Intelligent Design

Ludwitt’s questions, my answers

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Ludwitt is writing a paper. I’m answering his questions as if he were a student writing a paper. Let’s say hypothetically his professor hates ID like some of my professors, but were fair and just. I want him to be able to articulate ID clearly in his paper, but I want also for him not to overstate the case of ID as some ID proponents occasionally do. Since my views are not the same as other ID proponents, I invite their differing responses to Ludwitt’s questions. Here are his comments and questions from the Russel Crowe thread:

Please note that I am writing a paper with the speculative hypothesis that ID is a valid scientific position. I do not know much about ID. I have started off reading, “Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics”, Edited by Robert Pennock. But I need more from the horses mouth so to speak.

and

I do not understand something. The intelligence designs but does not create. Or the intelligence designs and creates from those designs. If the intelligence designs and creates then intelligent design is a form of creationism. If the intelligence does not create then what is the causal chain from design to creation

and

Scordova,

Thank you for your responce.

You say, “I’m an ID proponent, but I don’t argue all of ID is science. Meyer echoes my views on the matter.”

Can you answer a few questions quickly?

What is the relation between design and creation?

What ID is science?

Could you provide me with a paper that has ID as a hypothesis. One that perhaps refutes Darwinian theory and another that goes beyond refuting Darwin to claim the testing of and confirmation of an ID hypothesis.

What ID is not science? And if not what is ID, Philosophy

What is Design, Intelligent Design, and Creation (creationism)?

There are several definitions of each, and that is no small problem! If you are writing a paper you’ll have to point out all the definitions through history, and then choose the definition you’d like to work from. But here I’ll provide what I think would be the definitions I would work from if writing a paper.

DESIGN

Straight out of Wiki and engineering notions of design:

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams and sewing patterns).[1] Design has different connotations in different fields (see design disciplines below). In some cases the direct construction of an object (as in pottery, engineering, management, cowboy coding and graphic design) is also considered to be design.

More formally design has been defined as follows.
(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;(verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)[2]
Another definition for design is a roadmap or a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation. It defines the specifications, plans, parameters, costs, activities, processes and how and what to do within legal, political, social, environmental, safety and economic constraints in achieving that objective.[3]

Here, a “specification” can be manifested as either a plan or a finished product, and “primitives” are the elements from which the design object is composed.

That should be non-controversial! The claim of intelligent design is that features of life and the universe appear to satisfy that definition of design. They appear to satisfy the patterns and specifications of an engineering design. For example, life appears to satisfy the specifications of a complex computerized copying machine. Life is more than a copying machine, but it has properties that are so analogous to human made machines that we borrow verbatim engineering terms to describe the systems that compose life. There is an old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a pair of gears found inside an insect. The photo probably gets the point across more than anything I can say, if you know what I mean. You ought to include it in your paper, imho. 🙂

insect gear

and this photo of the bacterial flagellum from wiki:

flagellum

It would be helpful to note the many engineering sounding descriptions of the flagellums parts. It is almost impossible to describe such biological systems in the scientific literature without using the word “design” or “function”. The word “function” implies purpose, and if something serves a purpose, it suggests it was designed to serve a purpose.

You might even point out the standford encyclopedia says as much!
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleology-biology/

Teleological terms such as “function” and “design” appear frequently in the biological sciences. Examples of teleological claims include:
•A (biological) function of stotting by antelopes is to communicate to predators that they have been detected.
•Eagles’ wings are (naturally) designed for soaring.

It becomes then difficult when looking at biology not think the following: “This organism has features that look like a design, therefore the organism must have an intelligent designer who made it”. Thus we have this typical definition of the claim of ID:

Intelligent design is the claim that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause.

but be careful, there are several other definitions out there! Mention them in your paper, but the above is one I’d work from. It would be good to point out Darwin used the phrase “intelligent design”. Paley and even Cicero made design arguments, similar to the one I just laid out. In sum, biology resembles designs familiar to humans (except they are often more sophisticated), and almost as far back as the Ancient Greeks, designs in biology suggested there is an intelligent designer. It is that simple.

CREATION or CREAIONISM
Again there are many definitions. Here I would be careful to use actually a couple of definitions. The notion of “special creation” was actually what Darwin wrote his Origin of Species to criticize, and Darwin uses the phrase “special creations”. “Special creation” was the notion that the Creator made (presumably in a miraculous way) all the ancestors of the creatures we see today very close to the way they are today as opposed to being evolved from one ancestor. That’s probably a good definition.

But be careful, because people calling themselves creationists (like myself) will say that belief in creation is belief in the book of Genesis in the Bible. It might not hurt to point out the two definitions, but the hypothesis of “special creation” was specifically criticized by Charles Darwin.

