Intelligent design theorists claim that their theory is neutral as to the identity of the intelligent designer, even with respect to whether it is a natural or a supernatural agent. In a recent issue of Faith and Philosophy, Elliott Sober has argued that in fact the theory is not neutral on this issue, and that it entails theexistence of a supernatural designer. I examine Sober’s argument and identify several hurdles it must overcome.
The leading Intelligent Design theorist William Dembski (Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham MD, 2002) argued that the first No Free Lunch theorem, first formulated by Wolpert and Macready (IEEE Trans Evol Comput 1: 67–82, 1997), renders Darwinian evolution impossible. In response, Dembski’s critics pointed out that the theorem is irrelevant to biological evolution. Meester (Biol Phil 24: 461–472, 2009) agrees with this conclusion, but still thinks that the theorem does apply to simulations of evolutionary processes. According to Meester, the theorem shows (...) that simulations of Darwinian evolution, as these are typically set in advance by the programmer, are teleological and therefore non-Darwinian. Therefore, Meester argues, they are useless in showing how complex adaptations arise in the universe. Meester uses the term teleological inconsistently, however, and we argue that, no matter how we interpret the term, a Darwinian algorithm does not become non-Darwinian by simulation. We show that the NFL theorem is entirely irrelevant to this argument, and conclude that it does not pose a threat to the relevance of simulations of biological evolution. (shrink)
In recent controversies about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has played an important role. In this paper, an often neglected distinction is made between two different conceptions of MN, each with its respective rationale and with a different view on the proper role of MN in science. According to one popular conception, MN is a self-imposed or intrinsic limitation of science, which means that science is simply not equipped to deal with claims of the supernatural (...) (Intrinsic MN or IMN). Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded attitude of scientists, which is justified in virtue of the consistent success of naturalistic explanations and the lack of success of supernatural explanations in the history of science (Provisory MN or PMN). Science does have a bearing on supernatural hypotheses, and its verdict is uniformly negative. We will discuss five arguments that have been proposed in support of IMN: the argument from the definition of science, the argument from lawful regularity, the science stopper argument, the argument from procedural necessity, and the testability argument. We conclude that IMN, because of its philosophical flaws, proves to be an ill-advised strategy to counter the claims of IDC. Evolutionary scientists are on firmer ground if they discard supernatural explanations on purely evidential grounds, instead of ruling them out by philosophical fiat. (shrink)
It began in 1945 when I was a 14 year old at Mt Albert Grammar. Our Fourth Form English teacher decided we should learn the skills of debating. The topic chosen was "Creation versus Evolution". And I, as an ardent young Baptist, volunteered, along with a Seventh Day Adventist, to take up the cudgels on behalf of Creation.
This chapter offers a critique of intelligent design arguments against evolution and a philosophical discussion of the nature of science, drawing several lessons for the teaching of evolution and for science education in general. I discuss why Behe’s irreducible complexity argument fails, and why his portrayal of organismal systems as machines is detrimental to biology education and any under-standing of how organismal evolution is possible. The idea that the evolution of complex organismal features is too unlikely to have occurred by (...) random mutation and selection (as recently promoted by Dembski) is very widespread, but it is easy to show students why such small probability arguments are fallacious. While intelligent design proponents have claimed that the exclusion of supernatural causes mandated by scientific methods is dogmatically presupposed by science, scientists have an empirical justification for using such methods. This justification is instructive for my discussion of how to demarcate science from pseudoscience. I argue that there is no universal account of the nature of science, but that the criteria used to judge an intellectual approach vary across historical periods and have to be specific to the scientific domain. Moreover, intellectual approaches have to be construed as practices based on institutional factors and values, and to be evaluated in terms of the activities of their practitioners. Science educators should not just teach scientific facts, but present science as a practice and make students reflect on the nature of science, as this gives them a better appreciation of the ways in which intelligent design falls short of actual science. (shrink)
