Koons, Aquinas, and Intelligent Design

Robert Koons and Logan Paul Gage have a defense of ID uploaded, titled St. Thomas Aquinas on Intelligent Design. The article is intended to address specifically theist criticism against ID and to show that ID is perfectly compatible with Thomistic metaphysics.

Up front, on the first page, the critics are identified by name. On the second page, the critical theses have been laid out. This is a very promising straightforward start. Unfortunately, the rest is downhill. While much of the criticism is accurately represented, some of it is not, and the defense with its misguided appeal to science misses crucial points of the criticism. And way too much of the defense simply reiterates ID slogans without actually defending them. And, to top it all, Aquinas is falsely interpreted to mean what he could not have meant. The last point is not too concerning though. Aquinas inevitably has that role in the circles that self-identify as Thomistic, which happens to include both ID critics and advocates.

Thomistic defense of ID by Koons and Gage

My interest was in finding an actual Thomistic or Scholastic defense of ID. Therefore I will ignore most of the mere reiteration of ID talking points in the article, such as appeals to science that cannot convince anyone but those already converted to the ID cause and that don’t really address what theist critics criticize about ID. Spoiler: That’s the bulk of the article.

However, I found what I was looking for: Aquinas’ doctrine of exemplar causation. It’s represented in the article as follows.

An exemplar cause is a type of formal cause—a sort of blueprint; the idea according to which something is organized. For Thomas, these ideas exist separately from the things they cause. For instance, if a boy is going to build a soap-box derby car, the idea in his mind is separate from the form of the car; yet the car’s form expresses the idea, or exemplar cause, in the boy’s mind. Herein lies the important point: for Thomas, a creature’s form comes from a similar form in the divine intellect. In other words, the cause of each species’ form is extrinsic. In fact, writes Thomas, “God is the first exemplar cause of all things” (p. 84-85 = p. 6-7 of the pdf)

The article says that the critics fail to mention this doctrine. That’s true. As far as I have followed the debate, exemplar causation has been mentioned only once by an ID critic in the debate, namely by Edward Feser (ID critic) when he says Vincent Torley’s (ID apologist) understanding of it is “worse than tenuous”. The rest of the mentions of exemplar causes I have seen in the debate are employed by the defenders of ID.

However, the problem with this defense is that it remains metaphysical and never touches on the physics and biology of design that ID is supposed to be about. Appeal to exemplar causes, while being relevant to Thomistic understanding of design, has no direct relevance to ID as an empirical theory whose mission is to measurably detect stuff. At least no advocate ever managed to clarify the connection to me and this article is no exception.

The real thrust of criticism

The thrust of theist criticism against ID is this: Teleology is beyond the empirical world. It cannot be measured or detected as a cause of this or that. Formal causes do not create or generate things and events, but rather “inform” things (with purpose, i.e. function, both intrinsic, special and contextual; it’s not a separately examinable part or appendage, like souls are often imagined to be separable ghosts). For example, a formal cause does not cause a dog to be, but rather determines what a dog is, what qualifies as a (natural or normal) dog and what doesn’t. The thrust of theist criticism against ID is meant to point out this category error between empirical and unempirical causation. The latter (namely, unempirical causation in Aristotelian metaphysics) would likely correspond to a “category” or “taxonomy” in scientific terminology. As long as ID fails to comply with the scientific terminology, it is doomed to remain a pseudoscience. And as long as ID trivializes Scholastic metaphysics, assuming empiricism where there is none, it is rightly criticized by Thomists and Scholastics.

This crucial criticism is sadly misrepresented in the article, sometimes subtly, sometimes grossly. For example, the article complains about the critics’ obsession with secondary causation (as distinguished from direct causation by God whereas, as rightly pointed out in the article, Thomas has no problem with direct causation) and aversion to God’s intervention and miracles. In reality, critics have no such obsessions and aversions. Instead, the criticism is that God’s direct intervention and miracles remain empirically undetectable after the fact. God’s intervention is indistinguishable from natural causes, because God is the author of natural causation. Intervention or miracles would be no different from natural causes, because God’s action is a single timeless act (a.k.a. pure actuality): When God acts, the outcome is most natural, nature itself.

Take a particular miracle such as raising Lazarus from the dead. After the raising, would modern physicians be able determine after examination, “Yup, God did it.” or “This is caused by design, not by natural causes”? No. There would be no empirical signs of miraculous intervention after the fact. And, incidentally, this is not how the Catholic Church goes about determining miracles. Yet this is how ID apparently proposes to proceed.

After all this, the article turns and says “ID is a very minimal claim which does not require intervention.” (p. 85 = p. 7 in the pdf) Then why all that accusation of critics with their obsessions and aversions concerning the matter?

Where did ID go this wrong?

There are other fundamental problems with ID theory that become evident in the article, mainly conceptual. For example, it’s never clear what is meant by “design”. Is it a cause or an effect? At one point, Behe is quoted definitionally, “Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts” and Dembski is claimed to have pointed out that Paley “made no appeal to miracles in the production of design.” (p. 85-86) So, if design is a production and an arrangement, it seems to be more like an effect. Yet there’s the rampant “caused by design” assertion in the ID community as we know it (from UD, originally Dembski’s forum). The article does not mention it. Dembski uses (at UD: Resources/ID defined) the term “intelligent cause” which is supposed to “best explain” “certain features of the universe and of living things” (the same as “design”?) while the relation between design and intelligence is never explained. That’s a problem created by, or at least amplified by, Dembski, I’d say.

Another is the term “irreducible complexity”. The article defends the term citing Aquinas.

Contrary to the claims of Feser (2010, 154–155), the presence of complexity is relevant to Aquinas’s argument for design:… It is impossible for things contrary and discordant to fall into one harmo-
nious order
always or for the most part, except under some one guidance… (p. 86, underline in the original)

Now, does everybody agree with the implication that “one harmonious order” means something even remotely akin to “complexity”? Didn’t think so. The article is full of such misapplied quotes from Aquinas. They can be hunted for fun when reading. “Complexity” is like a square peg to a round hole when it comes to Scholastic metaphysics with its doctrine of divine simplicity. This is a problem invented by Behe.

