Please pardon the delay between posts. Unfortunately, this entry will have to be shorter that originally planned, for several reasons. First, A couple of commenters have recently posed challenges and critiqued my previous ID posts. This has lead me to write responses (that can be found in the comments sections of the ID entries). Also unfortunate is the fact that these replies have been rather short and have not fully addressed the questions of the commenter, a fact I’m quite aware of. And that leads to the second, and more pressing reason for the delay in my blogging: I’m getting married in less than 36 hours. The kind of fuller replies that this topic demands aren’t possible on my time schedule (for those of you that are married, I’m sure you can recall what the last week before the ceremony was like). So, here I’ll simply mention two points. The first is on what’s called the “explanatory filter” and the second is regarding the issue of falsification.
First, the explanatory filter. One of the common objections to Intelligent Design theory is that there is no “design meter” by which we can observe a structure and detect design as opposed to natural processes (devoid of design). William Dembski has, in response, argued for what he calls the explanatory filter. The purpose of the filter is straightforward: the goal is to argue that the detection of design is indeed an empirical process. When observing a biological system, the organic machinery of the human cell for example, several questions are asked. The following chart is a helpful summary of the filter.
The key here to detecting design is, according to Dembski, what’s called specified complexity (not to be confused with Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity). I wish I had the capability (and the time!) of Dembski to explain it lucidly, but I don’t, so I’ll allow him to define his own teaching here
. Here Dembski makes the point that, “The Explanatory Filter faithfully represents our ordinary practice of sorting through things we alternately attribute to law, chance, or design. In particular, the filter describes
- how copyright and patent offices identify theft of intellectual property
- how insurance companies prevent themselves from getting ripped off
- how detectives employ circumstantial evidence to incriminate a guilty party
- how forensic scientists are able reliably to place individuals at the scene of a crime
- how skeptics debunk the claims of parapsychologists”
Second, the issue of falsifiability. Another objection is that ID cannot be legitimate science because it is not falsifiable, i.e. it provides us with not way of proving the theory wrong. I find this objection particularly strange, because all of the IDers that I’m familiar with believe that ID is falisifiable (in principle). They may deny that opponents have successfully shown ID to be bad science, junk science, or what have you, but they do acknowledge that if Darwinists could successfully demonstrate how specified complexity (such as the information found in a strand of DNA) can be produced and implanted apart from intelligent causation then essentially the ‘jig” would be up.
On the other hand, I find Darwinism as that which has been (functionally, at least) unfalsifiable. Here I won’t get into to many specifics (I’m typing this in my fiancee’s bedroom, while downstairs there’s a family reunion going on…just to give you an idea of my “time issues.”). Proponents of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory may say that their theory is open to falsification, but whenever anyone suggests another alternative, such as ID, they are labeled “creationists,” advocates of “junk science,” and of secretly trying to get religion into the public educational system. As touched upon in my last ID post, various answers to the modality question regarding the complexity and specificity of life have been purposed, but all within the Darwinian framework. When the fossil record shows large gaps (and in fact is contradicted by the evidence of theCambrian explosion
), someone will always be there to put forth another theory. This boils down to the “Darwinism of the gaps” solution. Whatever the cost (or so it seems), life must have developed along the lines that Darwin assumed.
Of course, what’s happening here is a clash of scientific, or explanatory, paradigms. As mentioned earlier (in another post
), Thomas Kuhn spoke of explanatory paradigms, models, methods, and questions that a particular school of thought, which develop in order to answer questions that certain data (in this case, biological systems) warrant. Since the rise of Darwinism, and neo-Darwinism, the reigning scientific paradigm is both naturalistic and mechanistic. The challenge of Intelligent Design is raising many questions to the explanatory power of the Darwinian model (what Kuhn would call anomalies), and naturally the “old guard” is fighting back, stating that ID isn’t true science. ID can be falsified, but any attempt to falsify Darwinism and that’s “religion.” And if it’s religion, then it’s not science (think of how regardless of how often IDers distinguish between their position and Henry Morris style Creationism, the distinctions are ignored and IDers are labeled “creationists.”) I must admit, it’s a great PR smear campaign on the part of Darwinian scientists.
What I find interesting about so much of the objections to ID that are in the media and online is that they’re mostly the “gate keeper” objections, the kind that do not actually argue points of ID data, but try to cut off the discussion from even happening. That’s also why a film like Expelled is both so controversial and needed. Despite it’s flaws (oh, and it had some biggies), the main point that I walked away from in the film is not that ID is true (it didn’t really get into any of the details or arguments of ID scientists. It stood mostly at the intuitive level. I guess that’s the best you could expect from a popularly aimed film), but rather that it’s worth discussing seriously and openly at the academic level.
Ok, well I’m done with this for a while. I’ve got a beautiful woman to marry, a honeymoon to enjoy, and other topics that I’d like to discuss.
PS: I apologize for the formatting on the last several paragraphs, I’m not quite sure how to fix it. I’ll keep trying though.