We have seen the double D’s right here at this board, by two members who are no longer members.
I think there is nothing illegitimate about presupposing ID as a metaphysical stance. If that is illegitimate, then it’s also illegitimate for scientists to presuppose a fully materialistic and unplanned or undirected world as a metaphysical stance.
The question becomes, how does one extend ID from metaphysics to science?
In the case of biology, I think the challenge is daunting. The question I ask is: what could possibly count as evidence for intelligent design in biology?
The problem for the IDist in biology is that we already know through empirical evidence and a highly confirmed theory that descent with modification happens; this means that organisms that look as if they are intentionally designed are not intentionally designed.
Behe and Dembski have sought to attack “evolution without plan or purpose” through their concepts of irreducible complexity and specified complexity, respectively. I’m not going to go over those two concepts here, except to say that they have been impressively rebutted by scientists.
One might take issue with these rebuttals (Behe and Dembski do), but let’s suppose that the rebuttals are valid. What then for ID in biology?
If I wished to honestly argue for ID and not argue disingenuously, I might first suggest that the intelligent design advocate simply hold on to the concept that at least some aspects of life are intelligently designed, even if we have no good scientific evidence for such design at the present, and even if it might seem particularly difficult to find such evidence.
I would do this first on the basis that the metaphysical presumption of design in life, or in the cosmos at large, is far from a priori ridiculous; indeed the presumption that God created and governed the world was a powerful motivating factor behind the research of Newton and many others.
It could be the case, after all, that God or the designer set up things in such a way that there can be no clear scientific evidence of its/his/hers handiwork. There is nothing outrageous about the idea that the designer employs descent with modification as a design strategy. That is, the designer sets the initial parameters and then lets descent with modification happen to produce a tree of life.
Computer programmers already do this, with some results that are strikingly life-like even if they are “merely” digital. Some have speculated that such computer created “artificial life forms” could really develop consciousness; and if they did, how could they ever know, in their digital environment, that there was an environment totally outside of them in which an entity called a “programmer” programmed them into existence? They could speculate about such a possibility, but it does not seem feasible, from within their digital programmed environment, that they could ever obtain empirical evidence for this idea.
Lest this sounds far-fetched, a number of philosophers, probably most prominently the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, have speculated that we ourselves are simulated beings in a simulation being run by an outside programmer. Bostrom has developed an argument in which, if a couple of (plausible) premises are accepted, then the odds of this being the case are better than even.
Perhaps the IDist could relocate the concept of design away from descent with modification and toward abiogenesis. To do this, the ID advocate would first have to stop disingenuously conflating evolution with abiogenesis, as they so often do. This strategy is probably also weak, as it smacks of a “God/Designer of the Gaps” sort of argument; but until there is some evidence for how life began in the first place, it’s not outrageous to think that perhaps life was “started” by a designer.
Of course, even if the IDist argues in the way, he will then have to address the question of who designed the designer. The larger point being that until the IDist is upfront about his/her arguments and not merely disingenuous (as many but not all of them are), then they are not going to be taken seriously by serious people and will sooner or later find themselves banned from serious message boards, among other sanctions arising from “human social thought,” to quote a phrase that recently we have heard far too much of.
Another possibility is to abandon the idea that ID must be found in life altogether and to situate it in some other promising realm, like the “fine tuning” of the universe. I won’t go into a rehash of fine-tuning here, having at least a couple of threads that I need to return to myself to hash out the implications. But I will say that the fine-tuning argument for the existence of an intelligent designer is far from as bad as some materialists make it out to be, and indeed, trying to answer the fine-tuning conundrum (if it is a conundrum) has been among the motivating factors in inspiring various scientists to promote multiverse version of reality, to explain the fine-tuning of our reality (the point being that if the free parameters of the universe were even slightly different, it is argued that complex structures of any kind would be impossible; life, being a complex structure, would also be impossible).
Perhaps another strategy would be to locate the possible domain of design within the field of quantum physics or quantum consciousness. I think Steve Petermann suggest something like this, and I invite him to elaborate if he so chooses.
That’s all I’ll say for now, as this post is long enough. The main thing I think that ID advocates have to do is to be honest, unless they are not interested in honesty; and it’s my impression, unfortunately, that many of them are not. That is, I often get the distinct impression that they really don’t care whether ID is true or not. What they actually care about is the ”noble lie”; they think it’s important for something very like ID (God) to be accepted as true, whether true or not, or else culture will slip into nihilistic oblivion. The former member Gregory invoked the dire prospect of nihilism in one of this posts; unfortunately when I asked him directly about the “noble lie” possibility, he ignored that question as he did virtually every other question I put to him.
Another good strategy for the ID advocate would be to answer the questions of others directly and upfront, with honesty and integrity and in good faith; and when they don’t know something, say, “I don’t know.”
I am editing this to add a very relevant and recnet observation from one "Godless Sodomite" which puts things better than I have been able to:
Edited by davidm, 17 October 2008 - 06:27 PM.