Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Crop circles, aliens and IDolators

At Billy Dembski's, we see ID Applied to Crop Circles. The major argument seems to be equivocation about the meaning of "natural." First, it's treated in the sense of "not bound by natural laws," the sense in which everyone refers to it in this particular tempest in a teapot. Then, we see "natural" used to contrast with "artificial":
ID is the theory that certain patterns found in nature have no known or reasonably possible natural sequence of events [natural laws] that can adequately explain how they were formed. Is it a religious postulate that crop circles aren’t of natural origin [that is, they must have been using natural mechanisms wielded by a non-supernatural being]? Of course not. By the same token ID is not making a religious statement.
Since my comment will undoubtedly be deleted summarily, I may as well post it here, too.

Who could have done it?
What causes the crop circles? Aliens that no one has ever seen? or people who have been seen making some circles?
We know people can do it, we don't know that aliens exist. If they did, they could probably make crop circles, too. Crop circles aren't an argument for aliens.

Similarly, we know that natural (bound by natural law) evolutionary processes can produce biological diversity and biological complexity. A supernatural (not bound by natural law) designer probably could too, but we don't know that such a being exists, and such a being would be scientifically undetectable and untestable. The existence of biological complexity is not proof that a supernatural designer exists.

QED.

I want to expand on the point. We've seen people produce some crop circles. There are others that we haven't seen people produce. Committed cerealogists (the name adopted by those who believe the circles are works of space aliens) acknowledge the existence of hoaxes, but insist that the real thing is out there:

The Doug Bowers, the Dave Chorleys, the John Lundbergs and Mickey Mouses [admitted human circle makers] will continue with their dastardly deeds. Such is the nature of man. But, we, with our higher thinking and increasing awareness of existence's beyond our dimension, will continue to savour the proven, genuine signs in the corn, and gain comfort from them as we approach the dawning of a new century. A dawning which may well herald a re-awakening of the truth behind these perplexing spirals, and the, as yet unknown force which creates them.

If there is one lesson to learn from the UFO/CIRCLE MYSTERY, it is this. It is one which none of us can afford to forget. We must have the patience to sift the chaff from the wheat before coming to and conclusion as to what we are looking at. The UFO remains as elusive as ever, and genuine corn circles almost as difficult to locate and identify. However, seek and ye shall find of that there is no doubt, and keep taking the tablets!
For more, see this page of "Arguments against the hoax theory of crop circles." It's too complex for humans, the cerealogists insist. Sound familiar?

I figure, we've seen crop circles made by people, we haven't seen aliens make them, and we sure haven't seen God making crop circles. The fact that they are very complex does not mean that they weren't produced using natural forces and laws. That is to say, whatever produced them, we can agree that it was natural.

Grant for a moment that we don't know why the crops are flattened just so, or why the nodes are blown, or whatever. I don't even care. Maybe we can explain how humans do that. But what if we couldn't? Does that mean aliens did it? Or does it mean there's some technique being used by humans that we don't know about.

DaveScot is, not surprisingly, astoundingly confused about where all this is leading.

If our inability to explain the irreducible complexity of the crop circle doesn't imply that we need to invoke a whole new set of agents, why does our alleged inability to explain the alleged irreducible complexity require us to invoke a whole new set of agents?

Of course, I don't believe space aliens have visited Earth. That means I don't really take them seriously as a cause for crop circles. Even if God exists (and I won't weigh in on that issue), there's no evidence that God–I mean the Designer–actually intervenes in the world. Without disputing the existence of a deity, if the deity never intervenes in the world, it doesn't make sense to just up and invoke a deity whenever something doesn't make sense.

And if that logic holds for space aliens, why not for ID?

Like I say, the Dembskyites are confused and befuddled by these questions.

She's an Angel” by They Might Be Giants from the album They Might Be Giants (1986, 2:37).

"These things happen to other people
They don't happen at all, in fact."