Home » Intelligent Design » “Darwinian theory of evolution is silent on the question of whether a supernatural intelligent designer exists”

“Darwinian theory of evolution is silent on the question of whether a supernatural intelligent designer exists”

Deciding whether the mini-ID theory has supernatural and religious implications is not as straightforward as seeing whether the word “God” appears in the statement “each irreducibly complex system found in nature was designed and produced by an intelligent being.” When independently plausible further assumptions are taken into account, the mini-ID theory entails the existence of a supernatural intelligent designer who made at least one of the minds found in nature. . . . The point I would make here is a different one – as Pennock (1999) notes, the Darwinian theory of evolution is silent on the question of whether a supernatural intelligent designer exists. This is not true of the mini-ID theory. In terms of the contents of theories, it is ID theory, not evolutionary theory, that has implications concerning the existence of supernatural designers.

From Elliott Sober’s forthcoming “Intelligent Design Theory and the Supernatural.”

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10 Responses to “Darwinian theory of evolution is silent on the question of whether a supernatural intelligent designer exists”

  1. Bog standard evolution rules out Intelligent Design a priori, supernatural or not. It’s judicially-sanctioned, tax-funded intellectual terrorism, but only a monority of people realise the extent of the damage being done. Academic progress is regressing, and scientific progress will go the same way. ID may be supernatural, it may not -we may never know for sure, but that there is design in evidence is undeniable, scientifically and morally. Evolution-inspired thought is at the root of many of today’s social, political and environmental ills. All you need to do is dig beneath the superficial news reports to see the true havoc being wrought in the name of the secular, pseudo-scientific hokom that has been wrought on generations of the world. Not just in education, but entertainment, daytime television and crank literature. No wonder the avergae citizen has trouble punching a hole in a voting card!

  2. The point I would make here is a different one – as Pennock (1999) notes, the Darwinian theory of evolution is silent on the question of whether a supernatural intelligent designer exists

    The problem with this is, if Darwinism is not trying to account for the appearance of design in biology, then what is it supposed to explain? On the other hand, if Darwinism *is* trying to account for the appearance of design in biology, without any appeal to actual design, then of course it denies the existence of any designer – obviously if nothing that seems designed is really designed, then there was no designer designing it. Sober is arguing in circles. If Darwinism doesn’t deny design (and hence a designer) then it’s a non-theory, a cognitively empty statement. If it does, then of course Sober is wrong, and it denies a supernatural designer, as well as any other conceivable kind of designer, behind biology. Either Sober’s argument “defends” Darwinism by emptying it of any explanatory content (thus destroying it), or his argument is incoherent (ie, he’s trying to deny that anything is designed while not denying the existence of a designer)

  3. There is an ambiguity in the paper. What Sober shows is that Darwinism has nothing to say about the presence of a supernatural being – which is fair enough. He then summarises that as nothing to say about a supernatural *designer*. As Darwinism provides an explanation for the appearance of design in biology it does reduce the need for a designer and, in that sense, there are implications, for a supernatural designer. But you might feel the need for a supernatural desisgner for reasons not connected with biology. Theistic evolutionism, although apparently rejected by Dembski, is a very popular position among Christians.

  4. Glad to see someone actually read your book before launching a critique.

  5. Sober argues in his logic stream that “mind” is irreducibly complex(IC). I do not see this to be necessarily the case. Can we comment on whether something as etherial as “mind” is IC? I think Michael Behe had very well defined physical systems in mind when he defined IC. I do not think he would consider that “mind” is IC.

    This flaw in Sober’s logic stream is fatal to his conclusion that “mini ID” is necessarily supernatural.

    As for Darwin, if Pennock is correct in asserting that only material causes can be studied in science, and if “mind” is not understood as necessarily supernatural, then to counter Darwinism with ID should not be judged as an appeal to the supernatural.

  6. I don’t think that is so. Darwinism was invented precisely to do away with the Creator.

  7. Materialists can’t avoid ID by pointing to it’s supernatural implications. In fact, their attempts to do so are what suggest to me that their scientific position is in bad shape, and they know it. The only way they can beat ID is by showing that the teleology that undeniably exists in nature can be plausibly accounted for by way of unintelligent causes. They need to stop throwing out the red herrings of possible supernatural connections to ID and get into the lab or go out into the field and do some research!

  8. The constant drumbeat about the theological implications of ID is a tacit admission on the part of anti-ID folks that blind-watchmaker evolutionary theory is bankrupt.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the wrong side is on the defensive in this debate. The notion that the hideously complex machinery and information-processing systems found in living things is the product of random search is an extraordinary claim, which should require extraordinary evidence — evidence that has not been forthcoming because it doesn’t exist.

  9. Amusingly, for someone who feels the need to list “cause precedes effect” as a premise, Sober doesn’t seem very capable of morally distinguishing the two. There’s a big difference between a theory having religious premises and having religious implications.

    Any theory–any fact, any study–can have religious implications. Egyptology has religious implications for Mormons; study of the Ancient Near East has religious implications for Jews; heck, evolution itself has religious implications for Christians. This is not the sign of a flawed or ill-motivated theory, and no reflection on the science behind the theory at all.

    What is less acceptable is a theory with religious premises–as it will only be acceptable to those that share those premises, and hence doesn’t enjoy the universality science is supposed to enjoy.

    Never confuse premise with implication. For shame! A philosopher–of all people!–should know that arguments are properly judged on the validity of their *premises*, not the palatibility of their *implications*. And premises, of course, are always transparent: if an argument is persuasive, and religion is not among the given premises, then the argument is not religiously motivated.

  10. A few thoughts:

    The origins of nature obviously require something outside of nature. So even though Sober wishes to remain silent on that issue he can’t avoid it. Silence is in no way a permission slip that excuses you from an explanation. It also does nothing to support any theory based on that silence. Evolutionism is starting to look like that movie “Village”, ie “those we do not speak of” changed to “that we do not speak of”.

    Evolutionism starts with what needs explaining in the first place- life and an environment capable of sustaining it. If life did not arise from non-living matter via some unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) process there would be no reason to infer its subsequent diversity arose solely to those type of processes.

    “Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence.” B.A.D.

    “Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause?” another B.A.D. quote

    Why can’t people just leave it at that?

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