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Intelligent design is not creationism
By Stephen C Meyer
(Filed: 28/01/2006)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/01/28/do2803.xml

In 2004, the distinguished philosopher Antony Flew of the University of Reading made worldwide news when he repudiated a lifelong commitment to atheism and affirmed the reality of some kind of a creator. Flew cited evidence of intelligent design in DNA and the arguments of "American [intelligent] design theorists" as important reasons for this shift.



Flew must be loosing it.

Bryan
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Flew must be loosing it.



$$$$$
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Flew must be loosing it.

Didn't we have the discussion about Flew two years ago, when it was a current event?

Oh that's right, we did.

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=21731500

I had never even heard of Flew before his miraculous conversion, then overnight he became "the world famous Antony Flew." Using him as an argument from authority didn't suddenly shatter the atheist world. Why does Meyer expect it to start working now?
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Flew must be loosing it.

Bryan, at some point you have to identify the point you are trying to make (and also to understand the distinction between "loosing" and "losing"). If you are arguing that a belief in intelligent design can be reasonable and justifiable, then I would agree. There are many prominent scientists who are theists and who have no problem accepting the idea of a transcendant creator of the universe and life.

The problem is that you keep interjecting the notion that intelligent design should be considered a scientific theory and therefore should be taught in science classes as a viable alternative to evolution. I personally know of no scientist who would agree and all theistic scientists I know strongly disagree.

Flew believes that the absence of a scientific explanation for some aspects of creation (at least that he feels is adequate) is sufficient for a leap of faith into theism. That's fine, but it is still a leap of faith and it is still an argument based on ignorance. Defensible perhaps, but not as a scientific theory.
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The problem is that you keep interjecting the notion that intelligent design should be considered a scientific theory and therefore should be taught in science classes as a viable alternative to evolution.

I think you misunderstand both me and ID. First, while I consider ID a scientific theory, I don't care if it is taught in high school biology class or not. But since it is science (IMO), then it should be allowed if a teacher wants to discuss it.

And about the viable alternative to evolution part, ID is not in competition with evolution, in an all-or-nothing kind of way, at least not in the minds of its major proponents (Dembski, Behe, Wells, Meyers). As far as I can tell they have all acknowledged that evolution theory is partially correct.

Bryan
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First, while I consider ID a scientific theory...it is science (IMO)...

Perhaps we aren't talking about the same thing. Define what you mean by "science" and "scientific theory".
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Define what you mean by "science" and "scientific theory".

Read what leads Meyers to make the following conclusion in the article linked in the OP:

Thus, ID is not based on religion, but on scientific discoveries and our experience of cause and effect, the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. Unlike creationism, ID is an inference from biological data.


Tell me what you disagree with in his argument that ID is science.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/01/28/do2803.xml

I see theories as being more or less scientific. A continuum, with features like testability and predictions being features of a prototypical "scientific theory". Historical sciences like ID (detecting design that happened in the past) will never score as high on my scale of science, but they are still science.

Bryan
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Tell me what you disagree with in his argument that ID is science.

Sorry, but Meyers is not posting on this board so I don't see the point of asking him questions. I'm not trying to be difficult, but unless there is a general agreement about the meaning of terms being so freely discussed, communication is very difficult. I don't think I'm asking that much by requesting your definition of "science" and "scientific theory" and, frankly, I think people will continue to speak past each other until there is an understanding of what each side means by those terms.

Historical sciences like ID (detecting design that happened in the past) will never score as high on my scale of science, but they are still science.

To claim ID is "still science" you need to have a definition of what is science. What is your definition?
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To claim ID is "still science" you need to have a definition of what is science. What is your definition?

And do you, like Behe, agree that the term includes astrology?
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To claim ID is "still science" you need to have a definition of what is science. What is your definition?


It would be just as easy for you to define science, and tell why ID doesn't fit. But since you asked . . . how about this from Wikipedia:

There are many different conceptions of the word "science".

According to empiricism, scientific theories are objective, empirically testable, and predictive — they predict empirical results that can be checked and possibly contradicted.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

Bryan
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It would be just as easy for you to define science, and tell why ID doesn't fit.

