A Resolution for Darwin Year

I have accepted an invitation to comment regularly on Uncommon Descent for the Darwin Anniversary 2009 (200 years for Darwin himself and 150 years for Origin of Species). My plan is to draw attention to some ideas, arguments, articles and books relating to the ongoing ID-evolution debate. I’ll also say something about when and where I will be speaking about these matters in the coming year.

 

In particular, my comments will focus on two general lines of thought that have also been featured in two books I have written relating to the debate over the past couple of years. Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution and Dissent over Descent: Intelligent Design’s Challenge to Darwinism

  1. Darwinism is an undead 19th century social theory.
  2. ID needs to confront the ‘Pastafarian’ Argument.

 

First, stripped of its current scientific scaffolding, Darwinism is a 19th century social theory that has been turned into a ‘general unified theory of everything’, and as such belongs in the same category as Marxism and Freudianism. The big difference is that Marxism and Freudianism – throughout their existence – have been contested (many would say decisively) by several alternative ways of organizing and interpreting the same body of data. In the case of Darwinism, this largely ended by 1950. However, it doesn’t mean that Darwinism has somehow turned into something other than a 19th century social theory.  No, it’s simply a 19th century social theory with unusual clout. Indeed, Darwinism is really no different from Marxism and Freudianism in using its concepts as rhetorical devices for associating intuitively clear phenomena with rather deep and mysterious causes. I hope to draw your attention to examples of this in the coming weeks.

 

Second, amidst the boneheadedness and bigotry that characterise most attacks on ID, the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ argument needs to be taken seriously. After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer?  ID supporters are susceptible to the charge of ‘Pastafarianism’ because of their reluctance to speak openly about God – understandably, in a scientific culture that is so actively hostile to the very idea. (Also, religious scruples are probably in play.) Nevertheless, the most natural way to make sense, say, Dembski’s ‘explanatory filter’ and Behe’s ‘irreducible complexity’ is as saying something about, respectively, God’s bandwidth and God’s building blocks. Moreover, these are things that people can argue about reasonably, using logic and evidence, just as they would about any other comprehensive explanatory principle, such as ‘natural selection’. But it means returning to the original science of design, or ‘theodicy’, a branch of theology that became increasingly unfashionable after Kant and effectively died after Darwin.

 

Let me close with an observation on this last point, inspired by reading an article by Alex Byrne in the latest issue of the Boston Review. At one level, it is merely a sophisticated version of the familiar pseudo-syllogism: All philosophical arguments for God’s existence fail, ID is a version of one such argument, ergo ID fails. However, much more interesting is Byrne’s rhetorical undertow, which sends the message: ‘Look, you ID people don’t believe in God on rational grounds anyway, so why bother trying to find some? Just admit it’s a matter of faith, and let the scientists get on doing real science.’ If ID supporters grant this point, they effectively remove from scientific inquiry exactly what distinguishes their position from Darwinism, namely, the existence of an intelligent designer. But this in turn means that ID will need to be more forthright in advancing scientific theories of God – what ‘theology’ ought to mean. In other words, a persuasive intelligent design theory should provide rational grounds for believing in the existence of God.

 

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96 Responses to A Resolution for Darwin Year

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your second point Mr. Fuller. I marvel when some people argue that you just have to take God on faith. What is an agnostic supposed to do with that? To me faith must be based on something rational; some reasonable argument.

    I do worry though that if ID proponents get too far into “who is God?” then sectarians will take over and argue doctrine over science.

  2. Stripped of its current scientific scaffolding does intelligent design become a 21st century social theory?
    Only asking

  3. After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer?

    I couldn’t disagree more. It’s like saying a dashboard sensor is useless because it won’t tell you why the oil pressure dropped rather than simply telling you it did.

    ID, the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ argument needs to be taken seriously.

    That’s a point, but the best way to address it is to simply say that belief in the FSM (or Chutulu, or Zeus or whatever imaginary deity they throw at us) is infinitely more rational and logically consistent than atheistic materialism.

    And it is. And it is not hard to show it.

    Also, we have to remember that ID can’t show you the FSM to be false. Other means — which include logic using axioms — are required. Further, these axioms are always based on faith — just as is the notion that the Big Bang had to have some material cause — not anything empirical.

    If we start by making the (non-ID) point that we exist and that we are accountable for our existence, and that good and evil are real, the FSM/Chutulu etc. end up looking pretty silly.

  4. “…a persuasive intelligent design theory should provide rational grounds for believing in the existence of God.”

    Strong evidence of design and the impossibility of the reigning theory should, by all rights, be persuasive enough, no?

  5. Professor Fuller,

    You wrote:

    “…[T]he ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ argument needs to be taken seriously. After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer?”

    I think this was a perceptive comment on your part. There is no weapon more effective than ridicule, and ID is on strong ground when it mocks Darwinists’ willingness to believe in any natural explanation, no matter how wildly improbable it may be, rather than consider the possibility of a designer. Countering this mockery by creating a whimsical, mirth-inducing Designer was a master stroke by the beleaguered “Brights.”

    Even if belief in the FSM is a more rational intellectual position than atheistic materialism, it is not a bold one, because it fails to make quantitative, falsifiable predictions. For this reason alone, it will never win scientific adherents. The problem for contemporary ID theory is that an amorphous, non-descript Designer is no better than the FSM, for making hard predictions.

    I may be wrong, but I personally believe that ID needs to split into rival schools, with competing models of the Designer’s modus operandi and objectives, before it can make headway scientifically, and get “runs on the board,” so to speak. Of course, most of these models will turn out to be wrong in their predictions, bringing undeserved derision upon the ID movement as a whole, but that can’t be helped. I think it’s the only way forward. You have to fail many times, before you can succeed.

  6. vjtorley,

    I agree that ridicule seems to be a very effective psychological weapon in any debate. It is used against ID a lot. But it can’t, of course, be the only weapon in a debate because in the end it isn’t a logical argument (or even an argument at all). Atheists always use mockery and ridicule as their main argument and it seems to work despite the fact that they have neither proven nor disproven anything. I enjoy reading those debates between two respectful debaters who never ridicule, use excess hyperbole, or sarcasm.

  7. Ipadron,

    Yes. I hope so. In the end we can never know if God will keep His promises; but we can know if He has kept them in the past.

    Tribune7

    It seems to me that a lot of people buy the ID=creationism argument so easily because the nature of the designer is not addressed enough. I don’t know how it could be done without favoring one religion over another. Maybe by making only those statements about the Designer that can be very well founded on empirical results, while remaining (professionally) agnostic about the rest of His characteristics.

  8. Can someone flesh out for me 1) what Dr. Fuller means when writes of “God’s bandwidth and God’s building blocks” and 2) what bandwith and building block explanations would be acceptable to opponents of ID?

  9. What happens to gravity when it’s stripped of its “current scientific scaffolding”?

  10. “…stripped of its current scientific scaffolding, Darwinism is a 19th century social theory…”

    ==

    If you’re trying to make an argument about the scientific validity of evolutionary theory, why on earth would you consider it after it has been “stripped of its scientific scaffolding”?

    ==

    “Stripped of its current scientific scaffolding does intelligent design become a 21st century social theory?”

    ==

    I think most would argue that ID doesn’t have any scientific scaffolding, and that it’s actually a Bronze Age social theory.

  11. advancing scientific theories of God

    Well, this will be interesting. I commend you for breaching the arbitrary and disingenuous wall maintained by many ID proponents.
    A couple of big and obvious challenges:
    1. Methodology. I don’t know enough about scientific method and philosophy of science to say much about this, but I’m looking forward to hearing how you hope to go about this.
    2. An honest and valid scientific investigation of God would have to admit the possibility that God does not exist. Is God falsifiable?
    3. A related issue: scientific theories of God encompass not only existence but also attributes. Once you set out to explore design-versus-evolution, how about using the same methods to resolve questions of religious doctrine and practice? How about the DNA of Jesus?

  12. I am relatively new here, and mainly read to get educated so my kids won’t get “expelled” when they get older, but isn’t this whole entire topic of whether or not the Designer is God referred to in the Rules section under Arguments Not To Use?

    I assumed this was because of the obvious issue of “Which Designer” to believe in could escalate into another religious war discussion.

    Could someone clear this confusion up for me?

  13. I am a disinterested neutral observer and truth seeker and mainstream scientist working on epigenetics and genetics. I have openly voiced my criticism of all existing evolution theories, including NeoDarwinism and molecular clocks, mainly because they all take exceptions for granted, which effectively rendered them non-testable and non-scientific.

