Does ID Rest on Metaphysical Claims About Dualism?
|December 15, 2015||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
RDFish seems to think so. I summarize his argument as follows:
- The ID explanatory filter works as follows:
(a) The explanatory filter first asks whether the phenomenon is contingent. If it is not, then it is probably best explained as the result of a natural regularity.
(b) If the phenomenon is contingent, the filter asks whether it is complex and specified. If it is neither complex nor specified, then chance is the most viable explanation. While there may be false negatives, there can be no reliable design inference.
(c) But if the phenomenon is contingent, complex and specified, then an abductive inference to design is warranted.
- Therefore, under the explanatory filter design is inferred only after law and chance have been eliminated.
- If physicalist monism is true, everything must be reducible to the operation of law and chance.
- Therefore, if physicalist monism is true, the residual after the elimination of law and chance is always an empty set.
- It follows that the ID explanatory filter sneaks in a base assumption of dualism.
- Dualism is a metaphysical proposition that cannot be tested empirically. It follows that ID is based on metaphysical premises that cannot be tested empirically. And because one of its key assumptions cannot be tested empirically, ID cannot be considered a valid scientific hypothesis.
RDFish’s claim is wrong, and I will refute it with a simple thought experiment.
- Let us assume for the sake of argument that physicalist monism is true.
- Let us suppose that all life on earth dies out.
- A million years from now an alien is exploring this barren planet and he finds Mount Rushmore and decides to apply the explanatory filter to it.
- The alien concludes that the carving is highly contingent. It cannot be attributed to any law-like natural regularity.
- The alien concludes the carving is specified. It is an image of four members of the former inhabitants of this barren planet.
- The alien concludes that the carving is highly complex/improbable, i.e., one would not expect the images to be carved by chance processes (e.g., erosion caused by wind and rain).
- Therefore, the alien concludes, correctly, that the best explanation for the carving is an intelligent agent carved it.
- The alien’s design inference would be correct even if physicalist monism is true, because the plain fact of the matter is that Mount Rushmore was caused by an intelligent agent, i.e., an agent with the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose.
Not so fast, RDFish will probably argue. If physicalist monism is true, then the intelligent agents who carved Mount Rushmore where themselves the result of law/chance and acting according to law/chance. Therefore, the conclusion that Mount Rushmore was not ultimately the result of law/chance would be false.
But RDFish would be wrong. Design exists as a category of causation. To suggest otherwise is absurd and self-defeating. Not only does design exist, designers leave objective markers of design. Therefore, if RDFish is going to stick to his guns and say that design cannot be detected, he is stuck with this syllogism:
- If monist physicalism is true, it is impossible objectively to infer design.
- But it is possible objectively to infer design.
- Therefore, monist physicalism is false.
How can physicalist monism be reconciled with the obvious existence of design as a category of causation? The following reasoning would apply:
- Design, meaning the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose, exists as a category of causation.
- The capacity to arrange matter for a purpose can be reduced to any force that is able to arrange matter in the present such that it will have an effect in the future.
- There are at least two candidates for causal forces that have the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose. (a) intelligent agents who have immaterial mental capacity; (b) an impersonal non-conscious yet-to-be-discovered natural telic force.
- The monist rejects the existence of intelligent agents with immaterial mental capacities, because the existence of such agents obviously entails dualism.
- Instead, the monist can resort to the natural telic force.
- If such a natural telic force exists, the existence of design as a category of causation is no obstacle to accepting the truth of monist physicalism.
This get us to:
- If monist physicalism is true and a natural telic force exists, it is nevertheless possible objectively to infer design.
- Therefore, design may be inferred under monist physicalism using the explanatory filter.
- Therefore, ID does not depend on dualist metaphysical assumptions.
In summary, ID does not depend on dualism. As Dembski has observed, ID is compatible with a natural telic force.
The problem the monist has, of course, is that in order to account for the obvious existence of design, he can no longer say everything in the universe is reducible to law/chance. He has to say everything in the universe is reducible to law/chance/not-yet-discovered natural telic force. ID is OK with allowing such a natural telic force as a candidate for the source of design (and therefore does not depend on dualism). Obviously, however, based on observations of known intelligent agents, ID is also perfectly comfortable with dualism.