Philosopher offers a new concept for “reconciling evolution and intelligent design”
|February 10, 2012||Posted by News under Intelligent Design, News, Philosophy|
A philosopher, Nicholas Rescher, has written Productive Evolution: On Reconciling Evolution with Intelligent Design, (Ontos, 2011). Bruce Weber reviews it for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.,
In the seventh chapter Rescher addresses the implications of the argument he has been developing for the contrasting explanations of evolution and intelligent design in which evolution is conceived as an instrumentality of intelligent design. However, “Intelligent design is not the moving cause of evolutionary development but rather its consequence.” (p. 75) Here Rescher draws the key distinction between being intelligently designed and being designed by intelligence, the difference between having the appearance (“as if”) of intelligent design and being the artifact of an intelligent designer. Rescher’s claim is that to view natural processes as rational is not to personify nature but rather to naturalize intelligence. Nature must be regular enough that living beings can detect regularities in their environments and thus have a selective value for intelligence. This implies a central role for information and for learning, a role, which Rescher notes, was suggested by James Mark Baldwin.
Intelligent Design Theory, in contrast, assumes an intelligent agent of some sort, perhaps a deity, because it assumes that natural selection cannot produce intelligent agents. “Being intelligently designed no more requires an intelligent designer than being designed awkwardly requires an awkward one. Being intelligently designed is a descriptive feature of the product, not a claim about the producer in the mode of production” (pp. 84-5). Rescher admits that his position reflects an updated neo-Platonism though he contends that this position still has potential relevance. But he contends that his emphasis on emergence is not reductive because although the emergence of novelty may arise from lower-level interactions, the new phenomena are not explained by the lower-level but rather by the function of the higher level. “The sort of evolution at issue is emergentist. It brings into existence new forms of being which carry emergently new modes of process in their wake.” (p. 88)
Some of this is downright puzzling to a layperson, for example, from Rescher:
“Being intelligently designed no more requires an intelligent designer than being designed awkwardly requires an awkward one. Being intelligently designed is a descriptive feature of the product, not a claim about the producer in the mode of production” (pp. 84-5).
But the two attributes, “intelligent” and “awkward,” are not similar in character: Only an intelligent designer could be awkward. We don’t think of a glacier scattering rocks as “awkward.”
Also, the second sentence does not seem to follow from the first. “Intelligently designed” means – at minimum – that a product’s form or attributes require a level of information that we only experience as an outcome of intelligence. So intelligence is the only quality we can attribute to the designer as a direct result of studying the product.
Consider the recently publicized. Neanderthal cave paintings of seals: It’s not the quality of the art that made them an “academic bombshell” but the demonstration of an intelligence that many scholars did not credit the Neanderthals with.
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