Derbyshire on ID

The Corner on National Review Online:

ID theory posits that certain features of the natural world CAN ONLY be explained by the active intervention of a designing intelligence. Since the entire history of science displays innumerable instances of hitherto inexplicable phenomena yielding to natural explanations (and, in fact, innumerable instances of “intelligent design” notions to explain natural phenomena being scrapped when more obvious natural explanations were worked out), the whole ID outlook has very little appeal to well-informed scientists. A scientist who knows his history sees the region of understanfing as a gradually enlarging circle of light in a general darkness. If someone comes along and tells him: “This particular region of darkness HERE will never be illuminated by methods like yours,” then he is naturally skeptical. “How can you possibly know that?” he will say, very reasonably.

I don’t follow the non sequitur of “certain features of the natural world CAN ONLY be explained by the active intervention of a designing intelligence” to “This particular region of darkness HERE will never be illuminated by methods like yours.” I don’t see that limitation in ID. In fact, by ruling out ID, you create that situation. As long as we keep forcing things to fit into the flawed theory of Evolution, we aren’t going to find the true nature. You can’t look at the evidence and say, “How does this fit into Evolution?” You have to ask, “How does this fit into objective reality?”

There is nothing about ID that makes it’s nature unknowable. In fact, by recognizing whether or not ID is likely (I am still unconvinced one way or the other) we can start examining the mechanisms of ID. There is nothing about ID that stipulates a Black Box. If our biology was designed, there is no reason that we cannot find the fingerprints of the designer. If we were engineered like bacterial cultures in a sequencer, then we should find tale-tell signs. If there was some other mechanism, then we should find evidence of the other mechanism. The only thing that could prevent that would be if we never bothered to look because we chose to ignore it.

3 Comments

  1. Derb is fallen prey to the philosophy of “mechanistic naturalism” which seems to be a popular ‘tenet of faith’ amoung many present day thinkers.

    You are of course right that he is making a bit of strawman. The contention of ID is certainly not the existence of features that can only be explained by appeal to design. ID is an informational analysis to infer whether such features exist. It makes no postulation either way. And it generally allows that even features of high complexity could arise through chance alone. ID’s chief interest is simply in determining whether that is statististically plausable.

  2. Kevin Baker says:

    Here’s my problem with Intelligent Design:

    Science says that there are natural laws that can be discovered, and that through study of the evidence we can form hypotheses and perform experiments to determine what those laws are. Fossil evidence and the study of genetics leads us, logically, to the concept of evolution as a natural process that is responsible for the increasing complexity of species throughout the geologic record.

    Like gravity, we understand that it works, and how it works, but not why it works, and we may never come up with and answer for that third question. Unlike gravity, the time periods involved make effective experimentation impossible, the scattering of geological evidence leaves large and gaping holes in the evidence chain, and from a genetics standpoint, we’re still pretty new at the science.

    Intelligent design says, no, there can’t be just spontaneous life and then ever-increasing complexity, it’s too improbable. There must be a Designer.

    But that leaves us with the question of “who designed the designer?” (You can’t trick me, young man! It’s turtles all the way down!) ID sticks an extra step into the process, and I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor. The Intelligent Design theorem requires a supernatural explanation, and that’s (by definition) a non-scientific one. Therefore my objection to “Intelligent Design Theory” is that it should be taught in a theology class, and not in a biology class.

  3. Phelps says:

    Actually, gravity is a good example. We can see its effects and even predict the results with a lot better accuracy than Evolution ever dreamed of, but we don’t know how it works. We don’t have a clue. We don’t know if it is a wave. We don’t know if it is particles. We don’t know if it is a quantum effect. We don’t even know if its effects exceed the speed of light. However, if we treated it like evolution, science would have “decided” that it was Gravitons long ago, and anything that explored something other than Gravitons would be derided as insanity and a Scientologist plot.

    Intelligent design says, no, there can’t be just spontaneous life and then ever-increasing complexity, it’s too improbable. There must be a Designer.

    No, ID says that there can’t just be spontaneous life on Earth. It doesn’t make any assumptions about the formation of life on other planets.

    But that leaves us with the question of “who designed the designer?” (You can’t trick me, young man! It’s turtles all the way down!) ID sticks an extra step into the process, and I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor. The Intelligent Design theorem requires a supernatural explanation, and that’s (by definition) a non-scientific one. Therefore my objection to “Intelligent Design Theory” is that it should be taught in a theology class, and not in a biology class.

    Occam’s Razor is useful in debate class, but it isn’t science. If ID is reality, it is, by definition, not supernatural. The whole supernatural argument is pure tautology, and enigmatic of the entire debate. That is my objection to Evolution. I think it should be taught in biology class, the same way that gravity is taught in physics. We think it probably works like this, but who knows? If it is taught anywhere, it should be taught in Political Science as an example of how ideological partisanship can steer science away from seeking knowledge and into ideological chicanery.