Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Defining ID

This is a definition of intelligent design by Jay Richards of Discovery Institute.

ID proponents argue, on the basis of public evidence, drawn from natural science, that nature, or certain aspects of nature, are best explained by intelligent agency. Most ID proponents are critics of neo-Darwinism as an adequate explanation for the adaptive complexity of life, and of the materialistic theories of the origin of life and biological information. Since ID is minimal, it is logically consistent with a variety of creationist and evolutionist views, but is identical to none.

I wonder if some people (Feser perhaps) conflate intelligent design with certain ways of arguing for it.

26 comments:

Keen Reader said...

As a belief it's fine. It's the *arguments* for it that appear to be no good.

Bilbo said...

Feser's beef with ID is that it presents the Teleological Argument as a probability argument: It is improbable that a certain state of affairs could have come about without a designer.

Whereas the Aristotelian/ Thomist version is that each and every thing exhibits immanent teleology, which implies a designer. Even if there were only one contingent object in the universe, it would exhibit immanent teleology. At least, I think this is his argument. I'm still trying to comprehend A/T philosophy.

Walter said...

Feser's beef with ID is that IDers consider life to be an artifactual construction possessing only extrinsic finality.

The following blog post by Vincent Torley of Uncommon Descent sums it up quite nicely:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/building-a-bridge-between-scholastic-philosophy-and-intelligent-design/

Bilbo said...

Right. So if an object only has extrinsic finality, then it cannot have it intrinsically. In that case, the argument that it has finality becomes a probability argument.

A/T philosophers argue that each and every object has intrinsic finality. No argument from probability is needed.

Papalinton said...

Oh. I think the ID debate as a scientific proposition has been properly put to bed in the Dover School Trial. Anything beyond that decision places it squarely in the realm of theologically-driven philosophical speculation. And its continuing discussion is largely conducted at the periphery or the margins of contemporary philosophy, along with Thomism.

In the general sweep of today's philosophical challenges into the future, such discussions will have little, if any, impact, influence on or relevance to meeting those challenges going forward.

Crude said...

Yeah. I think Ed is wrong about ID to a point - but in his case, I do not think it's a situation of him misunderstanding what ID proponents are offering up. He seems to be very well aware, moreso than most critics.

I also think he has a major beef with it in that he's tired of people thinking the fifth way is an ID argument. Actually, that seems to be a big problem in general - even if Thomism and ID are compatible, Thomism and ID are very different views, and keeping people from conflating the two is a full-time job at times.

Dan Gillson said...

Oh come on: ID doesn't draw its results from the natural sciences; it reads a certain idea about causation into the results drawn from natural sciences, viz., that an intelligent agent is responsible for causing the complexity of life. From there it just reasons in a circle, which is why people claim that it's not science. (I have no problem with theistic evolution, which doesn't brand itself as a program for scientific research.)

Crude said...

Dan,

Oh come on: ID doesn't draw its results from the natural sciences; it reads a certain idea about causation into the results drawn from natural sciences, viz., that an intelligent agent is responsible for causing the complexity of life. From there it just reasons in a circle, which is why people claim that it's not science. (I have no problem with theistic evolution, which doesn't brand itself as a program for scientific research.)

I'm not sure what you mean about reasoning in a circle with ID. The basic ID argument I encounter is that intelligent agents are demonstrably capable of certain things ("X"), that the ability of "unguided processes" to generate X is not established, therefore we should conditionally infer X to be the result of an intelligent agent's efforts.

I don't think ID is science, and I'm actually sympathetic to Ed's distancing of himself from the project, to a degree. But I find myself sympathetic to the ID project, in large part because its mirror image ("no-ID") was given a pass for so, so long.

BeingItself said...

Does the astrologer care that the psychic objects to his methods? No. And neither does the IDer care about the objections of a Thomist.

Should we sacrifice a goat or a chicken?

Crude said...

Does the astrologer care that the psychic objects to his methods? No. And neither does the IDer care about the objections of a Thomist.

You don't know shit about either ID or Thomism. Which is why you just crammed your foot in your mouth right away.

Dembski himself argued with both Ed in particular and Thomists generally about their objections to ID, because many of them insist that those objections are wrong, and the Thomists are incorrect about the problems of ID. They also care about other objections, which is why they invited Coyne to debate them formally recently. (Pretty sure Coyne bawk-bawk-b-BAWKED his way out of that one.)

