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Et maintenant qu’allons-nous devenir sans les Barbares.
Ces gens étaient en somme une solution.
Constantin Cavafis

En 1550 mots publiés dans Science et Pseudo-Sciences, Bernard d’Espagnat tente de venir en aide à l’Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris. En vain.

(suite…)

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jeux de mots…

Quand je lis le texte de d’Espagnat « Le matérialisme en question » j’ai bien envie de compléter « …par jeux de vilains ».

A lire d’Espagnat je n’imaginais pas qu’il soit physicien !

(suite…)

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mise à jour

Mesdames, Messieurs,

Il y a trois semaines, le 22 février, Jean Staune nous alertait par e-mail pour signaler la parution dans Le Monde d’un Point de Vue, intitulé « Pour une science sans a priori », qui soutenait l’action de l’UIP, qualifiant l’événement de un « petit texte pour la presse, mais un bond de géant pour l’UIP« . Le géant en question semble frappé de nanisme.
Les réactions des lecteurs du journal ne sont pas dans le sens des espoirs de Jean Staune. Peu nombreuses1 et pas franchement en faveur de l’UIP.
La discussion que j’ai ouvert à Sur la Toile n’a pas attiré d’avantage de succès en nombre de participants, elle a quand même le mérite d’être plus détaillée que ce qu’on a vu sur le site du journal. Contrairement à mes espoirs, Jean Staune a soigneusement évité de s’impliquer pour défendre ses points de vue, probablement convaincu qu’il n’y a pas une clientèle intéressante dans cet espace. Et probablement conscient que les reproches faits à ce texte ne sont pas sans fondement et qu’il aurait du mal défendre sa thèse de façon convaincante.

J’imaginais que Jean Staune, en tant que businessman, serait un combatif qui ne fuirait pas la discussion publique, au moins pas au moment où il tente d’affirmer l’action de l’association sensée représenter sa vision du monde. J’en ai de l’imagination, n’est-ce pas ?

En parallèle, je note qu’Anne Dambricourt-Malassé, une des championnes de Jean Staune, à cause de ses opinions sur l’évolution humaine, est également du genre à éviter la discussion de ses points de vue quand on arrive à les scruter non plus du point de vue philosophique mais scientifique. Aucune nouvelle de la dame quant à la possibilité d’expliquer ses observations du point de vue darwiniste, sujet qui lui a été signalée par Jean Staune : « 

Chère Anne, Je sais que est très prise et ne souhaite pas perdre de temps avec despolémiques, mais …

La même absence de réaction de la part des autres biologistes de l’entourage de l’UIP. Navrant.

Cette attitude de fuite du débat, place en porte-à-faux une des affirmations des signataires, la toute dernière : « En France, l’Université interdisciplinaire de Paris (UIP), aux activités de laquelle nous avons tous participé, à porté ce débat sur la place publique au cours de ses dix années d’existence. Elle l’a fait de façon ouverte et rigoureuse et nous pensons qu’une telle démarche doit être soutenue. »
Pas de débat en fait, juste des assertions sans fondements, et la sourde oreille quand des contre-propositions sont faites. Comment peut-on soutenir une telle action ?

Je suis prêt à poser la question aux signataires, par e-mail, si Jean Staune, ou une autre personne, a la gentillesse de me fournir leurs coordonnées. Et éventuellement le texte anglais qu’il leur a été adressé pour qu’ils y associent leurs signatures. Et je m’engage à le faire à travers un espace public, ce qui semble tant leur tenir à coeur.

A. V.

1 – je suis étonné qu’il n’y a pas eu plus de scientifiques à râler, je commence à me poser des questions quant à la réactivité des scientifiques français et/ou l’impact du site du journal (qui est limité aux abonnés).

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Just received an em-mail by laughing with my error. I hope he enjoyed it as much as myself. After finishing laughing I searched for the source of the error. Well, while analyzing the text to transform it to a small database to prepare my comments in it, the soft transformed the closest name-like element to the comment’s author name.
So, as Staune say in his message « a brand new biologist was born! »

What is more interesting in the message is that Staune ask me to admit that I’m lucky, him being a christian, who by charity is point me (privately) to my error. As one would say, « Jesus, I’m a lucky guy« .

