Until some sort of supporting evidence is found for the existence of a
designer for life on Earth, I reject all design theories, especially the
non-naturalistic ones (since, by the Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency,
for any such theory, a naturalistic equivalent is available by merely
"tweaking" the non-naturalistic one).
But, *if* we suppose that there is a non-naturalistic designer for life,
shouldn't we at least show *some* respect for Occam's Razor?
Why, yes, we should. Thanks for reminding us.
Microgod came into existence about four billion years ago. He *is*
non-naturalistic, but he is not the creator of the Universe or anything like
that. He is more like a common household ghost, who can apply, on a good
day, as much as on billionth of an ounce of physical force to ordinary
matter, but no more. He does have one other remarkable ability: He can "see"
and interact with individual atoms. Thus, if he wishes, he can force an atom
of iron to split, or he can join helium and neon atoms into a "molecule" (a
molecule that will instantly pop apart once he lets go of it, of course),
and he can cause molecules to behave in ways that they would not normally
He is as slow as we are in terms of mental processes, but he can use his
nano-ounce force to inhibit chemical reactions and bring them down to a
speed at which he can follow and manipulate them. Thus, if a genome is
replicating, he can temporarily put the process into a kind of
semi-suspended animation which gives him the time to watch what's going on
and to interfere in it.
About 3.8 billion years ago, he discovered self-replicating molecules, and
began playing with them. Whether he actually created them from his knowledge
of chemistry or merely noticed some occurring naturally, we don't know. But
he did begin experimenting around with them, and found that some precursors
to RNA and DNA had some interesting properties, so he began spending nearly
all of his study time fiddling with nucleotides and such. Eventually, he
managed to bully some molecules into being not only self-reproducing (in a
suitable environment) but also metabolic. They would take energy from their
environment and use it actively in the process of sustaining their own
existence and in reproducing.
The rest is history.
No, just kidding.
What he did at this point is a multi-billion-year project to populate the
Earth. Mostly, he just let evolution take its course. But (we may suppose,
for the purposes of this story), there was a problem. Evolution did not seem
to go anywhere. Why? Because genetic reproduction *never* increased genetic
information. He considered this to be *very* odd, since by the laws of
chemistry that he had worked out, it was not *possible* for a really large
number of replications to take place without *some* increases in
information, given the kind of semi-chaotic environments replication was
occurring in, and given the fact that a *vast* range of *other* chemical
reactions *definitely* increased information.
He did not understand this *very* peculiar limitation, but, never one to be
prevented from having fun, he decided to merely step in once in a while and
force a new and otherwise non-occurring genome to be created, by applying
his nano-ounce force at the appropriate times to change genetic structures.
Of course, as more and more ecological niches opened up, he had to do this
more and more often. In fact, by the year 1900, he had performed this kind
of intervention at least a few billion times, in order to make
"macroevolution" occur. Because of the interesting results that come from
this kind of intervention, he never really tires of doing it, though he does
sometimes wish that Darwin and the neo-evolutionists were right, that
macroevolution would occur without intervention. It would make for a more
nearly "pure" experiment. Ah, well. Such is the life of a microgod.
Here we have a designer (a non-naturalistic one, at that) who is responsible
for all life on Earth, but who has *no* other major attributes that most ID
theorists would want to attribute to their designer. This "microgod" is
intended to be the minimum non-naturalistic "designer" that would meet
*all* of the logically relevant requirements of ID theory. That is, even if
we *grant* that there is a non-naturalistic designer, the facts claimed by
ID theory people do not require *anything* beyond this sort of microgod.
Put another way, we have two theories, one involving God or something very
much like God, and one involving a being who, at best, can exert only one
billionth of an ounce of force, and yet, the microgod theory does
*everything* required by design theorists.
--With one marginal exception. Some design theorists want a designer not
only for *life*, but for the Universe as a whole, which they claim is
somehow "fine-tuned" for life such as ours, even though life such as ours
appears to occupy a portion of the Universe that is so small in percentage
terms as to be effectively zero, and even though even much of our own planet
(i.e., the core, for example) is inhospitable to any life we know of -- and
most of the rest of the Universe is also inhospitable to life as we know it.
Most of the volume of the Universe is taken up by nearly empty space,
equaling many billions of times the mass of all *possible* planets that
could support life as we know it.
But, even here, we need extend our microgod only very slightly, to interfere
at the Big Bang in such a way as to produce our Universe rather than some
other universe that would not support life as we know it (we might want to
grant the microgod a bit more power in this case, though we have no idea
whether any increase would be needed in order for a microgod to be able to
achieve the desired result (at least once in a while).