Sure, but my definition is the one that is in accord with the scientific community and so would not be all that surprising. Science is (in short) a description of the universe that provides natural explanations for natural phenomena based on an empirical methodology (the scientific method). By natural I mean the physical universe, which, afterall, encompasses all that can be empirically examined. Since the supernatural by definition is something that is not part of the physical universe, it is outside the bounds of science. And since ID assumes a supernatural intelligence as explanation (rather than say space aliens), it doesn't fit the criteria of science.

According to empiricism, scientific theories are objective, empirically testable, and predictive

So what part of an undescribed intelligent designer is empirically testable and predictive?
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Science is (in short) a description of the universe that provides natural explanations for natural phenomena based on an empirical methodology (the scientific method).

So to clarify, are you arguing that if there is a supernatural agent, its designs cannot be detected, or just that it can't be a scientific endeavor to identify such designs, regardless of their detectibility? (or maybe some other option)

So what part of an undescribed intelligent designer is empirically testable and predictive?

ID doesn't propose to test an undescribed intelligent designer. Only the artifacts of design.

Bryan
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...are you arguing that if there is a supernatural agent, its designs cannot be detected, or just that it can't be a scientific endeavor to identify such designs, regardless of their detectibility?

I'm saying that one cannot empirically determine whether any event had a supernatural cause. Using the scientific method, one can determine the physical process most likely to be the cause of an event or one can identify physical processes that could not have caused the event. What one can't do is determine whether an event was caused by something outside the physical universe.

If a supernatural event were to occur, the most the scientific method could tell us is that the event is unexplained by any known physical process. Of course "unexplained" could be due to a number of reasons, the most likely of which is insufficient information. From the science point of view, the supernatural cause is the explanation of last resort because it is ultimately untestable. The question then that you have not adequately addressed with respect to evolution is whether we know enough about a particular phenomenon to be able to conclude that no natural cause is possible, thus leaving only the supernatural option. At that point, you leave the realm of science and enter the domain of miracles.

ID doesn't propose to test an undescribed intelligent designer. Only the artifacts of design.

But a test for design is not a test for intelligence. We already know that very complex design can arise from randomness, just look at Mandelbrot fractals. The SETI project for example is not concerned with finding design or complexity. It looks for artificiality, things that from human experience are different from what are produced naturally. Since flagella and DNA are found in natural things, I don't see how one can one claim they are artificial.

So I'll rephrase the question to ask what empirical test can you perform to show that a particular object comes from a supernatural intelligence? As a follow up question I also ask what predictions does the hypothesis that "a supernatural intelligence was involved in evolution" make that are unique from the purely naturalistic evolution theory?
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ID doesn't propose to test an undescribed intelligent designer. Only the artifacts of design.

But a test for design is not a test for intelligence. We already know that very complex design can arise from randomness, just look at Mandelbrot fractals.


Technically you are correct, though in the context of ID I'm using "design" to mean the arrangement of parts that in our experience only comes from intelligence, ie intelligent design. But you are right to point out the ambiguity. I should have said " . . . of SUCH design"

Since flagella and DNA are found in natural things, I don't see how one can one claim they are artificial.


But aren't you begging the question here by asserting that everything in nature was in fact produced by nature? From our experience, machines are artificial (if I understand how you are using the term). If we then find machines in the cell, why can't we say it is artificial as well?

So I'll rephrase the question to ask what empirical test can you perform to show that a particular object comes from a supernatural intelligence? As a follow up question I also ask what predictions does the hypothesis that "a supernatural intelligence was involved in evolution" make that are unique from the purely naturalistic evolution theory?


Just to be clear, ID does not propose a supernatural designer. It could as well be a space alien or whatever, it is not limited to the supernatural. So your question could be interpreted as like "Have you stopped beating your wife". I don't think you can test to distinguish between natural intelligent design and supernatural intelligent design. The design inference only identifies the artifacts of intelligence, not its ultimate nature.

I see the designer as the Christian God, but ID does not require that. ID allows a supernatural designer, and that's where I get into trouble here on CvE, because I'll discuss with you a supernatural designer because that's what I believe, not because ID says so.

