Friday, July 08, 2005

Arguments against Intelligent Design

Okay, so now we (hopefully) have a basic understanding of what Intelligent Design is. However not everyone believes in this theory. I want to take a moment and look at some of the more common objections that are out there.

One of the biggest problems opponents of Intelligent Design face is that of not mixing scientific assertions with philosophical or religious ones. True science requires a neutral mind open to all possibilities in the pursuit of truth. Yet most naturalists assert that Intelligent Design has no place in science academia and should be kept to religious circles.

Phillip Johnson wrote in Signs of Intelligence:

“Scientific materialists think that advocates of Intelligent Design are either irrational or dishonest because they are advocating as science a proposition that ought to be confined to religion, namely the claim that scientific evidence points to the reality of a designing intelligence in the origin and development of life.”

But how can science honestly say it is pursuing truth if it already has preconceived stipulations set in place?

For example, Robert T. Pennock states in his essay Mystery Science Theater that:

“The origin of species once seemed equally mysterious, but Darwin followed the clues given in nature to solve that mystery. One may, of course, retain religious faith in a designer who transcends natural processes, but there is no way to dust for his fingerprints.”

Here we can already clearly see that Pennock has closed his mind to a creator God simply because he can’t see evidence of it that is up to his standard. In other words, “dusting for fingerprints” would have to fit his own subjective criteria of evidence as opposed to another person’s criterion where the intricacies of ecosystems or complexities of plate tectonics could suffice.

Dembski has a great retort to this problem. In The Design Revolution he says:

“So long as intelligent design has a demonstrable secular purpose – advancing science, enriching the science curriculum, preventing viewpoint discrimination, promoting academic freedom – its motivation even if religious is legally irrelevant.”

Another problem facing opponents of Intelligent Design is that they are acting inconsistently with their worldview. They claim that they will not accept Intelligent Design as a legitimate theory because it has religious suppositions behind it. Yet those in science and academia conceptually accept and even use Intelligent Design in their everyday lives. Although the next post will specifically focus on these areas, I want to bring up one example here.

This is an example Phillip Johnson gives in his chapter of Signs of Intelligence; “If they [science academia that currently reject Intelligent Design] were to receive a signal containing a sequence of prime numbers as portrayed in the movie Contact, they would conclude it came from intelligent beings – without the need for independent evidence of the existence and nature of aliens.”

Here you can see an example of where the scientific community would be stuck between a rock and a hard place. The evidence would clearly show signs of intelligent life, yet the method used to assert this is the very method they deny as religiously based.

Robert Pennock addresses this issue in his essay Mystery Science Theater. (Click Here to read the article). Here he brings up the very issue of the movie Contact and claims:

"…a design inference like that in the movie Contact, for instance, would rely on background knowledge about the nature of radio signals and other natural processes, together with the assumption that a sequence of prime numbers is the kind of pattern another scientist might choose to send as a signal. But the odd sequences found within DNA are quite unlike a series of prime numbers."

But Pennock is mistaken. He is so focused on the specifics involved with the radio signals, that he completely misses the concept being represented; namely that it is possible to make an inference of something you don’t know about from something that you do know about.

Okay, my guess is by now your head is spinning, I know mine is, let’s call it a day and come back later for an analysis of Intelligent Design in use today.

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