    I have recently wrote a critical review of the booklet by NAS on”Science, Evolution, and Creationism” at Amazon.com. I also posted there me email exchange with Dr. Francisco Ayala who headed the NAS panel that wrote the booklet.
    You can read them here:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R8WB8ZQSOUVGC

    I charge that the NAS experts simply cannot make a truthful statement in the field of molecular evolution and that they have repeatedly made misleading statements that are part truth and part lie.

    I here invite all sides of the evolution debate to see if my point is valid and if so, to offer ideas on how to stop the spreading of lies to our children.

    Shi Huang

  14. Let me ask something of the regulars here, and even of Dr. Fuller himself.

    Can someone both believe in design – particularly grand design, on the order of ‘our universe was created’ – and still be an atheist?

    See, the ‘pastafarian objection’ strikes me as a red herring, and I don’t think the point Fuller extracts from it – that to be meaningful, one must not only argue that nature is designed but also give us details about the designer – is present in the original schtick. If it can be reasonably argued that a mind, any kind of agency, is responsible for nature writ large.. then the atheist has lost across the board. ‘Well, maybe the creator was the FSM!’ is a meaningless quibble at that point, because establishing the justification of concluding the most basic creator is poison to the atheist position. Any creator with any attributes cannot historically be meshed with the atheist position.

    I say historically because that seems to be changing as of late.

  15. Since I plan to start posting on the ‘science of God’ stuff in the next couple of days, I will only address here the meta-point raised in comment 11.

    My intention is clearly not to start a religious war, and it will be a test of this blog whether it can sustain a civil tone. I don’t see why not.

    In any case, ID has a real dialectical problem on its hands. Half the Darwinists believe that design in nature is illusory, but the other half believe there is design but no need for a designer to explain it. This means that as long as ID confines itself simply to showing examples of design in nature, it is not likely to make much headway. Half the Darwinists will question the design, and the other half will grant the design but find the need for a designer (and hence ID) superfluous. You can’t win with those odds.

    The only real strategy available then is to theorize about the nature of the designer, however religiously and scientifically tricky that turns out to be. Luckily, this is not the first time people have done this sort of thing, and I hope to set a decent example of how one might proceed. However, I do expect that different conceptions of the designer would emerge. By the way, I am happy to save the atheist position for something like a pure Darwinist position: i.e. natural history as an intelligence-free zone.

  16. sallyann

    You said:
    Stripped of its current scientific scaffolding does intelligent design become a 21st century social theory?
    Only asking

    Great implied point! Darwinism prospered prior to presentation of compelling scientific evidence. Clearly other things propelled it early on, e.g., the rise of secularism and Modern naturalism. Similarly, I think Design will prevail now, not because it enjoys scientific confirmation but because it fits nicely into new paradigms that happen to be ascendant, in part for other than scientific reasons.

    May I ask what new social theories you see (or foresee?).

    pmob1

  17. 17

    Fuller says: “After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer? ”

    Uh .. it will make testable predictions and will lead to better working understandings of features of the universe and life than the non-foresighted, non-designed model? It will lead to an easier and faster understanding of phenomena, instead of trying to shoehorn everything into the non-foresighted model?

    The good is the empirical, objective results it can produce; what does any of that have to do with whether or not one believes in a god, or any particular god?

  18. 18

    The existence of god may be an implication of the evidence provided by ID, but if ID is of no meaningful use UNLESS it says something about “God”, then it is of no meaningful use, IMO.

  19. Steve Fuller,

    After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer?

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. Going down this road is a fool’s choice. The answer to your question is simple: The nature of the Designer is not a scientific question. Forcing it into the conversation will eliminate ID from the debate.

    There is an old addage that you can’t be all things to all people. There is also a strategic axiom that says to beware of the defended position, and not broaden your forces. These are cautionary tidbits from human experience.

    Before you saddle up your dinosaur, I strongly suggest you take these remnants of wisdom to heart.

  20. My G-d, someone at UD finally came right out and said it. Thought we would never see the day.

    Accommodationists—what you desire will never come to pass. You will never be taken seriously by the Big Science establishment because Darwinism is a belief system, linked to identity. You can play all sorts of semantic games about your intentions, a la Casey Luskin, but none of it will matter. They will never let you in the club; worse, in your eagerness to play nice with them you will forfeit the high ground you gain gratis through the self-evident nature of ID, which becomes more obvious with each passing day.

    IDers who claim to be agnostic—your position is as untenable as it is tedious. There is no intelligence in nature and no capacity for design. Those who think there can be are indulging in a sophisticated form of the pathetic fallacy. One thing Plato said that is undeniably true is “Nothing comes from nothing.” A complex organ represents a preexisting idea, a plan. To attempt to substitute vast periods of time for the required plan is to commit the same sin against logic and common sense as Lucretius.

    ID will continue to strike fire by allowing itself to be a sign of a transcendent realm of being and providing hope to countless hungry spirits who find themselves oppressed by the arrogant materialism of the age. Your allies will not be limited to scientists, but will include artists, writers, musicians, poets and philosophers. There is a yearning in the world for spiritual food. ID can help to feed that yearning and overturn the ugliness and emptiness of Nihilism.

    As for making a serious case for God: this can be done and needs to be done. Thanks to ID, philosophers can now return to the dictum that “God’s eternal qualities are seen in everything that has been made” and begin a reconstruction of signs and language as well as a measured, thorough dialogue on natural law. Beyond that, philosophers now have an opportunity to reimagine God and “the good” after Nihilism and the annihilation of Greek concepts of value.

    As for theodicy—extreme caution is needed. The temptation in the past has been to read design as a sign of intellect—to regard God as intellect in his essence and nature as a manifestation of intellectual being. This is a dead end in philosophy and should be studiously avoided. An argument that nature is in fact “very good” and not the monster that our quivering Darwinists make it out to be is needed, however, and becomes easier and easier to make as our knowledge of nature grows through basic research.

  21. 21

    #19: Exactly.
    #20: And so the internal war begins.

  22. I think this is a wonderful opportunity. Perhaps we can now begin to lay the foundations of a robust theory of intelligent design.
    One that can effectively compete with the Darwinian story.

  23. Welcome Dr. Steve Fuller!

  24. It has become my conviction that the nature and identity of the designer(s) is a valid scientific question, as long as we limit ourselves to what can be inferred from the empirical data and can build hypotheses about the nature/identity that exclude some possibilities. (In other words, hypotheses that are specific.)

    However, this seems to be a fourth level question (from my reckoning) of the levels of questions ID asks. The way I see it, ID can be broken down into at least four major levels of research:

    1) Design Detection – What are the empirical signs (if any) that distinguish intentional from non-intentional objects? Can We reliably detect design and how? (See Dembski’s work on CSI, Behe on IC, etc)

    2) Design Identification – For any given system, are these signs of design present and to what degree is design likely? This is experimental work which is basically applied design detection. (See Behe’s EoE, Minnich’s work on the BacFlag, Meyer’s work on the Cambrian Explosion, etc)

    3) Design Analysis – How was the design implemented for a designed object? What design principles were used? How was the system deployed? What is the function of a given system? This is also experimental and historical ID science. The explores the purpose and behavior of designed systems. (See Stanford’s work on Genetic Entropy, ReMine’s work on population genetics, Blyth’s work on Natural Selection, Darwin’s work on the same, etc)

    4) Design Decoding (Message Theory) – Are there any messages contained in the design? Is there any signature information present? Does the system tell us anything about the identity of the designer(s) or what they are like? (See Walter ReMine’s book on Message Theory, Paley’s Natural Theology, lots of YEC literature, etc.)

    So, as I frame the areas of ID science, you can see that each level of research leads into the next; you need a firm foundation of areas 1-2 before you can do research into level 3, and 1-3 before you can ask questions about level 4.

    That being said, I think ID still has some work to do on levels 1-2 to get them rock solid and fill out some unresearched areas before we move on to level 4 questions. Sure, you’re free to ask them, but since they depend on the data gathered on levels 1-3, we might be wiser to wait until we have better data. (What is the point ask asking the characteristics of a designer, if we don’t know the purpose of a designed object, if we don’t know if it is designed, if we don’t know how to detect design?)

    Atom

  25. Sorry, double-post (it didn’t look like it went through the first time…)

  26. Shi Hung– from the provided link in Post 13:

    Do not confuse evolution with theory of evolution. Evolution is fact while Darwinism, molecular clock, etc are merely theories of how evolution occurs. All these theories have numerous factual contradictions. My position is that there are other but yet to be discovered theory that would explain evolution facts better than all existing theories. My standard for such a theory is very high but is not higher than what is normally required for a true scientific theory, which is simply that it should not have a single factual contradiction within its domain of application or relevance.

