, scientists are motivated by metaphysics in their drive to exclude (unproveable) metaphysical points from scientific methodology.

Your whole analysis is tainted by metaphysical elements; it is discredited on its very declaration!

No, my analysis reveals the hidden metaphysics which certain scientists don’t want to admit to. And you buy into the same metaphysics, without even realizing you are doing so.


You cant cant equate
“the avoidance of

= with =

a metaphysical

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And I didn’t do that. I equated “a metaphysical presupposition” with “a metaphysical presupposition”. You might consider asking your dialogue partners to clarify what they mean, before reflexively jumping in to contradict them.

In any case, your belief that science can proceed without metaphysical presuppositions marks you as incompetent in the field of philosophy.


It is a glorious thing when you write items like this:
"In any case, your belief that science can proceed without
metaphysical presuppositions marks you as incompetent in the field of

It makes it possible for other members of the audience to get a
glimpse of why I don’t accept your interpretations, on face value,
regarding virtually any idea, any theology, any linguistic analysis
you bring to the table.

Your world view is an eerie one, flat but yet still swollen with
distortions - - filled with cognitive ornaments of the surreal. But
the least comfortable aspect is that it takes you so many words to
produce these lifeless conclusions. @John_Harshman discovered that
all on his own.