Re: Empirical Evidence

Brian D Harper (
Tue, 17 Aug 1999 15:26:54 -0700

At 03:45 PM 8/16/99 -0700, Hapi Daiz wrote:
>Is there any empirical evidence or are there any scientific tests and/or
>models that support a theory of intelligent design?

Hi and welcome to the list. You ask a very good question. Since I'm
not a supporter of ID, my approach to answering this question would
be to look at what supporters have proposed. Let's take testability.
is proposed very commonly by IDers. Let me illustrate with Mike
Behe since he recently visited Ohio State. During the Q/A session
following his talk someone asked him how he would test ID. He answered
immediately that it would be very easy to test. All one has to do
is show how some irreducibly complex structure could be produced
by a slow, incremental process. If one could show this then one
would conclude that this structure was not intelligently designed.
<<I'm paraphrasing from memory. Mike, if you are listening in and
you find I've botched this, please let me know.>>

Like I say, this form of proposed "test" seems very common. Opening
up <Defeating Darwinism> by Phil Johnson I found an example
right away on page 43:

#"... But if I say the evidence indicates that living organisms are
#necessarily the products of intelligent design and that life
#never could have emerged by purely natural means from a prebiotic
#soup of chemicals, my statement invites scientific testing. ..."

Well, of course, when one actually goes about testing this or
that scenario for the origin of life it is not really Phil's
statement that is being tested. Instead, what is being tested
is some specific hypothesis about how life might have formed.
You take some chemicals and circulate them over and over through
a high temp/pressure reactor (to simulate a hydrothermal vent)
and see what pops out. There is no way this is any type of test
of Phil's statement. It's a test of someone else's hypothesis about
high temp/pressure chemistry. To claim that it is a test of ID is
to make a logical error, the argument from the false or missing

It might be interesting to use the above examples to try to
answer Howard's question. For those who are new, what a lot
of us would like to see is a clear statement about whether
ID makes any claims about the method of assembly, i.e. if
you say something is intelligently designed are you implying
anything about how it was made? The idea is that "design"
most commonly has the principal meaning of being thoughtfully
conceptualized, or mindfully intended. Most (all?) TE's would
support ID if this is all that it meant.

In the absence of a clear statement, we can just go and look
at what is said. We see that the commonly proposed "test"
discussed above actually does make some implicit assumptions
about the method of assembly. For example, in Mike's case,
a structure assembled by an incremental, slow process would
not be intelligently designed. This seems to me to be the
clear indication of the "testability" condition often invoked
by IDers. If I have erred, hopefully someone will correct me.

Brian Harper | "If you don't understand
Associate Professor | something and want to
Applied Mechanics | sound profound, use the
The Ohio State University | word 'entropy'"
| -- Morrowitz