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.
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.
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?
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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.