This essay discusses Elliott Sober’s Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science. Valuable to both philosophers and biologists, Sober analyzes the testing of different kinds of evolutionary hypotheses about natural selection or phylogenetic history, including a thorough critique of intelligent design. Not at least because of a discussion of different schools of hypothesis testing (Bayesianism, likelihoodism, and frequentism), with Sober favoring a pluralism where different inference methods are appropriate in different empirical contexts, the book has lessons for philosophy of (...) science beyond its evolutionary focus. I criticize Sober for not including epistemic values and social aspects of scientific practice in his epistemological framework. (shrink)
The article covers the problem of testability of intelligent design theory. The objection that intelligent design theory does not correspond to principle of methodological naturalism is discussed. I show that recognizing intelligent causes is commonly applied in science. I present the "specification-complexity" criterion, an attempt to generalize the criteria used to define the problem in particular sciences. This criterion - together with the concept of explanatory filter - is to guarantee the testability of intelligent design theory. The irreducible complexity criterion, (...) which is to recognize design in biology, is brought forward. The problem of progressiveness of intelligent design theory is also reported. The analysis leads to the conclusion that functioning in intelligent design theory criterion of design recognition belongs to probability and complexity theory and that theory discussed is empirically testable. (shrink)
This article shows how Bernard Lonergan's philosophy of science can bring resolution to a recent controversy: the controversy that arises from Intelligent Design theorists' and proponents of neo-Darwinian evolution. Intelligent Design theories argue that the complex structures of living organisms cannot be adequately explained by neo-Darwinian theories, especially by its postulate of random variations. Hence, an "intelligent designer" must be postulated in order to fill out scientific explanations. This article finds fault with the Intelligent Design arguments, but proposes a different (...) form of design argument–one that accepts neo-Darwinian evolution (or something very much like it). It shows how Lonergan's analysis of scientific methods grounds his account of evolution, and how much this can overcome the most basic Intelligent Design objections. It then shows how Lonergan's philosophy of God also can offer a design argument based, not in the complexity of this or that organism, but in the "design" of evolution itself. /// O presente artigo mostra até que ponto a filosofia da ciência de Bernard Lonergan pode trazer resolução à recente controvérsia suscitada pelos defensores da Teoria do Desígnio Inteligente, teoria essa fortemente atacada pelos defensores neo-darwinistas da teoria da evolução. As teorias do Desígnio Inteligente defendem que as estruturas complexas dos organismos vivos não podem ser adequadamente explicadas pelas teorias neo-darwinistas, especialmente pelo seu postulado relativo às variações de acaso. Nesse sentido, um agente Inteligente teria de ser postulado em ordem a prover as necessárias explicações científicas. O autor do presente artigo, porém, considera que a argumentação dos defensores do Desígnio Inteligente é defeituosa, pelo queavança um novo argumento de desígnio, um efectivamente que aceita a teoria da evolução neo-darwiniana (ou algo muito semelhante a ela). Em suma, o artigo mostra até que ponto a análise lonerganiana dos métodos científicos subjaz à sua própria teoria da evolução, mostrando-se assim também de que forma esta doutrina ultrapassa as objecções mais elementares dos defensores da Teoria do Desígnio Inteligente. Por fim, mostra-se ainda de que modo a filosofia de Lonergan sobre Deus pode oferecer um argumento de desígnio baseado, não na complexidade deste ou daquele organismo, mas no "desígnio" da evolução em si mesma. (shrink)
In the movie Contact, an astronomer played by Jodie Foster discovers a radio signal with a discernable pattern, a sequence representing prime numbers from 2 to 101. Because the pattern is too specifically arranged to be mere random space noise, the scientists infer from this data that an extraterrestrial intelligence has transmitted this signal on purpose.
To detractors, Intelligent Design is creationism â€” the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis â€” in a thin guise, or simply vacuous, about as interesting as "I donâ€™t understand," as has always been true in the sciences before understanding is reached. Accordingly, there cannot be a "debate.".
