In the comment thread to a recent post we were discussing the following biological design inference Dr. Moran had made:
Craig Venter and his colleagues constructed a synthetic genome and inserted it into a cell. The DNA determined the structure and properties of the organism that grew and after many subsequent generations we have a new species that behaves exactly like it was supposed to based on the genes that the scientists built.
Now Dr. Moran, suppose that new species escaped the lab and was captured by a researcher who had no idea about Venter’s work. Suppose further that researcher concluded that the genome of the creature had been intelligently designed. Would that researcher’s design inference be the true and best explanation of the creature’s genome’s provenance?
The answer is “yes,” the researcher correctly observed that the genome of the synthetic organism is nothing like the genomes of real species. It lacks pseudogenes, transposons, and any trace of junk DNA and the sequence of its genes and regulatory regions is far too perfect to have evolved naturally.
Long time ID critic REC joined the discussion. REC agreed that Dr. Moran’s design inference was valid. I decided to take this opportunity to ask REC how he would respond to many of the typical objections to biological design inferences, and I asked him this series of questions:
Suppose someone pushed back at you and said, “REC, your design inference is a scientific show stopper. You have committed the designer-of-the-gaps fallacy. All scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism, and you violate the principle of methodological naturalism when you make a design inference in biology. Besides all that, it all just a cop out unless you can tell me who designed the designer.” What would you say?
REC responded that the objections could be valid against certain design inferences, but for reasons he did not explain they were “obviously invalid” against his design inference (which he had made based on the scenario provided by Dr. Moran).
I thought this was more than a little hypocritical and thought that he would back off this line if I pointed the hypocrisy out to him, so I provided a summary of his argument that I thought would have made the hypocrisy obvious:
Translation: I accept the indicia of design that I accept and I reject those I reject, for my own idiosyncratic reasons. Therefore, the objections are invalid with respect to my design inference, because my design inference is a good one, and yours is not. Does that pretty much capture it REC?
I was wrong when I assumed REC would walk back his hypocrisy when it was pointed out to him. Instead, he doubled down:
“Therefore, the objections are invalid with respect to my design inference, because my design inference is a good one, and yours is not.”
Correct, except that you haven’t even stated your design inference in this thread. I do feel my statements regarding the human-designed synthetic genome are valid and well evidenced. I don’t think any ID inference comes even close.
Shouldn’t we evaluate design inferences based on their validity and the evidence supporting them? Isn’t it illogical and absurd to say ALL design inferences are valid because ONE design inference is?
Let’s explore what is going on here. First, we have made significant progress. Notice what Dr. Moran did:
- He identified certain indicia of design in the genome of an organism.
- He stated that when these indicia of design are present, “design” is the best explanation of the provenance of the features of the genome under consideration.
- He went one step further and excluded natural causes as a likely cause.
This is the general approach to biological design detection advocated by ID proponents for the last two decades. In other words, Dr. Moran admitted that the general approach and methodology of biological design detection advocated by proponents of ID theory is valid.
THIS IS HUGE!
Professor of biochemistry Dr. Laurence A. Moran is an arch-atheist, materialist, super-advocate of modern evolutionary theory and one of the most prominent critics of design theory on the planet. If even he agrees that the general methodology advocated by ID proponents can lead to a valid design inference, the matter seems to be settled.
We have come to the point where even our most vociferous critics agree that ID proponents’ general methodology is valid. The dispute is no longer whether ID theory generally is valid; the only dispute is whether particular design inferences are valid.
Which brings us to REC. The point of the “typical objections” I brought to REC’s attention is that if they are valid with respect to any design inference, they are just as valid against his particular design inference.
For example, consider this typical objection: “All scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism, and you violate the principle of methodological naturalism when you make a design inference in biology.”
If that objection is valid (it is not, but set that aside for now), it is just as valid against REC’s and Dr. Moran’s design inferences as it is against any other design inference.
The point sailed right over REC’s head. He responded that the objections were not valid as to his design inference, because his design inference (opposed to ID’s design inferences) was “valid and well evidenced.”
But that is exactly what ID proponents have been saying for decades REC! We have been saying all along that the various “typical objections” are invalid if the evidence leads to a design inference.
REC, the only difference between you and us is that you are persuaded by the evidence in a particular case and not in our case. But you are missing the point. If what is important is the EVIDENCE, then th “typical objections” lose all force all the time.
In other words, the objection “all scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism” is invalid in principle, not in application, if it is even possible to make a valid design inference based on the EVIDENCE.
You agree with us that it is the EVIDENCE that is important, and objections thrown up for the purpose of ruling that evidence out of court before it is even considered are invalid.
REC, welcome to the design movement.