Designers all the way down

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When confronted with the claim that ID is really just creationism (I was going to write "scientific creationism", but that was actually what the creationists rebranded creationism before they rebranded it Intelligent Design), the standard line is that ID just tells us when some organism was likely to have been designed, not who the designer was. IDers have to say this, of course, because that's what makes it at least potentially a scientific theory rather than just an appeal to divine intervention. The idea, recall, is that there's some test that you can apply to an object that will tell you whether that object was designed. Call it T. The point being that T doesn't tell you anything about the designer, just the object. The designer could have been supernatural or extraterrestrials or... is there really a third possibility? Time travelling humans I suppose. Anyway, call that designer D1.

Now, if D1 is supernatural (divine), then we're out of the realm of science. But since part of the value proposition of ID is that it's supposed to offer a potentially non-supernatural explanation for life, let's consider the other arm: that D1 is natural. But of course, if D1 is natural, then we can apply the same kind of analysis: D1 can have come about either through evolution or intelligent design (logically, of course, it could have come about through some other mechanism, but if we had another such mechanism, then we wouldn't need ID to explain terrestrial life either). So, we apply T to D1 and if it comes up that the D1 wasn't designed, then no problem, D1 evolved and we're done. On the other hand, if it comes up that D1 was designed, then we need to investigate the question of its designer, D2. D2 can similarly be natural or supernatural, and if it's natural, we can repeat the same analysis. If we don't want this to be a turtles all the way down type of situation, at some point we either need to get the answer that D? wasn't designed (i.e., it evolved) or that it's supernatural.

So, if ID is to actually be a scientific theory, then there must be some way for T to come up with the answer that a complex, intelligent organism wasn't intelligently designed. So, the question you need to be asking at this point is: what would the characteristics of such an organism look like. And more importantly, considering all the evidence that human life did evolve and given the fact that the design of humans (and other organisms on Earth) is, frankly, a mess, under what conditions could you imagine T coming up "not designed" if not these?


Question one: is it possible for an organism to create/design an organism that is more complex than it is? If so, you may hit a point where it is turtles all the way up. If that were true, you'd go back through D until you got to an organism so simple that it could simply have appeared. It's not going to design much, but if it can design something just a tiny bit more complex, you're on the way.

(Note that I don't believe ID proponents are saying this or would say it, it's just a different take on things)

Question two: how different would this chain of increasingly complex designs look to casual inspection from those produced by Darwinian evolution? how about Lamarckian?

"...that a complex, intelligent organism wasn't intelligently designed... ...what would the characteristics of such an organism look like?"


Hi, my name's Andrew. How are you today?


This all reminds me of Aquinas' 5 proofs for God and Aristotle's corresponding arguments (in the Metaphysics, I believe) -- all the arguments lead to the conclusions such as "There must be a first cause for all effects in the universe" and "There must be a first mover for all moving objects," etc. A fallacy appears when they make the (logically) unfounded leap from "First Mover" or "First Cause" to God, which is what those arguments do. To accept that there must be a first cause or a first mover says nothing about the attributes of God, whether it's male or female or good or bad or invisible or omnipotent -- they merely use "God" as a placeholder for "something necessary and sufficient to cause X."

You said "if D1 is natural, then we can apply the same kind of analysis: D1 can have come about either through evolution or intelligent design." That's a false dichotomy, as you hinted in your parenthetical comment, though you didn't seem to see how false it is. Because if ID is right and such an ET exists, doesn't that pretty much discredit Darwinian evolution? I think so. If such an ET exists, then we really have no idea what possible processes could have created it. It's beyond our ken, at least with our current empirical theories and things.

I think ID is utter bullshit. I don't know a lot about what their "technical" arguments are, but I would sure like to see their experiments. Hell, where is the ID explorer, adventurer, experimental scientist and avid data collector to compete with Darwin? Where's their tome to answer Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection?" I've read that book, which predates Mendel and genetics all the scientific experiments such as those documented in "The Beak of the Finch" and many other great layman books like it, and I found Darwin utterly convincing -- *before* I read Mendel and Dawkins and Gould, etc.

He pulled in tons of data from traveling the world, from working with the best botantists and geologists in the world, from experiments he did at home, from artificial selection processes had developed widely varied varieties of pigeons, dogs and cattle.

So, show me some Intelligent Design proponents who aren't just sitting on their asses and arguing about pie in the sky but who are actually performing scientific experiments. Is Michael Behe one? I don't think so. I read his book too (Darwin's Black Box) and, though impressed with his knowledge of biochemistry, I saw through his rhetoric. Behe's book is a classic case of letting the conclusion drive the inquiry rather than the other way round.

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