This paper explores a seldom discussed difficulty for traditional theists who wish to embrace the purported evidence employed in biochemical intelligent design arguments, and who also employ a commonly used element in their theodicies – namely, the claim that God would have reason to make a relatively orderly and self-sufficient world with stable and simple natural laws. I begin by introducing intelligent design arguments and the varieties of theodicy at issue, then I argue that there is at least a strong (...) prima facie tension between these theodicies and the claim that God intelligently designed biochemical systems in humans and other organisms. Subsequently, I examine three strategies for resolving this tension, in increasing order of plausibility. At the end of the paper, I raise and briefly discuss some wider issues for theists enamoured with theodicy approaches that emphasize natural orderliness and the stability of laws of nature. (shrink)
Intelligent design, though unnecessary in the study of biological evolution, is essential to the study of cultural evolution. However, the intelligent designers in question are not deities or aliens but rather humans going about their lives. The role of intentionality in cultural evolution can be elucidated through the addition of signaling theory to the framework outlined in the target article. (Published Online November 9 2006).
Since intelligent design (ID) advocates claimed the ubiquitous mouse trap as an example of systems that cannot have evolved, mouse trap history is doubly relevant to studying material culture. On the one hand, debunking ID claims about mouse traps and, by implication, also about other irreducibly complex systems has a high educational value. On the other hand, a case study of mouse trap history may contribute insights to the academic discussion about material culture evolution. Michael Behe argued that mouse traps (...) cannot trap mice with any part missing; therefore, they cannot have a precursor with one part less, therefore, cannot have a continuous history, and therefore, cannot have evolved. The patented and seminal precursor of current flat snap traps, however, had one part less, because spring and striker were formed of one wire. Secondly, historical records that reach back into the Bronze Age suggest that its history continued for a very long time. Thirdly, all prerequisites for evolution (variation, transmission, and selection) abound in mouse trap populations. Hence, Behe’s triple-jump conclusion about mouse traps is false each step. There is no, in principle, impossibility for mouse traps to evolve. An evolutionary account of mouse trap history also has academic merits beyond its educational value. Three important conclusions can be drawn: (1) reticulate phylogenies of artifact systems may be resolvable as overlapping, but branching, phylogenies of parts; (2) homologous ideas may be realized by analogous material, that is, phylogenies of information do not necessarily coincide with those of material parts; (3) recombination of parts between different artifact systems increases the cumulative nature of cultural evolution. (shrink)
While a great deal of abuse has been directed at intelligent design theory (ID), its starting point is a fact about biological organisms that cries out for explanation, namely "specified complexity" (SC). Advocates of ID deploy three kind of argument from specified complexity to the existence of a designer: an eliminative argument, an inductive argument, and an inference to the best explanation. Only the first of these merits the abuse directed at it; the other two arguments are worthy of respect. (...) If they fail, it is only because we have a better explanation of SC, namely Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. (shrink)
The argument from design stands as one of the most intuitively compelling arguments for the existence of a divine Creator. Yet, for many scientists and philosophers, Hume's critique and Darwin's theory of natural selection have definitely undermined the idea that we can draw any analogy from design in artifacts to design in nature. Here, we examine empirical studies from developmental and experimental psychology to investigate the cognitive basis of the design argument. From this it becomes clear that humans spontaneously discern (...) purpose in nature. When constructed theologically and philosophically correctly, the design argument is not presented as conclusive evidence for God's existence but rather as an abductive, probabilistic argument. We examine the cognitive basis of probabilistic judgments in relationship to natural theology. Placing emphasis on how people assess improbable events, we clarify the intuitive appeal of Paley's watch analogy. We conclude that the reason why some scientists find the design argument compelling and others do not lies not in any intrinsic differences in assessing design in nature but rather in the prior probability they place on complexity being produced by chance events or by a Creator. This difference provides atheists and theists with a rational basis for disagreement. (shrink)
Cover story: WORLD ASKED FOUR leaders of the Intelligent Design Movement to have some fun: Imagine writing in 2025, on the 100th anniversary of the famous Scopes "monkey" trial, and explain how Darwinism has bit the dust, unable to rebut the evidence that what we see around us could not have arisen merely by time plus chance.
