Sunday, October 02, 2005


Scientific American column attacks ID

In October's Scientific American, Steve Mirsky attacks Intelligent Design theory in his 'AntiGravity' column as:

'"the full-blown intellectual surrender strategy" that proposes that a scientific explanation of life's complexity requires the intercesion of a supernatural being.'

I have a number of observations:

1) Mirsky's italics suggest he thinks a supernatural explanation cannot be a 'scientific' explanation. This would come as news to scientists like Newton! Mirsky's rule is either based upon the assumption that naturalism is true (an assumption few people share), or the assumption that science should be methodologically naturalistic - a rule that turns science into applied naturalism rather than a no-holds barred search for truth, and a rule questioned by many philosophers of science (e.g. Ratzsche, Meyer, Moreland).

2) ID does not propose that 'the intercession of a supernatural being' is a scientific explanation, or even an explanation, required by life's complexity. All that ID hypothesises is the intercession of intelligence, full stop. Of course, many ID theorists (but not all) do philosophically identify this intelligence as a supernatural being (i.e. God), but such an identification is philosophical and is neither scientific nor part of Intelligent Design theory.

3) Would a forensic scientist who concludes that a person died due to 'unnatural causes', i.e. by being deliberately murdered by an itelligent agent, be accused of 'intellectual surrender' on the grounds that they should continue to seek a naturalistic explanation of the death in question? Would a SETI researcher who concluded that the message they had received from space detailing how to build a complex machine (as in the movie Contact) be accused of 'intellectual surrender' because they should continue searching for a naturalistic explantion of the data? No. In which case, why accuse ID of 'intellectual surrender' for making design inferences of exactly the same sort?

4) ID is not 'intellectual surrender' if its conclusions are based on sound design detection criteria and if the conditions of those criteria are fulfilled by anything in nature. In that case, ID is an intellectual advance.

5) Mirsky oversimplifies when he says that ID infers design on the basis of 'life's complexity'. It is not complexity per se that ID says justifies infering intelligent design, but specified complexity and/or irreducible complexity (cf. the work of Dembski & Behe).

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?