Science is all analogies

It has sometimes been objected that science deals not in analogies but in concrete real, cause-effect inferences. In contrast, Intelligent Design problematically argues by analogy (I.e., the designers mind is analogous to human minds).

I contend that all or nearly all science is by analogy and ID can embrace it’s analogical baggage or else force a dilemma that your anti-ID folks probably don’t want.

In ID a designer is inferred on the basis of (1) seeming/apparent design in nature plus (2) the idea of how human minds are known to design things. If DNA, the goldilocks zone, flagellum or immune systems seem designed (because of their seemingly irreducible complexity, specified complexity, or fine tuning) then one infers that there exists a mind partly like and partly unlike human minds. It’s like human minds in its ability to foresee, intend and generate designed objects. It’s unlike human minds in its level and manner of design and in operating where no known human mind would have been operating. The designer, then, is analogous to human designers for being like but not identical to any or all human minds.

Science operates the same way inferring inductive generalizations on the basis of repeatable tests. The conclusions drawn from this method assume that this rhesus monkey, though different from that rhesus monkey, is still similar enough to draw an inferences by analogy. If this rhesus monkey, or these 1000 rhesus monkeys, respond positively to the treatment then rhesus monkeys generally respond positively to the treatment. This is valid normal science. After controlling for all the variables a cautious inference can be made about the animal tests regarding Drug X. That is literally an analogical inference.

Here’s the thing though; all science does this except in cases where there is only one member to the sample. Science can test to see if the last living Dodo bird can swim, and make conclusions on that basis. But the moment they generalize regarding the swimming habits of all (now deceased) dodo birds they commence with analogical argumentation.

Note. This is not simply a case of illustrating ones argument by use of analogy. That is called, unfortunately, an argument by analogy. These should not be confused. Almost all science draws inferences by way of analogy and needs analogical relations if it is to generalize any of its conclusions across different times, different places, different contexts, or different members of a set. But science does not need analogical illustrations except for heuristic (teaching/explaining) purposes or theoretical abstractions. The issue at stake here, and the case I’m making, can be called analogical inference since the analogy regards the things themselves not just illustrations of those things.

Now there is a way to keep from admitting such dependence on analogy in the sciences, but many materialists and some immaterialists won’t like it. The answer is to reject the more popular nominalism and embrace good old fashioned platonism. This is variously called formalism and realism and has many different kinds but all its variations affirm that there exist real immaterial forms/universals/essences/natures which are, at least in part, identically shared between all members of a set. Every man has a real human nature shared by every other human. Every monkey has a real form of “monkey” shared identically with every other monkey.

Now platonism can get pretty complex and no effort is made here to elaborate and defend it. It does however offer an escape hatch for any science minded person who scorns affiliating science with analogical inference.


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