Professor Will Provine teaches a course for incoming freshman at Cornell University. In it, he contends that Darwin’s theory of evolution removes all rational basis for believing in the existence of a benevolent God, much less the God of Christianity. For Provine, “evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented,” As evidence for this claim, he need look no further than the success of his course at producing new atheists.
Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? To see what’s at stake, consider Mount Rushmore. The evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design is direct—eyewitnesses saw the sculptor Gutzon Borglum spend the better part of his life designing and building this structure. But what if there were no direct evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design? What if humans went extinct and (...) aliens, visiting the earth, discovered Mount Rushmore in substantially the same condition as it is now? (shrink)
I have before me a letter dated January 5, 2000 from Bradford Wilson, the executive director of the NAS. It begins, “I really enjoyed your contribution to the recent symposium in the January issue of First Things, so much so that I’ve also decided to invite you to join the NAS. Many of your fellow contributors including Robert George, Jeffrey Satinover, and Father Neuhaus are among our current members, and I think you’d find it well worth your while if you (...) joined ranks with us yourself.”. (shrink)
Wisdom -- because he understands that ideas are best taught not by giving them a monopoly (which is how evolutionary theory is currently presented in all high school biology textbooks) but by being played off against well-supported competing ideas.
Intelligent design—the idea that a designing intelligence plays a substantive and empirically significant role in the natural world—no longer sits easily in our intellectual environment. Science rejects it for invoking an unnecessary teleology. Philosophy rejects it for committing an argument from ignorance. And theology rejects it for, as Edward Oakes contends, making the task of theodicy impossible.1 I want in this lecture to address all these concerns but especially the last. For many thinkers, particularly religious believers, intelligent design exacerbates the (...) problem of natural evil—intelligent design makes natural evil not an accident of natural history or a price exacted by evolution or a necessary consequence of creation’s freedom but an outcome fully intended by a sadistic designer. Or, as Robert Russell put it to me on the PBS program Uncommon Knowledge, “The notion of intelligent design is incoherent because it’s either a natural cause, in which case you don’t go anywhere, or it’s a divine cause, in which case you don’t have the biblical God.”2 The biblical God, presumably, would not design the rabies virus, the bubonic plague bacterium, or the mosquito. (shrink)
A few years back, well-known skeptic Michael Shermer and I were speakers at Baylor’s The Nature of Nature conference. During evening refreshments, we discussed how we could generate funds for our respective causes—he to promote skepticism and debunk people like me, and me to promote intelligent design and debunk Darwinism (which underwrites Shermer’s brand of skepticism). We agreed that we should start a highly visible campaign against each other in which we argue the dangers of the other’s position. Having escalated (...) the conflict between us, we could then go to our natural constituencies and urge them to fund each of us against the other. Of course, nothing ever came of that conversation. But we had a chuckle. And both our causes have since done quite well financially. (shrink)
Walter Thorson's two articles on the legitimacy and scope of naturalism within science attempt to identify a mediating position between the reductive naturalism of thinkers like Richard Dawkins and the complete rejection of naturalism by thinkers like Phillip Johnson. Thorson rightly notes that the purely mechanistic approach to science characteristic of reductive naturalism is inadequate. Nonetheless, he argues that science still needs naturalism as a methodological or regulative principle. Thorson's methodological naturalism leaves room for teleology in nature, though a (...) teleology that falls short of full intelligent agency. (shrink)
In the movie Dream Team starring Michael Keaton, Keaton plays a psychiatric patient who must feign sanity to save his psychiatrist from being murdered. In protesting his sanity, Keaton informs two New York City policemen that he doesn’t wear women’s clothing, that he’s never danced around Times Square naked, and that he doesn’t talk to Elvis. The two police officers are much relieved. Likewise, I hope with this essay to reassure our culture’s guardians of scientific correctness that they have nothing (...) to fear from intelligent design. I expect to be just as successful as Keaton. (shrink)
The National School Boards Association enlisted Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch to criticize intelligent design bullet point fashion. Here I want to respond to these bullet-point assertions. I would repeat the entire article, but copyright restrictions prevent me. The article is available at http://nsba.org/sbn/02-jul/070202-8.htm.
