Thursday, April 26, 2007

Inference to the Favored Explanation (IFE)


IBE (Inference to the Best Explanation) is a standard move for conservative Christians who seek to defend certain claims.

The Design Argument for God's existence is just such a case. Look at all the initial conditions required for a life-producing and life-supporting universe. Their concurrence is astronomically improbable. Best explanation? Divine monkey business.

Certain ID arguments are also of this sort. Look at the irreducible complexity of molecular machines. Best explanation? Chance and natural selection or divine design? Design is more plausible if you don't already have anti-theistic prejudices. I'm in favor of both of these arguments.

BUT WAIT!!!

What about the fossil record? Look at how all our fossil evidence seems to fall into a nice branching-type pattern, showing the relationships between various species. Best explanation? Hmmm. Assuming the evidence does in fact appear this way (and honest, expertly-trained scientists believe it does), then IBE seems to demand prima facie assent to evolution.

The alternative? IFE. I don't want to be guilty of that. I'm just trying to be honest in my search for truth.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Tom Gilson said...

Excellent point on intellectual honesty, Chris!

The IBE explanation for species' relatedness need not be evolution, however. (Evolution has multiple different meanings; I take it you are referring to strict, unguided Darwinian macroevolution here.)

Relatedness certainly seems to point toward common descent, but not necessarily toward the non-teleological Darwinian explanation. It's neutral on that, as far as I can tell.

4:00 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Right -- the teleology is another story. I should be more specific. Prima facie acceptance of *common descent* is what meant.

5:34 PM  
Blogger One Wave said...

Can you explain more about being guilty of accepting IFE?

Do you see a problem with common descent and ID or YEC?

1:37 AM  
Blogger chris said...

One Wave -- what I want to avoid, and I think both sides of the debate need to watch this, is looking at the evidence and concluding that my view is true regardless of whether the evidence supports it or not. I think we as Christians do this when it comes to evolution. I'm kind of a fence-sitter when it comes to evolution. Common descent seems true, but there's no way this happened by chance. You should read my previous posts on the topic -- just do a search for 'evolution.'

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Joel Ringdahl said...

I have limited knowledge of both ID and evolution (save what I learned in Biology class). One question I have always had is why they are held by some to be mutually exclusive. Couldn't evolution (Darwinian macroevolution) be God's Intelligent Design?

6:42 PM  
Blogger chris said...

I think that's right, Joel. I didn't spell this out in my post, but I guess there are basically 3 positions:
(1) naturalistic, atheistic evolution
(2) theistic evolution, with God playing some significant role
(3) non-evolution or special creation, where God created each species individually (a denial of common descent)

(1) is automatically out for me, so the debate is between (2) and (3).

8:16 PM  
Blogger One Wave said...

Chris,
I believe that this quote right here is what the common descent tree is founded on:

"Using a ubiquitous gene such as cytochrome c, there is no reason to assume that two different organisms should have the same protein sequence or even similar protein sequences, unless the two organisms are genealogically related. This is due in part to the functional redundancy of protein sequences and structures. Here, "functional redundancy" indicates that many different protein sequences form the same general structure and perform the same general biological role. Cytochrome c is an extremely functionally redundant protein, because many dissimilar sequences all form cytochrome c electron transport proteins. Functional redundancy need not be exact in terms of performance; some functional cytochrome c sequences may be slightly better at electron transport than others."
-Douglas Theobald, Ph.D.

www.talkorigins.org

If that's it, if that is in fact what they are basing their argument for the commonality of biota on, I think it can be challenged. I don't see the reduncancy of DNA or protein or pseudogenes or anything else as being a problem to spontaneous creation.

Branching is a theory not a fact and the fossils that supposedly (could possibly at some point, I won't deny) support this are only a few. It seems that we should find hundreds if not thousands of fossils showing transitions. I know that is an old argument, but really I think it is valid.

I looked for other posts you wrote on evolution but I don't see a search bar....I'm not very adept at this blogging world yet...would you mind pointing me in the right direction? I am interested in reading them.

12:46 AM  
Blogger chris said...

The search bar is all the way at the top on the left.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous joel said...

I posted a brilliant comment, but it got sucked into the vortex of cyberspace.

8:06 PM  
Blogger One Wave said...

Chris,
Have you seen this?

http://www.idthefuture.com/

10:04 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Yes -- I have it on my Bloglines. I'm a fan of ID. I'm just waiting for it to mature. I would say my position on evolution is that we are intelligently designed. Was evolution part of that? I don't have a good reason at this point to deny it.

4:24 PM  
Blogger One Wave said...

I respect your postion. I can't commit to any position but am also looking forward to the whole field of creation science to mature. If creation scientists had as much funding and time under their belt perhaps there would be more competitive information.

Take care.

7:45 PM  

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