    In mathematics or physics, one exception is sufficient to doom any theory. The science of biology or any scientific discipline for that matter should not be held to a lower standard. When one allows exceptions, one has effectively rendered the theory non-testable and non-scientific. Such a theory would be no different from a false theory that happens to explain a fraction of nature while being contradicted by the rest. The only way to distinguish a true theory from a false or incomplete one is to see if it has not a single factual exception within its domain of application or relevance.</blockquote

    That’s excellent and deserves to be repeated here!!

  27. I’d like someone to consider the point I raised back in Post 3.

    Question: Using the principles of ID, can you disprove that we were created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    Answer: No.

    Question: Does that mean ID is useless?

    Answer: No. ID is not able to determine the nature of the designer.

    Question: So, like, does that mean like we were designed by the Flying Spaghetti Monsters? I mean like, whoa?

    Answer: And the way to address questions such as that one is not through ID or any other form of methodological naturalism.

  28. —–Steve F: ….”and the other half will grant the design but find the need for a designer (and hence ID) superfluous. You can’t win with those odds.”

    If you play that game, you can’t win at all. You might as well say that some Darwinists don’t agree that a painting indicates a painter or that the Mona Lisa did not need a DaVinci. Once one denies the obvious, the only thing left to do is explain the principles of right reason to him (in the presence of onlookers) and expose him for what he is—and irrational ideologue.

    The problem is that the academy, for self-serving reasons, rejects Aristotle’s and Aquinas’ sound realism, even though it provides the metaphysical foundations for science, and accepts Kant’s skepticism, even though it militates against those same foundations. They have framed the issue and set the agenda: they will not allow “God’s foot in the door.” As a result, almost all institutions for higher learning dismiss the evidence for design and against skepticism by implementing their “show-me-more” strategy.

    So, if as design thinkers, we provide them with evidence for the “fine tuning” of the solar system; they simply say, “show me more.” If we show them FSCI in a DNA molecule, they say, “show me more.” If we provide evidence for the big bang, they say, “show me more.” Like saps sitting in on a fixed card game, we play along as if we weren’t being conned. So, we promise that we will keep doing research in the hope that someday we will be able please them. In fact, we have already done more than enough to earn our place at the table, and we have shown that we have the better hand—even with the deck stacked against us. To us, they have been saying, “show me more.” To them, we have been saying, “show me anything.”

    Accordingly, we cannot allow our adversaries (or our friends) to hold our own modesty against us. At the present time, ID can show only that a “designer” exists. Unlike Darwinists, ID scientists know what it can and cannot do. If only our adversaries understood their limitations half as well. At the moment, ID cannot explain how the “actor acts,” and it may well never be able to do it. Actors are, after all, under no obligation to act any certain way. Indeed, that is what the actor’s intelligence and creativity are all about—the capacity to surprise, create, and act one way or another or even to not act at all.

    How can one show the “process” behind Mozart’s compositions or differentiate that process with those of Bach or a Wagner. Isn’t that the whole point of intelligent innovation— to create in such a way as to separate oneself from all other creators? To ask how the actor acts is, in effect, to insist that the actor explain its behavior in non-innovative, machine like terms. Things just don’t always work that way. Shakespeare did not write poetry like Dante and Jerry Lee Lewis does not play the piano like Chopin.

    Granted, science may some day discover how God designed life this one time, but it shoud not need to do so in order to win its rightful place at the table. To ask ID to figure out how “God does things,” is, for the moment, to set the bar impossibly high. In any case, if we are going to allow our adversaries (or our friends) to frame the issue that way, we might as well close shop right now. Dembski, Behe, and Mayer have made it clear that, unlike Hugh Ross, they choose not to establish a complete system of though that reconciles design with Biblical revelation using scientific methods. If Darwinists want that kind of action, let them interact with Hugh Ross.

    What it all adds up to is this: ID scientists choose to be themselves, but others are asking them to be someone else. That will not work because only the scientist can integrate his own talents with his own passions. More importantly, ID scientists shouldn’t be playing by other people’s rules. He who frames the issue almost always wins the debate. In effect, Darwinists, (and, with the best of intentions, yourself) are reframing the issue away from the preliminary research questions that ID scientists are asking and toward advanced research questions that they are not yet prepared to confront. ID must crawl before it can walk. The real issue is that all its enemies are jumping on its back while it is crawling so that it will never be able to stand up and walk. That is the way I prefer to “frame” the issue.

  29. StephenB,

    I’d agree with you (hey, that’s a nice change), and add a caveat: I think there is a task for further ‘identifying the designer’. But said task lies outside the bounds of science. It’s a job for theology, for religious and philosophical consideration. But it’s a distinct job.

    I fear that the implicit goal here – to make ID acceptable to people hostile to it – is a fool’s errand. The goal should not be to have a ‘darwinist’ approve of ID (even a theist like Ken Miller, for example) but rather to establish the judgment of a designer being at work in the universe as a rational and acceptable conclusion, opposition to be damned.

  30. Hi Steve,

    Steve Fuller wrote:

    After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer?

    Good question but there is also a bit of irony inherent in this question because those who criticize ID’s reluctance to address this issue seem to totally discount its bearing on their own explanations. The question could be restated “what good is a theory of gravity if we can’t say something about the ultimate source of gravity?” For the materialist this eventually falters in an infinite regression or “it’s turtles all the way down”. So the argument “who designed the designer” as a road block to ID arguments, if valid, should be just as devastating to those who reject ID.

    So the question becomes “good for whom or what?” If it is for science, per se, I don’t know except that design theory could circumscribe the limits of mechanistic explanations and promote a paradigm that includes teleological dynamics. Who knows how that would play out? However, if the good is for theology, I think it can be a profound resource. If there is a teleological aspect to reality then why not probe its dynamics in what we can empirically examine. After all observation, both scientific and personal, has been utilized in the history of religion ever since religious thought emerged.

    So can we ascertain something about the nature of the designer(s) from examining evolution from a teleological perspective? I think we can but within certain limits. Having been a design engineer for over 30 years, I think I can infer a few things about a designer from what they designed. There are enumerable ways to look at a design and determine something about the designer from its elegance, use of modularity, economy, tolerancing, planning for future modifications, knowledge or lack of, aesthetic temperament, etc. Ultimately the artifact reflects on the artisan and the constraints within which they work.

    However, if we can infer something of the nature of the designer(s), it will be limited to our understanding of the design process and the nature of human designers. Further extrapolation from that falls into the realm of speculative theology or in the case of revelatory religious systems, revelation.

    Having said all that, I think there are features to evolution that can suggest something about what the designer(s) accept in the design process, and further suggest something about the designer(s) nature. If the design detection evidence and arguments do seem compelling then there might be a few things suggestive of the designer(s).

    First, the designer(s) design within constraints. If the designer is inferred to be God then, God as ultimate, this means self-constraint. The self-constraint of God (in this reality) in theology can be found in various religious formulations such as kenosis in Western theology and the constraints of Atman in Eastern theology. This suggests that the nature of God for this reality is one of self-constraint. If one accepts descent with modification within an ID theory then each successive step is constrained by the givens of the moment. This seems evident in that organisms, for the most part change very gradually, although there may be times when significant change can occur because the constraints allow for it. This also means that because of constraints, subsequent designs may not be optimum from the stand point of complete redesign from scratch. In fact, one of the hallmarks of a great designer is the ability to take what is given and create a beautiful redesign within the constraints at hand.

    Secondly, we could infer that the designer(s) utilize the acceptance test as a design tool. Designers can do their best within the constraints but they must ultimately pass an acceptance test to prove adequate. One could view natural selection as the acceptance test the designer(s) utilize as a teleological tool. This means that for the designer(s) the cycle of life and death is part of the design process. From this one could infer that for the designer(s) death is not to be viewed in a negative light from a teleological perspective but rather as an essential part of the meaning of this existence.

    These are few examples of how ID could address the nature of the designer(s). More could be said on this and I have offered such here: http://theology3m.blogsome.com.....r/#more-60

  31. 31

    Dr. Fuller is correct in saying that “a persuasive intelligent design theory should provide rational grounds for believing in the existence of God”, but that’s not the same thing as being able unequivocally to identify the God in question. It does seem to me, however, that intelligent design should be able to provide us certain clues that will, so to speak, narrow the field of possible choices.