I know the astrologers and psychics rile you, though. Magic-believers tend to not like the competition of other kinds of magic. ;)

Samwell Barnes said...

But his name is "BeingItself," so surely he must know something about Thomism.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

It's one thing to give an argument for an intelligent designer, like you did. (Or even to believe in one naïvely, like a theistic evolutionist does.) It's another thing to say that the results of the natural sciences portend an intelligent designer, without which nature--or at least certain natural phenomena--is inexplicable, like Jay Richards did. Mr Richards assumes that the complexity of nature is best explained by an intelligent designer, and reads that assumption into the results of the natural sciences, which makes his argument circular. (He's concluding what he's assuming.) We simply don't arrive at the idea of an intelligent designer because of the results of the natural sciences; we arrive there by another sort of investigation.

Crude said...

Dan,

It's another thing to say that the results of the natural sciences portend an intelligent designer, without which nature--or at least certain natural phenomena--is inexplicable, like Jay Richards did.

Are you referring to the quote in the OP by Victor? If so, I don't see it. Seriously.

Could you spell out the circularity you're identifying here? I think 'nature or certain aspects of nature' here just cashes out to the more mundane 'particular things that exist'. Behe, Dembski, etc, I've never seen touch on whether nature, full stop, was designed.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

Yeah, I'm referring directly to the OP, in particular the bit about the "evidence, drawn from natural science." I don't think that the evidence drawn from natural science provides any positive reasons for an intelligent designer. (At best, the reasons are negative. At worst, they are reasons derived from the supposed silence of the natural sciences on certain matters.) So I can't see how Mr Richards can say that the evidence taken from natural science cuts in favor of an intelligent designer without first assuming the very same postulate. The circularity I see here is either implicit, or a figment of my imagination. I can't figure out which it is, I'm a few drinks deep. ;-)

Crude said...

Dan,

Yeah, I'm referring directly to the OP, in particular the bit about the "evidence, drawn from natural science." I don't think that the evidence drawn from natural science provides any positive reasons for an intelligent designer. (At best, the reasons are negative. At worst, they are reasons derived from the supposed silence of the natural sciences on certain matters.)

Alright - I can understand you rejecting the ID claim. But I don't see the circularity being illuminated there. I also think it's going to be difficult to maintain that there's a circularity charge in the process of design detection - but that this circularity is evaded in the case of detecting the lack of design.

I think the best argument against ID would be an appeal to the utter silence of science on these matters. The problem is to embrace that move is to completely pull the rug out from under ID proponents and a lot of atheist apologists alike.

So I can't see how Mr Richards can say that the evidence taken from natural science cuts in favor of an intelligent designer without first assuming the very same postulate. The circularity I see here is either implicit, or a figment of my imagination.

The problem I'm having is that you seemed to suggest my rendition of ID is somehow acceptable. But I can practically guarantee you that the basic view of ID I laid out is of a form that Dembski, Behe and company could endorse, and I think it's an accurate summary of what Richards is trying to get across.

I'd also note that Richards didn't make the move of saying 'It's inexplicable without ID' - ID, at least among its most prominent proponents, make a much weaker claim. It's not inexplicable, it just is not best or not currently explained by the alternatives. They argue for provisional acceptance of an intelligent designer based on the knowledge and data we currently have, with 'designer' being far broader than (say) the God of Christianity.

Mark Frank said...

Walter:


The following blog post by Vincent Torley of Uncommon Descent sums it up quite nicely:


I am very fond of Vincent and respect him but I don't think he ever summed up anything in his life. Summing up implies making things shorter. This particular "summary" ran to 16,000 words (28 pages of A4 in Word if I had been foolish enough to print it out) which is fairly typical for VJ.

Walter said...


I am very fond of Vincent and respect him but I don't think he ever summed up anything in his life. Summing up implies making things shorter.


Lol. Yeah, you got a point there. I should have said that the third paragraph in that post sums up Feser's objection to ID.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

1. The argument that you've rendered, which you claim would be acceptable to Behe and co., isn't itself circular. Your argument merely postulates that an intelligent designer is a reasonable placeholder for explaining the natural phenomena which we don't understand. A placeholder is not a conclusion, which is what Richards wants. Getting the intelligent designer to be a result of natural science requires one to travel an hermeneutical circle, in which evidence confirms a certain a priori assumption. That's the circularity that I see here. (And yes, I see internet skeptics as traveling a hermeneutical circle, except that for them the evidence confirms a different a priori assumption.)