Intelligent Design does not preclude the hypothetical possibility that everything evolved from a common ancestor, so in that respect ID is not a creationist theory formally speaking, but there is no escaping the fact creationist love ID because it suggests a creator! You can see this from the Creation Research Quarterly’s description of its journal:

◦Emphasis on scientific evidence supporting: intelligent design, a recent creation, and a catastrophic worldwide flood”

So the relation of ID to creation is that ID supports the hypothesis of creation because it suggests there is a Designer or Creator. But ID does not specifically say there is no process of common descent, and creationists despise the notion of common descent. ID proponent Michael Behe, for example, strictly speaking is not a creationist since he accepts common descent. There are a few ID proponents who accept common descent….

So if there is “Intelligent Design Creationism” there is also “Intelligent Design Evolutionism”. It is not fair to say ID is “Intelligent Design Creationism” it is not because there is arguably “Intelligent Design Evolutionism” even though “Intelligent Design Evolutionism” is a distinct minority in ID’s big tent.

Could you provide me with a paper that has ID as a hypothesis. One that perhaps refutes Darwinian theory and another that goes beyond refuting Darwin to claim the testing of and confirmation of an ID hypothesis.

It would be fair to say I could probably give you a stack of books and papers that will reach the ceiling as far as refuting Darwinian theory. As far as testing and confirming the ID hypothesis, I will have to part company with most of my ID colleagues and say, the most important observation that would confirm ID is inaccessible to us, namely seeing the Intelligent Designer in action. We can witness the mechanism of reaction of the synthesis of chemical compounds in the lab, we can even see car manufacturers create cars, but we cannot have the same level of confirmation watching the Intelligent Designer make life.

Further we can’t even define what intelligence is whereas we can define the mechanisms of quantum mechanics that govern chemistry. That’s why, even as a card carrying ID proponent, I wouldn’t say, “ID is science”. Other ID proponents will insist ID is science, I won’t. They’ll give me flak for saying that, but I couldn’t in good conscience tell a student “ID is science”. In fact, I’ve told students, “it’s a pointless question any way, so why go there?”

Now what is scientific in the search for ID is their critique of the Origin of Life and Darwinian evolution. That would fill a stack books to the ceiling. If you want to see some examples here at UD just for starters:

Relevance of coin analogies to homochirality and symbolic organization

Rupe and Sanford

Death of the Fittest

What ID is not science? And if not what is ID, Philosophy

The question is not whether ID is science or philosophy, the question is whether it is true. If the central claim of ID is true (that life was the product of Intelligent Design), the question of whether it is science, philosophy, or theology is rather unimportant in the scheme of things, wouldn’t you say. 😉

NOTES

1. photo credits:

Wiki, Popular Mechanics

14 Replies to “Ludwitt’s questions, my answers

  1. 1
    scordova says:

    Ludwitt,

    Refuting Darwinism is not an easy task in the space of small paper. Doing a good job of it means dealing with some tough scientific details.

    If you tell me why you are writing the paper and also what interest you have in ID, I might be able to give you resources best suited to your interest and knowledge level. Well-argued literature on the topic is not an easy read, but if you want some simple ones here are some that I wrote:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nism-dffm/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ts-except/

    here are more technically challenging discussions:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-be-false/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....edundancy/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....tion-poof/

  2. 2
    JGuy says:

    My 2 cent.

    ID is explicitly attributing intelligent activity to be the origin of the design of at least certain features found in the universe. And from this, as I see it, there is no escape that that intelligence ultimately has to be the one manipulating matter at some stage after the design to manifest the design in material reality. So, I’d say the intelligence invoked by any ID theory has to imply some hand (so to speak) of the intelligent agent in the actual creative process. Otherwise, the design wold be useless or impotent and never manifested.

    I believe personally in the special creative act of the God of the bible. By the way, special creation is creation from nothing, not simply manipulation of pre-existing matter. But that doesn’t mean ID is a claim of special creation. Afterall, ID can be applied to archaeological finds that imply past intelligent human activity. Or there might be some that think yet to be discovered aliens created life – not that that is a well reasoned position – but it is a possible position generally consistent with ID.

  3. 3
    JGuy says:

    slight correction: “But that doesn’t mean ID is a claim of special creation.”

    might read better as: “But that doesn’t mean ID is claiming special creation.”

