Darwin and ID

Ted Davis (TDavis@mcis.messiah.edu)
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 13:19:22 -0400

I echo the comment that the push for ID is substantially in keeping with
Darwin's own admission about possible challenges to his theory. Sometimes
both evolution and creation/design (using the words as he did, where they
are seen as alternatives, if I may be forgiven) are said to be
"unfalsifiable" in the Popperian sense, but I don't agree: both have various
testable consequences. Gould is especially good at showing this, though of
course for only one side of the argument.

I also echo Howard VanTill's remarks about distinguishing between design as
being evident in the plan for creation and design as linked with the artisan
metaphor, where it seems to require miraculous construction. This is very
helpful indeed and may be correct (I'm not sure). Another way to state
this, in Aristotelian terms: formal and final causation are also required
for complete explanations of things; efficient causation isn't enough. In
these terms, Howard objects to the invocation of divine agency at the level
of secondary or efficient causation, preferring to see intelligence at the
level of formal and final causation -- such as in the overall design
underlying the (natural) processes that bring it about.

Kepler might serve a nice example here. For him, the investigation of
"archetypal" causes, such as the fact (for him) that God used Platonic
solids in making the universe, not only constituted science, it constituted
the highest form of science, for it enabled us to "think God's thoughts".
He did not inquire into how God had actually carried out this plan -- no
doubt, he assumed an artisan had fashioned the world from nothing, without
natural processes -- but he focused on the plan itself.

Is it possible to have an ID research program that does this? A program
that seeks formal and final causes while accepting naturalism at the level
of efficient causation?

Darwin's answer would be, NO, I think. He viewed design and natural
selection as mutually exclusive. But Gray, Wright, and others (rightly) did
not concur: we are under no obligation to accept Darwin's metaphysics along
with his theory. I suspect that some adherents of ID think otherwise.

Ted Davis