On one point, Plantinga scores easy points, there is something a bit odd about a judge consulting legal definitions and precedents to try to determine ID "is" science. Science is a field of study, not a legally mandated category, and so any attempt to do this will run into certain problems and end up looking rather silly. This is the problem we run into when we have schools which are not merely government funded but government administered. And yet, who wants to fund something he can't control?
However, as he moves into his analysis of why Jones' conclusion that ID isn't science is flawed, Plantinga himself goes in for what strikes me as some sloppy reasoning. For instance:
First, he said that ID is not science by virtue of its "invoking and permitting supernatural causation." Second, and connected with the first, he said that ID isn't science because the claims IDers make are not testable -- that is verifiable or falsifiable. The connection between the two is the assertion, on the part of the judge and many others, that propositions about supernatural beings -- that life has been designed by a supernatural being -- are not verifiable or falsifiable.Perhaps Plantinga's degree of certainty that statements about the supernatural are testable and falsifiable has allowed him to pick a poor example, but this one seems to me to fall short. There are several layers of statement here which can be tested with varying degrees of success. For instance, there is the statement that "800-pound rabbits live in Cleveland" which we may very much doubt, but we cannot absolutely prove. (At best, we can show that no one has yet successfully found an 800 pound rabbit living in Cleveland.) Then, there is the question of God "designing" the rabbit. Should be find the over-inflated lupine, how exactly can we be sure that God designed it? If we believe (as I do) that God created the universe and holds it in existence through a constant act of the will, we may say (accepting that belief as true) that God designed the rabbit in that sense. But how exactly can we be sure that God designed it in the more immediate sense which I assume Plantinga is using -- namely that he created the rabbit ex nihilo? Even if we were standing in a field and saw the rabbit suddenly appear amid a flash of light, a blare of trumpets, and the echoing words "This is my beloved rabbit, which is rather larger than the normal variety" we would only "know" that the rabbit was created by God to the extent that we assumed with confidence that no other being was capable of putting on such a show for our benefit. (Before anyone says this is a total no brainer and that no one but God can work miracles, I would suggest that Muhammad must, unless he was a conscious fraud or totally insane, have seen or heard some impressive things performed by someone -- and yet as Christians we must doubt that this person was indeed God or the Angel Gabriel.)
... askinging these notions in a rough-and-ready way we can easily see that propositions about supernatural beings not being verifiable or falsifiable isn't true at all.
For example, the statement "God has designed 800-pound rabbits that live in Cleveland" is clearly testable, clearly falsifiable and indeed clearly false.
Continuing to argue that science indeed may include supernatural agents in its calculations, Plantinga argues thus:
Does this important and multifarious human activity by its very nature preclude references to the supernatural? How would anyone argue a thing like that?Now, with all due respect, what Newton was doing in this case was not including supernatural agency in his theory per se. Rather, he was indulging in that age-old activity of fudging what he couldn't explain. His theories of motion came very, very close to explaining all the observable evidence, but not quite. So he went ahead and ran with the theory and said that the remaining gaps were probably filled by divine intervention.
Newton was perhaps the greatest of the founders of modern science. His theory of planetary motion is thought to be an early paradigm example of modern science. Yet, according to Newton's own understanding of his theory, the planetary motions had instabilities that God periodically corrected. Shall we say that Newton wasn't doing science when he advanced that theory or that the theory isn't a scientific theory at all?
Plantinga correctly discerns that the disconnect is in determining exactly what science is supposed to achieve in the first place:
Some say the aim of science is to discover and state natural laws. Others, equally enthusiastic about science, think there aren't any natural laws to discover. According to Richard Otte and John Mackie, the aim of science is to propose accounts of how the world goes for the most part, apart from miracles. Others reject the "for the most part" disclaimer. How does one tell which, if any, of these proposed constraints actually do hold for science? And why should we think that methodological naturalism really does constrain science? And what does "science" really mean?Clearly, that's a pretty broad definition. By that criteria, many branches of 'socal studies' might be considered 'science'. And if so, well and good, perhaps. But I still think there's a useful distinction to be mpursuitseen wider persuits of the "truth about our worllimitedhe rather limitted ambition of formulating theories which allow one to make successful predictions about how physical systems willlimited And that limitted field, whatever one wants to call it, is clearly a field which cannot successfully answer the question "Did God design this?"
I don't have the space to give a complete answer -- as one says when he doesn't know a complete answer -- but the following seems sensible: The usual dictionary definitions suffice to give us the meaning of the term "science." They suggest that this term denotes any activity that is:
(a) a systematic and disciplined enterprise aimed at finding out truth about our world, and
(b) has significant empirical involvement. Any activity that meets these vague conditions counts as science.
One may argue, and perhaps correctly, that in our contemporary culture the concept of 'science' has been given so much power (indeed, many consider it the only way of knowing anything) that to leave metaphysical questions out of it is the same as denying that metaphysical questions exist. (I think of this as the "if science can't tell us about God what good is it" school of thought.) However, if one accepts this widened mandate for 'science' one must eventually define some subgroup of it ("natural science" or "physical science" or "methodological naturalism") which fills the place which people such as Ruse suggest science as a whole fills. And so, in a sense, why bother? The essential thing, it seems to me, is to be clear on the necessity of other fields of inquiry other science -- that indeed one cannot live a human life while knowing only what "science" tells us. Indeed, that "science" tells us very little about what we truly love and value.
...[I]f you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused -- as most of the world's people believe -- you won't be able to reach that truth scientifically.To me, this seems no more worrisome than saying "Metaphysics cannot tell you at what rate a canon ball, dropped from a skyscraper, will plummet toward the earth." But if one expects from science (or whatever one wants to call what most scientists call science) a full view of the truth about the world, it becomes a worrisome in the extreme.
Observing methodological naturalism thus hamstrings science by precluding science from reaching what would be an enormously important truth about the world.
UPDATE: If you're curious to read more about Alvin Plantinga's thought in re the evolution question, he has a lengthy paper on the topic here.