Home » Intelligent Design » Miksa Responds to KN on the Abductive Leap

Miksa Responds to KN on the Abductive Leap

All that follows is RD Miksa’s:

Dear Kantian Naturalist:

You said:

“My position, rather, is that at present, design theorists have not done the hard work of implementing the deductive and inductive stages of inquiry that would lend empirical warrant to the hypothesis. And that means that design theory does not yet deserve serious consideration as an alternative to other explanations of biological phenomena.”

Consider, then, the following:

Let’s start with the abductive leap that you accept:

“The abductive leap would be: ‘It is surprising that there is complex, specified information in living things, but if living things were brought about by an intelligent agent, then the presence of complex, specified information in living things would be a matter of course.’ and that’s perfectly right, as far it goes.”

Now you say:

“But it does not go very far, because design theory stops there. It does not go on the next stage of inquiry, which would be test the abductive leap. To do that, one would have to deduce observable consequences from the hypothesis that would not follow from the converse, and then conduct the lab or field work to see if the observables are actually, in fact, observed.”

But this is just incorrect. Why? Because if we admit the abductive “leap” that complex specified information is best explained as the product of ID, and that there is CSI in living things, then the deductive and inductive aspects follow naturally.

First, we can deduce that the designing intelligence would have had to be intelligent as well as possess a knowledge of biology that rivaled if not surpassed our own. Next, the intelligent agent would have to have had synthetic engineering skills. Furthermore, depending on the time when the organism in question first existed, we could deduce the rough time-frame when the design of the organism occurred. And a number of other deductions could be made.

Second, we could form general inductive “laws” based on ID that would be both predictive and could be easily tested empirically and confirmed via observation. For example, we could establish a “law” that “no CSI rich biological organism could come about via unintelligent means.” This would also be a prediction. Next, another prediction: an intelligence, such as us, could create biological organisms with CSI in them. And another prediction: if ID occurred, then it is likely that the foundation of life was designed rather than coming about by natural means. (And of course, many more predictions could be made).

Third, a research program could be completed to search as many biological organisms as possible in order to determine which ones exhibited CSI. Then, once this list was completed, the predictions could be tested and observations made. If ID came out successful, then this would explain the data better.

So, again, all the criteria of a good scientific theory can be met by ID.

Note, furthermore, that ID might be false—meaning that perhaps the abductive leap that there is CSI in living things is incorrect—and yet ID could still be a scientific theory that meets all the criteria required of science. Thus, ID does not need to better explain or account for the data before it can be considered scientific, because even if ID is false—for the sake of argument—it could still have shown itself capable of doing all the things a good scientific theory does.

A clear differentiation needs to be made between a theory that is scientific in terms of its ability to meet all the requirements necessary to be considered a science, and a scientific theory that is currently the one that best explains the data. Newton’s theory, for example, is clearly a scientific theory, and yet it is not the best one anymore. Just because it is no longer accepted does not suddenly mean that it is no longer scientific.

RD Miksa

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2 Responses to Miksa Responds to KN on the Abductive Leap

  1. OT: Stephen Meyer on the Hugh Hewitt Show discussing the myth of scientific consensus – podcast
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....38;index=8

  2. 2
    Kantian Naturalist

    The problem with the deductions and inductions mentioned here is that they don’t tell us anything over and above what we’re told in the abductive leap itself.

    First, we can deduce that the designing intelligence would have had to be intelligent as well as possess a knowledge of biology that rivaled if not surpassed our own. Next, the intelligent agent would have to have had synthetic engineering skills. Furthermore, depending on the time when the organism in question first existed, we could deduce the rough time-frame when the design of the organism occurred. And a number of other deductions could be made.

    But we already know all that just by conceptual analysis of the design hypothesis itself. So that’s not answering the challenge I’m posing. The challenge I’m posing is, given the design hypothesis, what else would you look for in order to lend empirical support to the hypothesis?

    For example, one might proceed as follows: if the designer is constrained by the laws of physics, and if the physical world is causally closed, then there are only so many ways that the designer could have turned dissipative systems into autopoietic systems. And from there we can generate increasingly refined assertions about observable conditions, until we finally arrive at one that is precise enough to be measured. Then we can do the experiments and see what data we generate.

    If it should turn out that there’s no observed barrier in the transition from dissipative systems to autopoietic systems, that would entitle us to cast doubt on the design hypothesis. (But it wouldn’t entitle us to refute the hypothesis entirely, because hypotheses can be tested in more than one way.) On the other hand, if there is some observed barrier in the transition from dissipative systems to autopoietic systems, and if we have good reason to believe that the actions of an intelligent being could have overcome that barrier, then that would bolster empirical support for the design hypothesis.

    What we cannot do, if we are serious about testing the design hypothesis, is either simply appeal to the observations which inspired us to make the abductive leap in the first place or just spell out, as a matter of conceptual explication, the content of the design hypothesis itself. Yet that is pretty much what I see design proponents doing whenever they are pressed.

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