Saturday, September 30, 2006


Paley V

Continuing my trawl through the first edition of William Paley's Natural Theology (1802) Having laid out his design detection criteria with reference to the watch example, and having discussed the limited nature of the conclusion supported by the design inference, Paley proceeds to the rebuttal of several objections to the design inference...

1b) Nor can I percieve that it varies at all the inference, whether the question arise concerning a human agent, or concerning an agent of a different speicies, or an agent possessing, in some respects, a different nature.

That is, one can detect design quite aside from questions about the nature of the infered designer besides the obvious fact that the infered designer must have been capable of causing the marks of design one has observed. Beyond this point, the design inference cannot take us, and beyond this point other discussion is strictly besides the point as far as the design inference is concerned. Intelligence is intelligence, and capable of producing the hallmarks of intelligence - be that 'irreducible complexity' or 'added beauty' (Paley's design detection criteria) or 'specified complexity' (the over-arching design detection criteria of the contemporary ID argument) - whatever other characteristics it may have, including whether or not the designer is embodied like ourselves. In particular, one cannot argue that since God is immaterial and in other ways so different from or beyond human or even alien designers then it is in principle impossible for us to detect design caused by God. The matter must be approached in what physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne calls a 'bottom up' manner. First we detect intelligent design, then we ponder the question of who the best desgner candidate is in this particular case. The answer to this question may or may not turn out to be theological or even metaphysical. Whatever the answer, it does not affect the fact that we have good evidence for intelligent design by some entity capable of producing the hallmarks of intelligent design in hand.

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