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Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 01:38:01 EDT

> combined with ID's dangerous theology I believe it behooves us
> to expose it for what it really is. 

I agree with this.

However, I have to disagree with the argument that was recently posted -- and that everybody seems to agree with -- that says you need a priori knowledge of purposes and capabilities in order to detect design.  It sounds like such an informed and cool argument that it demands acceptance.  But Ive been feeling increasingly perturbed by it and finally I have become convinced that it is wrong.  I believe it is not a valid argument against ID because it is over-broad and therefore it fails to capture the IDM's real error.  Here let me say why I think it is wrong, and then below that I will give what I think is the correct synopsis of the IDM's fundamental error.

First, I can't agree that we need a priori knowledge of the designer's purposes or capabilities in order to discern design.  We might get that knowledge a posteriori from observing the design, itself.  Pim gave a perfect example of a posteriori knowledge when he mentioned the idea of finding a hidden, verbal message from God encoded in DNA.  If the message communicated God's purposes and capabilities, then the evidence would interpret itself.  That is an extreme example and I think the ID'ers have something less spectacular in mind, but to be honest we have to admit the possibility that we might receive some level of insight from the design itself and therefore it's not correct to say that we need it a priori.

Another case in point:  the Life of Christ.  He is within nature, just as you and I are, along with all the prophets, the Bible, etc.  From a materialist's world-view, everything is a part of nature because it is a closed system.  Even our feelings and thoughts are part of the closed system.  Yet on this list we all agree that we can look at the life of Christ, including the words that were recorded from the prophets who preceeded Him, and discern divine **design** in His life.  But if the very broad anti-ID argument were literally correct, then we would be disallowed from concluding that there was any divine design in the system of divine revelation because we would have no a priori knowledge of the designer's purposes or capabilities apart from the revelation itself.  The requirement of a priori admits no escape from a naturalism in which a priori cannot exist.

Second, taking this further:  to detect design I doubt that we need any knowledge of the designer's purposes or capabilities at all, not even a posteriori knowledge.  Suppose I wake up and find a toaster on my bed with my name written on it.  I throw it away.  The next day I wake up and find a different toaster on my bed with my name on it.  I throw it away, too.  Every day I find another toaster.  I lock my doors before going to bed.  I set up surveillance cameras.  I can't stop the toasters from coming, and I never discover who is putting them on my bed or why.  It could be God, an angel, a human, or an alien from space.  I have no earthly idea why anybody would want to put a toaster on my bed.   But in fact I do know two things:  somebody wants to put a toaster on my bed, and somebody is capable of doing it.  The pattern of intentional design self-interprets these two brute facts, even though I know nothing else of the designer's purposes or capabilities.

Has ID found any evidence like these, apart from the Life of Christ (which they avoid)?  No.   But the argument against ID is wrong because it would deny even such evidence as this should ID ever find it.  Therefore, the argument has not put its finger on the real problem.  A real problem does exist, and we need to put our finger on it, and so we should not settle for any cool-sounding argument that isn't ultimately correct.

Now, for the statement that I think does summarize the IDM's fundamental flaw.  It is that they are looking for design in the chain of origins, but that is precisely where you can't ever scientifically prove design.  You can't because to be detectable a design must be categorically gratuitous to our existence.  Anything that is in a category that must have happened for us to be here can easily be explained away by appeal to infinite universes and the WAP.  But things that are categorically gratuitous to us being here cannot be explained away like that.  Messages in DNA would be gratuitous.  So would toasters appearing on my bed.  The most gratuitous thing of all was the life of Christ, which was not necessary for our existence as lost sinners and was not deserved or earned or demanded in any way.

I think that an absolutely essential feature of detectable design, which the IDM has failed to note or include in their "explanatory filter," is that it must be gratuitous to our existence.  This is really the essence of IDM's failure.

Now, I believe that everything in the chain of origins actually was designed by God.  All of it is gratuitous to God's existence, and so it is true design.  But it is not gratuitous to our existence, and that is what makes it ultimately impossible for us to prove that it was designed, apart from appealing to divine revelation, which is gratuitous.


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Received on Wed Jun 6 01:38:46 2007

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