Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Thu Jan 01 2009 - 10:08:05 EST

On Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 2:53 PM, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
> In fairness, most ID advocates do often cabin their arguments a
> probabilistic, but they seem to act like they have acheived absolute
> certainty.
> The other important difference between a design inference in nature and the
> work of a forensic scientist in a criminal case is that criminal trials are
> all about human conduct. Here we get into the theological questions: to
> what extent is there an analogy between God's attributes and the creation
> sufficient to draw an inference of divine design from an artifact of nature
> that looks designed to a human.

I think in the above paragraph you put your finger on the whole
problem with the intelligent design inference. I don't think the
question of "absolute certainty" is the issue here (after all, even
Dawkins doesn't claim to be absolutely certain that God doesn't exist
- he is content with "almost certainly").

However the key issue with the Design inference applied to criminal
acts, or makers of watches is this very fact that in both cases we are
trying to detect human activity. And the reason for this is that we
know a priori that humans commit crimes, make watches and so forth.
We can point to _independent evidence_ of these things taking place
(go to a watch factory; the act of crime caught on the video camera
etc). Hence, to use probabilistic terminology, the Prior Probability
of the existence of the criminal or the watchmaker is one, certainty.
Given we know the prior probability, it is then straightforward to
compute the probability that a particular set of evidence may be
attributed to the actions of the intelligent agent. But the whole
problem, as I see it, is that there is no way to assign a Prior
probability to the existence of God. We can't see God ( the bible
says so - see John 1:18). Hence there is no _independent_ evidence of
the existence of God.

What is the probability of God existing? I don't even think that's a
meaningful scientific question.

In the case of forensic evidence - we are attempting to show that
certain observations may be attributed to the actions of someone we
already know exists.

However, in the case of Intelligent Design, it seems to be the case
that we are trying to prove the existence of the Intelligent Agent
given some evidence, rather than attempting to assign the cause to a
particular Intelligent Agent of whose existence we are already


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Received on Thu Jan 1 10:08:20 2009

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