As to predictions, if something was designed by an intelligent agent, then you will not be able to explain it as the result of natural processes.

Bryan
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If we then find machines in the cell, why can't we say it is artificial as well?

You can. If you look into a cell and see a tiny electric engine powering a propeller with wires, screws, and a made in China sticker, I would have confidence that it was intelligently designed. However, the farther we get from a manmade machine, the less confident I become. I've seen flagella, they don't look very much like any manmade machines that I've seen. There are some superficial resemblances and they use the same physical principles, but that's about it. Flagella resemble a manmade machine about as much as a bird resembles a hang glider.

But I suppose you feel differently. Thats fine. So what test do you propose to demonstrate the artificiality of flagella?

But aren't you begging the question here by asserting that everything in nature was in fact produced by nature?

But in fact it is the case that DNA and flagella are produced in every generation by natural processes. So we have precedent that natural processes can produce complex structures and ample experience that bacteria can make flagella and all types of cells can synthesize DNA. To the extent that bacteria and cells are part of the natural world and not intelligent, then flagella and DNA are not artificial as defined by SETI. My point here is that the analogies IDists like to make between themselves and SETI are logically flawed, as the SETI researchers continually try to make clear.

But you are claiming that the first DNA and flagella could not have been made by natural processes. A bold claim requiring the assumption of some as yet unexplained intelligent entity. So what is it about DNA and flagella that make them so obviously artifical to you and how would you test that assumption?

As to predictions, if something was designed by an intelligent agent, then you will not be able to explain it as the result of natural processes.

In other words the ID argument is based on being able to prove the negative. Good luck.
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Flagella resemble a manmade machine about as much as a bird resembles a hang glider.

So to be a machine, it has to *look like* something you've already seen, that you know a human has made. This implies to me that you'd never be able to recognize design if it wasn't human-made.

ID is not claiming that molecular "machines" inside the cell superficially look like a human-made machine. Rather, that they have multiple parts that fit precisely together to accomplish some task/function. They function like human-made machines, with corresponding parts. ID did not invent the term "machine" for these cellular features.

But maybe the term machine is unnecessary anyway. It doesn't matter what you call it. Such things, in our human experience, only come by way of intelligence. That a certain assembly of parts working together is sophisticated enough to reproduce other like assemblies is irrelevant . . . we only know of intelligent causes for such reproducing assemblies.

In other words the ID argument is based on being able to prove the negative. Good luck.


The ID argument is falsifiable. Find a natural explanation, any natural explanation, that is detailed enough to test (at least in theory). ID fails at that point. Has nothing to do with proving the negative.

Bryan
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But maybe the term machine is unnecessary anyway. It doesn't matter what you call it. Such things, in our human experience, only come by way of intelligence.


Except when they evolve in biological systems, of course.
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So to be a machine, it has to *look like* something you've already seen, that you know a human has made.

The more familiar an object is to something you know is artificial, the greater the likelihood of it too being artificial. This seems pretty obvious to me.

ID is not claiming that molecular "machines" inside the cell superficially look like a human-made machine. Rather, that they have multiple parts that fit precisely together to accomplish some task/function. They function like human-made machines, with corresponding parts.

If this is your definition of what constitutes a biological "machine" then living things have many such machines. Even Behe admits that not all of these are irreducibly complex, which means that even the Buddha of ID allows for the development of "machines" by evolution.

. . . we only know of intelligent causes for such reproducing assemblies.

I see lots of living things being able to reproduce themselves, so the most I can conclude from my experience is that life can reproduce and be the cause of its own reproduction.

You apparently have only experienced intelligent things reproducing stuff. Perhaps you need to get out more.

The ID argument is falsifiable. Find a natural explanation, any natural explanation, that is detailed enough to test (at least in theory). ID fails at that point. Has nothing to do with proving the negative.

Ironically, this statement makes my point. The only thing that can be directly tested is the natural explanation. The ID argument is worth considering only if it is the last theory standing, if all other natural explanations are falsified. Wake me when that day arrives.