    For example, it is fairly easy to eliminate Dawkins’ space-aliens on the basis that the Designer must ultimately be undesigned, and distinct from what has been designed. Insofar as the whole universe, and not just living organisms, show some indications of having been designed (at the level of the fine structure constant etc.) then this puts the Designer firmly outside the known universe, and pre-existent to it. To the extent that theists and atheists all agree that the universe shows signs of having had a beginning, then the ‘Kalam’ argument as often articulated by William Lane Craig (briefly, “since whatever begins to exist has a cause, there must exist a transcendent cause of the universe”) is extremely persuasive. That satisfies most definitions of ‘God’.

    We can go a little further. Darwin himself belonged to the Unitarian tradition (I happen to live in his home town, Shrewsbury in England, where he is commemorated in the Unitarian church on the main street). It seems that in this view, anything created by God, who is by definition good, must itself be good and perfect, so that anything in nature which is not good and perfect is an argument against its creation by God. Of course, there are many things in nature that do not appear good and perfect, and there is plenty of evidence (see for example the Wikipedia entry on Darwin) that it was this consideration, and ultimately the death of his daughter Annie, that Darwin found himself unable to square with his previous Unitarian beliefs and drove him to believe in evolution for what were ultimately theological, rather than scientific, reasons.

    To the extent that intelligent design shows ‘bad’ things, such as diseases and predators, to have been designed as well as ‘good’ things, it rules out conceptions of God which require everything in nature to be as originally designed by a perfect, beneficient designer. Those whose concept of God stops at this point will not find intelligent design congenial.

    What of course this doesn’t rule out is the Biblical account. There we read of a creation which was originally “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but which was subsequently cursed (Gen. 3:17) as a direct consequence of human sin. What we expect to observe in the universe today, therefore, is not beneficient perfection, but “the whole creation [...] groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:22), wholly consistent with design in nature that often appears sub-optimal or even malicious – a God who is perfect, beneficient, but also just.

    In summary, then (since this post has grown a little longer than I’d originally expected), intelligent design pretty much rules out atheism, and certainly rules out certain varieties of theism, but I don’t expect it will ever point unequivocally to a single candidate for the Designer. As the science develops, different theisms will need to be evaluated against it, but it may be that more than one candidate is left standing at the end of this process. On the basis of everything I’ve seen so far, it seems likely that the God of the Bible (or, less equivocally, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) will still be there. Those with deeper knowledge of other belief systems, including the FSM crowd, will have to decide for themselves whether theirs stand up as well, or not.

  32. In summary, then (since this post has grown a little longer than I’d originally expected), intelligent design pretty much rules out atheism, and certainly rules out certain varieties of theism, but I don’t expect it will ever point unequivocally to a single candidate for the Designer.

    Exactly, nor does it need to in order to be useful just as a thermometer doesn’t need to identify the source of heat to tell you the turkey is done.

  33. it is fairly easy to eliminate Dawkins’ space-aliens on the basis that the Designer must ultimately be undesigned, and distinct from what has been designed.

    I do not hold strongly to this hypothesis but it can not be rejected so easily. You are presuming that the same conditions in our own solar system are the same throughout the universe, or that another form of life and intelligence other than our own could not arise. Essentially, an unknown law could be in operation elsewhere in the universe. Although, if the uniformity of the universe is to be preferred then your observation is correct.

  34. Patrick,

    How can you say that (#34). Man, I wish Drs. Dembski or Wells or Casey Luskin were here to say something about this.

  35. I’m just objectively stating that a design inference in itself does not say anything about the origination of the Designer(s) in question and the conditions they/it came to exist within. Dembski, Wells, and Luskin would probably agree with me. But they’d also add that in their opinion there’s enough auxiliary evidence to prefer other scenarios.

  36. Fuller’s call for ID to enter into the field of explicating the nature of the designer is wrongheaded for several reasons, most of which have be best addressed by Tribune7 (entry #3) and Upright Biped (entry #19). Tribune7 gives an excellent analogy, suggesting that the oil warning light is clearly worthwhile even IF that warning light doesn’t give us the precise nature of the problem at hand. Upright Biped correctly notes that forcing the issue down this road would be strategically disasterous. So, in short, it is both unnecessary and imprudent.

    One real thing that design does is negate Darwinian materialism. They can’t both be right. Teleological design and random stochastic processes are simply oxymoronic. Either it is one or the other; it cannot be both.

    Now the Boston Review article, it seems to me, lends nothing by chiding ID for not elucidating the nature of a designer and then postulating a ridiculous series of strawmen designers such as a “stupid mechanic,” a long-dead designer who crafted in his/its “dottage,” or a succession of “incompetent committees.” One must ask, does the nature of the cell’s complexity, or of information contained within DNA suggest any of these in the remotest? C. S. Lewis once said nonsense spoken even about God remains nonsense and so are Alex Byrne’s inane hypotheticals. Nor do they in the least pompt me to issue a clarion call for ID to intrude into the realm of revealed theology.

    Tribune7 correctly states, “a thermometer doesn’t need to identify the source of heat to tell you the turkey is done.” But I will say that once ID tries to investigate the oven it will become one cooked goose. Why? Because it’s very power is in it minimalism. Darwin built his power from atheistic minimalism and sophistry. I see no reason we cannot build upon a strength of teleological minimalism and honest logic. By so doing the theological chips will finally be allowed to fall where they may instead of ruling them out of the game of reason pre-emptively. In short, ID paves the way for meaningful dialogue about the nature of a designer or designers; it should NOT be the dialogue itself.

  37. They can’t both be right. Teleological design and random stochastic processes are simply oxymoronic. Either it is one or the other; it cannot be both.

    Why not co-existence?

  38. This is an important time for the ID crew. Dr. Steve Fuller offers an oppurtunity (perhaps our last chance) for us to create a coherent alternative to Darwinism.

    All that Dembski, Behe, Wells and Meyer have fought for are at stake here, this our last chance.

  39. Platonist wrote:

    This is an important time for the ID crew. Dr. Steve Fuller offers an oppurtunity (perhaps our last chance) for us to create a coherent alternative to Darwinism.

    All that Dembski, Behe, Wells and Meyer have fought for are at stake here, this our last chance.

    I doubt that is true. If ID represents the reality of nature, then there is no “last chance” for ID; the design hypothesis would always remain viable since it would be true.

    I don’t think much will change in 2009, except perhaps more ID research will be done and new ID based theories will be fleshed out. Let’s just continue to build the science and forget about the nay-sayers; they will always be there when you’re trying something new.

  40. This is an important time for the ID crew. Dr. Steve Fuller offers an oppurtunity (perhaps our last chance) for us to create a coherent alternative to Darwinism.

    The alternative to Darwinism is creationism because neither is science (rimshot) :-)

  41. 41

    There seems to be some (brotherly) debate between a couple of ID camps. You’ve got the frontloaders, who believe that IC was pre-loaded into the primal organisms, versus the folks who believe that the Designer made intermittent modifications along the way.

    Both views have strong support, but the resolution of this debate should provide some idea as to the Designer’s purpose, which then gives clues as to His identity. In the frontloading case, the Designer would seem to be willing to let life unfold for His own enjoyment and wonder. In the intermittent design scenario, He clearly desires that some end be obtained, overseeing the project and stepping in with great frequency, unwilling to let the project be sidetracked.

  42. I’ll chime in briefly and say that IMO, the ID movement should be about nothing more than popularizing the notion that design is an acceptable inference from evidence, regardless of its source. Design is design is design, and it can be reasonably inferred. The ID movement should continue to expose the question-begging constraints placed upon the materialist definition of science.

    ID science should be about nothing more than the sum of the research that supports a design inference, and the research conducted under that inference.

    Anything else is political nonsense.

    If identification of the designer is scientifically feasible, then those desiring to pursue it can themselves labor for that cause under its own banner.

    >end transmission

  43. #14:

    If it can be reasonably argued that a mind, any kind of agency, is responsible for nature writ large.. then the atheist has lost across the board. ‘Well, maybe the creator was the FSM!’ is a meaningless quibble at that point, because establishing the justification of concluding the most basic creator is poison to the atheist position.

    The point, as I see it, is that “the justification of concluding the most basic creator” cannot be had in the absence (worse, in the steadfast denial of the relevance) of any information about, or investigation into, who or what such a creator/designer could possibly be. Think about this: NDE is rejected on the basis, among others, of its improbability. How can you even begin to compare the probability of a designer without any knowledge of its attributes?

  44. (first, pardon me for posting five separate responses, but it seemed preferable to a single post with five barely related points)

    #15:

    In any case, ID has a real dialectical problem on its hands. Half the Darwinists believe that design in nature is illusory, but the other half believe there is design but no need for a designer to explain it. This means that as long as ID confines itself simply to showing examples of design in nature, it is not likely to make much headway. Half the Darwinists will question the design, and the other half will grant the design but find the need for a designer (and hence ID) superfluous. You can’t win with those odds.

