For, do we not routinely observe — and even scientifically study — signs of intentionally directed configuration, i.e. intelligent, purposeful design (or, art)? So, then — apart from ideological imposition, name-calling [“supernatural,” or even Lewontin’s and Sagan’s “demons”] and other dubious rhetoric — why is such a possibility of detecting signs of design in life or the order of the cosmos so often ruled out ahead of time on matters of scientific study of origins?
Last but not least, is it not the case that intelligently directed configuration is “reproducible,” even routinely so?
It is well worth pausing to read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on “Naturalism,” where we may observe how David Papineau begins:
The effect of that quiet separation of duties and associated redefinition of “the scientific method” — itself a problematic issue (and, Wikipedia on Demarcation is in interesting comparison) — is that our attention is drawn to the imposing authority of Science, and so we too often overlook the associated a priori metaphysical commitment that Lewontin so aptly summarised.
In effect, there is often a before the fact decision that the world must be seen as comprising only matter and energy, spontaneously interacting in space and time, in accord with the (idealised) laws of physics, thence of chemistry and biology. Out of a cosmic egg, the observed universe came to be at the Big Bang’s singularity. From that primordial explosion came hydrogen, thence stars and galaxies. As the bigger first generation stars burned out, heavier elements formed, and second generation stars such as our sun formed in Galactic Habitable Zones with high-water content terrestrial planets. Thence, Darwin’s warm little electrified pond (or a volcanic vent, or a handy comet, or whatever scenario) and voila, poof, life. Thence, presto, us. All, without intelligent direction, never mind the little probabilistic problem of how blind chance and necessity on the gamut of the observed cosmos can plausibly get to the complex, functional organisation and associated code-based information systems that are a hallmark of cell-based life.
After all, we are here.
And, we are “sure” that “the supernatural” could not have had anything to do with it.
“Science” can only study our world by making “natural explanations,” and there “must” be a solution to that problem that does not involve — shudder — intelligence to create codes, algorithms and the information systems that use such. Never mind that the first fact of our experience is that we are intelligent, thinking, deciding, acting creatures, or that we uniformly and routinely observe that the source of such information systems in today’s world is highly knowledgeable, expertly skilled intelligence. (Mere embodiment is not even relevant, just ask your friendly neighbourhood computer engineer.)
Never mind, too, the explosive exponentiation of configuration spaces for even 1,000 bits of information (1.07 * 10^301 possibilities), compared to the resources of an observed world of some 10^80 atoms and 13.7 billion or so years since the Big Bang, changing Planck-time state every 10^-45s or so. Namely: less than 1 in 10^150 of that number. If we have to take it on faith that there “must be” an unobserved quasi-infinite wider multiverse as a whole to make it seem plausible for life to happen and evolve into what we see in the current and fossil worlds by mere chance and necessity, so be it.
The begged worldview-level question is plainly showing.
So also, is the self-referential incoherence that makes such evolutionary materialist scientism self-refuting:
a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.
b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.
c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains.
d: These forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [[“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [[“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].
e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?
f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely error, but delusion. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be an illustration of the unreliability of our reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.
g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.
h: That is, on its own premises [and following Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence.
i: The famous evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:
“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays , Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]
j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt and (v) the “conclusions” we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or logical validity. (The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them.)
k: And, if materialists then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories.
l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.
m: Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, “Billions and billions of demons,” it is now notorious that:
. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
o: More important, to demonstrate that empirical tests provide empirical support to the materialists’ theories would require the use of the very process of reasoning and inference which they have discredited.
p: Thus, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, as we have seen: immediately, that must include “Materialism.”
q: In the end, it is thus quite hard to escape the conclusion that materialism is based on self-defeating, question-begging logic.
r: So, while materialists — just like the rest of us — in practice routinely rely on the credibility of reasoning and despite all the confidence they may project, they at best struggle to warrant such a tacitly accepted credibility of mind relative to the core claims of their worldview. (And, sadly: too often, they tend to pointedly ignore or rhetorically brush aside the issue.)
In short, we have warranted and can freely state our conclusion: naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes.
As a corollary, once we see that, we are free to follow the force of the many reliable signs of intelligently directed configuration that we so often see in our world, and confidently infer — however provisionally — that things which exhibit such signs may do so for the very excellent reason that they are the product of art.
That is, of design.
Even, when we did not design them, and even when we do not otherwise independently and directly know the designers.
Indeed, once the imposition of Lewontinian, a priori materialism is out of the way, we can now see clearly that such signs of intelligently directed configuration count as just that: empirical evidence of design.
And from that soil springs a nascent scientific revolution. The Design Revolution. END
FOOTNOTE: Let me take this occasion to express thanks to the blog owners for again extending an invitation to participate as a contributor. With some reluctance, and on advice, I have agreed to (occasionally) contribute. Thanks to the many commenters here at UD, pro and con, who have helped me clarify my own thought. Let us trust that we will all be able to find a way forward on the vexed question of intelligent design.