Conclusion

The conclusion of the article says that “The Thomistic critics of ID understand neither ID nor the heart of Darwinian evolution… ID is not a competing metaphysical system for the simple reason that it is not a metaphysical system.” (p. 91-92 = p. 13-14 in the pdf) I’d say that if ID can be defended by means of Thomist metaphysics, then it must be a metaphysical system, except that it demonstrably cannot be defended by means of Thomist metaphysics, so it’s evidently something else. My conclusion is that ID is indefensible due to conceptual inconsistencies stemming from the fact that its advocates and apologists never figured out whether it’s a metaphysics or a science. Unfortunately, pace KN, metaphysics and science are two distinct worlds and need to be sorted out before engaging in either one.

271 thoughts on “Koons, Aquinas, and Intelligent Design”

  1. Erik Post author

    Gregory: So my question remains: What kind of ‘theist’ are you, Erik? Saying what you aren’t is only apophatic.

    First, it shouldn’t matter. Second, what I said is exactly as much as can be said. I don’t go to a church or a temple or a congregation. Nobody converted me. I converted as a result of personal philosophical quest, a quest about which I suspected it might end in this way, because the aim was to figure out ultimate reality. You know, that thing knowing which one knows all things. I was born with the sense that there is such a thing and that nothing else in life matters more than finding it, or at least giving a go trying to find it. My childhood was completely untouched by any religion or any deeper knowledge of religion, because everybody around me was indifferent to it, except for a few oddball militant atheist.

    So I became interested and took a look into all major religions. Their mythology is a total yawn, but their metaphysics very fascinating, as all metaphysics is to me. Perhaps Plotinus describes best what my path and its end result look like. The theological tradition is called classical theism, common to the classical phase of Scholasticism everywhere, in Europe, in the Muslim world, and in India where it’s called Vedanta. But I don’t want to summarize my reading material to clarify myself. I want to be able to write so that my statements can stand on their own without too much need for outside reference. It’s best when it’s common sense.

  2. faded_Gloryfaded_Glory

    colewd:
    Flint,

    You guys are ignoring the hugely important distinction between artefacts and living things.

    Artefacts are manufactured and require design. Living things are born, or spawn, or germinate…whatever the details, these things happen through biology, all by themselves when the conditions are right. Unless someone wants to claim that there is a designer somewhere, doing something, every time an egg hatches or an acorn sprouts.

  3. Erik Post author

    faded_Glory: You guys are ignoring the hugely important distinction between artefacts and living things.

    This is an A-T distinction that Feser makes much reference to in his criticism of ID.

    Another distinction that colewd ignores is essential versus accidental. The superficial fact that both a dog and a table have four legs does not establish any important or relevant connection between them worth exploring further when there are differences that are much more fundamental.

  4. Gregory

    Erik: This is an A-T distinction that Feser makes much reference to in his criticism of ID.

    Another distinction that colewd ignores is essential versus accidental. The superficial fact that both a dog and a table have four legs does not establish any important or relevant connection between them worth exploring further when there are differences that are much more fundamental.

    Artefacts (artifacts) are the anvil upon which IDist dilettantes are crushed. John G. West, Stephen C. Meyer & (who else is left again?) activist-DI others are sad losers in history, already. Why mung & others here defend these theological ‘bastards’ instead of unveiling their nonsense & going past IDism is a curiosity still awaiting news.

    How about let’s put Mung’s annual IDist donation money to better use? Instead of supporting atheists & the Discovery Institute through happy Seattle donations, move up a notch, stop buying their books and put some serious cash down to arrange an actual discussion between theists who reject IDism and IDist-theists (i.e. ALL of them) who still think they are ‘Revolutionary’ scientists. I doubt if Mung is really interested in how his ID-heroes would fare in such an exchange of scientific knowledge and understanding, wrapped of course as always in philosophical and theological/worldview faith, hope and love.

    Would you welcome such a show, Erik? You seem to count as at least some kind of wannabe unique (i.e. uncategorisable) theist.

  5. Erik Post author

    Gregory: How about let’s put Mung’s annual IDist donation money to better use? Instead of supporting atheists & the Discovery Institute through happy Seattle donations, move up a notch, stop buying their books and put some serious cash down to arrange an actual discussion between theists who reject IDism and IDist-theists (i.e. ALL of them) who still think they are ‘Revolutionary’ scientists. I doubt if Mung is really interested in how his ID-heroes would fare in such an exchange of scientific knowledge and understanding, wrapped of course as always in philosophical and theological/worldview faith, hope and love.

    Would you welcome such a show, Erik?

    Maybe over radio. Might be too gory on TV. I would perhaps only skim the transcript, as I have thus far.

  6. Gregory

    Yes, you’ve apparently only been ‘skimming the transcript’ from over there during a typically woolly day on Mt. Roerich, trying to unify everyone of all cultures, nationalities, languages, religions, worldviews and favorite cheeses to achieve John Lennon’s (or was it Lenin’s) ‘imagine there’s no heaven … and no religion too’? Hey, c’mon, Erik’s a ‘liberal’ too, as long as Lennonism is allowed in the building with respect even for its emptiness?

    Unfortunately, Erik, what you say about ‘theists’ re: IDism doesn’t hold in reality and you seem far removed from mainstream or credible western theists and without sources. Philologist & ‘Indian philosopher’ named ‘Erik’ from L.A. – who are you pretending?

    “First, it shouldn’t matter.” – Erik

    “Imagine all the people…” – John Lennon

    Actually, it does matter and that holds despite any & all earnest personal pleas or shaking the logos head of your 1-in-@20 billion consciousness to ‘wake up’ from reality that you might wish to make. This seems to be an example where the following ‘western’ phrase, which imho has much daily life ‘import’ for everyone & I suggest is how you should handle this in a way “that should matter and does”, which is simply to “deal with it: it matters.” Go fish.