Well, first of all, thank you Mister Staune for pointing to an error. I assume it plainly and publicly, no need to imagine that I wouldn’t do so. And I posted an ‘erratum’ rather then simply edit my posts [fr]. And when other people do so I praise them [fr] even if we aren’t exactly one could call friends.

Then he continues by saying that he isn’t going to talk about my error all around saying that this « poor AV pretending being a biologist and being of the level to defend darwinism while he don’t even know how to read a text… he don’t even know Brien Goodwin (Laughters) »

Now, as I’m not a christian and the charity I practice isn’t selfish, I’m claiming publicly that I mistaken, doing so in a plain post and not just in a simple erratum. (oh, by the way, I should add mention of it in the #0 post of the series)

As I say, Evolution happens, just like sh*t. Well, this is an example that sh*it happens.

On the other hand I’m not pretending being a biologist, I am a biologist. And I feel quite confident with defending my opinions, including darwinism. And I expect more then christian charity from Jean Staune, I’m expecting discussion. Then we will be able to say if I’m of the level to defend darwinism or not 😉

What I’m not, is a good programmer and I should find and fix that damn bug. And that’s the real sh*it that happened to me today

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On January 3, 2006, of the Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky presented a draft (adding: « comments welcome! ») of his paper « IS INTELLIGENT DESIGN SCIENCE? DISSECTING THE DOVER DECISION« .

I do have some comments to share, not only with Bradley Morton, but with everybody who cares about the subject.

First the discussion « 2.1 The Scientific Community. », where the is presented as a scientific theory. I think that this is a huge mistake to start with. At best, Intelligent Design is an hypothesis, nothing more. And it doesn’t even propose a null hypothesis to be used as the starting point, for the scientific community to work on it. There is a long way to go to gain the characterization « Scientific Theory ».

The discussion about Newtonian physics is quite tricky. Newtonian physics were refuted, certainly, and they are taught in schools, but this is because they still can be used as a fair approximation to deal with some problems. They do have a limited application and this is clearly specified.

Next comes the « 2.2. Irreducible Complexity. » part. With three parts in fact: irreducible complexity, fine-tuning, and the miracle of life.
‘s «  » argument is clearly unscientific. Standing in front of data that one isn’t able to understand there are two options: work to understand them, and that’s the scientific path, or decide that there is no way to understand them, and that’s Behe’s path. The decision made by Behe to qualify the complexity of biological systems as « irreducible » isn’t acceptable for the scientific community, for the simple reason that it isn’t supported by any scientific argumentation. Simple decisions shouldn’t be accepted as scientific argument. At best, we have here an indication of Behe’s inability to act as a scientists when confronted to a certain degree of complexity.
is exactly the same case transposed to physics. There is no evidence that we should be what we are, neither that life, probably in an other form, would be impossible in a differently tuned universe. If there is a question to deal with it could be: « if the universe was different what would be the possibilities for life to occur, in what form? ». Simply deciding that the universe was modeled to give birth to life as we know it doesn’t make this hypothesis a theory and once more there isn’t any evidence to support it.
The last element is the « « . Using the term of miracle is somehow disturbing as by definition a miracle implies the temporary inhibition of physical laws. The argument is trying to explain an occurrence (the fact that life exists) using a probabilistic approach that is incomplete. It is possible that life’s emergence is a low probability event. Let’s even say an extremely low probability event. The global probability for life’s emergence should be calculated taking in account the number of trials. Per trial the probability to have a particular event may be very low, but if the number of trials is very high, the global probability may be fair enough. And if the number of trials is huge the global probability may even tend to 1! Miracles aren’t necessary to explain why there is winners to lotteries. But the way IDers handle the calculation of probabilities seems to me quite unscientific.

