Critics of intelligent design theory often throw this question out thinking to highlight a weakness in ID. Richards shows that the theoryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inability to identify the designer is not a weakness, but a strength. ID does not identify the designer is because ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence.
PvM begins his response with this:
This is yet another example of why ID is scientifically vacuous. Indeed, if the designer could be established by empirical evidence, it would immediately eliminate the Ã¢â‚¬ËœIntelligent DesignerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ as proposed by ID, namely a supernatural designer called Ã¢â‚¬ËœGodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. In fact, in order to establish a Ã¢â‚¬ËœdesignerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and in fact Ã¢â‚¬ËœdesignÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ science inevitably uses such concepts as means, motives, opportunity, capability and so on. In addition, science uses eye witness accounts, physical evidence and more to support its thesis.
Neither Pim nor any other ID critic I have encountered has ever given an adequate explanation of just what evidence for a designer would look like, or if they have, I have yet to see it. The best they seem to be able to do is refer to instances of design produced by humans and say that we understand the “means, motives, opportunity, capability and so on” of such beings the way Pim does. The problems with this approach, however, are severe and intractable, and it continues to baffle me how any intelligent person who devotes much thought to this position could continue to hold it.
Consider first that what ID proponents are trying to do is determine if design is a better explanation for an individual phenomenon under investigation than nondesign processes–these processes being, simply put, chance and necessity–identified as being not designed on epistemic rather than ontological grounds for the simple reason that “goddidit” is not a scientific explanation. It seems obvious that one cannot “see” designers or directly perceive via the external senses some intrinsic property of being designed any more than one can “see” the experiential substance of thought in another person’s head. In order for there to exist design, there must necessarily exist an intentional representation of the pattern to be designed in the designer’s mind, and intentional representations aren’t the sort of things that be experienced or “observed” from a third-person perspective and through the external senses. Physical bodies and events are worthless to a design inference because intentionality is to be found nowhere in the senseless movements, collisions, and interactions of spatiotemporal material bodies.
Human design is the wrong starting point for a design comparison. To say, for example, “observed biological phenomenon C appears designed because it looks like instances of known human design” is flawed because it presumes that instances of human design can be known. Human bodies can be directly observed. Events can be seen to occur such that a given event C would not have occured had event A involving a physical body B (All human bodies and their parts are physical bodies.) not occurred. We could say that the Sistine Chapel paintings would not have occurred without Michelangelo’s physical body and its various movements, but we can also say that a billiard ball would not have moved if another ball had not collided with it. Physical descriptions of cause and effect may be necessary to explain a given observed phenomenon, but for design inferences, they are not sufficient. When people have seizures, do their bodies not make movements which are not designed? If so, then we have cases of physical human bodies moving without the control of an agent. Isn’t it then possible that people might have seizures which could pass as designed or even be outright zombies? How could we tell?
He goes on to write this:
ID faces a real problem: Either it insists that it cannot determine much of anything about the Designer which makes the ID inference inherently unreliable and thus useless (Dembski) or it attempts to become scientifically relevant but then it can at best conclude Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwe donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t knowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
ID theorists don’t postulate a designer for their arguments. Any talk of “the designer” they do is based upon an ontological status of design which is assumed due to a (supposedly) valid design inference. That talk of “the designer” can be misleading and confusing is why I, personally, don’t like to use the term–at least not without making clear the context in which I use it. As I explained above, you don’t go about searching for design by looking for designers; you infer its presence from the explanatory inadequecy of epistemic nondesign processes (chance and necessity). This is the heuristic procedure for design inferences at all levels–animal, human, ET, God, or whatever. If naturalistic nondesign explanations are the only type allowed at the biological and cosmological levels, then why not impose the same restriction on scientific explanations at the human level? Are the drivers of the automobiles I pass on the road conscious agents who plan and execute the events necessary to control their vehicles? Might the doctor who is to perform your next surgical procedure have no conscious experience at all–his actions being caused by senseless physical cause and effect? Are what I take to be the letters, symbols, and spaces of PvM’s post actual conveyors of semantic content, or did he just have a seizure at his computer? I guess we just don’t know.