Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 3: Signs of Intelligence

My wife and I are five year members of the Creation Museum, and every couple of months we go over there to spend a Sunday afternoon. Usually we start our journey through the museum together, but almost invariably we get separated by my slow, plodding pace – it usually takes me two or three trips to go through the entire place (I invariably meet up with Mandy in the bookstore). Yesterday was a little different, however, because they have added an enhanced audio tour, with Ken Ham pointing out details I had never noticed before, and delightedly I took my first summary tour (viewing the entire museum as a whole) in one trip. One of the center rooms of the Museum, before entering the garden of Eden, is a circular chamber with videos discussing the evidence for design – and then we move through a presentation of young earth Creationism’s view of how we got to our present state.

I ended my last article by noting that Intelligent design was not an argument against, evolution, it was an argument for the existence of God. Actually, what we today call intelligent design was more commonly known as the “teleological argument for God,” and goes back at least to Plato, who argued from the motion of the planets that there must be a designer.

The name most often associated, however, with the teleological argument for God is William Paley, who raised his famous watchmaker argument – if he had never seen a watch, and discovered one while walking in a field, even if it were broken it would be obvious that someone had designed it. Paley’s argument was raised to counter the skepticism of David Hume. The “intelligent design movement” is in many senses a more modern version, Michael Behe (a microbiologist who made the argument that cellular organelles are machines that are “irreducibly complex” and notes both the strengths and weaknesses of Paley’s arguments) brought the arugment to the Public in his book, Darwin’s Black Box. It is in many ways a restatement of the case in philosophical terms and are written to counter atheistic evolution (though Behe himself openly admits he generally accepts theistic evolution). Another line of argument used in discussing intelligent design is the argument from cosmic fine tuning – if the universal constants are altered slightly, any universe with the same natural laws as our universe would not be able to support or sustain life, and others have raised arguments based on the uniqueness of the Earth for supporting life.

The intelligent design movement as a refinement of the teleological argument is therefore invaluable and sound. Dembski has refined a definition of design that means the argument is no longer solely an argument from analogy.

The intelligent design argument (and the teleological argument in general) is not of course universally accepted, though the argument has convinced one of the twentieth centuries most ardent atheists, Anthony Flew, to become a Deist. Evolutionists have issued “rescuing devices”[1] to maintain the theory of atheistic evolution, these are not based on observations and many atheists will note that microbiology is a young science. Intelligent design also cannot answer advocates of Panspermia – the idea that life was directed by extra-terrestrial intelligences.

Conclusions about Intelligent design

I generally find many of the classical deductive and inductive arguments for God (in their modern forms) cogent and sound. [2] The reason I have not raised them in the past is because they are somewhat specialized (I would not raise the cosmological argument from sufficient reason without a dozen reference works at hand) and taken in isolation other explanations than God could be hypothesized (though I believe when taken as a group, it is difficult to argue God does not exist. That is, the cosmological argument points to a cause of the universe, the moral argument points to a cause for morality, and the teleological argument points to a designing intelligence, the three taken together strongly indicate that God exists).

Intelligent Design then is an important argument to God’s existence and creating hand. However the intelligent design movement is not unified, and from a Christian perspective often makes the key concession to naturalism.

Next time then, we will discuss Young Earth Creationism and how intelligent design fits into that context.

            [1] Some have argued that intermediate structures could explain irreducible complexity, though Behe has answered this in an updated version of Darwin’s black box, and these concerns are not based on evidence but on a previous commitment to naturalism,. Various multiverse theories have been used to counter the teleological argument, though these are clearly metaphysically motivated as Vilkillen, one of their advocates himself has conceded.

[2] By this I mean the I accept Geisler’s revision of the Thomistic Cosmological argument, Geisler’s version of the Kalam Cosmological argument, the Cosmological argument from  sufficient reason, the argument from moral objectivity and the teleological argument.

I don’t use any version of the Ontological argument.

6 thoughts on “Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 3: Signs of Intelligence

  1. Intelligent Design (and the Watchmaker’s Argument) rests on a foundation of irreducible complexity, but this is easily refuted by using the analogy of a river crossing. Consider that an earlier “species” of a river crossing might consist of three stones that a traveler might use to hop to the other side. Then consider an intermediate form when a log becomes wedged against the three stones. Now there are two solutions existing side-by-side, but travelers prefer to walk the log rather than hop the stones, and end up depressing both ends of the log firmly into the river banks. And as time goes by, the river current rolls the original three stones away. Finally, people marvel that a log just “happened” to cross the river with both ends firmly depressed in the banks, and put forth that it must have been established there by an intelligent designer.

    • As I noted this is a hypothetical argument, but the number of these intermediate states would be more improbable than design given Dembski’s criteria for the assumption of design.

      If science can observe this process in action, you might ha e an argument otherwise it is a mere rescue device as I noted in the first footnote. Then again, I still maintain that evolution is a philosophical argument disguised as a scientific one.

      • There is descent with modification, which is beyond dispute (even creationists admit of the existence of mutation and genetic drift), and there is natural selection, which is practically self-evident. Evolution says these two simple processes explain the diversity of life on Earth. During the Kitzmiller v Dover trial, testimony was provided showing that whales did not exhibit one factor in the blood-clotting cascade that Behe listed as necessary for the development of coagulation. Behe’s claim was falsified, in other words.

      • Actually that isn’t falsification as it does not demonstrate a process falsifying Behe, and the claim that natural selection is simply a means of getting around the tautology problem. Though it is likely that Darwin cribbed some of his ideas from Creationists. The distinction of course is creationists see descent with modification as entropic rather than progressive.

        The problem with the court cases is they ultimately use a defective definition of religion – philosophical materialism is by nature a religious system – all philosophical systems are.

      • On clotting as I recall Behe noted a number 9f irreducible process to truly falsify it one would need to disprove all of these points of c9mplexity or one would need to document by observation (not by hypothesis) a process that can produce theze structures, I thought through this point when you mentioned it before, and most it is a minor modification to his argument as a whole.

        To counter my point in this article you would also need to overturn Dembski, fine tuning (and current multiversal theories are too speculative to be successful in this endeavor), etc or disprove Alvin Plantiga’s assertions that God is properly basic.

  2. Pingback: Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 4: The Distinctions (a) | Truth in the Trenches

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