Friday, July 30, 2021

The Logical - Causal Problems Inherent In The Claim Of "Intelligent Design"

 There are sundry and serious logical –causal problems associated with the “intelligent design” claim. One frequent generic claim is that “intelligent causes exist”, but in proposing this the ID advocate confuses the principles of sufficient reason and causation. According to the former: Nothing happens without a sufficient reason. Philosopher of science Mario Bunge has noted (Causality and Modern Science, p. 231):

Giving reasons is no longer regarded as assigning causes. In Science, it means to combine particular propositions about facts with hypotheses, laws, axioms and  definitions. In general, there is no correspondence between sufficient reason and causation.

Thus, while intelligent causes may exist, they are not absolute prerequisites for a scientific hypothesis or explanation. Indeed, in fields such as quantum and statistical mechanics we have acausal determinism, such as in the behavior of the wave function for an atom, which confounds any conventional notion of cause leading to explicit effect. Thus, the problem entails using an unjustified generalization to describe all physical systems ID also punts by not identifying the nature of its “designer”. 

A priori one must know what one is looking for. For example, consider the “intelligent cause” of a complex cosmic radio signal, which may contain what appear to be mathematical relations. As such a signal is being parsed (say for the signature of an extraterrestrial intelligence), certain assumptions are attendant – including whether the presumed originating “aliens” can actually exist at the source location.

Intelligent design by contrast offers no insight at all into their designer. Is it some kind of deity? If so, it is definitely in the realm of religious dogma, and probably beyond any measurement or scientific test. In which case, its pursuit is a waste of time.

Is it a space alien from Tau Ceti, or Zeta Reticuli? If so, we may demand the cosmic radio signals that unambiguously make the nature of the designer clear. If ID’ers can’t specify their designer, why should we take it any more seriously than ‘Bigfoot'?

In the end, irreducible complexity (which is the specious basis of ID) inevitably amounts to an argument from ignorance. Because a structure (e.g. eardrum) or a process (origin of life from inanimate matter) appears difficult from the inferior vantage point of the percipient, it’s automatically assumed that no scientific appeal can be made. No model, however remotely probable, can be offered. Thus “intelligent design” is latched on to as a “god of the gaps”. But history shows how absurd such an approach is.

For example, ball lightning used to be assumed to be a supernatural manifestation until its static electrical nature was exposed. Same thing with St. Elmo’s fire appearing near the yard arms of ships. Diseases like plague were believed caused by “malefic influences” or even demons, until the microbial basis of pathogens was revealed by the use of microscopes.

A hundred years ago no one could explain how the Sun could give off so much heat and light for so long. Not until nuclear fusion was discovered, and evidence obtained – e.g. by specialized detectors – that they were occurring on the Sun.

Take the ear drum, ear canal, tympanic membrane and all. As Robert Ornstein showed ('The Evolution of Consciousness', p. 134) these can be explained on the basis of development of repeated adaptations of form and function. No designer is needed. 

All these and more disclose that a long record of scientific history exists to demonstrate the wisdom of the materialist- physicalist view. And why special, ad hoc causes are to be dismissed as unfounded. 

A number of other questions they have never been able to properly answered, or even addressed.  For example: 

1) Why doesn't the designer insinuate itself into the domains of other worlds in the solar system to create or organize life? 

Why isn't Mercury inhabited by designed creatures, or Venus? Or Jupiter? IF the designer is also omnipotent it ought to be able to design outside of purely natural (or terrestrial) norms and limits. (Thus an organism on Venus, for example, that can live off sulphuric acid, CO2 in the atmosphere and an atmospheric pressure of 90 atm.) 

If the designer is not omnipotent, and indeed doesn't exist in the first place - it makes more sense that life will only occur on certain planets within habitable temperature zones and containing the elements (oxygen, nitrogen, water etc.) needed for life. In such cases, it isn't "design" at work but a long, gradual process of chemical evolution that eventually leads to life forms. The only reason to invoke a designer in the first place is that it possesses ubiquitous power to design ANYWHERE! 

If it can't do that, or is limited by conditions already in place - we simply don't need it. It's redundant. 

2) If the above limitations apply, then what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a designer to exist? 

Do these conditions apply to a singular, unique entity or to multiple ones? If the entity is claimed to be supernatural, then what abiding properties must we look out for to substantiate it? If the designer exists and is not a figment of the imagination, then it should be possible to predict what it can design in a totally novel situation. Say, operating under different planetary conditions: e.g. mass, gravity, atmospheric composition etc. This will demonstrate there is a real empirical basis to the entity compatible with the claim, and not merely a posteriori statistical hocus pocus. 

The inability to deal with either of the preceding questions discloses proponents of ID still haven't produced the "goods" to warrant our taking it any more seriously than a bizarre creationist tract, such as the claim that early hominids co-inhabited the planet with dinosaurs in the Jurassic period. That means first establishing a base of facts and evidence unique to itself. Then, formulating testable predictions which can be made and that turn out to be more accurate than those of naturalistic evolution. Until ID's proponents accomplish that, preferably in the context of publishing in established scientific journals - it will remain rank speculation.

One could even go so far as to suggest rank religious speculation.

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