David B Marshall said...

Dan: Are you making an autobiographical point about "what you see," a psychological claim about "why ID theorists believe X," or an historical point about "why ID theorists have always come to believe X?" Or maybe you're just defining science in a particular way, that you want other people (for some reason) to accept?

Because as a general historical claim, "This is how ID theorists have come to this view," your argument seems to suffer from a near complete lack of evidence for, and much evidence against, it.

Philosophically, are you really saying that one can never infer design from natural artifacts? Or, presumably, from the black marks on the screen in front of you at present? Do you imagine us all to be monkeys typing randomly? Or what is your point?

Your claim seems most easily justifiable, read autobiographically.

Crude said...

Dan,

The argument that you've rendered, which you claim would be acceptable to Behe and co., isn't itself circular. Your argument merely postulates that an intelligent designer is a reasonable placeholder for explaining the natural phenomena which we don't understand. A placeholder is not a conclusion, which is what Richards wants.

I don't see the relevant difference here between 'postulates' and 'concludes'. It's a provisional inference based on the available data, yes - but that sums up most of science as I understand it. If you're taking Richards to mean concludes as in 'a logically iron-clad philosophical proof', then I think you've misread Richards as well as ID generally. The definition I gave is a definition that, from all I've read, reflects what Michael Behe, Bill Dembski and the rest argue. ID's conclusions are provisional, they are not the only logically possible answer, and they are subject to being overturned in the future - by their own standards.

I also don't think it works to say that it's 'a placeholder for explaining the natural phenomena we don't understand'. At least in principle, we may well understand it just fine via the ID method, and that 'placeholder' may be 'the right answer'. To use a more mundane example - I'd conclude that your response to me was written by an intelligent agent. Is that just a placeholder judgement for a phenomena I don't understand?

Getting the intelligent designer to be a result of natural science requires one to travel an hermeneutical circle, in which evidence confirms a certain a priori assumption. That's the circularity that I see here.

Well, the problem I'm having is you don't see any circle in the explanation of ID reasoning I offered. I don't see where Richards (or the major ID proponents generally) deviate from what I said.

Now, maybe you mean they're bluffing about how they reason or infer. And I don't think, even if the summary I gave is right, that ID is science. (I think the reasoning and arguments may be worthwhile in some cases. Certainly some of their negative claims. But science, it ain't.) But if the rendition of the reasoning I gave passes the circularity filter, I think ID passes.

Dan Gillson said...

David

I'm making an autobiographical point, in the sense that I'm personalizing my argument; but I'm not making a psychological claim, nor a historical point. I am offering a philosophical diagnosis, viz., that Intelligent Design is a coherentist trap. I see hermeneutical circularity because the results of an interpretation of the evidence (that's a mouthful, huh?) are constrained by a deductive argument about the existence of an intelligent designer, much like in theology, when an interpretation of scripture is constrained by a supposedly relevant context, e.g., a historical fact, or a doctrinal point. Does that clear things up?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude

My response to David was meant to do double duty, being sort of a response to you as well. w

Crude said...

Dan,

I see hermeneutical circularity because the results of an interpretation of the evidence (that's a mouthful, huh?) are constrained by a deductive argument about the existence of an intelligent designer, much like in theology

Let me try restating your claim to see if I understand it. Are you saying that intelligent design requires one to establish the existence of an intelligent designer before one infers their existence? Say, 'the only way I can infer that artifact X is designed is if I've already established that designer Y exists'?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude

Sort of. I hate to say it, but this is going to have to be a conversation we have some other time. Your arguments have helped me to take my thinking about the hermeneutical circle, coherentism, and ID in a new direction, but I need a bit of a break to reassess how exactly I've gotten here. Thank again for the debate.

Crude said...

No problem, Dan. Thanks for the calm conversation.

Crude said...

Victor,

You may know, but Anthony Kenny reviewed a book by McGrath about Lewis. I think you'll like the AFR mention, even if Lewis is a bit cranky elsewhere.