At UD, nullasalus has written a post in which he complains that critics of intelligent design often misrepresent ID.
In the near decade that I’ve been watching the Intelligent Design movement, one thing has consistently amazed me: the pathological inability of many ID critics to accurately represent what ID actually is, what claims and assumptions are made on the part of the most noteworthy ID proponents, and so on. Even ID critics who have been repeatedly informed about what ID is seem to have a knack for forgetting this in later exchanges. It’s frustrating – and this from a guy who’s not even a defender of ID as science.
But I’m interested in progress on this front, and I think I’ve come up with a good solution: let’s have an ID quiz. And let’s put this quiz to critics, in public, so at the very least we can see whether or not they’re even on the same page as the ID proponents they are criticizing.
Here are the questions:
1. Is Intelligent Design compatible with the truth of evolution, with evolution defined (as per wikipedia) as change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations?
2. Is Intelligent Design compatible with common descent, with common descent defined as the claim that all living organisms share a common biological ancestor?
3. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents (Behe, Meyers, etc) propose to explain any purported incident of design by appeal to miracles or “supernatural” acts of any kind?
4. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, argue that any given purported incident of design must have been performed by God, angels, or any “supernatural” being?
5. Is Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, compatible with atheism?
6. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, rely on the bible, or any religious document? (as a source of evidence, etc)
7. Hypothetical scenario: a designer starts an evolutionary process. The designer arranges the environment and the organisms involved in the process in such a way so as to yield a particular, specified and intended result, with no intervention on the designer’s part aside from initially setting up the situation, organisms and environment. Is this an example of Intelligent Design in action, according to ID’s most noteworthy proponents?
8. Revisit 7. Stipulate that designer only used completely “natural” means in setting up the experiment and successfully predicting the result. Is this still an example of Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, in action?
9. An ID critic proposes that intelligent aliens, not God, may be responsible for a purported incident of Intelligent Design – for example, the origin of the bacterial flagellum. Has the ID critic proposed a scenario which, if true, would disprove Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents?
10. A creationist argues that evolution must be false, because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Has the creationist made an Intelligent Design claim?
Feel free to provide your answers to the quiz.
It’s worth noting that questions 7 and 8 (is front loading an option? can the designer set things up at the start and not intervene ever again?) have attracted much attention at UD and nullasalus tweaked their formulation a bit.
This is not surprising. As much as the leading proponents of ID want to pretend that ID has nothing whatsoever to do with Christian apologetics (no, Sir), they don’t like the front loading scenario at all. A Designer who does not intervene? That smacks of deism. Can’t have that.
This is not a conspiracy theory. You can see what the leading lights of ID think of a front-loading scenario proposed some time ago by Michael Denton in his book Nature’s Destiny. Here is a roundtable discussion at ARN with all the usual suspects: Johnson, Dembski, Meyer, Nelson, Behe, and Wells.
Here is Dembski:
One can also understand natural law in a more general sense, of course, which lays the emphasis on the mechanistic or causal autonomy of nature. God doesn’t need to intervene to make the apple fall, because gravity is available to do that. And, on Denton’s account, presumably, God doesn’t need to intervene to create life, because some unknown self-organizing principle will do the trick.
But this whole notion of “design by law” turns out to be an unstable equilibrium.
If one focuses on “design,” then one looks for a designer–an intelligent agent–who will act at some point or another, even if only at the beginning of the story; and then laws fail. They’re insufficient. If one focuses on “law,” on the other hand, meaning the actual natural regularities, the designer inevitably fades away into a brute natural process. In fact I think this is what happened to the natural theologies of the early 19th century, which Denton admires. Science said, in effect, ‘Well, we can see the laws in action, anyway. Parsimony would tell us that the laws are sufficient, and to drop the designer as superfluous.’ The equilibrium tipped in favor of autonomous natural processes, and the designer lost his job. Permanently, say the philosophical naturalists. It is hard to see how Denton’s argument can avoid a similar fate.
[Laws] are poor generators of complexity, which by definition is equivalent to low probability, that is, to probabilities far less than 1.0. Laws are also exceedingly poor generators of specified complexity, such as characterizes all living things. By trying to locate the source of biological design in “programmed law,” Denton commits himself to an inadequate cause. Inadequate in principle, you might say. Really, he’s no better off, scientifically speaking, than any conventional self-organization theorist who never uses the word “design.” Natural regularities just aren’t up to the task of creating specified, aperiodic sequencing–that is to say, information.
To bridge the gap between the necessary building blocks and a functionally sufficient sequencing, I think Denton needs agency: an intelligence to elect one or a few particular outcomes from the vast sea of combinatorial possibilities allowed by natural law. Natural necessity or law won’t do it.
I would agree. Here’s an analogy I used in my review of the book for Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. The gravitational constant and coefficient of friction of the pool table may enter precisely into a sensational trick shot by Minnesota Fats, but they do not completely account for it. To explain the event, you also need to refer to Minnesota Fats as a cause. Likewise, the origin of life on Earth may depend on the viscosity of water, the chemistry of iron, and other physical factors, but those factors by themselves do not explain how life started. As Steve said, a necessary condition is not a cause.
So all of “ID’s most noteworthy proponents” seem to answer No to questions 7 and 8.