    I don’t know who this “other half” are. I would think that anyone who conceded design but denied a designer would have to be talking about “design,” the appearance of design, which would seem indistinguishable from the “half the Darwinists” you mention first.

  45. #19:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. Going down this road is a fool’s choice. The answer to your question is simple: The nature of the Designer is not a scientific question. Forcing it into the conversation will eliminate ID from the debate. [emphasis added by me]

    Is there any reason why your statement that I italicized must be true? More pointedly, doesn’t it assume something about the nature of the designer?

  46. #29:

    Accordingly, we cannot allow our adversaries (or our friends) to hold our own modesty against us. At the present time, ID can show only that a “designer” exists. Unlike Darwinists, ID scientists know what it can and cannot do.

    That doesn’t seem like a fruitful scientific attitude; reminds me of something I heard Behe say (can’t track it down now, regretably) about scientists needing to know when to take “no” for an answer. I understand that kind of thinking in mathematics (existence theorems, I think they’re called, e.g., there’s no way to trisect an angle with a compass and straightedge, and here’s why, so don’t waste time on it), but I don’t know that there’s anything like that in biology.

    If only our adversaries understood their limitations half as well. At the moment, ID cannot explain how the “actor acts,” and it may well never be able to do it. Actors are, after all, under no obligation to act any certain way. Indeed, that is what the actor’s intelligence and creativity are all about—the capacity to surprise, create, and act one way or another or even to not act at all.

    Thank you; that’s an excellent articulation of the methodological problem I mentioned in my original post (#11, problem 1).

  47. #31:

    Good question but there is also a bit of irony inherent in this question because those who criticize ID’s reluctance to address this issue seem to totally discount its bearing on their own explanations. The question could be restated “what good is a theory of gravity if we can’t say something about the ultimate source of gravity?” For the materialist this eventually falters in an infinite regression or “it’s turtles all the way down”. So the argument “who designed the designer” as a road block to ID arguments, if valid, should be just as devastating to those who reject ID.

    The difference is that no serious scientist would deny the value and scientific imperative of exploring “the ultimate source of gravity.” The “identity of the designer” fence around ID undermines the entire premise that ID is a scientific enterprise.

  48. allanius @30. Yes, and I agree with you at 20. This is getting scary.

  49. The difference is that no serious scientist would deny the value and scientific imperative of exploring “the ultimate source of gravity.”

    He would if you tried to use a thermometer.

  50. Hello Professor Fuller

    I respectfully disagree with your position on how to deal with the FSM. Merely dealing with it is giving it more credibility than it deserves.

    If ID is to engage in “dealing with” the FSM, it should be only to provide a rational contrast between the two.

    For example, it is a known fact that the FSM is willfully propagated under the assumption that God does not exist, so one would assume as well that the FSM has an equal likelihood that it doesn’t exist too.

    Of note, Henderson doesn’t and never did really believe the FSM existed, so the entire concept is built around a lie. Who wants to hear about a known lie, when evidence of design in the natural realm is increasing?

    Making a distinct contrast to the frivolity abounding in noodly imaginations…I quote a cogent observation from….

    Stephen Meyer says…

    [W]e have repeated experience of rational and conscious agents-in particular ourselves-generating or causing increases in complex specified information, both in the form of sequence-specific lines of code and in the form of hierarchically arranged systems of parts. … Our experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent.

    (Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Vol. 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

    Can one say the same for the FSM?

    My hope is for research to continue along a design methodology. Let the evidence for ID speak louder than the FSM. I think staying out of the debacle of “identifying the designer” is wise, unless it is to only expose the FSM for what it really is….known to not exist. At least with ID, we know evidence for design exists.

  51. WeaselSpotting (#42):

    “There seems to be some (brotherly) debate between a couple of ID camps. You’ve got the frontloaders, who believe that IC was pre-loaded into the primal organisms, versus the folks who believe that the Designer made intermittent modifications along the way.”

    Well, I am definitely in the second camp. And I have empirical evidence for that: even Bill Gates was not able to front-load Vista in the first DOS! :-)

    But, why not “continuos” modifications? With possible “punctuated equilibriums”?

  52. Atom (#24):

    As usual, I very much agree with you. To just put it in my words:

    1) It is important that ID maintains its scientific identity, as a scientific theory with a limited and specific object. ID is not a philosophy, and not a scientific theory of everything (in other words, it is not a “great unification theory”).

    2) That said, there is no reason to limit the implications of ID both in the scientific and in the philosophical field. There is no reason to do that for any theory. ID can certainly expand itself in the scientific field: for instance, the identity and nature of the designer can certainly be understood better by a scientific investigation of the design, and through perfectly scientific methods. Perhaps we could call that “extended ID”, and I am all for it, only I do believe that at present we have not yet much to say about that, maybe for lack of scientific data, maybe for lack of scientific reasoning about that.

    3) And I certainly believe that ID has important implications for philosophy, which go well beyond a “simple” support to the existence of a God. And we should probably remember that philosophy is important, and that science is not the only source of knowledge, as materialists would want us to believe. Indeed, science is impossible without philosophy (and I believe the opposite is equally true). And probably nobody can really say where exactly philosophy becomes science, and vice versa.

    4) So, our only commitment should be to good knowledge of reality. That is mine, anyway. And all good maps are welcome. But, as a map is useful only if the right map is used in the right context, let’s keep the precious map of “strict ID” for the many occasions when it is needed. It is a very good and powerful map, and many times it will help us to find our lost way.

  53. 53

    Gpucio (52): ‘But, why not “continuos” modifications? With possible “punctuated equilibriums”?

    That’s another possibility, certainly. You might run up against the folks who see microevolution as taking care of the Designer’s tedious chores, but not necessarily.

    A couple questions to you:

    1) To which camp do you see the evidence leading? Why?

    2) What sort of purpose of design do you see behind your answer to #1?

  54. WeaselSpotting:

    I don’t belong in the frontloading camp. There is certainly some evidence for partial front-loading, that is to say that some plans may include information for future self-adaptation, and I am fine with that. But I see no reason why the designer should have packed everything in a primal organism, and no evidence of that. The mystery of the C value, and of the huge size of the genome in some “simple” organisms (amoeba, lungfish) could be an argument for front-loading, but I would rather wait that those huge genomes be sequenced (I am really curious about that: in a true scientific culture, which recognizes in the exploration of the unknown a promise of unexpected knowledge, that should be a priority!). Another argument in favor of front-loading could be the evidence of the existence in simpler organism of proteins whose function seems more evident only in higher organisms, but I that even that is perfectly compatible with the idea of continuous progressive design (the designer may well develop and implement his ideas gradually, in successive steps, preparing fundamental functions in previous implementations to be able to fully develop them in the future: that would be an example of how the design itself could give clues to the intentions of the designer, showing that a general plan of future implementations was already present from the beginning, but it is not the same concept as front-loading).

    I think that the strongest reason for the frontloading scenario is that its supporters really don’t believe that the designer may have access to continuous, persisting implementation of design. There are two different reasons for that, both, in a way, “religious”: either they do not believe that the designer is a god, and stick to the idea that it is more something like aliens (an idea which I don’t share, but which is IMO perfectly admissible); or they do believe in God, but for some strange reason they think that a God who “intervenes” in His creation is in some way less “smart” than a frontloading God (an idea which I really don’t understand, but which I can at least respect).

    I am all for God’s intervention, as much of it as possible, the more the better. But I don’t like to think of that intervention as necessarily “miraculous” (although I am not excluding miracles). I prefer to think of God’s intervention as a very “natural” principle in reality, continuously giving it order and meaning which could never come out of the basic laws of physics which we know today, but which has no need to contradict them (if not in the restricted understanding of strict materialists).

    Still, I have no ideas of the modalities and procedures of that continuous intervention, and I believe that we have much to learn from science about that in the future. At present, I can only recognize that there are strong arguments to believe that, in the implementation of biological information, there are certainly sudden “leaps”, and that a scenario of true guided gradualism seems not feasible. The arguments against strict gradualism are IMO essentially two:

    a) The two “explosions” (ediacaran and cambrian), whose importance can only be underestimated (and I must say that darwinist do their “best” to try to underestimate it!).

    b) The lack of intermediates. And I don’t mean the lack of one or two fossil intermediates, but the lack of billions of molecular intermediates. There is no doubt that we observe biological information in discrete, and not continuous, quantities, of which species are just the “smallest” unit.

