Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A Test for Testability...

Ed the Evolutionist, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has another post on the topic of scientific testabiltiy titled A Brief Return to Testability. In the post he quotes from Doug Theobald a biochemist from the Univ. of Colorado at Boulder:
Scientific theories are validated by empirical testing against physical observations. Theories are not judged simply by their logical compatibility with the available data. Independent empirical testability is the hallmark of science—in science, an explanation must not only be compatible with the observed data, it must also be testable. By "testable" we mean that the hypothesis makes predictions about what observable evidence would be consistent and what would be incompatible with the hypothesis. Simple compatibility, in itself, is insufficient as scientific evidence, because all physical observations are consistent with an infinite number of unscientific conjectures. Furthermore, a scientific explanation must make risky predictions— the predictions should be necessary if the theory is correct, and few other theories should make the same necessary predictions. As a clear example of an untestable, unscientific, hypothesis that is perfectly consistent with empirical observations, consider solipsism. The so-called hypothesis of solipsism holds that all of reality is the product of your mind. What experiments could be performed, what observations could be made, that could demonstrate that solipsism is wrong? Even though it is logically consistent with the data, solipsism cannot be tested by independent researchers. Any and all evidence is consistent with solipsism. Solipsism is unscientific precisely because no possible evidence could stand in contradiction to its predictions.
We need to be careful about splitting hairs here. Scienctific theories are, indeed, validated by empirical testing against physical observations but one must never forget that there is no empirical data that proves that this must be the case. Evolutionists will typically appeal that this empirical testing process has proven itself to be reliable, but this is nothing more than self-referential logic for the only measuring stick they can use is the very measuring stick we are testing. They cannot escape the fact that the validity of the empirical testing process is, and will always remain, an assumption (i.e., scientists must take it on faith). We also need to be careful about how we view scientific testing vs. scientific analysis of historical evidence. Testing whether water boils at 212 F at sea level is not the same as testing the evidence to determine whether Rocko was the hit-man responsible for taking out Don Corleone's son. To be sure, science is used in both scenarios, but the latter deals with the detection of intelligent design or, as William Dembski puts it, a Design Inference. But in the strictest sense of the term testability, a falsifiable prediction must be made in order for a scientific theory to be considered valid. Fair enough. So, although I am not associated with Reasons to Believe, I think I can make the following testable prediction from their model:
Further research will reveal function for so-called Junk-DNA sequences. Although considered by evolutionists to be a closed case, the Creation Model predicts that currently held scientific opinion on this issue will eventually concede that function is inherent in the Junk-DNA sequence. The failure of this test would be a devastating, if not killer, blow to the Creation Model.
Now for the evolutionist's side of the fence. Consider the following testable prediction:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
Charles Darwin made this prediction in his book, Origin of Species. I would argue, and I'm sure that Ed would completely disagree, that this test has failed and that continued research will provide further proof for the complete inability for the evolutionary paradigm to account for irreducibly complex structures

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