As I said earlier, part of the point is to show that even a non-naturalistic
designer need not trample over Occam's Razor with the total abandon as does
the usual "Intelligent Designer."
Because the microgod does what you claim is required, and because I'm sure
all ID folks seek to adhere to Occam's Razor, I *do* expect all ID advocates
on this list to adopt him as their "official" intelligent designer, rather
than continuing to posit variations on the Christian God, etc.
Of course, from *my* point of view, Occam's Razor would be better served by
positing a *naturalistic* designer who, from time to time, has interfered in
the chemical goings-on on Earth first to create life and then to introduce
new genomes that would not otherwise have occurred. How did this
naturalistic designer come to be? Easy: He evolved in another part of the
Universe where conditions were *naturally* suitable to macroevolution (his
"genes" are made of a completely different set of elements, and are arranged
in a physically branching structure instead of a single long strand as ours
are, with the result that macroevolution occurs rather easily in his type of
But, of course (again), from *my* point of view, Occam's Razor would be
better served by not positing a designer *at all* until some evidence for
one is found. We *know* that genetic information *is* sometimes increased
during replication, and we *know* that organisms that do not have the right
physical or behavior traits for their environment get culled out. We also
*know* that self-replicating molecules (other than DNA) exist, and that
there are many varieties of non-living structures that nevertheless manage
to get themselves replicated (i.e., viruses). Thus, it does not take much
thought to understand that a minimalist theory of the development of life on
Earth would be a purely naturalistic evolutionary one, starting with
autocatalytic molecules or autocatalytic sets of molecules and proceeding
(by perhaps quite roundabout paths) to the teeming life we see around us
The point here, of course, is that, unless some evidence arises to
contradict it, naturalistic evolutionary theory is *still* the only theory
that adheres closely to the stricture of Occam's Razor. The (thin) hope of
the ID theorists is that naturalistic evolutionary theory is irremediably
inadequate for some fact or facts that it must explain. Macroevolution,
"irreducible complexity," and so on, are all attempts at finding some fact
that inherently cannot in fact be handled by naturalistic evolutionary
theory. Since there is no reason to believe that macroevolution must be
anything more than cumulative strings of microevolution events, and since
the alleged "irreducible complexity" only eliminates *one* narrow category
of paths to such complex structures out of all the prospective paths that
evolution has at its disposal, there is not yet any empirical observations
that are known to contradict the empirical implications of evolutionary
theory. The crucial factual claims of people like Phillip Johnson are
empirically false (for example, despite his claims, we know that genetic
information sometimes *does* increase during replication of the genome --
this is a fact that does not in *any* way depend on evolutionary theory, but
only on before-and-after examinations of genomes).
The main *rationally* open issue of evolution is the exact nature of the
variation process. How much variation is due to true mutations, and how much
to normal variation of genetic material? How much generation of new genes
occurs in sexual DNA recombination? Is there a strong element of
self-organization, as Kauffman suggests? Are all successful genetic
modifications very small (without necessarily implying that morphological or
behavioral effects are equally small), as it appears that Dawkins believes?
Are all genetic mutations and variations of the same size equally likely? If
self-organization in a significant sense does occur, does it occur in ways
that tend to be viable (at least initially), or are such self-organizations
really no more than a kind of chemical "channeling" that might in fact
significantly *conflict* with viability? From the point of view of
information-encoding/computation theory, what are the methods genes use and
in what combinations, and are there any that we know of that they don't use
(and, if so, why)?
Stephen Jones and others would like to make this fascinating area of study
into a fundamental defect in evolutionary theory. Apparently, his view is
that if we don't have *all* the answers, it's proof that we don't have *any*
of the answers (i.e., that we can't claim that macroevolution occurs at all,
for example). This is logically absurd, of course, but it is a major part of
ID argument. Without it, Occam's Razor would have to hold sway and we would
have to assume that macroevolution *does* occur until and unless we find
some evidence that it does not. We would, of course, still want to know the
details about how it occurs, but we would not be able to use this bit of
ignorance as an excuse for positing the existence of an infinite "designer"
from another dimension, as Jones and Johnson do. Jones and Johnson's
hyper-enthusiastic and extremely wanton violations of Occam's Razor
demonstrate that they are more interested in promoting their pre-conceived
*religious* beliefs than they are in rational scientific enquiry. Otherwise,
they would, at *worst*, settle for something like my "microgod."
Now is the time for all good people to come to.
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