Intelligent Design
October 24, 2007 — 15:17

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Existence of God  Comments: 4

Some folks here might be interested in an argument on my personal blog that current biological science is insufficient to make it rational to disbelieve that Intelligent Design will turn out to be right.  It's a messy conclusion.  The argument is meant to puncture the certainty that some opponents of ID exhibit (I have no problem with opposing ID;  I personally think that none of the current ID arguments work;  but it is the certainty in the opposition that is problematic).  Discussion of ID and evolution tends to be acrimonious.  I wonder how much acrimony such a moderate claim will provoke. 🙂

  • And I posted a follow-up where I “argue that current evolutionary theory (ET) is compatible with the Intervention Claim (IC) that some biological facts about the development of species are explained by one or more miraculous divine interventions at some point in evolutionary history”.
    I don’t exactly know how to reconcile my claims in this new argument with an earlier argument of mine that evolution is incompatible with divine design of human beings. The difference is in what the two arguments take to count as “the theory of evolution”.

    October 26, 2007 — 14:42
  • I for one am very interested in your argument; because whilst I too believe in ID, I too find the current ID arguments disappointing (as are the current anti-ID arguments). One thing that’s struck me recently, is the likelihood (in the sense of probability theory) of the Creator (or ID) hypothesis, i.e. the high probability of the existence of a created world that is roughly evolutionary in appearance (much as it is Newtonian in appearance) given the existence of a Being capable of such feats of Creation (which follows from the logical limits of omniscience that I’ve blogged about recently).

    October 26, 2007 — 16:43
  • As far as I can tell, your argument works equally well for plate tectonics. So with some slight modifications (substituting the particular pattern of of faults in the San Andreas fault for the precise pattern of a copperhead, and geology/plate tectonics for biology/evolutionary theory), we get something like the following, slightly modified from your argument (2):
    “There is a myriad of geological facts, such as the precise pattern of faults in california, each of which satisfies (1); i.e., they’re F is very unlikely to happen if the only processes in play are those of plate tectonics. This is no evidence at all against plate tectonics, but just a fact about probabilistic processes. A priori improbable things happen all the time. No surprises there. Let S be the set of very unlikely geological facts like that.
    Now to have reason to hold that no ID argument for some relevant design hypothesis in geology will be successful, one would have to have to reason to judge that none of the facts in S satisfies (2); i.e., not unlikely to happen on the relevant design hypothesis H. First note that this judgment would go beyond the competence of geological science. Geological science does not estimate the probability that God, if he existed, would design a fault with such-and-such a pattern. So geological science by itself would not be sufficient to establish the unavailability of an ID argument.
    Now in the case of the pattern of the San Andreas fault, we have little reason at present to think that God would design that pattern rather than any of the many others that the fault could have had. Now in the unlikely case that we might discover that the pattern encodes some text in some natural way, or fulfills some Biblical prophecy, the relative probability of that pattern over the others might rise. But we don’t expect that to happen.
    Nonetheless, I do not think we have much reason to believe that none of the facts in S satisfies (2), and we even do not have much reason to believe that none of the facts in S will be discovered to satisfy (2). So, once again, we have little reason, if any, to believe that a working ID argument won’t be discovered in the future.”
    Does that work? Are geologists overly dismissive of the possibility that one day Plate Tectonic ID theory might one day turn out to be right?

    October 26, 2007 — 19:33
  • Tim:
    First, let me note that your comments apply to Argument 2, but not, as far as I can tell, to Argument 1.
    Anyway, you ask a really good question that I hadn’t thought about. I now do think we should be open to future discoveries, and we might discover evidence of the existence of God in plate tectonics. It is also true, I think, that the current state of geological knowledge gives us little reason to accept the claim that geological design arguments will not work given a fully developed geology. Of course the current state of geological knowledge gives us little or no reason to accept the claim that geological design arguments will work given a fully developed geology.
    One of the things we’ve learned from the history of science is that it is a risky business to predict future scientific developments. 🙂 And in particular we do not know in which, if any, of the special sciences we might in the future find some evidence for the existence of God. This is a pretty weak claim, I think.
    One potential difference with the biological case as opposed to the geological is that we know a number of biological facts, particularly about humans, that we can argue satisfy (2). Intelligence is a case in point. I do not know how much in the way of such geological facts there are, though for aught that I know there are some geological features necessary for the support of complex life or something like that.

    October 27, 2007 — 0:56