Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Intelligent design - a theory or not?

The anti-ID community has been very scathing about whether Intelligent Design is actually a theory, or whether it makes any testable assertions, or whether it has published any papers. This article, on the ID - The Future blogsite, is a useful antidote.

Incidentally, it now has at least three theories to my knowledge - Specified Complexity, Irreducible Complexity and the Privileged Planet.

4 comments:

Mark Nutter said...

Interestingly, the paper you cite as the antidote says "Currently, there is no theory of biological intelligent design, in the sense defined above. There, I said it again... Does that matter? Not really."

I wonder, though, why Intelligent Design isn't tied in with the already existing theory that God, or should we say, some kind of metaphysical Intelligent Designer, is responsible for guiding the process of the origin and development of life? This well-established theory, known by the perhaps-misleading moniker of "theistic evolution" has been around as long as Darwin's theory has, and has managed to document its conclusions fairly well, without suffering from anti-God or anti-supernatural bias on the one hand and without arousing questions about its objectivity on the other. How is it that the newly self-described "ID" crew have managed to make themselves not only distinct from but even opposed to these longtime champions of Intelligent Design?

Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Thanks for the comment. Good points.

I think the distinction between theistic evolution and ID is that ID chooses to remain agnostic about timescales and mechanisms. What ID is saying is that evolution without external input is not sufficient to be an engine of evolution - but that we don't know what the input that is required would look like. In particular, the explosion of body plans in the Cambrian era doesn't appear to correspond to an evolutionary development.

With regard to whether there is a theory, the author later says (which is what I was getting at): "Only with the publication of books such as Darwin's Black Box (1996) or The Design Inference (1998) do hints of a positive theory of design begin to emerge."

Mark Nutter said...

Agnosticism is all well and good when information is unknowable, but it's not necessarily an end in itself. Who'd want to be agnostic about good nutrition and sound medicine? The thing about theistic evolution is that they don't claim to have all the answers, but at least they've done a fairly thorough job of verifying the ones they do have.

I think it's interesting to watch the latter-day ID crowd develop their theories, and I'm not hostile to ID in general principle as you can tell from my interest in TE. I do find it puzzling, though, that they seem to focus so much energy on recycling creationist anti-Darwin arguments (like the Cambrian explosion--oh, sorry, "burst" now) instead of on developing a real "detectable design" theory. There's a lady in Pennsylvania, just a stay-at-home mom who raised a quite intriguing question, I thought: how do we know Stonehenge is designed? Never mind Mt. Rushmore (Behe's favorite example), never mind flagella and complex specified this or that. Stonehenge?

Interesting...

Wedgie World said...

None of the three examples are scientific theories of design really. IC is merely an argument that certain systems cannot be explained by direct Darwinian pathways. The latest version of IC is even more watered down. The conclusion, thus designed is one based on ignorance not a positive theory.
privileged planet is similarly flawed, but does not even eliminate regularities as explanations. CSI is the argument that our ignorance should lead us to conclude design without any positive theory of design.

Let's not confuse theories with releigious faith now shall we?