[edit]Bradley Monton is aware of this, one of his papers entitled « The Infinite Universe and Dembski’s Design Inference » published on November 15, 2004 prove that. Why he isn’t using the argument here?[/edit]

More interesting things to say about the content of « 2.3. . » The section starting by:

Imagine that some astronomers discover a pulsar that is pulsing out Morse code.

and finishing by:

I have given a counterexample to that line of reasoning, by presenting a situation where a supernatural hypothesis is testable.

have a very special flaw. It starts correctly using the verb « Imagine« , placing what follow to the domain of fiction. Then during the argument, somehow focus is loosed and, the fictional situation becomes a supernatural testable hypothesis. Fiction is allowed and quite enjoyable often, but not in scientific discussions. This classic example show that in a fictional space the supernatural hypothesis could be testable, but there is no reason to transpose it to real space. And in the same fictional space anything else and everything could be made possible; that’s literature.

Once the flaw installed, it may lead to false formulation in a quite insidious manner. Allowing to affirm below:

In my hypothetical scenario described above, the supernatural explanation is based on empirical evidence, evidence that is obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists.

where it should be:  » In my fictional scenario described above,… »

Let me put it in another way, starting at the beginning of the example used by Bradley Monton.
If an entity is able to use a pulsar to display Morse that doesn’t made it supernatural, I would say powerful, but there isn’t evidence for supernatural. If it can display humor by making a cloud chamber sound as biblical verses I would call it funny, but not supernatural. And if provides hints for a better understanding of nature such as a proper quantum theory of gravity I would call it « scientific expert », but not supernatural. In every of the three examples cited there is no need to hypothesize a supernatural action, natural ones may explain things. And the entity can say that it’s name is God or whatever else, this isn’t evidence for supernatural. It will have to explain more then gravity, say how is it possible in a universe to act metaphysically, providing explanations […] restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data – the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. But then that would make it scientific according to the National Academy of Science. Even in the fictional scenario presented there isn’t any need to consider supernatural etiologies and if such an entity able to use pulsars for Morse exist I don’t see any reasons to consider it supernatural; natural is good enough. could respond that way. Considering it as natural (and it may be immaterial as well) there isn’t even any particular need for science to change it’s methodology as proposes.

Let’s go back to science’s definition by the NAS, extract just the first phrase « Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. » and keep it in mind while discussing the following assertion:

All the ID proponents need to do is to provide enough evidence to confirm that there is a supernatural being – then scientific methodology will no longer include methodological naturalism.

If proponents, or anybody else, provide enough evidence to confirm the existence of supernatural being(s), science wouldn’t be affected. Science is about the world; if something exists outside the world then science can’t deal with it. If proof of supernatural is available, then the science will have the same fate as Newtonian physics; probably useful in a restricted manner, but, not the one to explain all known data. Something else should replace science without need to change a iota of the actual science’s definition.
The second question I formulated when I heard about Intelligent Design was « why ID proponents want to be labeled scientific? ». The only answer I found ’till now is that this is Public Relations. Who would care about what people calls his knowledge if he is certain to detain the Truth? And be able to prove it. I wouldn’t, knowing that there is more then science, on the contrary I would like to find a brand new term to design it, to avoid any relation with any previous approach to understand the universe, not only science. But if you handle a non-scientific hypothesis you may struggle to give it the label « scientific » to make it credible, because you don’t have any other means to achieve credibility.

To sum up, as Bradley Monton, I reject Pennock’s claim that science should change its methodology if the existence of a supernatural being is empirically confirmed. Unlike Bradley Monton I propose that science must be left « as is » and use another framework, to include supernature, where methodological supernaturalism will be basic.

Tha conclusion:

I conclude that it is not evident that there is a consensus by scientists in favor of methodological naturalism.

is a quit cheap one! Clearly it would be a huge enterprise to do an opinion poll, but drain a conclusion by the opinion of few isn’t correct. On the other hand, NAS represents scientists and present consensus opinions from the scientific community. You don’t need an opinion pool to know what scientist’s majority think about methodological naturalism, it is evident from the rejection of the ID being a scientific theory that the scientific community approves methodological naturalism. That doesn’t mean that things wouldn’t change, if there is a majority in the future that think differently. But we are talking about actual facts.