    Obviously the deepest INTUITION of the Intelligent Design movement, which includes both vjtorley & Mung here at TSZ despite their hand-waving, excuses, axe-kissing, proximity-issues, fools-for-the-sake-of-foolishness rather than godliness, self-cancelling, irresponsible victim-playing, lacking courageous response & dialogue potential, is a religious one. If Mung & vjtorley were not theists, they would drop IDT/IDism/ID/intelligent design/Intelligent Design, etc. immediately. They would with their newfound atheology reject a divine Intelligence and thus the theory of ‘intelligent design’. Right guys? Or wrong? Usually it’s a “cowards don’t answer” answer.

    I’d suggest to stop being such a self-unimportance promoting vacuum personality, Erik – “what kind of theist I am matters not to anyone other than me (on this you sound so USAmerican, Erik!) myself, if even that soul” – if you are going to be speaking in public. Your voice is valued by that name ________ you won’t yet utter. The eclectic self-suction of the Indian philosophy ‘westerner’ is amusing when it is revealed over decades. What’s your non-western excuse, Erik, for this humour as if the response to IDist ideology by ‘western’ Thomists, while not official or across the board, is merely based on ‘mythology’? It would not be a surprise if you’ve outmystified yourself with this one, not knowing Aquinas’ theology or the tradition you have already rejected as ‘not your religion’.

    That sounds like an impoverished & impoverishing cultural strategy, Erik, no matter what culture or ethnicity you are. Instead, why not know what you believe, the tradition, history, culture, teachings, etc.? If you don’t know or can’t say with more clarity than a sophistic philologist, then please stop trying to Gnosticise others with your trivial academia. The fools in society pretend that they can live without roots, anchors, sources of Self; sheer ego-centric nonsense. Atheists reject IDism because they’re atheists and IDism is without doubt and undeniably (right from the DI’s mouth) against atheism. Trying to harmonise the devils with angels isn’t the easiest task, though it might seem enticing for a distorted theosophist.

    You say it (one’s theology) ‘shouldn’t matter’ (as in Lennon’s half-baked Yoko nest of beautifully-ugly emptiness), but in fact matters a lot as it always has throughout human history globally. Your ‘shouldn’t’ claim is thus frivolous nonsense, like the wannabe ‘global citizen’ without a passport cuz their ain’t one to be held nowadays.

    “So I became interested and took a look into all major religions.”

    Ok, and did you settle on one or none, or just postpone the ultimate decision until death do you part? Or are you the smorgasbord ‘westerner’ type, the ‘have their cake and eat it too’ all-inclusive, just-one-price worldview attitude? Religious syncretism, like in Hong Kong or with Baha’is? But it doesn’t seem you’re Chinese or Baha’i in the sense of being committed and taken that particular (sometimes mutually exclusive) theology into your heart.

    Philologists sometimes intrigue, but rarely impress me. They oftentimes intentionally adopt word-play folly with the implicit purpose of not taking a stand. It’s titillation rather than reconciliation or consolidation.

    At the end of the day, your message is what, Erik? You reject ID not because of your theology, but because of your philology, dipped in Indian philosophy by a non-western, English non-native who won’t put forward a positively identifiable worldview/theology by which they live? It sounds so post-modern detached ‘Enlightenment’ and you as a non-conformist sophistic knowledge consultant.

    For those reading, since you don’t know this by site indicators, vjtorley & KN have put me on ‘ignore’ in order to diet their frail senses of reality & truth. So you’re not really witnessing a ‘conversation’ here.

  7. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    Erik: First, it shouldn’t matter. Second, what I said is exactly as much as can be said. I don’t go to a church or a temple or a congregation. Nobody converted me. I converted as a result of personal philosophical quest, a quest about which I suspected it might end in this way, because the aim was to figure out ultimate reality. You know, that thing knowing which one knows all things. I was born with the sense that there is such a thing and that nothing else in life matters more than finding it, or at least giving a go trying to find it. My childhood was completely untouched by any religion or any deeper knowledge of religion, because everybody around me was indifferent to it, except for a few oddball militant atheist.

    So I became interested and took a look into all major religions. Their mythology is a total yawn, but their metaphysics very fascinating, as all metaphysics is to me. Perhaps Plotinus describes best what my path and its end result look like. The theological tradition is called classical theism, common to the classical phase of Scholasticism everywhere, in Europe, in the Muslim world, and in India where it’s called Vedanta. But I don’t want to summarize my reading material to clarify myself. I want to be able to write so that my statements can stand on their own without too much need for outside reference. It’s best when it’s common sense.

    I’m not going to intrude in this thread but I must just say this comment made some excellent points.

    The admonition to Gregory is apt. All members are entitled to decide for themselves how much of their private life and inner thoughts to share publicly.

    Being able to make ones own decision as to what spiritual path to take, if any, is a right that should be encouraged and supported.

    I won’t attempt to derail the thread regarding the varying propensity among individuals for spiritual explanations. I’m almost jealous that I appear to lack this propensity altogether.

    Please carry on.

  8. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    Gregory: vjtorley & KN have put me on ‘ignore’ in order to diet their frail senses of reality & truth.

    I suspect they might not agree with your conclusions. Consider your commenting style can sometimes be offensively abrasive. People will avoid sitting next to the crazy guy on the bus.

  9. Erik Post author

    Gregory: I’d suggest to stop being such a self-unimportance promoting vacuum personality, Erik – “what kind of theist I am matters not to anyone other than me (on this you sound so USAmerican, Erik!) myself, if even that soul” – if you are going to be speaking in public

    And you’re hyperfocused on psychoanalyzing people. It has its place when it’s the topic. It isn’t the topic now. The way you do it looks way too much like poisoning the well and rapidly approaches ad hom.

    Imagine if I do the same in return to you. I am quite capable of outfreuding you, Sir, except that your persona is not interesting enough and the procedure would divert attention from the main show, which is critique of ID from A-T perspective, a battle of ideas rather than of personalities.

