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.”
When critics claim that research is not permitted to detect design because that would stop science, it is they who hold science back.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Meyer, “The Cambrian Information Explosion.”
- Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt, 362-363.
- Geraint Lewis and Luke Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 109.
- John Leslie, Universes (London, UK: Routledge, 1989), 37, 51.
- Alan Guth, “Inflationary Universe: a possible solution to the horizon and flatness problems,” Physical Review D 23 (1981), 347-356; Leslie, Universes, 3, 29.
- Paul Davies, The Accidental Universe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 89; Leslie, Universes, 29.
- Leslie, Universes, 5, 31.
- 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.
- 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.