    So, my suggestion of “continuous” modifications, with possible “punctuated equilibriums”, was after all a good formulation of my ideas.

  55. WeaselSpotting:

    I forgot your question #2. IMO, the main purpose of design is to express ever new, and higher, functions. In that sense, I completely disagree with the darwinian approach that survival is all. If that were true, “evolution” would have rather stopped to bacteria (still the most successful living organisms on earth), or just to stones, which are very good at survival. I believe that there is in the biological world a continuous impulse to express new functions, to experiment with them, and to creatively enjoy them. The Designer is not only smart: He is a true artist, and as an artist He enjoys form, and creates it continuously. Let’s say that I believe that flight evolved so many times not because of convergent evolution, or just because it is better for survival, but because it’s beautiful, and interesting, and such fun!

  56. 56

    Awesome responses, gpuccio.

    Perhaps in the future, ID scientists will be the ones to sequence the lungfish genome!

  57. 57

    IMO, the main purpose of design is to express ever new, and higher, functions.

    Unless, of course, it is one’s wish to design simpler, more basic functions. Or, aesthetically pleasing designs – “function” be damned, Or, planned obsolescence or eventual dysfunction might be one’s design plan. Or, it could be just to frighten and confuse one’s creations. One could also be designing something on an assignment. Or, one could be unconsciously designing a universe … dreams, anyone? Or, various aspects of design could simply be indications of limitations of materials, imagination, or skill on the part of the designer.

    The problem with this whole line of thought is that it cannot be anything other than “just so” stories that match personal ideology in exactly the same manner that historical, deep-time evolutionary stories, and psycho-evolutionary tales, are “just so” stories based on personal ideology.

    I was driving through a medium-sized Texas city one day with my wife, and we passed this monumental shriners museum. I had grown up around there, and knew that only a very few people ever even visited the place; its immense parking lot was almost always completely empty. I remarked, “You know, thousands of years from now, archaeologists might uncover this and assume it was the center of everyone’s existence here, because it’s so huge and has such a huge parking lot. In truth, almost nobody around here ever had any idea what it was for, or what went on inside.”

  58. 58

    William Murray…

    Stepping outside the abstract, look around your room at the various designed things you see. I’d say most, if not all, of these things have clear purposes, and future archeologists won’t be horribly baffled by them. Purpose is [usually] a hallmark of design.

    There no reason that speculating about the purpose behind design should be off limits. Speculating about the actual identity of the Designer is a bit more abstract, but the identification of purpose is a step in the right direction.

  59. William Murray:

    WeaselSpotting had asked:

    “2) What sort of purpose of design do you see behind your answer to #1?”

    I was just answering and expressing my fancy ideas. No pretense to make any scientific discourse there. Just so stories, without any doubt. But stories I just so love.

  60. 60

    “Stepping outside the abstract, look around your room at the various designed things you see. I’d say most, if not all, of these things have clear purposes, and future archeologists won’t be horribly baffled by them. Purpose is [usually] a hallmark of design.”

    Another just-so story, based on a convenient assumption about what you’d find in my room, and an unspoken, convenient set of parameters about the nature of the archaeologists discovering them.

    “There no reason that speculating about the purpose behind design should be off limits.”

    What anyone does in their home among friends is their business; what gets authorized here as a legitimate part of the ID discussion has ramifications.

    Holding the line at design inference .. and not purpose or motivation or identity inference … kept ID a science; now, it’s becoming a divining tool for priests to ordain what the divine purpose of the flagellum – and the brain – is.

    “Speculating about the actual identity of the Designer is a bit more abstract, but the identification of purpose is a step in the right direction.”

    I’ve argued for years against people that attempted to characterize the ID community as largely a stealth mechanism for promoting particular theistic views into classrooms. The cornerstone of that defense was that ID did not make any claims about the nature of the designer; the designer was an irrelevant aspect of the theory, a straw man used by anti-ID advocates to insinuate ID was more about closet theism than science.

    Unfortunately, now I’ll have to apologize to them. They were apparently right. Not only do you want to argue that design exists, but you also want to eventually tell little Johnny why “god” designed it, and what its purpose is.

  61. “Now, it’s becoming a divining tool for priests to ordain what the divine purpose of the flagellum – and the brain – is.”

    Nothing like understatement.

    That aside, William J., what word would you use to characterize the sites devoted to Darwinism? “Science”?

  62. It is hard to tell what is tongue in cheek in some of the comments but I fall on the side of keeping as far away from philosophy or theology as possible. They are interesting topics and many here relish the discussions. But I happen to think that showing the Darwinian mechanisms as limited would be the ultimate humiliation of the Darwinists. And this is from one here who gives wide credence to Darwinian processes to the formation of most new life forms in our world.

    If the average person can understand that survival of the fittest and natural selection are alive and well in our world along with some other processes but that they are very limited in the explanation of much of life then we will have won the game. Most will go on to make the right decisions about the implications of this and many be resentful that the textbooks led them astray.

    But confusing the issues with the nature of the designer will get one into a quagmire. Watch Steve Fuller in the following video to see what happens when the debate moves away from the science of evolution and see if anything positive happens for ID.

    http://fora.tv/2007/10/28/Batt.....ing_Darwin

    In it Steve Fuller will not admit he believes in Intelligent Design and see how the debate drifts once it gets away from the essential issues. I had previously recommended that no one watch this video but in light of the current thread, I think it is essential given that Steve Fuller is the originator of the thread and its controversial proposition.

  63. 63

    “That aside, William J., what word would you use to characterize the sites devoted to Darwinism? “Science”?”

    No. They represent the future of ID sites if we start going down this path, IMO.

  64. pubdef said

    “The difference is that no serious scientist would deny the value and scientific imperative of exploring “the ultimate source of gravity.” The “identity of the designer” fence around ID undermines the entire premise that ID is a scientific enterprise.”

    I am afraid they do deny the value as to who/what set the value of gravity and how. It is called Multiverses or infinite number of universes of which our gravity constant happens to be just right. This is such a fatuous approach that is laughable as to what some scientists will say in order to deny the most obvious explanation. So I think this comment is actually an affirmation of forgetting who the designer is till we have more scientific evidence, a lot, lot more.

  65. —–WJM: “I’ve argued for years against people that attempted to characterize the ID community as largely a stealth mechanism for promoting particular theistic views into classrooms. The cornerstone of that defense was that ID did not make any claims about the nature of the designer; the designer was an irrelevant aspect of the theory, a straw man used by anti-ID advocates to insinuate ID was more about closet theism than science.”

    You are mixing an awful lot of themes and rolling them into one. To say that one’s science makes no claims about the identity of the designer is not at all the same thing as claiming that the designer’s identity has no relevance. Further, to say that ID cannot (or may never be able to) discern the specific purpose behind the design is not to promise that it will never try. The claim is that current ID methodology cannot now, or possibly never will, discover the designer’s identity and purpose using scientific methods alone.

    On the other hand, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that ID would probe the theological significance of its scientific conclusions—and they are scientific. None of this has any thing to do with the only point that matters: ID methodology is empirically anchored; “creationist” methodology is faith based. Your comments are just another version of the “ID-is-creationism-in-a-cheap-tuxedo” argument. It’s called motive mongering.

    —–”Unfortunately, now I’ll have to apologize to them. They were apparently right. Not only do you want to argue that design exists, but you also want to eventually tell little Johnny why “god” designed it, and what its purpose is.”

    You should apologize to your strawman for inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

  66. 66

    “Your comments are just another version of the “ID-is-creationism-in-a-cheap-tuxedo” argument. It’s called motive mongering.”

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t know how the question Fuller posed in the O.P.:

    “After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer?”

    … can be taken as anything other than a statement that everything produced by ID theory is largely irrelevant compared to making statements about the putative “intelligent designer”, which is a complete reversal of virtually all ID argument to date concerning the “designer’s” role in the theory.

    It would be the same as a biologist stating that nothing in biology makes sense, or means much, except in light of what statements it can make about evolution, or the origin of life.

  67. WjM: You write:

    —-”It would be the same as a biologist stating that nothing in biology makes sense, or means much, except in light of what statements it can make about evolution, or the origin of life.”

    Yes, that is both a fair point and a good parallel to Steve Fuller’s argument. Obviously, I think he is misguided.

    That is not the same thing, though, as saying, as you did @61, that ID advocates are trying to hide their true intentions, which, in your judgment, is to push religion in the name of science. Nothing that has been written on this post can justify that interpretation or your contention that ID has been outed as a “stealth mechanism.”

