Re: [asa] Olasky on Collins

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Aug 10 2009 - 12:37:18 EDT

> David Campbell said,
> "I am inclined to define ID as the search for evidence about supernatural agency in the physical world."

I should point out that this is an empirical definition, rather than
what I would like to see as a dictionary definition.

> I believe ID could hypothetically identify human design (implying human intelligence)<

This is already done all the time and nobody makes a big deal of it,
so I do not see much connection to ID except as a source of ideas.
Better testing of proposed criteria for detecting design against
actual practice in this area would be prudent. As is, the ID-proposed
design detection criteria sound very suspiciously like post hoc
attempts to identify biological complexity as designed, and examples
of human design seem to be mainly used as "forensics does this, so we
can too". In reality, human or animal design is detected based on a)
knowing what sorts of things happen without it and b) knowing
something about the likely purposes for design by the designer in
question. Alien design could fall into two categories for present
purposes: basically similar to human design (and thus not
fundamentally that different from detection of human design, though of
particular interest in that we know that humans exist but don't know
about anybody else) or radically different and thus rather more like
supernatural design. Machine design is at present a subset of human
design. Perhaps artificial intelligence could produce a distinct
category, but it basically would be in a similar category as the human
or animal design.

> transcendent design (implying transcendent intelligence)<

This is the only category that I see ID as actually interested in.

>, and that the same technique is used for all of these. <

Not in practice. The key difficulty is that any sort of transcendent
design requires either confident identification of what could not be
achieved without it (something that ID advocates often claim to have,
but others remain very unpersuaded) or else knowledge of what the
designer would or would not do (something that "scientific" atheists
and YECs claim to have; sometimes also claimed by ID). In reality,
determining either of those is very problematic.

> Unless someone can show me the difference between one of these types of design  and
> transcendent design, and also show me a reliable means of telling the
> difference, I do not believe we can separate them from each other.

This is indeed a major problem. It ties into the question of
distinguishing between God's agency and the use of secondary means.

> If we cannot separate them then assigning a label of supernatural to one of them and then dismissing  the possibility of detecting  any of them does not seem logical to me.  It seems quite arbitrary.<

True. However, I think that those who are claiming scientific
detection of design or of non-design are in fact all wanting to talk
about supernatural design (in a broad sense, e.g. including rather
vague supernatural entities such as pantheism and aliens sufficiently
transcendant to appear supernatural) and merely invoke the others to
provide verisimiltude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

>   I believe there is a field of non-theistic teleology  in addition to fields of theistic teleology.  But it is not being considered by theists and anti-theists.  <

Yes; Marxism would be one example; much eugenics would qualify as
well. Ironically, the correct assertion that biology provides no
teleology debunks any such attempt to invoke evolution as lending
scientific legitimacy to a purported agenda of "progress". Biology
does not disprove teleology, either. All biology can say is that
there are various tendencies in particular directions. It cannot tell
us whether these tendencies are progress, neutral, or going bad.
Something else must provide the assessment of the trends.

> Footnotes
> ========
> 1. The great sin of ID is it *allows*  people to believe that supernatural agency has affected the physical world.  And this is offensive to anti-theists.<

That is certainly a cause of objection on the part of anti-theists.
However, the idea that ID is necessary to allow such belief (which is
not what you said, but it is something that ID advocates and
"scientific" atheists have often claimed) is a serious error. It is a
denial that God is at work in ordinary means, restricting Him to the
use of miracles and making a god of the gaps. Then the ID advocates
try to find gaps, whether or not they're really there, while the
atheists try to close up the gaps, all based on flawed theology.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon Aug 10 12:37:55 2009

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