    Gregory: Ok, and did you settle on one or none, or just postpone the ultimate decision until death do you part?

    I settled on a specific one. Topic for a separate thread that you may start if you wish. A separate thread. Thank you for understanding.

  10. vjtorley

    Hi Gregory,

    You wrote:

    The IDists, for all of their ‘ugly revolution’ fails and horrible PR games, not to mention having no coherent strictly natural scientific program of any success, still have a hedgehog argument against the likes of the pluralist nonsense being spewed here. They accept the same argument that all monotheists, including Baha’is accept, but which apparently you do not, Erik, i.e. that the world was created by –the Creator–.

    Thank you. I’m glad we agree on this point, even if we are poles apart on other issues.

  11. Gregory

    Taking you seriously, Erik, the “‘I settled on a specific one’ but nah-nah won’t say it” academic philologist at TSZ, is difficult. Nothing forced, but something coherent & concrete instead of this air-fairy pseudo-mystical posturing nonsense would be welcome from you please. Your claimed purpose of “critique of ID from A-T perspective” which you don’t hold is otherwise superficial thrill-seeking.

    What, are you Swedenborgian? Do you have a guru in Tibet? A shaman in Haiti? Do you work in a wax factory for Buddhist candles sworn to secrecy by a contract oath? Or are you just (philologically, cum philosophically) skeptical that HAVING a position is better than NOT HAVING one?

    Thus my critique is your ultimate positionlessness, posed deceptively as a position, Erik. You obviously don’t understand Abrahamic theists who critique IDism or their/our critique because you are not an Abrahamic theist. At the same time you seem not to understand the ‘western’ or ‘eastern’ or ‘northern’ or ‘southern’ sociology or anthropology involved.

    Yours is thus largely (which means, in a very, very small but nevertheless important field of study) a ‘philological’ critique. In your case, though the critique of IDism be largely sound, it is otherwise abstract, vague, innuendo, bluster, proto-spirituality, a mixture of reality & truth, throw in a poem to impress, avoid & abandon core beliefs (of ancestors), etc.

    So I’m not willing to let your loosely labeled ‘Indian philosophy’ and blustery unnamed ‘worldview’ pretend to sit-in for or represent in any way something else. The theological conversation happening in N. America, Aussie & UK where the vast majority of both readers & posters come from is 99.9% Abrahamic monotheistic. O.k., Erik? Do you understand this, apparently from outside?

    Please excuse my directness, because the post-modern humpty-dumpty drama tactic is insulting in some ways too. No doubt you are aware of this with your continual ‘mystical’ non-western pacifist ‘attacks’.

    And I don’t care where you come from, Erik. You’ve put things in the wrong order with your word-play feint philo-theology. Bullshit ‘theology’ is still bullshit.

    The mythology of all major religions is “a total yawn” according to big hearted Erik the Scandinavian. Does this surprise anyone? 😉

  12. Gregory

    vjtorley:
    Hi Gregory,
    Thank you. I’m glad we agree on this point, even if we are poles apart on other issues.

    You are such a Sunday-night knucklehead, Torley. One small fist-pump, fine. Otherwise, WTF are you doing!? No post-IDism in Torley soul? Kiss the emerald USA ideology suck-up? Still no other options & no behind-the-boards request for help?

  13. vjtorley

    Hi Tom English,

    You wrote:

    The fact of the matter is that, having encountered thousands of recipients of the Ph.D., I know of only one who has never published a scholarly paper. The intelligent-design movement tacitly admitted to intellectual bankruptcy when it began promoting a mere graduate as a public intellectual.

    I’ve just had a look at your publications page, and it makes for melancholy reading: your last publication was almost a decade ago (back in 2008), there were two papers you published in 2004 (including one draft), and prior to that, one paper in 2001, three in 2000, and one in 1996.

    As for why I haven’t published: I hold the printed word in great reverence, because of something I remember reading as a child: “The written word endures forever.” I write all sorts of stuff online, because I know that within a few years, it will be forgotten – as it should be. But I would never publish something in a scholarly journal unless I were very sure of my opinions. For instance, I’m very glad that I never wrote any scholarly articles on Intelligent Design: my thinking on the subject has taken a long time to crystallize. My philosophy of writing is that before you produce good stuff, you have to produce a lot of mediocre stuff first. (It’s the same with music.) That is why I have waited. If you want to see my scholarly publications, wait another five years or so. I’m not alone in this regard: the philosopher Mary Midgley didn’t publish her first book until she was 59 years old. Wise woman.

  14. Gregory

    vjtorley,

    It’s the Torley-IDism ideology which he calls a ‘theory’ in English language classes, this one is distinct from the DI-IDism, the Cameron Wybrow-IDism, the mung-IDism, the FMM-IDism, the salvadortcordova YEC-IDism, etc.? It’s an entirely founder-less, individualistic, non-communal (cuz otherwise why don’t Torley’s church superiors agree with him?) ‘almost strictly scientific’ theory mostly in biology, but not entirely, mostly uninterested in religion, theology or worldview, but not entirely, mostly not about people as active decision making agents, but not entirely. Mostly coherent, but not entirely.

    30 years after the IDM founded in Pajaro Dunes. Fresh news. Torley-IDism everyone, get it hot off the presses! Had to wait decades like Mary Midgley for it. Kant move over. It’s coming, just a few months after Torley asked the fanatics at UD if anyone there could help him publish his ‘collected works’ (recently put on his blog and never over-worded!) somewhere in an academic venue…?

  15. OMagain

    vjtorley: For instance, I’m very glad that I never wrote any scholarly articles on Intelligent Design: my thinking on the subject has taken a long time to crystallize.

    Do you think there is anything left to say regarding Intelligent Design that has not already been said?

  16. vjtorley

    Hi Erik,

    You write:

    The official definition [of ID] is no different from the other culprits. Let’s try this part today: “certain features of the universe and of living things”. Which certain features are those? Is there a list?

    Some structures such as? Some intelligent agent such as? Evidence such as?