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    Ludwitt,

    There are non-creationist non-God forms of ID or ID-sympathetic theories. They are not well-known:

    1. Panspermia Theory (Crick and Hoyle, etc.)
    2. Intelligent Universe (Fred Hoyle)
    3. Final Anthropic Principle (well hard to say if it non-theistic, but it can be billed that way)
    4. CTMU (cognitive theoretic model of the universe)
    5. Participatory Anthropic Principle
    6. self-engineered evolution (James Shapiro, but Shapiro does not classify himself as an IDist, but his theory wreaks of ID)

    There are other forms of evolutionary theory that are non-Darwinian:

    1. mutationism
    2. neutral evolution

    there are probably more.

  5. 5
    RexTugwell says:

    I’m halfway through Michael Denton’s book Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe. I picked it up on Amazon for 50 cents (plus p&h) and will never look at water the same way again.

  6. 6

    Sal:

    As far as testing and confirming the ID hypothesis, I will have to part company with most of my ID colleagues and say, the most important observation that would confirm ID is inaccessible to us, namely seeing the Intelligent Designer in action.

    I don’t think any thoughtful ID proponent would disagree with you here. It is well acknowledged that the design inference is precisely that — an inference. It is not a contemporaneous observation, because we are dealing with things that happened in the past, sometimes the very remote past.

    However, the same exact situation applies to evolutionary theory. No-one was around when the alleged evolutionary developments took place. No-one has ever seen one take place. They took place in the past, sometimes the very remote past.

    Both Darwinism and Design are in the exact same situation in terms of trying to look at the evidence and infer the best explanation for events in deep time. Both are historical sciences.

    Thus, if we reject ID as science (at least because no-one was around to witness the designer in action), then we also must, as a matter of logic, reject Darwinism as science.

    Furthermore, if anyone were around to witness the designer in action, then there would be no need to draw an inference, either for design or against design. It would be a simple question of historical fact. Thus, it would be historical record, not one of science. It wouldn’t make any more sense to call it “science” than it would be to say that the existence of Julius Caesar is “science.” It’s history.

    Ironically, then, the whole reason we need a ‘scientific’ investigation to determine the source of life and its development on Earth is precisely because we don’t have independent, contemporaneous observational evidence.

    Finally, if we reject ID as science because we can’t define the word “intelligence” to the satisfaction of all parties, then I hope you are also willing to reject as “science” psychology and other areas that deal with cognitive capabilities (many of which are incompletely defined), efforts in artificial intelligence research, and so on.

    I agree with you that the question of what is “science” is rather esoteric and perhaps not of ultimate importance. But that ID is science just as much as a whole host of other disciplines and areas of study that are widely considered “science” is pretty tough to ignore. So rather than saying “ID isn’t science, but that isn’t the most important point,” why not take the more rational view: “ID is science, but that isn’t the most important point.”

    My perception is that your labeling of ID as “not science” has less to do with the substance of ID and more to do with your debating rhetoric.

  7. 7
    Optimus says:

    I’d advise Ludwitt to carefully read some primary sources (book length) from ID proponents. In my opinion, the most fundamental read would be Signature In The Cell. Its clarity and deliberateness in presenting the logical structure of ID arguments is peerless. Darwin’s Black Box should also be on the list. Mike Behe is a terrific writer, and his book impresses on readers the deep connection between ID theory and scientific progress in elucidating biomolecular structures. Wells’ Icon’s of Evolution is useful, not for describing the positive case for ID, but for drawing attention to the logical and evidential shortcomings of Darwinian theory. And for an anthology Darwinism, Design, and Public Education is a great resource that includes both sides of the debate.

  8. 8
    Optimus says:

    @ Sal

    You say, “I’m an ID proponent, but I don’t argue all of ID is science. Meyer echoes my views on the matter.”

    What part of ID do you consider to be unscientific? I’ve seen you write things to this effect on at least a few occasions, but I’m still at a loss as to what specifically about ID fails to qualify as scientific. My reading of Meyer is that ID and Darwinism stand or fall together where demarcation arguments are concerned.

    For Ludwitt

    Can you answer a few questions quickly?

    What is the relation between design and creation?

    What ID is science?

    Could you provide me with a paper that has ID as a hypothesis. One that perhaps refutes Darwinian theory and another that goes beyond refuting Darwin to claim the testing of and confirmation of an ID hypothesis.

    What ID is not science? And if not what is ID, Philosophy

    I take it that Creationism is intended by “creation.” Creationism, broadly speaking, starts with Scripture and is principally concerned with understanding the data of the natural world in a Biblical context. It could be said that “design” is assumed as a starting point in Creationism, as Scripture explicitly credits God with creating both the larger cosmos and life itself. In popular usage Creationism is typically associated with a nonstandard chronology for the earth (often on the order of 10,000 years or so), however there is considerable difference of opinion among creationists concerning the age of the earth (and universe). Old Earth Creationists are happy to work with the widely accepted ages of the earth (4.5 billion years) and the universe (some 13.7 billion years).

