Re: Design as Concept, Sign, and Production

Brian D Harper (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 22:35:49 -0700

At 12:37 PM 4/6/99 -0600, Bill wrote:


>The next question about design is whether it also constitutes a sign.
>Design in this sense denotes what it is about intelligently produced
>objects that enables us to tell that they actually are intelligently
>produced. When intelligent agents act (and however they act, whether
>through direct intervention or through a fully gifted creation), they leave
>behind a characteristic trademark or signature. The scholastics used to
>refer to the "vestiges in creation." The Latin vestigium means footprint.
>It was thought that God, though not directly present to our senses, had
>nonetheless left his "footprints" throughout creation. Hugh Ross has
>referred to the "fingerprint of God." It is design in this sense--as a
>trademark, signature, vestige, or fingerprint--that the various criteria
>for identifying intelligently caused objects are meant to recognize (cf.
>Behe's irreducible complexity, my specified complexity, Schützenberger's
>functional complexity). I would say that if there is one defining feature
>of the intelligent design movement, it is that it takes design as a sign.

As others have already done, I would like to thank you for this
and other posts clarifying your position. I wonder if I might
impose by asking some further questions about design as a sign.

First, is this based at least in part on Romans 1:20?:

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-
his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made, so that men are
without excuse." Romans 1:20 (NIV)

I've thought a great deal about this verse wrt ID. At present,
it seems to me unlikely that the Apostle Paul (and the Holy
Spirit who inspired him to write this) had in mind here a
type of understanding consistent with the rigors of empirical

Second, I wonder if you might elaborate on the nature of the
sign you expect to find in nature in relation to Pascal's
thoughts on the hiddeness of God which are found all through
the <Pensees>? For example:

"And that is why I shall not undertake here to prove by reasons
from nature either the existence of God, or the Trinity or the
immortality of the soul, or anything of that kind: not just
because I should not feel confident to find in nature
arguments which would convince hardened atheists, but also
because such knowledge, without Christ, is useless and sterile.
Even if someone were convinced that the proportions between
numbers are immaterial, eternal truths, depending on a first
truth in which they subsist, called God, I should not consider
that he had made much progress towards his salvation. [ ... ]
All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further
than nature, either find no light to satisfy them or come to
devise a means of knowing and serving God without a mediator,
thus falling into either atheism or deism, two things almost
equally abhorrent to Christianity."
-- Pascal, <Pensees> from frag. 449

First I guess I should ask whether or not you agree with Pascal.
Then, do you think there is any danger that people will
"...devise a means of knowing and serving God without a mediator"
if empirical evidence of design is substantiated?

I think we already see perhaps something like this when we see
people like, for example, Paul Davies and John Leslie finding
ample evidience for a God with apparently little interest in
a Mediator. Elsewhere Pascal writes:

"If there were no obscurity man would not feel his corruption:
if there were no light man could not hope for a cure. Thus it
is not only right but useful for us that God should be partly
concealed and partly revealed, since it is equally dangerous
for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness as
to know his wretchedness without knowing God."
-- Pascal, Pensees frag. 446

"God wishes to move the will rather than the mind. Perfect clarity
would help the mind and harm the will."
-- Pascal, Pensees frag. 234

Hopefully you will indulge one final quote from Pascal :), one of
my favorites:

"It is good to be tired and weary from fruitlessly seeking
the true good, so that one can stretch out one's arms to
the Redeemer." -- Pascal

Do you think I would be doing too much damage to Pascal's
"thought" (pun intended :) to re-write this as:

"It is good to be tired and weary from fruitlessly seeking
empirical evidence of God, so that one can stretch out one's
arms to the Redeemer."

Once again, I appreciate your efforts at communicating your
ideas to us.

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