Empiricism and Intelligent Design I: Three Empiricist Challenges

Erkenntnis 78 (3):665-679 (2013)
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Due to the logical relations between theism and intelligent design (id), there are two challenges to theism that also apply to id. In the falsifiability challenge, it is charged that theism is compatible with every observation statement and thus asserts nothing. I argue that the contentious assumptions of this challenge can be avoided without loss of precision by charging theism (and thus id) directly with the lack of observational assertions. In the translatability challenge, it is charged that theism can be translated into a (non-theistic) set of observation statements without loss of cognitive content. I argue that the contentious assumptions of this challenge are avoided by the related charge that the (non-theistic) evolutionary theory makes all the observational assertions of id, while the converse does not hold. Elliott Sober has argued that id meets the falsifiability challenge, but, since it makes almost no observational assertions, is not testable. I point out two problems with Sober’s argument and show that id is both deductively and probabilistically testable. Sober’s argument, I suggest, inconsistently combines the modified falsifiability challenge with the modified translatability challenge. If his claims about id’s observational assertions are true, however, id succumbs to the modified translatability challenge.



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Sebastian Lutz
Uppsala University

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