Design Theory: Answering Some Questions (Part 1)

Here I am, continuing to use responses to comments on this blog as daily posts. Again, forgive me, things have been busy for me, and I don’t have time for double the writing load. I’ll break the responses into several entries, because a proper reply can’t really be packed into a paragraph or two. So, here we go:

One commenter wrote:

I have looked closely and can find no scientific content for ID, it simply seems to be a claim that “god did it” but with a cheap tuxedo on the “god” word.

My response:

Thanks for your comment. First, it’s interesting to note how Richard Dawkin’s is setting the tone for replies to Design Theory. The “cheap tux” comment is straight from his God Delusion. But, that being said, I do appreciate your questions below. I can’t respond to everything you’ve asked, primarily because some of the questions you’ve asked overlap the comments of a friend of mine that’s been talking to me about this issue. Since I plan on responding to his comments in a later post, some of what you’re looking for will perhaps be found there. Thanks for your patience.

Commenter’s question:

Please enlighten us and tell us what this “theory” is. What method did the designer use? How can we detect this? What experiments can we do to test the “theory”? What possible falsification could we find?

– – –

My (fuller) reply:
The “theory” behind Design Theory is this (these are my words, given my understanding of the vast ID literature): Contrary to popular Darwinian models, the vast diversity and complexity of biological systems (I’m not well versed in cosmological forms of Design Theory, though I would suppose that many of the issues overlap) cannot be properly accounted for my naturalistic means. By applying certain criteria, we are observably able to detect signs of design in these various systems.

And that’s the gist of it. But of course, the “definition” (if we’ll be so gracious to call it one) is very broad and needs further examination. Your questions above get to the heart of the unpacking that needs to be done. But before I do, please indulge me in a couple of distinctions that need to be made. These distinctions are important because they address what have come to be known as “gatekeeper” objection to Design Theory. These gatekeeper objections aren’t objections to the details of Intelligent Design argumentation, but rather is based on some other pre-scientific, or shall we say, philosophical, considerations.

Intelligent Design is not Creationism. This is an all-too-common “gatekeeper” objection to Design theory. But, this simply is not true. Most, if not all, objectors that use this gatekeeper argument seem to believe that any and all appeals to Design, to an ultimate personalism, are “creationism.” In fact, regardless of whether Christians agree with the claims of creationists arguments, Scientific Creationism has a particular definition and its essential characteristics are discernibly different from those of Intelligent Design.

The 2 defining characteristics of Scientific Creationism are 1) the believe in the existence of the Theistic God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and 2) the creation account in Genesis is scientifically accurate. Now, as I said earlier, while individual Christians may agree with these two points, they are in no way essential to Design Theory.

In contrast to the defining characteristics listed above, Design Theory is built on the foundational assertions that 1) specified complexity is empirically detectable, 2) undirected natural causes are not sufficient to account for this type of complexity, and 3) intelligent causation is the best explanation for this specified complexity.

Intelligent Design proponents are not trying to explain how things here. Or, allow me to state that another way. Design proponents aren’t attempting to explain the creation of materials, only their complexity. Christian Design proponents may believe they know where the creation of materials came from (deriving this belief from Scripture), but their attempts in the realm of science of discussing biological systems doesn’t start with the assertion “Here’s how everything got here…” People may wish that Intelligent Design sought to establish the 2 points of creationism, but this isn’t the goal of ID (though, it is compatible with it). This is why not only Christians support ID, but also secularists, Jews, Muslims, and theists of all stripes.

But here’s an important point to note: Simply because theists support ID doesn’t make it any more inherently “religious” than because secularists tend to support evolution make it Darwinism inherently atheistic. You have secularists that are proponents on ID, and religious people that are proponents of Darwinism.

Next we’ll look at a couple more “gatekeeper” objections.


Posted on May 28, 2008, in Science. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for addressing these questions. Your answers are very revealing;

    You simply don’t answer the first question at all.

    Your definition of the theory is actually a claim that evolutionary theory is wrong.

    But we do eventually get these unsupported assertions;

    1) specified complexity is empirically detectable, 2) undirected natural causes are not sufficient to account for this type of complexity, and 3) intelligent causation is the best explanation for this specified complexity.

    One paper was published re point 1 – it has been widely criticised and shown to be mathematically flawed. No response from the author was even attempted.

    2) has a long history of claims -all of whihc have been shown to be false, we have the eye, the immune system, the blood clotting system, the knee joint and most recently the flagellum – all set up as impossible to have evolved – all knocked down by cold hard evidence.

    What evidence do you give to support this?

    3) only gets to be considered if you can support point 2 with some evidence.

    When it is considered you need to show why this is a reasonable logical conclusion. Simply saying that you can’t think of anything else does not count as supporting evidence.



  2. Joe did you want me to touch this one or not? I wasn’t sure if part of the opening was directed at me.

  3. Please be patient. Perhaps I will not answer everything you asked in your original comment, let at least wait till I”ve completed my reply. That was only “part 1”. I’m working on the other posts. Be patient, and let me address what I find is some necessary groundwork.

    Thank you.

    PS: I would love to read the paper you mentioned. If it’s online, please provide me with a link, thanks again.

  4. Behe did a paper on specified complexity. It was taken apart by the maths community.

    Perhaps they are in on the world wide atheist conspiracy against you?

    It has also been pointed out that the biological claims made have several large holes in them.

    It is telling that Behe has never tried to argue against the errors, he just ignores them. This is not the conduct of an honest person.

    – – –

    It is interesting that you make a claim and yet are not even aware that there is only one paper that has ever supported it. This really does reveal your disdain for an argument backed by evidence.


  5. one quip while I wait for all three replies. Each of your replies is bringing in a host of various other issues, all nuanced, but none of them addressing the main complaint – this isn’t science, it isn’t the scientific method, it’s philosophy. It’s why, not how. So I can remain reticent, and by the time all three replies are written, I’m going to need some ten pages to address all the various side claims, which are grounded on the first spurious claim, ID being recognized as legitimate science, and not philosophy. Of course if I do that, the following reply will address everything I’ve written too. All I want to see is why ID should be taught in a science class, as science, I’ve yet to see that (And I have read part II).

  6. p.s. for what it’s worth, Richard Dawkins has not set my tone, frankly I wish we could just leave all “authoritative” names out of this 😦

    Dawkins has his virtues, and his flaws, but he’s one of thousands of biologist who share the same criticism, so he’s not the tone setter by any means, anymore than Clarence Darrow.

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