Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

Massie (
Fri, 02 Apr 1999 06:54:00 -0800

Howard J. Van Till wrote:
> Members of both the ASA and Evolution listserves were recently informed of
> upcoming presentations by Bill Dembski and Paul Nelson at MIT and Tufts. I
> will not be able to attend either of them.
> I presume that these speakers will argue either: 1) that there is empirical
> evidence in support of the thesis that certain species or biotic subsystems
> have been "intelligently designed;" or 2) that a thesis of this sort
> should at least be given respectful consideration by the scientific
> community.
> However, before either of these arguments can be evaluated, the key term,
> "intelligent design," must be defined with clarity and candor. The
> operative definition is *not* self-evident.
> If anyone on this list chooses to attend either of the presentations
> announced, I would be interested to know what the speaker offers in answer
> to the following question:
> Precisely what does it mean "to be (or have been) intelligently designed"?
> I presume that this term refers to some category of action performed by
> some type of agent. So, perhaps the answer to the question could be put in
> the followiing form:
> To be (or have been) 'intelligently designed' is to be (or have been)
> ____________________________________ [decribe the category of action here]
> by __________________________________________________ [identify type of
> agent here].
> Once the operative definition of "intelligent design" is publicly stated
> with clarity and candor, the merits of the theses stated above can be
> fruitfully evaluated by all interested parties.
> In the interest of clarity,
> Howard Van Till


Certainly you jest. This is not mathematics. Would it be so nice that
neat little definitions could be generated. Philosophical arguements do
not have that nature and the view that nothing can be learned because we
can never well state definitions is not an acceptable result either.

When we examine the universe and life we see a great deal of
information. We cannot readily see how a mechanistic process could have
generated the information or the results which are very irreducibly
complex. In fact, based on our knowledge of statistical processes, we
find that life, the earth, etc, are improbable (this is based on what we
do know). And the arguement is not just a little improbable but a lot
and then we consider joint probability of things. The aguement is
therefore that "just right" and "irreducible complexity" have to come
from an external source and the external source has to have
intelligence. Therefore, "intelligent design" is an hypothesis that
deserves favorable consideration.

"Intelligent design" does not tell us what agent did it only that
naturalism alone cannot get the job done.

OR, you can accept the irreducible complexity because of its overwheling
factual basis and posit that there is some unknown law of physics that
casues it to happen. Oh ye of a lot of faith. Or, you can posit an
infinite of universes but we just cannot see them.


"For the thesis of "intelligent design" to be preferred over
"mechanistic probability" we rule out MP though the enormous joint
anti-probability of (universe just right, earth just right, etc) and
recognize the enormous informational content of life and are led to the
belief that the simplest explanation is that the information came from
outside the cosmos. If it came from outside the cosmos then this
analysis cannot give information as to what the agent is because this
analysis only includes information from within the cosmos."

To prefer speculation of an infinite number of parallel universes over
the theistic notions of Christianiy we have to examine the claims of
revelation of Christianity. The analysis of the worthwhileness of
theistic beliefs based on revelations from the designer is something I
can analyze as to opposed to speculation squared of an infinite number
of universes (which mechanistic proponents need since the "bouncing"
universe is no clearly rulled out.)

Bert Massie