Re: X is intelligently designed means ...

Brian D Harper (
Mon, 05 Apr 1999 16:42:35 -0700

At 07:13 AM 4/5/99 EDT, Bob wrote:
>In a message dated 4/5/99 3:30:37 AM, Howard Van Till wrote:
><<Is "intelligent design" a mind-like action such as "thoughtful
>conceptualization for the accomplishment of a purpose", a hand-like action
>such as "imposing a new form or structural arrangement on available raw
>materials" or some other category of action?
>"Design" is a word that is both a _verb_ and a _noun_. Check your dictionary
>to verify this.
>Howard uses it as a _verb_. The word _action_ appears three times in his one
>sentence above. He wants IDers to define design as a _verb_. What is
>design, he asks, conceptual action or manual action or some other kind of
>IDers they refrain from doing because, I believe, they do not want to get
>involved in questions about the_designer_ at this time. Bill said, "But the
>mode assembly [design as a verb] is a separate question." In fact, in his
>post of April 4 Bill said "For most instances of intelligent design we don't
>have any account of the mode of assembly." Their current interest is in
>establishing that _design_ as a noun can be verified by scientific and
>logical methods.
>IDers use the word design as a _noun_. IMO the best noun-definition of
>design is given by IDer, Mike Behe: design is "a purposeful arrangement of
>parts." In this sense, Bill Dembski is right: as a_noun_, design "has a
>perfectly well understood common usage." The simplest way to define design
>as a noun is to _point_ to examples of it. Point to the marvelously intricate
>eye of the trilobite and you will clearly understand what design as a noun
>is. Ask how the trilobite eye was designed (as a _verb_) and as Bill said,
>"we don't have any account of the mode of assembly."
>Howard has never responded to or acknowledged noun-definitions of design
>given by IDers. He wants IDers to define design as a verb. He has their
>answer, "We don't know at this time how design in nature is accomplished, we
>just know that it exists."

Hello Bob, I appreciate your comments. I would like to ask a couple
of questions in an attempt to further clarify.

First, how can one use your suggestion "The simplest way to define
design as a noun is to _point_ to examples of it." without begging
the question? Would you, for example, accept the following from
Richard Dawkins: "The best way to define apparent design is to
point to examples of it."

Second, the intelligent design argument seems to me to rest in
large part on the failure of a Darwinist, say, to show how
"apparent" design is accomplished in nature. Do you think it
consistent to persist in this manner of argument while at the
same time refusing to answer questions as to how intelligent
design is accomplished?

Third, I've been thinking some about Dawkins' use of the term
apparent design and how this might fit in with Howard's two
points. It seems to me that we may have to further elaborate
on Howard's (1) in order to understand why Dawkins says there
is no design. I believe, for Dawkins, if one is to say that
X is designed then specifically X must have been in the mind
of the Creator from the beginning. I think this may be the
reason that he excludes the possibility that evolution might
be a mechanism for design. The process of evolution seems
to haphazard to be an effective way of actualizing some
specific X. So, let me ask this. Suppose we have identified
some X as potentially designed. Would you say as a requirement
that specifically that X had to be in the mind of the Designer
from the beginning? Or is it possible that the Designer
conceived of an ensemble of X's knowing full well that not
all would be actualized? And suppose further that the Designer
allowed for the possibility that contingencies might determine
which X is actualized. Would you say in this case that
the X actually occurring is designed?

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have
grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics"
-- E. H. Hiebert