    Look, I know you’re not a fan of ID jargon, such as the term, “functional specified complexity,” and I can understand that. So let’s just go with Dr. Axe’s 1 in 10^77 figure for the frequency of functional protein folds for 150-aa amino acid sequences (which are found in all living organisms today). Rumraket has torn that figure to shreds. But if it were correct, then it would point very strongly to the first living organism having been designed – as I think Rumraket himself would agree. All the stuff about FSC really means is that if an object performs a useful function, and the likelihood of that function having arisen via “unguided” processes (more exactly, processes that lack foresight) is astronomically low, then it is rational to infer (at least, provisionally) that the object was designed. I think this intuition is fundamentally sound.

    You add:

    They say the word “miracle” but are you sure they mean the same thing by it as you do? Atheists use the word “God” too, but it normally turns out they don’t mean what theists mean by the word.

    Look. I gave you the names of three prominent scientists who regard ID as a scientific hypothesis, and who are open to science embracing miracles and provisionally affirming that there is a God. I also quoted from their writings. Most people in your position, presented with such evidence, would say: “OK. I was wrong. You got me.” Now, obviously I can’t read the minds of Jerry Coyne, Larry Moran or Sean Carroll, but I think they all know what a miracle is. And I know that Jerry Coyne has done a lot of theological reading, and that Sean Carroll has debated William Lane Craig.

    You also write:

    Let’s look for “cause is design”. 181 results on my end. Different posters, among them gpuccio, an eminent calculator of FIASCO when I was participating over there. Let’s not look for more examples. It’s rampant.

    Funny. I just went into Google and typed “cause is design” in quotes, followed by Uncommon Descent (without quotes). I got – wait for it – 13 matches, 12 of them from Uncommon Descent. Here’s a typical one from Uncommon Descent FAQ: “The explanatory filter therefore helps us distinguish the latter two [i.e. chance and necessity – VJT] in certain important cases: where we have specified complexity, based on massive experience, we reliably infer by induction that the cause is design.

    Only a willfully obtuse reader would interpret this to mean: “where we have specified complexity, we can reliably infer that the cause is the arrangement of matter” (i.e. formal cause, rather than efficient cause, in A-T terminology). Any reader with a grain of sense would interpret it as follows: “where we have specified complexity, we can reliably infer that the cause is an act of design by an intelligent agent.”

    I also typed “cause is design” followed by gpuccio, in Google. I got 4 matches, only one of which is on Uncommon Descent – and it turned out to be a comment by kairosfocus: “Note, GP [gpuccio] is identifying digitally coded s-t-r-i-n-g data structures [so, inherently contingent] bearing complex, configuration based specific messages of scope at least 500 bits. There are trillions of observed case[s] of observed cause; in every one of them, the separately known cause is design. Intelligently directed configuration.” According to kairosfocus, the cause is not the configuration itself, but the intelligent direction of the configuration. I think that should be clear enough.

    Finally, I’d like to address your remarks on simplicity and complexity:

    Simplicity is the natural metaphysical conclusion logico-philosophically. Everybody knows that: Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, Dharmakirti, Nagarjuna, Maimonides, Avicenna, Ghazali, Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, etc.

    It is one thing to say that God’s essence is utterly simple. It is quite another thing to say that God’s thoughts or operations are utterly simple. ID concerns itself with the Designer’s acts, rather than His nature. Take a look at this world, with its sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings, and with its 10,000,000-plus species of organisms. Are you honestly going to tell me that God has some simple mega-concept of the cosmos, whereby He understands all this stuff, including you and me? Where’s your argument for such an assertion?

    I shall lay down my pen here. If you wish to have the last word, you’re welcome.

  17. MungMung

    Erik: So I became interested and took a look into all major religions. Their mythology is a total yawn, but their metaphysics very fascinating, as all metaphysics is to me.

    Did you include atheism under “major religions”, or do you just find the metaphysics of atheism not at all fascinating?

  18. MungMung

    Gregory: If Mung & vjtorley were not theists, they would drop IDT/IDism/ID/intelligent design/Intelligent Design, etc. immediately. They would with their newfound atheology reject a divine Intelligence and thus the theory of ‘intelligent design’.

    I could see myself dropping Intelligent Design even as a theist. So while I don’t see myself ever dropping my theism, it’s possible I would reject ID if I became an apostate.

  19. Woodbine

    vjtorley: Mary Midgley didn’t publish her first book until she was 59 years old. Wise woman.

    Two things, my lord, must thee know of the Wisewoman!

  20. OMagain

    vjtorley: Funny. I just went into Google and typed “cause is design” in quotes, followed by Uncommon Descent (without quotes). I got – wait for it – 13 matches, 12 of them from Uncommon Descent.

    If you search for:

    site:uncommondescent.com “cause is design”

    That restricts the search to uncommondescent.com only. I get 180 results for that search. That is the proper way to restrict a search to a single site. I think what you did searched for all of the things, and the page on the site does not contain all of those words directly (as one is the domain name) so you get fewer results.

  21. PatrickPatrick

    colewd:
    You can infer design without the identity of the designer.The outboard motor is inferred to be designed,the designer is most likely unknown.

    You cannot infer design without some understanding of the capabilities and intentions of the putative designer. ID proponents consider the designer to be an omnipotent god — that makes literally anything potentially designed.

  22. PatrickPatrick

    colewd:
    If we define design as the purposeful arrangement of parts that perform a function:

    Then you are assuming your conclusion, by use of the word “purposeful”.

    Do you think that’s it’s possible to have an arrangement of parts that perform a function without it being purposeful?

  23. PatrickPatrick

    Gregory:
    . . .
    The mythology of all major religions is “a total yawn” according to big hearted Erik the Scandinavian.

    . . . .

    There is a rule against outing or doxing on this site. You frequent brush up against that line. Please address the content of the posts and comments, not the author. There is no need for including that kind of personal information. Too be blunt, it is creepy and stalkerish.