I'm exiting stage left, but I am curious about one thing. If you believe a natural explanation falsifies ID, then are you assuming that your intelligent designer is incapable of using natural processes to create?
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Even Behe admits that not all of these are irreducibly complex, which means that even the Buddha of ID allows for the development of "machines" by evolution.


I prefer to call him the "Kwai Chang Caine" of ID :-)

I'm exiting stage left, but I am curious about one thing.

Thanks for stopping by

If you believe a natural explanation falsifies ID, then are you assuming that your intelligent designer is incapable of using natural processes to create?


Not at all. But if natural processes can produce the initial IC structures, then there is no way to scientifically argue for a designer.
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I see theories as being more or less scientific. A continuum, with features like testability and predictions being features of a prototypical "scientific theory". Historical sciences like ID (detecting design that happened in the past) will never score as high on my scale of science, but they are still science.

Oh how I shudder every time I read this. "Historical sciences" teach us about the spreading and mutation of diseases, the changing of the climate and its effect on the ecosystem, the intricate balance between life, the environment and human society. They help us understand these phenomena and interactions, and in this way let us predict and prepare for future cataclysms.
ID on the other hand doesn't explain nor can it predict. It is a totally different kind of thing.

T.
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Flagella resemble a manmade machine about as much as a bird resembles a hang glider.

So to be a machine, it has to *look like* something you've already seen, that you know a human has made. This implies to me that you'd never be able to recognize design if it wasn't human-made.

Yep, that's exactly right. Detecting rarified design without any knowledge of the designer is almost completely impossible.

That's the big failure of IC. It doesn't detect rarified design. It detects "human-like" design (and not very well at that). Just because we tend to design objects that are as simple and efficient as possible doesn't mean another designer has to do things that way. For example, they could design cranes that look like trees with leaves to generate power from the sun and cables like bean vines that grab onto objects and lift them by contracting. It would be more complicated than necessary, much more inefficient and to all appearences would not be designed.

In reality, detecting rarified design may be possible because there are limitations imposed by the nature of the universe. If you propose a supernatural designer that isn't subject to those limitations then all bets are off.
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To pick a major nit here:

Just to be clear, ID does not propose a supernatural designer. It could as well be a space alien or whatever, it is not limited to the supernatural.

That is not clear. ID proposes that living things, are too complex to have evolved by completely natural processes. A natural space alien would, under this theory, also be too complex to have evolved naturally. ID necessarily requires a supernatural explanation.
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To pick a major nit here:

Just to be clear, ID does not propose a supernatural designer. It could as well be a space alien or whatever, it is not limited to the supernatural.

That is not clear. ID proposes that living things, are too complex to have evolved by completely natural processes. A natural space alien would, under this theory, also be too complex to have evolved naturally. ID necessarily requires a supernatural explanation.


Chris, you are not separating "features" of a theory from it's implications.

You are absolutely correct that the implications of ID get you to a supernatural explanation.

ID theorists are mainly focused on the molecular level . . . even so, I don't think a space alien would fall under the theory until we had one to study.

Bryan
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To continue that thought, Richard Dawkins is a scientist, an atheist, and a vocal opponent of religion.

Is it fair then to reject evolution, no matter the evidence, as an atheistic assault on religious belief (its "real" agenda) ?

No? Then neither is it fair to reject ID because Demski and Behe are Christians, have a "strategy", or the theory has religious implications.

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Then neither is it fair to reject ID because Demski and Behe are Christians, have a "strategy", or the theory has religious implications.

ID isn't rejected because of the religious beliefs of the researchers nor because of any religious implications.

ID gets rejected by those who don't believe it meets their definition of Science.

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Chris, you are not separating "features" of a theory from it's implications.

Is that a problem?

ID theorists are mainly focused on the molecular level . . .

ID theorists are focused on trying to disprove evolution to better advance the idea of an "Intelligent Designer" - hence the name.
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ID theorists are focused on trying to disprove evolution to better advance the idea of an "Intelligent Designer" - hence the name.

Furthermore, their goal is not the better understanding of how nature works, it is ultimately evangelistic.

- Joe
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