Intelligent Design
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 16:02:23 EDT

Here's a summary of most of the discussions on ID.

All the comments on Intelligent Design suggest a spectrum of useful meanings.
We do not need to make that meaning a black and white issue. They all
involve an agent that can act as a cause. That cause may be an immediate
cause, some intermediate cause or a final cause. Or one could argue for
Aristotle's four causes: material, efficient, formal , and final.

The tenets of science do not allow for a final cause and deny the reality of
free will agents within their models. Thus, any serious discussion must
avoid recognition of a divine agent and the concept of agency in general.
Including them would apparently cause strong political reactions and
condemnations. Another tenet is self-referencing, where that self is given
wholistic or systemic properties that can just emerge from the system. This
forbids any purpose or outside causal agent. Any personal convictions about
a self with free will or a divine causal agent are politically forced out of
any experimental work. Thus, the tenets used in any model reveal only partly
where the faith of the model designer is.

The possibility of some form of intelligent design threatens the
deterministic status quo of many scientists. Like any other human,
scientists, when threatened, will use their free will to defend rather than
listen, consider, or openly question. The evidence of contradiction has to
get quite large before they will move out of their comfort zone. Behe has
identified a major contradiction at the molecular level with his notion of
irreducible complexity. Dembski is mounting another level of contradiction
with his Complexity-Specification Criterion. There is no need to allow or
consider a final cause in their research work. I believe that Dembski's main
point is that SPECIFIC patterns of action can imply a causal agent behind
that implied design. That design agent is intelligent when it chooses, rules
out, and specifies. The design does not have to indicate a purpose. How
that agent chooses depends on whether you want to or need to ascribe free
will to it or not. The concept of agency, itself, can span a spectrum from
being a fixed decision program to one that can exercise free will. One might
try to specify the level of intelligence based on complexity. Behe's design
is closer to having an immediate cause, while Dembski's design would probably
represent an intermediate cause. There are many other designs that one might
test for. However, the scientist first has to believe that sone kind of
design exists. Identifying the designer is a philosophical issue, not an
experimental issue.

Jim Stark