Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Thu May 21 2009 - 10:28:40 EDT

Bill wrote:

> You appear to argue below that there is no analogy between computers and
> the human cell. The argument put forward by ID is that there is a measure
> of design. That measure is constituted by what Dembski calls specified
> complexity. Whatever we take this to exactly mean, the notion is that
> such a measure exists. If it exists, it would seem to imply that ID does
> not rest on an argument by analogy.

I would suggest that the explanatory filter, of which specified complexity
is the third stage, is not so much a measure of design as it is a measure of
our lack of ability to account for the system in question. I think the
filter is, or can be, quite useful. Unfortunately, it is hard to apply
quantitatively and there's no compelling logic for a conclusion of design if
something passes the filter. Where we can supplement that information with
independent knowledge of the agent or of methodology, then design may well
be the conclusion. In the absence of these elements, we can only conclude,
"we don't know."

> It appears to me that we cling steadfastly to the incredible, one might
> even say marvelous, belief that the cell did arise by "accident" chiefly
> because we have no alternative that we will seriously consider.

Yes, it is an incredible and even marvelous belief, but so is the belief in
an unknown intelligent agent.

> Here is my last question: in what ways does it matter that the cell arose
> by a sequence of "accidents"? I believe that it does matter. I hear
> people saying things like, "since the cell arose by accident, and
> different species of cells likewise, then we expect blah, blah, blah."
> What if we believed the cell did not arise by a sequence of "accidents"?
> Then we might say, "since the cell did not arise only by accident, and
> likewise the species of cells, then we expect to find blah, blah, blah."
> Your task, should you accept it, is to fill in the "blah, blah, blahs." I
> suspect, frankly, that the two series of blahs are not going to be
> especially different. In the one case, because randomness and vast
> uncertainty can do almost anything if evolution is true, and in the second
> because we don't really know what this non-accidental aspect can do and
> would do. Hence, almost all the blah, blah, blahs are ad hoc. That's my
> guess.

I'm not sure why this is my task. You're free to speculate. I think the
implications are philosophical and theological, not scientific. A lot
depends on what you mean by "...only an accident..." If you mean with or
without God's providence, then it is directly contrary to any Christian
perspective that the world could exist without God. We cannot imagine such a
world. If you mean "without a discernible scientific purpose" then that's a
very different matter. What scientists imply in evolution with "accident" or
"chance" or "randomness" is not at all a mathematical pure randomness or an
unconstrained event. Rather it is a set of events (mutations) that are
decoupled from the outcome (survival). Or, more accurately, the feedback of
the system is on a timescale long compared to the initiating event and
consists of differential reproductive success. I don't know how to speculate
what might happen if this didn't exist and I don't know what it would add to
the discussion.


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Received on Thu May 21 14:25:33 2009

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