If an unrepeatable, unobservable POOF was the way life came about, how could we scientifically infer it? Researchers of late have essentially resorted to A new mechanism of evolution — POOF. Appeals to POOF are hinted in the hopeful monster hypothesis and the mutationist/neutralist school of evolution and even punctuated equilibrium. And when Koonin appealed to multiverses to answer OOL, imho, the naturalists conceded to a POOF mechanism just like they were forced to concede to a POOF mechanism for the Big Bang.
I listed the absence of seeing the Intelligent Designer and lack of direct observation and direct experiment as good reasons to reject ID. See: Good and bad reasons for rejecting ID.
But on a more basic level, can all truth be deduced by repeatable experiments and observations? To illustrate, if I said a coin on my desk is heads at 10AM EST August 16, 2013, how could you prove 10 years from now except by my testimony? You can’t do so via repeatable experiments or observations.
At a more basic level, the insistence on repeatability and observability might preclude one from access to true, but formally unprovable statements about physical reality. And we’re not even talking about naturalism vs. supernaturalism, but repeatability vs. non-repeatability. So non-repeatable mechanisms do not necessarily have to be supernatural, but if one will not even accept such innocuous non-repeatable mechanisms, how can one accept supernatural explanations or naturalistic ID type mechanisms (if such mechanisms even exist)?
This leads to a philosophical question. When is an unrepeatable mechanism supernatural? In the scientific empirical sense, an unrepeatable event is an unrepeatable event. We might say for an unrepeatable event to qualify as supernatural it has to violate probability or accepted normal operation of the universe, but by that definition, the Big Bang and fine tuning could qualify as supernatural events.
To be fair, there are some schools of ID thought that say the universe has intelligent but non-supernatural mechanisms of ID. Hoyle’s Intelligent Universe, Wheeler’s Participatory Anthropic Principle, Barrow and Tipler’s Omega point theories (Final Anthropic Principle), Shapiro’s bacterial engineering, panspermia are examples of naturalistic ID. Indeed, ID does not need to presuppose supernatural mechanisms, but the problem of non-repeatability still exists.
A fundamental question is whether one can accept events with the following characteristics as valid explanations:
3. improbable based on normal operation of the world
If one can’t, then the how can one accept ID or supernatural creation?
Various physicists, on scientific grounds alone, postulate there is an ultimate MIND (God if wish to call him that) that exists: The Quantum Enigma of Consciousness and the Identity of the Designer. But even supposing God exists, it does not mandate that He is the proximal intelligent designer as I pointed out here: Who are the multiple intelligent designsers, Shapiro offers some compelling answers.
But intelligent agencies have the characteristic of deciding not to behave in repeatable ways. In fact, intelligent creativity is doing something that hasn’t been done before, and possibly not done again. So as a matter of principle, there is no requirement that if ID is the way life came about, that an ID event will be repeatable.
Even supposing there are plausible intelligent designers, the lack of an observable an repeatable designing process might be the way life came to be. If life came about by non-repeatable processes, one would be rejecting the correct explanation based on philosophical insistence on repeatability. As a matter of principle, maybe the most important things in history will never be repeated!
Outside of the question whether ID is science or not, the more basic question is whether it’s true. For me personally, I have to agree somewhat with Dawkins:
Some of the greatest scientists who have ever lived including Newton, who may have been the greatest of all believed in God. But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so overwhelming.
And as the Darwinian explanation has failed to explain the design in life, I personally find it hard to be an atheist. Design is not an illusion, but a reality. Whatever the scientific community wants to do with ID is up to them, but as an individual person pondering the great questions of philosophy, it’s simply too hard for me to insist there is no Intellgent Designer.
I forgot to answer the question I posed, “If POOF was the way it happened, how could you infer it?” Simple: prove the mechanism is not repeatable!