What appealed me the more in this paper, and triggered the need to comment, is part 3:ID is Not Inherently Theistic. In this section a lot of things should be reviewed I think. Let’s start with the phrase:

“ID” means different things to different people, and while some view it as essentially committed to supernaturalism, others do not.

That’s quite true. The problem is that when you use a brand people tends to think about the genuine think. When somebody comes and tell me he is an IDer I think he is a proponent of Intelligent Design the way Behe and present it. If one would like to talk about something else he must use another term. Thus, as long as people talk about Intelligent Design there is no reason to consider that they refer to something else. I do understand that the publicity made to the term is tempting and attracts parasites, but I’m not going to indulge such practices, no more then being served a Coca Cola instead of a Pepsi Cola. Both are colas but you can’t use the brands indifferently.

When referring to the definition of Intelligent Design as given by the :

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause

there are two ways to consider it. Supernatural, which I wouldn’t discuss right here, and natural. If as raelians believe life on Earth is the fact of some extraterrestrial civilization, the question is just shifted; if we have the answer about the emergence of life and intelligence on Earth we have yet to learn about the emergence of that extraterrestrial civilization. Nothing change much. The non-ID approach remains the one to follow by scientists to explain the natural causes of the non earthly life, and of course of the universe. There is no need to consider two ID fractions, ID and ID*, one sinle, proposing supernatural causation, is enough; others are à priori accepting the naturalistic methodology de facto, even if they propose that life didn’t appeared on Earth spontaneously; and that they have to prove it by presenting evidence other then revelation to prophets, the way Raelians act.

The fourth element, « 4. Science and the Pursuit of Truth.« , seems to present the conclusions of Bradley Monton. Let’s see a few of them:

Imagine what might happen in my pulsar message scenario – long after overwhelming evidence has convinced everyone that supernatural causation is occurring, scientists would still be searching for naturalistic causes. The scientists themselves may agree that the causes are supernatural, but, because they are subject to the constraint of methodological naturalism, they are not allowed to postulate such causes while doing science.

OK, I will imagine, but this is still fictional. If supernatural causation is proven, I doubt that scientists will continue doing science. They will turn to something else, I don »t even want to imagine a name for it, that will include supernatural methodology. And science will remain in activity for the trivial of the natural world. Very much like Newtonian physics used daily when relativistic aren’t necessary. But anyway, even in the fictional framework that Bradley Monton builded, I don’t see the need of a supernatural entity.

The final statement could/should(?) be reviewed:

I maintain that science is better off without being shackled by methodological naturalism. Our successful scientific theories are naturalistic simply because this is the way the evidence points; this leaves open the possibility that, on the basis of new evidence, there could be supernatural scientific theories. I conclude that ID should not be dismissed on the grounds that it is unscientific; ID should be dismissed on the grounds that the empirical evidence for its claims just isn’t there.

I don’t see evidence through the paper that science would be improved by changing it’s precepts and accepting supernatural etiologies as long as they don’t exist. And if evidence is brought in a non fictional mode, something different, not parasitizing the term « science » should be built up to handle them, using methodological supernaturalism; I even wander if the « logical » suffix should be still be in use.
Scientific theories are naturalistic by definition of what science is. Rather then change the definition of science, it seems more interesting to coin a new term in case of supernatural being proven to exist and avoid the term of « supernatural scientific theories » which is a nonsense.

I conclude that ID isn’t and never will be scientific, essentially per construction, but it is quite theistic. And the discussion is open.

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tyrannie diffuse

Je lis les plaintes de Fulcanelli sur son dernier post.