    In contrast, ID has its starting point in empirical data and does not utilize Scripture in the structure of its arguments. For ID design is the conclusion, the endpoint of data and inference, not the starting point. A point that Meyer frequently emphasizes is the uniformitarian nature of ID reasoning, which stands in contrast to at least some forms of Creationism. ID is not necessarily opposed to evolution (in the grand ‘molecules to man’ sense of the term), but many ID proponents (myself included) do express skepticism about the explanatory power of Darwinian theory – particularly its paltry evidential basis.

    I personally think that book length works are a much better place to develop ID (or really any interesting idea). The book by Meyer that I listed previously has a section listing several specific predictions of ID. Refuting Darwinian theory is frankly difficult if not impossible to do. I say this not because I feel that Darwinism is well-grounded (it manifestly is not!), but because proving a negative is quite difficult. Having said that, Wells’ book does an excellent job of highlighting many of the glaring shortcomings of Darwinian reasoning, and Meyer’s new book Darwin’s Doubt elucidates the conflict between Darwinian expectation and fossil data from the Cambrian.

  9. 9
    scordova says:

    What part of ID do you consider to be unscientific?

    “Unscientific” carries a highly negative connotation of something being untrue. I would not use that to describe ID either, because ID relies heavily on science. ID would probably not exist if there were no such thing as science.

    I would say ID is an inference using science.

    Science to me means repeatable experiments and observations and measurements much like what we experience in the laboratory.

    We can’t however demonstrate the evolution or creation of life in the lab, at least not the way it first happened.

    The lack of repeatability is why I’m reluctant to call ID science, but neither will I call ID unscientific.

    Frankly, if an ID proponent wants to call ID science, I’m not going to argue with him too vigorously. The question strikes me as pointless. It’s more important whether ID is true or not, however one wants to classify ID.

  10. 10
    Querius says:

    Ludwitt,

    My perspective is that the presumption of intelligent design is a pragmatic scientific paradigm that promotes scientific progress better and faster than the current naturalistic paradigm. For example, with the ID paradigm, we don’t presume that organs with an unknown function are vestigial, or that non-coding DNA is “junk.”

    Whether there is an actual intelligence behind everything, and what purposes that intelligence has in mind are pretty much beyond the reach of the scientific method. Conversely, Materialism cannot use the scientific method to exclude God. For example, chaotic perturbations (a butterfly in Tokyo can cause storms in Chicago) are entirely sufficient to hide specific actions by God.

    Having said that, I find that as a Christian, my interest and joy in discovery is heightened by my faith, not diminished. I’m also aware of “ideological contamination” which makes me skeptical of claims such as Noah’s ark being discovered or the missing link being discovered once again.

    Incidentally, as far as I know, the first record of a scientific experiment is in chapter 1 of the book of Daniel in the Bible. It involves

    – A hypothesis
    – A set period of time
    – More than one subject
    – A control group
    – A change in a single variable
    – Observational analysis

    It’s not perfect, but pretty good for being written about 2,500 years ago.

    Best wishes on your paper!

    -Q

  11. 11
    Optimus says:

    @ Querius

    Incidentally, as far as I know, the first record of a scientific experiment is in chapter 1 of the book of Daniel in the Bible. It involves

    – A hypothesis
    – A set period of time
    – More than one subject
    – A control group
    – A change in a single variable
    – Observational analysis

    It’s not perfect, but pretty good for being written about 2,500 years ago.

    You make a good point. I’ve never thought of that account in that way.

  12. 12

    Optimis @8:

    My reading of Meyer is that ID and Darwinism stand or fall together where demarcation arguments are concerned.

    Exactly. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to say that ID (or Darwinism) isn’t science.

    —-

    And good recommendations about the reading list. Ludwitt isn’t going to get very far in understanding ID if he doesn’t read the primary sources.

  13. 13

    Sal @9:

    Thanks for the response. If I may, that is a rather limited view of “science,” limiting it to reproducible bench science. Although that is an important and perhaps strong area of science (and one that Philip Johnson contrasted against Darwinism), such a definition would leave many disciplines on the sidelines.

    So if you are going to say that ID is not science, then you need to in the same breath clarify that you are using a very narrow definition that would exclude many other disciplines that are traditionally viewed as science.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense, and be a whole lot easier, and avoid a lot of confusion, and cause the rest of us a lot less heartburn if, when asked, you simply respond that ID is science just as much as Darwinism is? 🙂

  14. 14
    scordova says:

    you simply respond that ID is science just as much as Darwinism is? 🙂

    Good answer!

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