  24. PatrickPatrick

    OMagain: Do you think there is anything left to say regarding Intelligent Design that has not already been said?

    That’s one of the more insightful things I’ve read here. ID will continue to be a political and religious movement for some time, unfortunately, but there’s nothing new there just as there’s nothing new in the broader creationist context. It’s time to add a section to the Talk Origins archive and just point people there when they bring up FIASCO for the nth time.

  25. GlenDavidson

    vjtorley: All the stuff about FSC really means is that if an object performs a useful function, and the likelihood of that function having arisen via “unguided” processes (more exactly, processes that lack foresight) is astronomically low, then it is rational to infer (at least, provisionally) that the object was designed. I think this intuition is fundamentally sound.

    How is that sound?

    How does one know if the likelihood is “astronomically low,” and why should design not be inferred in many cases even if the likelihood of having arisen by “unguided processes” is not astronomically low? More importantly, how would you find out if the odds of something arising “naturally” is astronomically low in any number of instances except by noting whether or not there was an intelligence around that could have designed it? For example, did hammers exist 4 billion years ago, or so? Computers? Knives? Why no, no technology of any kind is evident that long ago. Yet an extremely complex cell you would credit to an unperceived being “designing” it, rather than to much simpler abiogenesis and evolution.

    By the way, what useful function did the first bacterium perform? You and other IDists are pretty loose with assuming “purpose” or “useful function” that isn’t evident to those not committed to your beliefs.

    You need actual evidence for design, not the endless miserable attempts to wedge God into supposedly unlikely probabilities. You need actual rational choosing (not limited by inheritance) and evident purpose in order to infer design (at least one or the other, while both would increase confidence in otherwise borderline cases). You have neither in life, nor do you have a realistic candidate for anything that invented life in the first place. Even if the odds were extremely low, events with extremely low odds can happen.

    You definitely need something better than low odds of occurring “naturally” to demonstrate design. After all, what are the odds of design occurring? Where rationality and purpose are truly evident (and not merely assumed by the ID believers), the odds are good that it is the result of design. Where neither rationality nor purpose is evident, such as in early (or late, for that matter) cells, the odds of design are low for those reasons alone, and much lower again if no designer is known to have existed when the first cell appeared. Design is not the default. It has its own odds, and, 3 or 4 billion years ago, the odds of anything being designed on earth appear to be astronomically low.

    Glen Davidson

  26. MungMung

    Patrick: There is a rule against outing or doxing on this site. … There is no need for including that kind of personal information.

    LoL! Calling someone “Erik the Scandinavian” doesn’t even come close to doxxing. Get a clue Patrick. Learn to read things in context.

  27. colewd

    newton,

    Evaporation is a widget? 🙂Again, an arrangement of parts that perform a function.

    Sun and water and atmosphere

    Interesting answer. I would say the solar system does fit inside Behe’s definition.

  28. colewd

    Patrick,

    You cannot infer design without some understanding of the capabilities and intentions of the putative designer.

    I think this claim is hard to support since you are trying to prove a negative. If computers did not exist yet complex electronics like TV were known technology and we found a PC on the moon could we infer design? We would do reverse engineering to come to this conclusion. The designer would be another investigation.

    ID proponents consider the designer to be an omnipotent god — that makes literally anything potentially designed.

    I agree that this is most often the case. I think atoms meet Behe’s definition.

  29. colewd

    Patrick,

    Then you are assuming your conclusion, by use of the word “purposeful”.

    Not if we can make a case that humans can detect intent reliably. If we can then you can differentiate it through observation vs assuming it. It is possible that parts can be arranged to perform a function by accident. Intent is determined by a low probability of the alternative: an accident.

  30. GlenDavidson

    colewd: Intent is determined by a low probability of the alternative: an accident.

    Of course it isn’t.

    What are the odds of intent? Why do you think intent is likely in any given case, regardless of the odds of an “accident”? Why do you think that intent isn’t as much subject to probabilities as anything else would be?

    Glen Davidson

  31. Gregory

    Had to look up ‘doxxing’ ; ) I have no idea where Erik is from or where he lives and it matters not. Still that doesn’t stop Patrick from displaying once again how atheism seems to continually make people at TSZ into jerks.

    Erik seems like a big boy & doesn’t need atheist TSZ moderation help just because he said something they liked – he rejects the elusive ‘mythology’ of ALL the major world’s religions.

    So, this position fits entirely with and indeed reveals a lot about this OP, by which Erik shows how much he doesn’t ‘get’ about why the vast majority of Abrahamic theists reject IDism.

    The fact that Erik & I agree that ‘theists’ (now I have no idea what that means to him) should reject IDism is enough to keep us on a shared page of understanding.

  32. GlenDavidson

    Gregory: I have no idea where Erik is from or where he lives and it matters not.

    From what he’s written, he grew up under state atheism, apparently communism.

    That could matter in some cases, although exactly where it was probably matters little for purposes of this forum.

    Glen Davidson

  33. Erik Post author

    Patrick [to Gregory]: To be blunt, it is creepy and stalkerish.

    Not merely stalkerish, but outright stalking. I’ve seen Lizzie be the victim of it, then KN, Vincent, and now, to properly celebrate my first OP, it’s my turn. Nevermind. It’s the spirit of this place.

    Gregory: Taking you seriously, Erik, … is difficult. … Your claimed purpose of “critique of ID from A-T perspective” which you don’t hold is otherwise superficial thrill-seeking.

    My purpose is not to critique ID from A-T perspective. I’m merely reporting about it. Different from you, I am not here to promulgate my personal convictions and trying to convert people or, more correctly, scare them. In the OP, my plan was to be something like an investigative journalist. Journalists should be able to report without distorting the picture too much by their own bias or ignorance, but you are ruining this by insisting on manifesto style.

    As to taking people here seriously, please remember where you are. Look around you. Who can be taken seriously? Alan? Patrick? KN? Vincent? Mung? Yourself? You have seen me try do some dead-serious discussions here, but social competence finally told me this is not the place for it and these are not the people. There are other forums for that. Use them. I do. TSZ is not the center of my online activity. A geeky Linux forum is. Not telling you which one.

