Re: Directed evolution: evidence for teleology?

From: Cornelius Hunter <>
Date: Sat Oct 15 2005 - 09:26:24 EDT

George, David and Gregory:

>> George:
>>>> George:
>>>> Actually, IDs do not "say that some phenomena are due to direct divine
>>>> action." What they say is that one way or another we can infer design.
>>>> The design we infer may have gotten there by secondary causes. There
>>>> are IDs who would prefer primary causation, in some instances, to
>>>> secondary, but they must justify that beyond merely the design
>>>> inference.
>>> A lot of people who aren't IDers in the current sense of the term, & in
>>> fact including some who oppose ID in that sense, believe that we can
>>> infer design. What is distinctive about the modern ID movement, as seen
>>> in its best representatives Behe & Dembski, is the claim that some
>>> aspects of life (irreducible complexity, complex specified information)
>>> can't be explained without the idea of an intelligent designer, which
>>> should therefore be made part of science. I.e., this involves not just
>>> the inference of design but the use of design to explain certain
>>> phenomena.
>> I don't follow this. Perhaps an example would help. Can you explain this
>> distinction using SETI and ID?
> I don't choose to do that because using SETI as an example clouds the
> distinction between design by created agents & design by God, & the latter
> is what ID is about. But the distinction is clear. A person can think
> that the state of the world has come about through natural processes, and
> that it's so beautiful, ordered &c that there had to have been an
> intelligent designer to create a world that would develop in such a way,
> without thinking that a designer needs to be invoked in order to explain
> some steps in the developmental process.

I am not following your criticism of ID. You say the "distinction is clear."
How is it clear if both sides are inferring an intelligent designer from
creation? It seems the distinction you are pointing to is that of (i) what
might be called "front-loading" where all the design is in the initial
conditions versus (ii) mandating that God intervene at points along the way,
even if via merely influencing secondary causes. But I had never understood
TE to mandate (i) and necessarily exclude (ii). Nor is ID the reverse. Front
loading is not excluded by ID.

My understanding of the distinction between TE and ID is over the design
inference. For TE, there must be no scientific or objective design inference
possible. The only inference to God from nature must be via subjective or
intuitive means, such as beaty and order as you mention above.

ID, on the other hand, allows for making an objective, quantifiable,
scientific design inference. It may fail, it may succeed, but it ought not
be excluded (IDs of course are confident it can succeed). If I am correct
about this distinction, then it seems to be that the basis for TEs to reject
ID are:

1. The design inference doesn't do a very good job.
2. There are theological or philosophical problems with the design inference
being posssible (POE, Leibniz' "God wouldn't intervene against his creation"
argument, etc).

>>> This putative designer is God. (The claim that it wouldn't have to be
>>> is simply a tactic used to distance ID claims from religion for purposes
>>> of getting them into public school science curricula. It would only
>>> push the problems that a designer supposedly solves back a step.) So
>>> does God act directly or indirectly - through secondary causes - in
>>> creating irreducible complexity &c? In the latter case we can in
>>> principle explain the phenomena in question in terms of the secondary
>>> causes
>>> through which God works & the explicit introduction of a designer is
>>> unnecessary. Thus if the distinctive ID claim is to have any content -
>>> & to be of any use in the battle with "naturalism" - God must work
>>> directly in those situations.
>> Well it is a bit more nuanced than that. Remember, though secondary
>> causation is acceptable to ID, the fundamental premise is that design can
>> be inferred. How could that be? Well think about the idea of God
>> directing the secondary causes. Primary causation working via secondary
>> causation. The reason why ID has content is because the design can be
>> inferred. The difference between ID and TE, then, is not so much the
>> particular mechanism, but that design can be inferred. The results are
>> too suspicious; too unlikely.
> I won't get bogged down in a debate about what the "fundamental premise"
> of ID is. The _distinctive_ claim of ID, & what makes it controversial,
> is that the idea of intelligent design is needed in order to explain
> certain phenomena. That means that they can't be explained entirely in
> terms of natural processes. If they could then, even if one believes (as
> I & other TEs do) that God is working through natural processes & entities
> (fields, particles &c) exemplifying them, one doesn't need the idea of a
> designer for their explanation - given, of course, the existence of those
> processes and entities.

Yes, I think this is a more accurate characterization. So you either need to
show that the design inference doesn't do a very good job, or that there are
theological or philosophical problems with the design inference (not with
primary causation, per se, since ID is not tied to that).



>> > When we look at all the cases, common descent is less simple, as it
>> > must draw on a common mechanisms hypothesis, and we have no compelling,
>> > theory-neutral reason to limit that hypothesis to the cases that common
>> > descent doesn't handle.
> However, common mechanism does not negate common descent.

Yes, of course.



> "I didn't really say everything I said." - Yogi
> If you'll please excuse the humour involved, that one kinda reminds me of
> some of the truisms that are being spread around these days in the name of
> ID theory!

I can't respond without examples.

> "[L]abelling evolutionists as 'rationalists' and thus concluding that
> IDists or anti-evolutionists are something else is fallacious or at best
> misleading." - me
> "Instead, it appears from your message that you would rather support
> agnosticism, the 'we don't really know' or 'we aren't really sure'
> approach to science instead of further exercising our reason in scientific
> pursuits. Thus, it could seem that you're trying to stunt science this
> way." - me
> Please forgive the repeat, but you didn't answer the soft charge that your
> approach (or IDs approach specifically in its millennium form) promotes
> agnosticism and could actually stunt science instead of looking to improve
> scientific pursuits.

ID is not suggesting that we stop science.

> I had a friend visiting from NY the other day. He is not a scientist, not
> especially involved in discussions about science and religion, but he came
> up with a rather astonishing statement: "I don't think evolution has
> anything to do with Darwin." In my experience, if the IDists I've come
> across had to drop Darwin from their lines of fire (i.e. as agnostic, even
> atheist, destroyer of social values, ethics and beliefs, viaduct of
> secularization, etc.), they'd have much less to talk about. Fixation with
> Darwin is apparently an appropriate phrase for many people. Let's move on.


Received on Sat Oct 15 09:32:10 2005

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