Design inference Intelligent Design

At Evolution News: The Positive Case for Intelligent Design (series)

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Although these posts at Evolution News may have been referenced previously, it seems timely to provide reminders of how ID serves as a “fruitful scientific paradigm.”

Science Stopper? Intelligent Design as a Fruitful Scientific Paradigm

When critics claim that research is not permitted to detect design because that would stop science, it is they who hold science back.

Does Intelligent Design Make Predictions or Retrodictions?

Another potential objection to the positive case for intelligent design, outlined in this series, might be that we’re not making positive predictions for design, but rather, looking backwards to make after-the-fact retrodictions. With junk DNA, this is clearly not the case — ID proponents were predicting function years before biologists discovered those functions. The same could be said for the discovery of finely tuned CSI-rich biological sequences, something that design theory inspired scientists like Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger to investigate, and which they indeed have found.1 Winston Ewert’s dependency-graph model promises that ID can bear good fruit as we learn more about the gene sequences of organisms. Indeed, as we’ll see in an upcoming post, ID makes useful predictions that can guide future research in many scientific fields.

Does Darwinian Theory Make the Same Predictions as Intelligent Design?

One potential objection to the positive case for intelligent design, developed in this series, is that Darwinian evolution might make some of the same predictions as ID, making it difficult to tell which theory has better explanatory power. For example, in systematics, ID predicted reuse of parts in different organisms, but neo-Darwinism also predicts different species may share similar traits either due to inheritance from a common ancestor, convergent evolution, or loss of function. Likewise, in genetics, ID predicted functionality for junk DNA, but evolutionists might argue noncoding DNA could evolve useful functions by mutation and selection. If neo-Darwinism makes the same predictions as ID, can we still make a positive argument for design? The answer is yes, and there are multiple responses to these objections.

First, not all the predictions generated by positive arguments for design are also made by Darwinian theory. For example, Michael Behe explains that irreducible complexity is predicted under design but predicted not to exist by Darwinism.

Using the Positive Case for Intelligent Design to Answer Common Objections to ID

ID’s positive arguments are based precisely upon what we have learned from studies of nature about the origin of certain types of information, such as CSI-rich structures. In our experience, high CSI or irreducible complexity derives from a mind. If we did not have these observations, we could not infer intelligent design. We can then go out into nature and empirically test for high CSI or irreducible complexity, and when we find these types of information, we can justifiably infer that an intelligent agent was at work.

Thus, ID is not based upon what we don’t know — an argument from ignorance or gaps in our knowledge — but rather, is based upon what we do know about the origin of information-rich structures, as testified to by the observed information-generative powers of intelligent agents. 

The Positive Case for Intelligent Design in Physics

Observation (from previous studies): Intelligent agents can quickly find extremely rare or highly unlikely solutions to complex problems:

  • “Agents can arrange matter with distant goals in mind. In their use of language, they routinely ‘find’ highly isolated and improbable functional sequences amid vast spaces of combinatorial possibilities.”1
  • “Intelligent agents have foresight. Such agents can determine or select functional goals before they are physically instantiated. They can devise or select material means to accomplish those ends from among an array of possibilities. They can then actualize those goals in accord with a preconceived design plan or set of functional requirements. Rational agents can constrain combinatorial space with distant information-rich outcomes in mind.”2

Hypothesis (prediction): The physical laws and constants of physics will take on rare values that match what is necessary for life to exist (i.e., fine-tuning).

Experiment (data): Multiple physical laws and constants must be finely tuned for the universe to be inhabited by advanced forms of life. These include the strength of gravity (gravitational constant), which must be fine-tuned to 1 part in 1035 (ref. 3); the gravitational force compared to the electromagnetic force, which must be fine-tuned to 1 part in 1040(ref. 4); the expansion rate of the universe, which must be fine-tuned to 1 part in 1055 (ref. 5); the cosmic mass density at Planck time, which must be fine-tuned to 1 part in 1060 (ref. 6); the cosmological constant, which must be fine-tuned to 1 part in 10120 (ref. 7); and the initial entropy of universe, which must be fine-tuned to 1 part in 1010^123 (ref. 8). The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes observed:

Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all.9

Conclusion: The cosmic architecture of the universe was designed.

While the evidence points strongly to design in the five scientific fields we have discussed — biochemistry, paleontology, systematics (the relationships between organisms), genetics, and physics — like all scientific theories, the conclusion of design is always held tentatively, subject to future scientific discoveries. 