    Different from you, my mission in life is not anti-ID propaganda. ID is not a major chapter in my life. Not even a minor one. Where I live, nobody heard of it and nobody ever will. From here, ID looks just another funny American quirk, behind a safe distance. ID has no ground whatsoever outside North America and people have been living happy lives without it, so it’s totally ignorable. See for yourself, ignore it for a change. ID is only of superficial interest because it is itself superficial and its proponents have no impact, certainly none in the world scale.

    Mung: Did you include atheism under “major religions”, or do you just find the metaphysics of atheism not at all fascinating?

    It’s the one I know best because it’s the standard where I live. It comes in many varieties, but yes, it tends to turn into a religion because, insofar as religion is inherent to humanity (it is, if history is any guide), then its denial is a denial of an aspect of humanity that either requires a replacement or there will follow inhuman consequences. The best variety of atheism is Buddhism.

  34. OMagain

    colewd: I would say the solar system does fit inside Behe’s definition.

    What function does the solar system perform? How do you know it was designed to perform that function?

  35. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    Erik: As to taking people here seriously, please remember where you are. Look around you. Who can be taken seriously? Alan? Patrick? KN? Vincent? Mung? Yourself? You have seen me try do some dead-serious discussions here, but social competence finally told me this is not the place for it and these are not the people. There are other forums for that. Use them. I do. TSZ is not the center of my online activity. A geeky Linux forum is. Not telling you which one.

    If’s not that I’m not interested in serious discussions, but that you and I are interested in quite different things.

    Erik: The best variety of atheism is Buddhism.

    I think that’s true. I would also say that the best variety of atheism is Spinozism, A friend of mine is actively working on a synthesis of Spinoza, neuroscience, and Madhyamaka Buddhism.

    I think there’s something really interesting to the idea that scientific theorizing is one of the tools that points towards recognition of emptiness as ultimate reality.

  36. Erik Post author

    vjtorley:
    All the stuff about FSC really means is that if an object performs a useful function…

    And you detect or measure that how?

    vjtorley: Rumraket has torn that figure to shreds. But if it were correct…

    I see. So we will never really detect or measure anything. Point taken.

    vjtorley: Look. I gave you the names of three prominent scientists who regard ID as a scientific hypothesis, and who are open to science embracing miracles and provisionally affirming that there is a God. I also quoted from their writings. Most people in your position, presented with such evidence, would say: “OK. I was wrong. You got me.”

    Maybe, but the thing is:

    vjtorley: Now, obviously I can’t read the minds of Jerry Coyne, Larry Moran or Sean Carroll, but I think they all know what a miracle is.

    You don’t have to read their minds. You look at their definitions. I did, so I know what they think about miracles, without having to guess or read minds. Please try it. It’s a good method.

    vjtorley: Funny. I just went into Google and typed “cause is design” in quotes, followed by Uncommon Descent (without quotes). I got – wait for it – 13 matches, 12 of them from Uncommon Descent.

    And this is how I did it https://encrypted.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Auncommondescent.com%20%22cause%20is%20design%22

    To restrict the search to a specific web domain, you type “site:uncommondescent.com” (without quotes) and then the search term (in quotes “cause is design”). Today it says 180 results. All at UD because I told Google to restrict the search there.

    Says Gpuccio, “What we are discussing here is the cause of what you call “evolution”, and that I call the emergence of new biological information. I say that the cause is design, be it top down, bottom up, or a mix of the two.” A stray comment or meant to be definitional?

    vjtorley: Are you honestly going to tell me that God has some simple mega-concept of the cosmos, whereby He understands all this stuff, including you and me? Where’s your argument for such an assertion?

    From God’s point of view, creation is a single timeless act, even while causes look multiple and varied to us. Remember how you shared your ideas on this with Feser? I do. Don’t ask me to link to it.

    vjtorley: I shall lay down my pen here. If you wish to have the last word, you’re welcome.

    No, I don’t wish to have the last word. I am only warming up. On theology and metaphysics, I mean. ID always was a non-starter.

  37. newton

    colewd: Not if we can make a case that humans can detect intent reliably. If we can then you can differentiate it through observation vs assuming it. It is possible that parts can be arranged to perform a function by accident. Intent is determined by a low probability of the alternative: an accident.

    Fifth is working on that now, perhaps you could lend him a hand.

  38. newton

    colewd:
    newton,

    Interesting answer.I would say the solar system does fit inside Behe’s definition.

    Perhaps, then he should be able to determine how the designer chose to implement his design.

    It also fits my definition of design, and I should face the same hurdle.

  39. colewd

    OMagain,

    What function does the solar system perform? How do you know it was designed to perform that function?

    We know the solar system which includes the earth and the sun allow for sustained life on earth. Even though it fits Behe’s description I don’t know it was designed to perform that function.

  40. colewd

    newton,

    Perhaps, then he should be able to determine how the designer chose to implement his design.

    This is not the design argument. You are trying to force a straw-man. Now if you merge the design argument into Aquinas argument then the designer is the Christian god.

  41. MungMung

    Erik: As to taking people here seriously, please remember where you are. Look around you. Who can be taken seriously? Alan? Patrick? KN? Vincent? Mung? Yourself?

    Yes, Mung!

  42. Gregory

    Erik,
    Certainly there’s little need to stick around as the point of Erik’s journalism is already made vs. Torley’s fantasy projections of IDism without the DI’s ‘strictly scientific’ policy. Little has changed for a couple of years other than Torley comes here now that he too doesn’t UD.

    “Different from you, I am not here to promulgate my personal convictions…”

    Which personal convictions are you referring to? Seemingly having none coherent to promulgate doesn’t make no promulgation healthy, does it? You can just say ‘I won’t tell you’. The folly of these people who for a variety of reasons don’t want their ‘selves’ to be part of their messages yet who still speak.

