Re: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 19:11:50 EDT

Cameron wrote:
7. The rest of Keith Miller's argument is more or less the same as Randy Isaac's. He argues that one cannot infer design without some prior knowledge of the designer or the means. I would like to make two points about this (A) Even if he is right, he still has not established that ID tries to "investigate divine action". Design-inference in ID is not God-inference (all IDers concede that God can be identified with the designer only by non-scientific arguments), and in any case, God's *effects* are not the same as God's invisible *actions*. ID as a theory, therefore, does not "investigate divine action", in any reasonable sense of that phrase. But it makes great theological rhetoric, which is why TE people keep using it. This greatly disappoints me. (B) The argument that prior knowledge of either the designer or the means is required for design detection strikes me as unsound, but to establish that will require a separate post. So I will leave it here for the moment.

Let me try a differnt path to help explain. The question is "Can science detect design?" My response was that you must first specify what design we are discussing. At the expense of inventing two new acronyms, let's separate design into two aspects: Physical Teleology (PT) and Metaphysical Teleology (MT). PT is design as carried out by a phyiscal entity having some degree of intelligence taking some action mediated by the four fundamental forces (E&M, gravity, strong, and weak). Examples abound and include a bee hive built by bees, a Mayan temple, an Egyptian pyramid, an ant hill, Olduwan tools, etc. Maybe plant intelligence would also be included though I'm still learning about that. MT is any design in the physical world perpetrated by a metaphyiscal entity with means other than the four fundamental forces. Examples would be angels, demons, spirits, or God carrying out events like speaking or appearing in a dream, sending pigs over a cliff, water becoming wine, etc.

Using this terminology, let's rephrase your question and break it into several parts:

Can science detect PT? Yes.
Has science detected PT in the origin and/or development of living cells? No.
Can science detect MT? No.
Has science detected MT in living cells? No.

Note that determining jugs to contain water at one point in time and wine at a subsequent point with no known exchange of liquids doesn't constitute detection of MT. And this example illustrates why science cannot detect MT no matter how much we may wish it could. The effects are not repeatable or obtainable under controlled situations. One can only document the state of the system at various points in time but not trace the Hamiltonian that effects the transition.

As for your being "greatly disappoint[ed]" that some people keep using the "great theological rhetoric" of ID investigating divine action, it really isn't clear what ID is investigating. It has often been noted on this list that it is bewildering that ID advocates usually get very upset when ID is defined as stating "there are patterns in nature that are best explained by the actions of a supernatural (aka divine) agent," insisting that it must be "...intelligent agent" and not supernatural. The only logical reason for such insistence (other than the strategic desire to keep ID non-religious to allow it in the classroom) is that natural (or physical since some people were upset on this list about the definition of natural) agents are a reasonable option. That notion runs into difficulty rather quickly upon reflection. And so, unless one believes in other influential spiritual (i.e. nonphysical) beings with creative powers, it seems logical to conclude that the intelligent agent in question is divine. Bewildering indeed.


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Received on Sat May 23 19:12:02 2009

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