Notes

  1. Meyer, “The Cambrian Information Explosion.”
  2. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt, 362-363.
  3. Geraint Lewis and Luke Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 109.
  4. John Leslie, Universes (London, UK: Routledge, 1989), 37, 51.
  5. Alan Guth, “Inflationary Universe: a possible solution to the horizon and flatness problems,” Physical Review D 23 (1981), 347-356; Leslie, Universes, 3, 29. 
  6. Paul Davies, The Accidental Universe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 89; Leslie, Universes, 29. 
  7. Leslie, Universes, 5, 31.
  8. Roger Penrose and Martin Gardner, The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002), 444-445; Leslie, Universes, 28.
  9. Charles Townes as quoted in Bonnie Azab Powell, “‘Explore as much as we can’: Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes on evolution, intelligent design, and the meaning of life,” UC Berkeley NewsCenter (June 17, 2005), https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml (accessed October 26, 2020).

Several other articles that present the positive case for Intelligent Design are available at Evolution News.

8 Replies to “At Evolution News: The Positive Case for Intelligent Design (series)

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    That this Universe could not exist unless the values of certain fundamental physical constants were limited to a very narrow range is conceded.

    That conditions in the vast majority of the observable Universe are unremittingly hostile to life such as ours is also not in question. When we venture beyond the relatively benign environment of our home planet we have to stretch our scientific and technological resources to their limits in order to sustain the lives of the astronauts for a short time out there. Even then we still cannot protect them against the effects of intense solar and cosmic radiation.

    That this Universe was created specifically for the benefit of life-forms such as ours is a self-serving and unwarranted inference.

  2. 2
    chuckdarwin says:

    Per usual, UD cherry picks in service of ID. In the referenced interview with Charles Townes, he makes the following observation:

    Now, that design could include evolution perfectly well. It’s very clear that there is evolution, and it’s important. Evolution is here, and intelligent design is here, and they’re both consistent….
    People who are anti-evolution are working very hard for some excuse to be against it. I think that whole argument is a stupid one. Maybe that’s a bad word to use in public, but it’s just a shame that the argument is coming up that way, because it’s very misleading. (https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml) (emphasis added)

    It’s clear from reading Townes comments in context that he is a theistic evolution proponent. To me, that is anathema to ID, at least as presented on this blog and by the Discovery Institute…….

  3. 3
    relatd says:

    Seversky at 1,

    There is no God. Right….

  4. 4
    relatd says:

    CD at 2,

    I’m agreeing with Chuck? (Write that down.) No one can show how or where the theistic was applied in Theistic Evolution. On the Biology textbook side – no mention of it. On the theology side, yes, there is design in nature.

    Biblical references to Creation by God are accurate. However, the science side prefers purely materialist explanations. No one was around in the beginning except God. I know we have a few fossils of dead animals but we are told that they came into existence by accident, just like human beings.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    Relatd/3

    There is no God. Right….

    We can’t rule out the possibility of a Creator but if this Universe was created it doesn’t look like it was with us in mind …

  6. 6
    relatd says:

    Seversky at 5,

    The glass has a few drops of water in it? You think you can just walk to the nearest star system? Or the moon? Is this another one of your “If I was God I would have done XYZ” posts?

    A few things to keep in mind: You’re not God. You can’t manipulate the universe.

  7. 7
    Red Reader says:

    I love the theory of ID.
    “Agents can arrange matter with distant goals in mind.”
    The evidence of intelligent agency is everywhere around us.
    We immediately recognize machinery, organizations, and information which are created by intelligent agents (people) to accomplish pre-existing objectives of all kinds.
    Even modern art in its desperate effort to suggest no intelligence was employed for its construction is immediately recognizable as purposefully created.

    When we see evidence of inanimate matter (i.e. space/time itself) perfectly arranged to support life , we feel no compulsion to unplug our brains’ ability to recognize design even if the logical conclusion of that observation is that the mind that arranged space/time must necessarily reside outside space/time.
    No “leap of faith” is required for such a conclusion.

  8. 8
    David P says:

    More posts like this please. UD’s political posts are so cringe.

    Seversky at 1
    So this Universe was not created specifically for the benefit of life-forms such as ours
    ….simply because life can exist in some places and not others?

    The fine tuning argument is about fine tuning, not abundant tuning.

    The fact that life doesn’t exist in the vast majority of the universe declares nothing about fine tuning. That life exists or doesn’t at all is the basis for fine tuning.
    If I gave a child a dollar, the fact that I didn’t give that child the vast majority of money in existence isn’t a valid criticism about the specific benefit (or lack thereof) of that one dollar.
    At least your political criticisms are spot on.

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