    Don’t volunteer information you want kept personal. Likewise, if you volunteer information, then don’t take it off the table and say it’s not there and never was. It’s as if it’s impossible to suggest that atheist Judaism has something logical or rational to do with a person’s written statements on TSZ (about God, creation, evolution, design, processes, origins, science, art, culture, etc.) when the usual despair and nihilism links are so easy to see in an author’s words (“recognition of emptiness as ultimate reality”).

    Does your worldview have nothing to do with your opinions about (your personal) human origins, morality, meaning or destiny? Who’s so fake & superficial here as to say worldview has NOTHING to do with it?

    “Who [here] can be taken seriously?”

    JoeF on the topic of biology alone. Otherwise, this place is a joke. I only visit as continued fascination with the topic and the range of emotions it shows. Little new has ever been said on this blog. IDism isn’t going to be ‘re-energised’ Dembski-less.

    “social competence finally told me this is not the place for it and these are not the people”

    Yup.

    “Different from you, my mission in life is not anti-ID propaganda. ID is not a major chapter in my life. Not even a minor one.”

    Anti-IDism is a minor interest of mine (it’s so easy and unrewarding among fundamentalists!); anti-evolutionism especially in SSH is a mission, yes. It enables showing when you say stuff about why most theists reject IDism which is not true. And it is not true because you are not ‘inside’ but ‘outside’ in some eclectic mix of east, west, north, south, etc.

    I’ve never gone after Vincent for his beliefs, which to this day I still respect. It is the fool who rejects God (which I’ve never seen Erik do, or who doesn’t really know what they believe (which is ok in itself, in humility) and is not open to learning or realising how messy & awkward ‘religious syncretism’ is that is most problematic. Pump your chest at the ‘mythologies’ of the ALL the major world religions and yeah, you can probably expect someone around might want to take the air out of that pomp & vanity academic style! ; )

    “ID has no ground whatsoever outside North America and people have been living happy lives without it, so it’s totally ignorable.”

    Not entirely true. There are IDism pockets internationally. But I agree with you that it can basically be ignored now that the fury’s passed & the DI is slowly dying.

    As a topic in the sociology of science, which is almost non-existent as a taught subject in N. America, the history is both fascinating and sad. And indeed, with Steve Fuller’s participation in the Dover trial (which played into the hands of the prosecution), the move from mere philosophy of science (Ruse’s testimony in 1981) to include the sociology of science has indeed become the central discipline for understanding the ‘evolution wars’ & ‘ID controversy’, etc.

    Why do these folks still cling to their neo-creationist views? Why does science mean so little to certain religious people among other types of knowledge about reality? Why can’t they see how ridiculous they make their narrow reading of religion look? How do they ignore that we (theists, agnostics & atheists alike) have regularly seen, heard & called out IDist double talk, treating it as if it never happened? (And at this point both sides are entrenched pointing at the other in blame.)

    It’s a social, cultural and religious theme more than one of ‘strictly natural science,’ better shared together. One would thus have to be a blockhead to think just taking a naturalistic ideology to answer these questions would be sufficient. The main purpose of TSZ in the first place was as a kind of ‘atheist/skeptical’ watchdog/check on IDist-central UD, which is imbued with plenty of marginal nut-cases who promote whacky ideas of science and theology.

    Since you’re promulgating nothing, Erik the ‘Indian philosophy’ amateur who has no coherently nameable worldview to mention, there’ll likely be little worth reading either. And so it will be different than in the classroom where as pedagogue you are bound to ‘teach something.’ ; )

  43. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    Erik: So I became interested and took a look into all major religions. Their mythology is a total yawn, but their metaphysics very fascinating, as all metaphysics is to me. Perhaps Plotinus describes best what my path and its end result look like. The theological tradition is called classical theism, common to the classical phase of Scholasticism everywhere, in Europe, in the Muslim world, and in India where it’s called Vedanta. But I don’t want to summarize my reading material to clarify myself. I want to be able to write so that my statements can stand on their own without too much need for outside reference. It’s best when it’s common sense.

    Ever since I was a child, I was really fascinated with the place of self-consciousness in nature. It seemed astounding to me that there could be an impetus or impulse at work in nature towards increasingly complex forms of consciousness and self-consciousness. Or, another way of putting it, is that the universe ‘grows’ knowers, whose function is then to increasingly “mirror” or “reflect” the universe. It is as if (at least ‘as if’!) through us the universe discovers itself.

  44. PatrickPatrick

    colewd:

    Then you are assuming your conclusion, by use of the word “purposeful”.

    Not if we can make a case that humans can detect intent reliably.If we can then you can differentiate it through observation vs assuming it.It is possible that parts can be arranged to perform a function by accident.Intent is determined by a low probability of the alternative: an accident.

    I was referring to this definition of yours: “If we define design as the purposeful arrangement of parts that perform a function”. That construction makes it clear that design must be intentional. If you find an arrangement of parts that perform a function, do you believe that it must in all cases be purposeful?

  45. Flint

    Kantian Naturalist: Ever since I was a child, I was really fascinated with the place of self-consciousness in nature. It seemed astounding to me that there could be an impetus or impulse at work in nature towards increasingly complex forms of consciousness and self-consciousness.

    This may be an illusion arising from carefully picking congenial examples. In fact, about as many mutations adopted across species (usually becoming fixed) make the species LESS complex as make it moreso. There’s no impetus or impulse toward complexity across the biological spectrum, and perhaps this has occurred in only a single species.

    However, there’s no question SOME members of this species are curious and seek deeper and more detailed understandings of the universe. The majority of the members, alas, are either uninterested or actively hostile to knowledge, which does tend to threaten cherished illusions.

  46. Flint

    Patrick:
    I was referring to this definition of yours:“If we define design as the purposeful arrangement of parts that perform a function”.That construction makes it clear that design must be intentional.If you find an arrangement of parts that perform a function, do you believe that it must in all cases be purposeful?

    As an example, I asked explicitly about a watershed. It’s complex, it consists of several parts working together, it performs a function. So is it intentional?

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