  68. 68

    I.D. is science regardless of the misguided attempts by god-oriented advocates – apparently, like Fuller – who think the main purpose of ID is to make commentary about god. I never stated that ID had been outed as anything, nor implied it. However, given the ID advocates here that have jumped on baord with Fuller … their motives have indeed been outed, IMO.

    My only hope this is some kind of joke or represents some bet made behind closed doors. If UD becomes a pulpit for examining the “purpose” and “motive” of god, then I’ll just have to switch over to another ID site and hope this doesn’t spread over.

  69. Murray you may have a point but I for one still want to hear what Dr. Fuller has to say.

    I eagerily await is online class (here at Uncommon Descent) on the science of God.

  70. Besides isn’t Dr. Fuller entitled to offer his two cents on who or what he feels the designer to be?

  71. WJM: I think that your analysis is correct on one count, and premature on two counts.

    I agree that it is premature and even risky to try to make the design inference a purpose oriented enterprise, at least at this time. So we are together on that one.

    On the other hand, you seem to hold the entire blog accountable for one guest appearance from one writer (and two or three commentators), while ignoring a dozen or so administrators who agree with your emphasis on the science. You are assigning trend status to an anomaly.

    Second, you suggest that Fuller’s motives are religious, yet I understand that he is a self-professed agnostic. Obviously, his intent is to appease Darwinists, not to spread the Gospel. I think that you ought to take these things into account.

  72. —–Jerry: “It is hard to tell what is tongue in cheek in some of the comments but I fall on the side of keeping as far away from philosophy or theology as possible. They are interesting topics and many here relish the discussions. But I happen to think that showing the Darwinian mechanisms as limited would be the ultimate humiliation of the Darwinists. And this is from one here who gives wide credence to Darwinian processes to the formation of most new life forms in our world.”

    I think that there is a responsible way to bring philosophy and theology into the discussion to SUPPORT to the ID science, but this thread is using philosophy and theology to COMPROMISE ID science. The difference is critical. Also, I agree that exposing the Darwinist fantasy should remain one of our top priorities.

  73. Bantay @ ’50

    For example, it is a known fact that the FSM is willfully propagated under the assumption that God does not exist, so one would assume as well that the FSM has an equal likelihood that it doesn’t exist too.

    So if you asssume that god exists there is an identical likelihood that the FSM exists as well.

    Of note, Henderson doesn’t and never did really believe the FSM existed, so the entire concept is built around a lie. Who wants to hear about a known lie, when evidence of design in the natural realm is increasing?

    Did Henderson ever make such a statement? And what about other religions. Would you characterize Mohamed like Henderson?

    Making a distinct contrast to the frivolity abounding in noodly imaginations…I quote a cogent observation from….

    Stephen Meyer says…

    [W]e have repeated experience of rational and conscious agents-in particular ourselves-generating or causing increases in complex specified information, both in the form of sequence-specific lines of code and in the form of hierarchically arranged systems of parts. … Our experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent.

    (Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Vol. 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

    Can one say the same for the FSM?

    If one takes reports of repeated experience of rational and conscious agents serious FSM is indeed compatible with ID.

    My hope is for research to continue along a design methodology. Let the evidence for ID speak louder than the FSM.

    But evidence for ID may be evidence for FSM.

    I think staying out of the debacle of “identifying the designer” is wise,

    seemingly, you are alreday deeply inside that debacle

    unless it is to only expose the FSM for what it really is….known to not exist.

    Do you think you can get it both ways?

    At least with ID, we know evidence for design exists.

    At least with FSM, we know evidence for design exists.

    Thus, irrespective of being true or not FSM is fully compatible with ID and should not be expelled from the discussion of possible designer identities.

  74. Steve Fuller

    re; confronting the FSM idea

    Should every other science and philosophy have to confront the flying spaghetti monster too?

    I hereby accuse the FSM of sitting in your lap and moving your fingers. None of your writing is yours. It is all FSM writing.

    Should you confront this? Should anyone bother confronting such stupidity? Not in my opinion. Phenomena don’t deserve serious consideration without serious evidence that they are real.

    I suggest saving the paranormal discussion for another time & place and focus instead on the evidence before us.

  75. Like Levant’s classic wisecrack—“I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin”—it’s a little late in the game to restore the purity of science.

    Neither Bacon nor Descartes, progenitors of modern science, were pure. They both considered themselves philosophers, and they were both opposed to Scholasticism.

    Newton was not pure. He was opposed to Descartes’ dualism, as he explicitly states, and was an advocate of synthetic methods. He was also an ardent Christian deist who thought of himself as a theologian.

    Einstein was far from pure. Those who do not understand that relativity is an attack on Kant’s universals of time and space—that the wild popularity of the theory reflects opposition to Transcendentalism—are simply unacquainted with intellectual history.

    And Darwin—where does one begin? He wants us to believe that he set out on his famous voyage with no preconceptions; that he was nothing more than a blank slate with a highly receptive mind. Poor fellow; he didn’t know his own grandfather.

    Clearly there are good and bad ways of going about what has been proposed in the above post. If it is handled clumsily—if it comes across as “priests” dictating worn-out doctrine—if it is not subtle and infused with strategic vision and wisdom about the past—then it will be unsuccessful.

    If, on the other hand, it is handled with the cleverness of the examples cited above, then it has the potential to do what Johnson, Behe and Dembski set out to do long ago: overturn materialism and open the door to the restoration of culture.

  76. WJM

    what gets authorized here as a legitimate part of the ID discussion has ramifications.

    Yeah but it’s not like Bill Dembski is doing the authorizing anymore and it’s not like Barry Arrington, who is doing the authorizing, is a fellow of the Discovery Institute.

    So I wouldn’t worry too much about those ramifications when the sources are so easily impeached.

  77. Thus, irrespective of being true or not FSM is fully compatible with ID and should not be expelled from the discussion of possible designer identities.

    Exactly! And we should remember to point out that the FSM is a far more reasonable hypothesis than whatever flavor of the day the materialist crowd is using to explain what came before the Big Bang.

  78. StephenB

    At the present time, ID can show only that a “designer” exists

    Wrong tense. ID can show only that a “designer” existed. Minimal abilities of the designer can be inferred but little else.

    The flying spaghetti monster illustrates the silliness of assigning attributes to the “designer” where there is no physical or logical reason for it. For instance, why does the FSM have 2 eyes? Why not 1 or 20? The inclusion of 2 camera eyes is pure whimsy.

  79. I hope some of the less than inviting comments on this thread didn’t scare off Doc Fuller from posting here in the future.

  80. 80

    #76:

    Thank you for the clarifications – this is more understandable for me now! I’ll just move along then.

  81. Platonist,

    I suggest you watch the video where Dr. Fuller tries to defend ID and see if you really want him as a spokesperson for ID.

    http://fora.tv/2007/10/28/Batt…..ing_Darwin

    Personally I thought Steve Fuller did a better job for the anti ID people than the pro ID people. If I wanted to undermine ID, I would choose to debate Fuller every time. and would relish a debate with Fuller where he takes on ‘Pastafarianism.’ I can see the debate headline now, “ID fails at evolution so it now debates the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    So are you sure you want Steve Fuller as an ID spokesperson, unless you are amongst the anti ID group.

  82. —–Dave: “Wrong tense. ID can show only that a “designer” existed. Minimal abilities of the designer can be inferred but little else.”

    Exactly right. I wrote the word “exist” too hurriedly.

  83. I still think Fuller has a lot to offer. Besides, we don’t run this blog, obviously someone invited him to contribute.

  84. 1. Steve Fuller has credentials far superior to those of Bill Dembski and various others among the Discovery Institute fellows.

    2. Steve Fuller cannot be impeached as an American political activist. His first concern, even here, is social epistemology.

    3. Steve Fuller followed through with his promise to testify for the defense in the Dover trial.

    4. Steve Fuller evinces honesty. Rather than call for people of faith to pretend that they don’t believe as they do, he calls for them to a) clarify their science and b) oppose the suppression of their ideas in public education.

  85. Sal Gal, I agree that Steve Fuller should be welcomed to UD, and that his points should not be shouted down.

    Rather than call for people of faith to pretend that they don’t believe as they do

    If I said my faith has nothing to do with ID (and it doesn’t) why should that be doubted?

    And why should ID not be accepted for debate on its own terms?

    2. Steve Fuller cannot be impeached as an American political activist.

    And why should being an American political activist be grounds for impeachment but being a Canadian one (Pinker) or a British one (Dawkins) be laudable? In fact, both Pinker and Dawkins have made far more political statements than either Behe or Dembski.

