ID is Not an Argument from Ignorance
|April 11, 2011||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
ID opponents sometimes attempt to dismiss ID theory as an “argument from ignorance.” Their assertion goes something like this:
1. ID consists of nothing more than the claim that undirected material forces are insufficient to account for either the irreducible complexity (IC) or the functionally specific complex information (FSCI) found in living things.
2. This purely negative assertion is an invalid argument from ignorance. As a matter of logic, they say, it is false to state that our present ignorance concerning how undirected material forces can account for either the IC or the FSCI found in living things (i.e., our “absence of evidence”), means no such evidence exists. In other words, our present ignorance of a material cause of IC and FSCI is not evidence that no such cause exists.
This rejoinder to ID fails for at least two reasons. First, ID is not, as its opponents suggest, a purely negative argument that material forces are insufficient to account for IC and FSCI. At its root ID is an abductive conclusion (i.e., inference to best explanation) concerning the data. This conclusion may be stated in summary as follows:
1. Living things display IC and FSCI.
2. Material forces have never been shown to produce IC and FSCI.
3. Intelligent agents routinely produce IC and FSCI.
4. Therefore, based on the evidence that we have in front of us, the best explanation for the presence of IC and FSCI in living things is that they are the result of acts of an intelligent agent.
The second reason the “argument from ignorance” objection fails is that the naysayers’ assertion that ID depends on an “absence of evidence” is simply false. In fact, ID rests on evidence of absence. In his Introduction to Logic Irving Marmer Copi writes of evidence of absence as follows:
In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence.
How does this apply to the Neo-Darwinian claim that undirected material forces can produce IC and FSCI? Charles Darwin published Origin of Species in 1859. In the 152 years since that time literally tens of thousands of highly qualified investigators have worked feverishly attempting to demonstrate that undirected material forces can produce IC and FSCI. They have failed utterly.
Has there been a reasonable investigation by qualified investigators? By any fair measure there has been. Has that 152 year-long investigation shown how undirected material forces can account for IC or FSCI? It has not.
Therefore, simple logic dictates that “it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof” that undirected material forces can account for IC and FSCI as “positive proof of its non-occurrence.”
As far as I can see, there are two and only two responses the Darwinists can make to this argument:
1. The investigation has not been reasonable or reasonably lengthy.
2. Give us more time; the answer is just around the corner.
Response 1 is obvious rubbish. If thousands of researchers working for over 150 years is not a reasonable search, the term “reasonable search” loses all meaning.
Response 2 is just more of the same Darwinist promissory notes we get all the time. How many such notes will go unpaid before we start demanding that the materialists start paying COD?