Thursday, March 10, 2011

Objectivity or Subjectivity?

Mike Gene often argues that perceiving design is a subjective exercise and therefore is not science (here for example). But I'm not sure that there is anything that is completely objective. Mike would say that measurement is completely objective, but it isn't. Is the volume in that beaker 50ml or 51ml? I see 50ml. You see 51ml. So we get a third person, who sees 52ml. We keep asking people and eventually get a majority who see 51ml. So now our measurement is what the majority of people see? So if the majority of people see design, then it's designed?

Well, let's fix the problem. We'll have a machine measure the liquid. When it measures out 51ml, it will stop pouring the liquid. The problem is that we first need to calibrate the machine so that it knows what 51ml is. And who gets to do that? Some subjective human being, of course. And we're right back to square one.

But we can argue that whereas most people will agree on whether it is 50ml or 51ml, it is more difficult to get a majority of people to agree of whether something is designed or not. So then the question of objectivity or subjectivity becomes a relativistic one: how easy is it to get a majority of people to agree on something?

So if ID advocates could get a majority of people to agree that something was designed, then it would be objective and science? I doubt that Mike would agree with this. I'm curious what his response would be.

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