    Actually, IIRC, Dembski was posting photos of his family with Obama on this site earlier this year. So much for the claim that he’s a right wing demagogue.

  86. Have any of you seen the debate on the video? He made ID a laughing stock. Steve Fuller won’t say he believes in Intelligent Design when asked. Some spokesperson.

    So are we supposed to use as a spokesperson someone who has some kind of credentials that have nothing to do with evolution, not an American Political activist, testified at Dover and evinces honesty but does not believe in Intelligent Design and looked befuddled at Cambridge?

    I am seeing the value of the FSM as our spokesperson.

    Now if Steve Fuller will claim he believes in ID, sticks to what ID is about, namely science, then maybe he could be effective and then only when that was accomplished bring up some of his other issues.

  87. Jerry, come on. Letting him start threads is not the same as making him a spokesperson.

    And maybe he’s just not a good debater.

    But his perspective should be considered if the cause is to be advanced.

  88. —-Sal Gal: “Steve Fuller evinces honesty. Rather than call for people of faith to pretend that they don’t believe as they do, he calls for them to a) clarify their science and b) oppose the suppression of their ideas in public education.”

    Here comes the motive mongering again. ID People of faith don’t “pretend” anything. They distinguish their faith from their science, while contending that each can be reconciled with the other.

    That is what makes them different from Creation Scientists and Darwinists, both of whom inject their faith into their science and its methods.

    From an ID perspective, religion and science form an “intersection”; from the CS and Darwinist perspective, religion and science form a “union.” The difference is only everything.

  89. tribune7 (85), I think you will understand what I was driving at if I point out that I was responding to (76):

    DaveScot wrote in 76:

    Yeah but it’s not like Bill Dembski is doing the authorizing anymore and it’s not like Barry Arrington, who is doing the authorizing, is a fellow of the Discovery Institute.

    So I wouldn’t worry too much about those ramifications when the sources are so easily impeached.

    Ironically, if he were still the “blog czar,” he’d have banninated himself for that. There’s nothing quite like dismissing a blog by dismissing the blog owner and then bothering to comment, is there? Good Ol’ Dave!

    I’m actually all for freedom of expression. And one thing I will express is disgust for people who oppose it and exercise it. This blog is a vast improvement over what it was. The irony of the weeping Expelled expelling left and right was utterly amazing.

    I am very pleased to see Steve Fuller here. He is a first-rate intellectual with whom I disagree on various points. But he articulates those points honestly and well, and that makes for good discussion. And good discussion generally leads discussants to better understanding, if only of their own stances.

    Fuller values democracy highly, and this seems to be a key aspect of his thinking on social epistemology. He has a long history of asserting that it is the right of the masses to participate in the construction of various beliefs of importance to society, including scientific beliefs.

    It happens that I, like the American Founders (who were strongly influenced by Plato’s Republic), believe that democracy leads to chaos. Fuller wants more democracy, and I want less. I believe in democratic election of elites who make better decisions for the people than the people would make for themselves. I also endorse an elitist scientific establishment. Beyond that, I believe in public education in which intellectual elites decide that content and the instructional methodology.

    The upshot is that Steve Fuller and I have different values. Yet I value people like him. Something many IDists have not caught onto is that the Golden Rule will get them further in debate than “an eye for an eye.” As Gandhi pointed out, “An eye for and eye, and the whole world goes blind.” If you want discussion that potentially leads the world to see the merits of ID, then you should do all you can to see the merits of discussants and, better yet, their points.

  90. Jerry,

    Now if Steve Fuller will claim he believes in ID, sticks to what ID is about, namely science, then maybe he could be effective and then only when that was accomplished bring up some of his other issues.

    You would do well to look into social epistemology, starting at Fuller’s website. His job is not to tell society what to believe, but to comment on the formation of social beliefs.

    The idea that science is some sort of “Truth Methodology” is incredibly naive. As I have pointed out in another thread, there is no inductive inference without bias. What constitutes mainstream science in fact comes down to the bias a group of very intelligent people prefers for reasons that in and of themselves are not scientific.

    What makes many IDists and many atheists bedfellows is their fondness for pointing out the bias of others while sweeping their own bias, well, under the bed. ;)

    Personally, I like methodological materialism as a bias (or explanatory heuristic, in Fullerian terms) in science. But I also have an overarching belief system in which I know the limits of belief formation through empirical science. One may argue — and I will listen closely, though I’m inclined to disagree — that most people in society are not equipped to “put science in its place,” and that a change of bias in science would serve the greater good. My response is that we should teach philosophy in high school, and drive home the point that the beliefs we arrive at by empirical science depend on the assumptions we begin with.

    Then again, Fuller suggested in a prior appearance at UD that attempting to “get into the mind of God” might prove to have explanatory value in science. Some people may doubt that, but there is no way to deny it. I would observe, however, that people who believe in God have an ugly tendency not to take “no” as an answer from nature. Selective is reporting is admittedly a problem throughout science, but people looking for proof of their God are especially bad.

    So I end by saying, be honest about your bias, and be honest in your reporting. I will support anyone who follows that dictum, even if I disagree with his or her bias.

  91. “Jerry, come on. Letting him start threads is not the same as making him a spokesperson.

    And maybe he’s just not a good debater.

    But his perspective should be considered if the cause is to be advanced.”

    First of all, the conference that Fuller debated Conway Morris was not at Cambridge but Kings College London at something called the “Institute of Ideas” and it was in October 2007. When it was posted in September, I thought it was recent. So maybe in a year he has learned something. But StephenB pointed out in the discussion of this conference back in September that Fuller is a Postmodernist or social constructionist and truth made not mean the same thing for him as for many of us. We will have to ask him.

    Since he debated Simon Conway-Morris at a high level conference, on ID he has to be considered a spokesperson for ID. Conway-Morris is one of the big names on the naturalistic evolution side. Maybe there isn’t anyone in the UK who could be considered an ID spokesperson but Fuller stepped up to the plate as one.

    Who is saying that his perspective will advance the cause? Can we make an argument for that? Is debating Pastafarianism advancing the cause. I do not think so. In fact I believe it will set it back.

    So go on about how Steve might be a good guy but what has he done for ID. Not much if you watch the debate.

  92. “I would observe, however, that people who believe in God have an ugly tendency not to take “no” as an answer from nature.”

    I have not a clue what this means.

    In terms of what we all may understand, I can support Fuller if he takes it upon himself to debate with the Darwinists, why they constantly mis represent what ID says and believes and why they feel it is necessary to do so. I happen to believe that would be a devastating argument against the Darwinists if it was allowed to play out. But I doubt that they would ever enter into such a debate. But after watching Fuller debate, I doubt that he is up to it or would have his heart in it.

  93. allanius @75, right again. Perhaps we can do a thread on the “pure” scientists who think that vegetables feel pain.

  94. Sparc @ 73

    “So if you asssume that god exists there is an identical likelihood that the FSM exists as well.”

    Not necessarily. God is immaterial, while the FSM is supposed to be material (primarily starch?). The existence of God does not mean that anything material that can be mentally constructed would necessarily exist. However, it may exist in the minds and imaginations of Henderson & Co.

    “If one takes reports of repeated experience of rational and conscious agents serious FSM is indeed compatible with ID.”

    I suppose somebody can rationally propagate a lie, knowing it is a lie. This is in remarkable contrast to those who believein God. At least they propagate their belief from a perspective of sincerity.

    With that in mind, who is more credible? The Christian who believes what he claims, or the Pastafarian who knows he is propating a fabrication?

    “seemingly, you are alreday deeply inside that debacle”

    Nope. Only the Pastafarian is faced with the debacle of ‘who designed the pasta’. And we all know the answer to that.

  95. 95

    Bantay you say, “I suppose somebody can rationally propagate a lie, knowing it is a lie. This is in remarkable contrast to those who believein God. At least they propagate their belief from a perspective of sincerity.”

    Yet there have been so many gods that we humans have believed existed in all “sincerity.” When we look back on ancient cultures, we don’t ever believe in their gods, but we don’t question those ancient culture’s sincere belief in their gods.

    Perhaps you don’t believe that the Hindu gods exist, but surely those that do believe are sincere?

    How have all these different gods evolved? Isn’t sincerity of belief the common factor in all beliefs in a invisible, or seldom seen, or hard to see god?

  96. How have all these different gods evolved?

    You kid us not? Evolved gods?
    No, no no.
    Not even micro-evolved gods.
    Because they are indeed irreducibly complex: Take away one of their characteristics, e.g. immortality, and they are no gods no more. Thus, they are designed, indeed intelligently design. And this time we indeed know the designers.

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