I was recently on an NPR program with skeptic Michael Shermer and paleontologist Donald Prothero to discuss intelligent design. As the discussion unfolded, it became clear that they were using the phrase "intelligent design" in a way quite different from how the emerging intelligent design community is using it.
Science, we are told, is tentative. And given the history of science, there is every reason for science to be tentative. No scientific theory withstands revision for long, and many are eventually superseded by theories that flatly contradict their predecessors. Scientific revolutions are common, painful, and real. New theories regularly overturn old ones, and no scientific theory is ever the final word.
Anyone new to the debate over intelligent design encounters many conflicting claims about whether it is science. A Washington Post front page story (Slevin 2005) asserts that intelligent design is “not science [but] politics.” In that same story, Barry Lynn, the director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, claims that intelligent design is merely “a veneer over a certain theological message,” thus identifying intelligent design not with science but with religion. In a related vein, University of Copenhagen (...) philosopher Jakob Wolf (2004) argues that intelligent design is not science but philosophy (albeit a philosophy useful for understanding science). And finally, proponents of intelligent design argue that it is indeed science (e.g., Dembski 2002a, ch. 6). Who is right? (shrink)
Mainstream modern science, with its analytical methods and its “objective” teachings, is the dominant force in modern culture. If science simply discovered and taught the truth about reality, who could object? But mainstream science does not simply “discover the truth”; instead it relies in part on a set of unscientific, false philosophical presuppositions as the basis for many of its conclusions. Thus, crucial aspects of what modern science teaches us are simply shabby philosophy dressed up in a white lab coat.
There are good and bad reasons to be skeptical of intelligent design. Perhaps the best reason is that intelligent design has yet to establish itself as a thriving scientific research program. Thus far philosophical, theoretical, and foundational concerns have tended to predominate. From the vantage of design advocates, this simply reflects the earliness of the hour and the need to clear the decks before a shift of paradigms can take place. Give us more time, and we'll deliver on the program. (...) That's our promise. Skeptics are at this point in their rights to refuse such promissory notes, albeit without sabotaging our efforts to make good on this promise. (shrink)
To reach the conclusion that the universe is infinite, physicists (a) make some observations; (b) fit those observations to some mathematical model; (c) find that the neatest model that accommodates the data extrapolates to an infinite universe; (d) conclude that the universe is infinite. In my presentation I will examine the logic by which physicists reach this conclusion. Specifically, I will show that there is no way to empirically justify the move from (b) to (c). An infinite universe should therefore (...) properly be viewed as a metaphysical hypothesis consistent with certain physical theories but hardly mandated by them. By contrast, I will argue that the hypothesis of intelligent design—that a designing intelligence has left clear marks of intelligence in the biophysical universe—is not a metaphysical hypothesis at all but a fully scientific one. In particular, I will argue that whereas an infinite universe does not (and indeed cannot) admit empirical evidence, intelligent design can. Finally, I will indicate why an infinite universe, though sometimes introduced to get around the problem of design, in fact cannot get around it. (shrink)
David Hume’s critique of intelligent design is vastly overrated. Nevertheless, his critique, especially at the hands of his contemporary disciples, has been highly effective at shutting down discussion about design. I want here to review Hume’s critique, indicate how modern disciples have updated it, and then describe the response to Hume by his contemporary Thomas Reid. That response in my view is decisive. Would that more philosophers studied it. Hume did not demolish design. Reid demolished Hume.
