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Analogy to human intelligence

As ID proponents we often make two claims

1. ID makes no statement about the designer.
2. The bacterial flagellum resembles an outboard motor.

The second claim is an analogy to human intelligence (which can be expressed as a valid inference to the best explanation). However, the second claim is a statement that the designer of nature resembles, in someway, human intelligence – thus it is a statement about the designer.

I have been reading Hume’s Dialogues for my PhD (or for my sins – I don’t quite know which). Hume, through his character Philo offers two possibilities in response to Cleanthes design argument that design in nature is in some way analogous to human intelligence. The first, in part VII, is stated as being based on Plato’s Timaeus and Hesiod, (presumably Hesiod’s Theogeny – the ‘generation of the gods’, the original ‘modification with descent.’) The demiurge of the Timaeus provides a source or power of generation without apparently requiring intelligence, which Erasmus Darwin also favoured. In part VIII Hume also offers an Epicurean perspective where finite particles fall through an infinity of time – a position no longer accepted by modern cosmology where time and space are now considered finite).

What is ironic is that evolutionists will happily consider that some plastic force at work in nature can account for order (many Royal Society members such as Joseph Lister believed a Platonic plastic force in the earth generated fossils while the design proponent and flood geologist Nicolai Steno proved they were of organic origin). But what is hated so much by the Darwinists is the analogy to human intelligence because it is a powerful statement about the designer – mankind created in the image of God. Any thoughts?

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3 Responses to Analogy to human intelligence

  1. This may be nit-picky, but it’s been bothering me for a long time, this statement about the flagellum resembling an “outboard” motor. This appears to me to be a rather embarrassing faux pas. An outboard motor has its powerplant and propeller OUTSIDE the hull of a boat. The bacterial flagellum doesn’t fit this template at all, near as I can tell. It resembles an INBOARD motor, because while the propeller remains “outboard”, the powerplant itself is INSIDE the walls of the cell. Is this not correct? Should such a trivial mistake NOT bother me?

    As for the rest of it, I agree completely with the conclusion.

    And with respect to the question of whether ID refers to the supernatural (which you didn’t ask, I know) we frequently respond by saying something akin to “Not necessarily” and in a sense that’s okay. But it occurs to me that ANY reference to an intelligent cause in ANY context (Mt. Rushmore, for example) is a reference to the supernatural because more and more it seems that intelligence itself is supernatural… even human intelligence.

  2. Darwinists hate the analogy to human intelligence because their entire enterprise is based on the premise that “the good” does not exist—that existence is not the product of an intelligent being but was produced instead by the survival of the fittest. This is ideology, not science, which makes no a priori judgments about the existence or non-existence of a transcendent being.

    Almost all philosophers up to the modern age believed that intellect was the essence of being—including Hume. The whole enterprise of philosophy was based on the premise that God is intellect and that intellect therefore has the power to divine the way to happiness . Men dispensed with the analogy and compared themselves directly with God.

    The premise broke down almost as soon as it appeared, however. Plato tried to turn intellect into a transcendent power by negating matter, but this leads to nothingness. Aristotle tried to overcome nothingness by describing a synthesis of intellectual and material causes, but his method entangles the philosopher in endless complications and deprives him of transcendent value.

    The great conflict between sense and intellect was replayed in the modern era between Rationalism and Transcendentalism. Descartes’ description of value produced the same nothingness as Plato’s. Kant tried a new trick—a synthesis of nothingness itself and our concepts of being. But this construct led to even more mind-boggling complications than the old synthesis, as seen in Hegel.

    Darwin was something new because he seemed to describe a highway to happiness that excluded God altogether. Philosophy may be divided between sense and intellect, but there is a power in nature itself that produces the excellence and beauty of the species, according to Darwin. The way to overcome the dividedness of philosophy, then, is to jettison God and embrace this liberating new power.

    This is the premise and also the grand enterprise of the modern age, with Nietzsche as its prophet. ID poses a direct threat to its power, which accounts for the recent spate of vulgar displays of hostility to religion seen in Dawkins et al. What’s at stake is not simply science but the grandiose narrative of human progress that depends upon the annihilation of God.

  3. 3

    I think it is irony of ironies that human design unfolds much like biological evolution. Human designers design based largely on need (selection) and from the accomplishments of designers that have come before them (variation).

    The English language computer keyboard is configured specifically to slow down our typing because it originated from typewriter keyboards which needed to slow down the typing process so as the keys would not lock together. This is not a constraint on a computer but has been retained as an artifact of the computer keyboard’s history. These artifacts are exactly like those we find in living things, traits that belie their common ancestry with other living things.

    Also human designers almost never design from scratch. All the parts of Bell’s telephone were already in existence he simply put them together to make something new. Evolutionary processes work in the same fashion acting on variation in the population to build something new with what is available. This isn’t new in the de novo sense as in divine fiat but rather a novel arrangement of what is already there.

    In this sense human design unfolds much more like a classical evolutionary process than it resembles some de novo creation. From technology to languages much of human invention behaves in this manner. Ever watch the old David Burke Connections series?

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