Je suis sincèrement désolé qu’il soit ainsi assailli, mais je peux comprendre l’agacement des gens qui ont passé un tant soit peu de temps à lire les élucubrations de Behe et de Demski. Je n’y suis que depuis quelques jours dessus et l’envie de coller mon poing sur l’une ou l’autre des figures devient de plus en plus présente dans mon esprit. Partir en troll pour provoquer les gens revient souvent à les voir réagir, et tant mieux, ça signifie que le message passe.

L’absence de contre-proposition digne d’être qualifiée de scientifique, ce que Fulcanelli appelle déjà du post-darwinisme, et la défense implicite de l’ID n’apportera que confusion dans l’esprit et probablement bannissements qui pourraient être justifiés; l’attitude de troll sur le Net est une plaie que l’on a souvent envie de soigner et toujours la possibilité de le faire à coups de clics. Et les trolls sont souvent considérés de mauvaise foi; n’en accuse pas d’autant ceux qui ne sont pas d’accord avec toi 🙂
S’associer à une ineptie (du point de vue scientifique au moins), à la quelle on ne croit pas (si j’ai bien compris), pour recevoir de la publicité est une attitude peu intéressante sur le Net. Attention Fulcanelli, si tu souhaites garder de la crédibilité il faut soigner tes propos, soient-ils planqués dans des forums peu fréquentés. La mémoire du Net est fabuleuse.
Commencer par dire que tu es en train de « teste[r] [t]on option tactique et stratégique visant à associer [t]a démarche à la mouvance de l’ID. » et espérer ne pas être jetté avec l’eau du bain relève de la mauvaise tactique.

Fulcanelli, quand les camps sont formés, définis par des discussions longues et variées, que les opinions se sont forgées, il est illusoire de vouloir modifier l’un d’exu, même si on en est le fondateur ! Quand tu dis « Dois-je me réclamer de l’ID contemporaine, celle des années 1990, bien que je prenne quelques distances avec ses fondateurs ? La raison impose de choisir un camp là où la vérité et l’honnêteté intellectuelle imposent la nuance. » je doute fort que la raison impose de choisir un camp. Je pense que la raison impose de se forger son camp, à force d’annonces claires de son credo !
Et puisque tu souhaites y associer Evelyn Fox Keller et/ou Rosine Chandebois pourquoi ne pas commencer à leur proposer tes points de vue ? Fait à travers le Net tu en gardera la paternité; il suffit d’ajouter une licence Creative Commons pour t’assurer de la visibilité de ton copyright.

Tu disposes sur tes blogs d’un espace d’expression qui ne subit aucune tyrannie. Tes propos t’appartiennent et y sont commentés par qui a le souhait de discuter. Tu peux en faire la publicité qui te convient. Inutile de te disperser sur d’autres supports, autrement que pour signaler leur existence et inviter les gens de venir discuter. Il y en aura qui le feront directement, en commentant sur place, d’autres qui décideront d’avoir la maîtrise de leurs propos sur leurs propres espaces d’expression, comme je le fais; et il pourrait y avoir discussion s’il y a matière à

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Dear Mike

I found your blog while looking around for elements concerning the discussion between ID/creationism and Science.
The subject isn’t really on the first plan of preoccupation in this side of the Atlantic, but a documentary on human evolution as viewed from an IDer created some interest. And the discussion begun…

First I was astonished to read some of my arguments against ID in plain english 🙂
Then I discovered my initial reaction when I heard about ID and irreducible complexity.

And you seem to be to the same mood about what I called Silly Design, to com[p|pl]ete ID.

By Zeus, when I write dear I do mean it.

And I would like to bring you some novelty. Here is a guy, at Bordeaux, Fulcanelli, who have an ID conception that might be innovating: his last post is titled « Neither Bible or Darwin (I): general thinking on ID ». So, he is a candidate for the atheist/agnostic category of IDers, but he is also OK to accept that Intelligent isn’t the terms to use. And that ID don’t have a null hypothesis to propose. So for evolutionist he may be quite interesting, or not.

I will keep reading your blog and probably start commenting on/about it. Thank you for being out there, brother in Science.

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