ARCHIVE - The Science Behind Intelligent Design Theory-by Casey Luskin


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Warren>> From your perspective, we can never ever hope to detect the existence of ETI through anything less than direct experience with them. That would mean that if there are millions of alien artifacts found throughout the universe, each and every time we stumble upon them, we'll never even suspect they are an alien artifact. Now, doesn't that sound silly to you? <<

Stratnerd>>It does. But here's the difference between artifacts, mousetraps, watches and living organisms: the latter have a history that is geneological and what you see now is the result of that history and not the present. If you saw reproducing things on some planet would you infer that they were constructed by alians or dieties? <<

Warren>> As our bioengineering and nanotechnology techniques become more sophisticated, our understanding of cellular/molecular processes are likewise improving. Why should this be the case if life was spawned via geo-chemistry?

Is it reasonable to think that in the future, bioengineering and nanotechnology will evolve from tinkering and experimenting with life to designing and redesigning life? In a world where humans have blurred the distinctions, such that some life is "natural" and other life is "designed," will it make much sense to insist that what is "natural" was never artificial?

In the future when humans begin to explore and colonize other planets, bringing with them bioengineered life forms to create extraterrestrial biospheres, will it make much sense to insist that life arose on this planet without such agency intervention?

At such a time, will seriously suggesting that the first life forms on our planet were designed by another intelligence such that evolution itself was either designed or constrained by this design seem like a religious claim or a claim that is out of place in the sociological climate?

I think it is reasonable to assume that at such a time, ID will no more be out of place than reductionist accounts of the origin of life are out of place today.<<
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Stratnerd>> Warren, Why do you think it is necessary to invoke something above and beyond a natural explanation?<<

Is bioengineering supernatural?

Certain aspects of biotic reality look to me like the product of bioengineering and not something cobbled together by a blind watchmaker. You will probably take issue with this but as I pointed out previously even an atheist and materialist like Richard Dawkins will tell you that in his opinion certain things in nature look like they were designed for a purpose. Of course, Dawkins doesn't really believe that anything in nature is intelligently designed, the point I'm making is that a suspicion of ID in certain cases isn't unreasonable. Once ID is suspected, research can proceed that will either strengthen or weaken the suspicion.

It should be rather clear that the anti-ID crowd is incapable of processing teleological explanations behind biotic reality (for philosophical and sociological reasons). This is why they demand either a) extraordinary evidence or b) evidence of a designer. Lacking both a) and b), those opposed to ID are forced to consider only non-teleological explanations.

That’s okay, but what if one is interested in whether a teleological explanation is better than a non-teleological explanation, or if they simply want to follow-up on teleological hypotheses? Any investigation needs to build on suspicions and hunches. Without these, no investigation can get off the ground. Is it any wonder that persons who are incapable of processing data as evidence for a teleological cause in the “suspicion” or “inference” stage, short-circuit any effort to investigate ID?

If you ask ID critics what type of data they would consider evidence for ID, their answers usually highlight various biases. We also need to keep in mind that there is such a thing as a continuum of evidence. There are data that lead to hunches and are used to form speculations. There are data which then work to strengthen or weaken these original hunches. There are data likely to convince one predisposed to be convinced. Data likely to convince those who are neutral. And data likely to convince a hard core skeptic.

ID critics will never rid the intellectual world of ID thinking with naysaying. Nor will they succeed by coming up with better non-teleological stories that exclude, a priori, teleological explanations. What is needed is for the ID critics to join hands with the ID proponents to reach a mutual agreement about methods and types of evidence that can be used to tentatively detect ID and then confirm ID. Then together, they can explore the world and perhaps agree that there is no detectable evidence for ID.

But ID critics are caught in a Catch 22 here. To join hands like this and engage in a mutual search is essentially to bring ID into science. And the socio-political dynamics of this dispute will not allow this move. In other words, for the ID critics to succeed in ridding the intellectual world of ID thinking, they must first draw ID into science and let its hypotheses be played out and found wanting. This won't happen. Thus, even if ID is completely bogus, the situation we have today will continue to exist.

Scientific belief is not just about Nature and the data, but also receives very significant input from psychology and sociology. If a valid idea gets drowned out by socio-political activity, then this is one place where the ability of science to self-correct fails.
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So the short of it is you entertain ID because it appears that some attributes of living systems appear to be designed?

I refer to bioengineering that is beyond anything we could conceive (practically) over 3.5 billion years ago either as supernatural. Such a being is either going to be an alien or a diety. Either way these are phenomena well out our world of experience and that's how I define supernatural.


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Warren>> I think theistic evolution posits that ID is undetectable.<<

Isn't that also what you say Warren?

Warren: There is currently no way to DIRECTLY detect the existence of either a teleological or NON-teleological cause from ancient history.

It would seem both sides are in the same boat. Wouldnt they have to infer design or intelligence behind evolution as you said ID does?

Warren: The best either side can do when investigating ancient natural history is to infer a cause indirectly to determine how well those inferences make sense of the data we have.

The problem I see is that this inference of intelligence behind evolution or design has to have something to do with our observations of human intelligence designing things. Otherwise it would be just as sensible to ascribe "design" to non-intelligent processes.

The problem is that Darwin showed that by starting in the middle with order you can work backward to account for intelligence. Obviously this only applies if you accept evolution. (which is why I asked) And once you account for intelligence via order what grounds do you then have to infer intelligence behind that order or "design"? Darwin just holds off on the "how" questions and looks to see if evolution occured or not. He undercuts the assumption that intelligence is needed for "design" by showing that mere order can account for intelligence (our intelligence).

Dennet seems to imply that this shows that order arises from non-intelligent processes but I disagree. I think this just puts order in an agnostic framework. Meaning we cannot know what if anything causes order.

Warren>> I'm skeptical. Show me how minds are produced by mindless processes.<<

I never said that. I said minds are produced by mere order. That is what evolution shows. And as I said above I dont think there is any justification in inferring intelligence behind this order. That doesnt mean this is false but just that the reasoning cannot be supported.

What I dont believe is questioned by supporters of evolution is:
1. that order exists
2. and of course that evolution has occured.
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