Introduction to a Science of God: Fathoming the Intelligence Behind Intelligent Design
|January 1, 2009||Posted by Steve Fuller under Culture, Intelligent Design, Irreducible Complexity, Media, Religion, Science, The Design of Life|
This is the first of a series of posts on ‘The Science of God’, aka my response to the charge that ID is indistinguishable from Pastafarianism. Let me start with a familiar Q and A:
Q: What, in a nutshell, is the Darwinist argument against ID?
A: First of all, nature doesn’t exhibit the sort of design that requires a prior intelligence to explain it. But even if nature were shown to exhibit ‘intelligent design’, ID has no way of specifying the responsible intelligence. It might as well be the Flying Spaghetti Monster. So at best ID might undermine the adequacy of Darwinist accounts without advancing anything positive on its own behalf.
The import of this analysis is obvious: ID is a science-stopper: ID tries to leverage Darwinism’s own difficulties into grounds for concluding that science can only go so far before one needs to turn to something else, presumably blind faith of some sort. It’s easy to see why Judge Jones didn’t have much time for ID at the Dover Trial. He basically bought this analysis, as spoon-fed to him by the ACLU lawyers. What worries me is that some ID supporters may buy it as well. In other words, they would wish to have ID taught in science classes, not as an alternative to Darwinism but as a means of demonstrating the limits of scientific inquiry altogether.
Maybe my fears are ungrounded, but I have been always struck that when the media put out a boilerplate account of a key ID concept like ‘irreducible complexity’, they tend to interpret the ‘irreducibility’ as something like ‘unfathomability’. But in fact, the spirit of the concept is to show how things had to be put together in a certain way to serve a certain function, such that even minor changes would render the thing dysfunctional. This strikes me as the very opposite of ‘unfathomability’. If anything, it speaks to the hyper-rationalism, or at least hyper-mechanism, of ID thinking.
Nevertheless, even on this blog – and over the last couple of days – one can find the following statement, which appears to draw a mystifying conclusion from a rather de-mystifying premise. My interest here is purely illustrative, not polemical (hence, I do not provide a link to the source). I draw your attention to the boldface phrase:
With the aid of improved technology, the formerly fuzzy “canals” of biology (Darwin’s blobs of gelatinous combinations of carbon) are not becoming fuzzier and more easily explained by non-ID theses — they are now known to be high-tech information processing systems, with superbly functionally integrated machinery, error-correction-and-repair systems, and much more that surpasses the most sophisticated efforts of the best human mathematicians, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and software engineers.
Well, what does this mean exactly? I hope it doesn’t mean that we have discovered a limit to human bioengineering capabilities. On the contrary, the fact that we can make increasingly more sense of the cell by conceptualising it in information processing, etc. terms shows that our own minds work very much like that of the original intelligent designer, and moreover that fact should provide a spur for us to inquire further – to do more science. In any case, I remain unclear about what ‘surpasses’ is supposed to convey here. After all, how would we have been able to discover the information-processing capacities of the cell, if its design ‘surpasses the most sophisticated…’? Nevertheless, I see a lot of this potentially science-stopping rhetoric in ID. I hope it is ‘mere’ rhetoric and not indicative of some deeper sensibilities that may end up giving Judge Jones the last laugh.
The ‘science of God’ that I shall developing in the next few posts presupposes that we get closer to understanding the ‘intelligence’ behind ID, the more our own mental and physical creations turn out to model what actually happens in nature. In this respect, the recognisably mechanical rendering of the bacterial flagellum that graces the banner of this website truly epitomises what ID is about – and what the 17th Scientific Revolution was about. This is very much at the heart of my Dissent over Descent, but those of you interested in getting a sense of my historical starting point should read a new book, The Best of All Possible Worlds by Steven Nadler. It is a very accessible introduction to the late 17th century discussions of the original science of intelligent design, theodicy.