For many natural scientists, design, conceived as the action of an intelligent agent, is not a fundamental creative force in nature. Rather, material mechanisms, characterized by chance and necessity and ruled by unbroken laws, are thought sufficient to do all nature’s creating. Darwin’s theory epitomizes this rejection of design.
Specification denotes the type of pattern that highly improbable events must exhibit before one is entitled to attribute them to intelligence. This paper analyzes the concept of specification and shows how it applies to design detection (i.e., the detection of intelligence on the basis of circumstantial evidence). Always in the background throughout this discussion is the fundamental question of Intelligent Design (ID): Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of (...) an intelligent cause? This paper reviews, clarifies, and extends previous work on specification in my books The Design Inference and No Free Lunch. (shrink)
Wisdom -- because he understands that ideas are best taught not by giving them a monopoly (which is how evolutionary theory is currently presented in all high school biology textbooks) but by being played off against well-supported competing ideas.
Talk delivered at CSICOP's Fourth World Skeptics Conference in Burbank, California, 21 June 2002, at a discussionÂ titled "Evolution and Intelligent Design." The participants included ID proponents William Dembski and Paul Nelson as well as evolutionists Wesley Elsberry and Kenneth Miller. Massimo Pigliucci moderated the discussion.
Intelligent design is the science that studies how to detect intelligence. Recall astronomer Carl Sagan’s novel Contact about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI). Sagan based the SETI researchers’ methods of design detection on scientific practice. Real-life SETI researchers have thus far failed to detect designed signals from distant space. But if they encountered such a signal, as the astronomers in Sagan’s novel did, they too would infer design. Intelligent design research currently focuses on developing reliable methods of design (...) detection and then applying these methods, especially to biological systems. (shrink)
Why is that? The stakes are now considerably higher. Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? is the proceedings of a symposium that took place at Southern Methodist University in the spring of 1992. The focus of that symposium was Phillip Johnsonâ€™s then recently published book Darwin on Trial. At the time, Johnson was a novelty -- a respected professor of criminal law at Cal Berkeley who was raising doubts about evolution. All harmless, good fun, no doubt. And Berkeley has an illustrious history (...) of harboring eccentrics, kooks, and oddballs. (shrink)
According to Darwinism, undirected natural causes are solely responsible for the origin and development of life. In particular, Darwinism rules out the possibility of God or any guiding intelligence playing a role in life's origin and development. Within western culture Darwinism's ascent has been truly meteoric. And yet throughout its ascent there have always been dissenters who regarded as inadequate the Darwinian vision that undirected natural causes could produce the full diversity and complexity of life.
In his paper "The Design Argument," Elliott Sober predicts that "human beings will eventually build organisms from nonliving materials." In that case, we could obtain clear evidence that certain organisms resulted from intelligent design whereas earlier we might have thought they were due to a Darwinian process. I consider a similar possibility in chapter 6 of No Free Lunch.
Howard Van Till's review of my book No Free Lunch exemplifies perfectly why theistic evolution remains intelligent design's most implacable foe. Not only does theistic evolution sign off on the naturalism that pervades so much of contemporary science, but it justifies that naturalism theologically -- as though it were unworthy of God to create by any means other than an evolutionary process that carefully conceals God's tracks.
PRESIDENT BUSH, announcing this month that he was in favor of teaching about "intelligent design" in the schools, said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." A couple of weeks later, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, made the same point. Teaching both intelligent design and evolution "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," Mr. Frist said. "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about (...) education and training people for the future.". (shrink)
Based on an analysis of the origins and characteristics of Intelligent Design (ID), this essay discusses the related issues of probability and irreducible complexity. From the viewpoint of complex systems theory, I suggest that Intelligent Design is not, as certain advocates claim, the only reasonable approach for dealing with the current difficulties of evolutionary biology.