From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Tue Jun 05 2007 - 09:00:10 EDT

That's an excellent point and well stated. The argument that there is an analogy between detectable design of human agents and detectable design of supernatural agents falls short precisely because we have no reference design known to be the result of a supernatural agent. Other than, of course, the entire universe itself but that's no longer a scientific design analysis.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Keith Miller
  To: American Scientific Affiliation
  Sent: Monday, June 04, 2007 11:15 PM

    So why not start with what the ID folks point to: SETI, identifying
    hominid/human fabricated tools, forensics that lead to a conviction
    vs. those that don't, etc.? Are any of these "scientific"? Why or why
    not? How, in principle, do they differ from the ID enterprise in
    molecular biology? What about Sagan's fanciful example in Contact--
    wasn't it something like the digits of pi communicating some message?

  The critical comparison is between natural agents and supernatural agents.

  It is central to any coherent understanding of design that the purposes and capacities of the designer be known. However, ID advocates argue that design can be recognized in the absence of any knowledge of the designer. They further argue that human and divine designers are effectively equivalent from a scientific perspective. Our ability to detect design by humans is used as a demonstration that supernatural design can be similarly recognized scientifically.

  However, this claim is clearly false. We must have some conception of the capabilities (and limitations) of potential causal agents before they can be invoked. We do in fact know much about human designers as a class of potential agents, even if we do not know the specific individuals. We recognize human artifacts because we understand human capacities and purposes. Similarly, we recognize the products of other natural volitional agents such as non-human animals. We can search for the signals of ETs, but only to the extent that we assume some specific capabilities and purposes on their part (usually modeled after our own). Divine agents on the other hand have no constraints, and their purposes and capabilities cannot be defined. We do not know a priori how a divine agent might work in nature. An agent that can do anything, does not provide any explanatory power to a scientific hypothesis. It is effectively equivalent to current ignorance.


To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue Jun 5 09:00:30 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Jun 05 2007 - 09:00:30 EDT