Is Intelligent Design self-refuting ?

by hooberus 38 Replies latest watchtower beliefs  Original

  • hooberus
    hooberus

    Some critics (here) of Intelligent Design theories claim that it is "self-refuting" to invoke design and / or complexity, as evidence for an intelligent designer explanation for things such as the origin of life, other complex biological structures, etc.

    Since this claim comes up somewhat frequently, I thought it should be given its own thread.

  • Caedes
    Caedes

    As "science" it is self refuting since it not a theory and as such has never been peer reviewed. ID is a perfectly good topic of conversation in a theological context but it is not science and never will be, it's proponents are religous crackpots who should put their money where their mouth is and submit an "ID theory" paper for review. Of course that is never going to happen.

  • jula71
    jula71

    Self-refuting....I would have to say yes. It can be argued that humans and animals in general are "Intelligently Designed" because they can adapt to survive. The resiliency and adaptation can be linked to evolution. That word scares a lot of people, but animals in our surroundings evolve everyday with each passing generation. In must cases the next generation more apt to survival. For example, on a small scale, bacteria and viruses. New evolved strands are popping up everyday, mostly because of the over-use of antibiotics, but that's another thread altogether. But the point is, they actively evolve and become more and more resilient. That is the basis of evolution, and that is fact.

  • hooberus
    hooberus
    As "science" it is self refuting since it not a theory and as such has never been peer reviewed. ID is a perfectly good topic of conversation in a theological context but it is not science and never will be, it's proponents are religous crackpots who should put their money where their mouth is and submit an "ID theory" paper for review. Of course that is never going to happen.

    Several ID papers have been subject to peer review for example: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/magazines/tj/docs/TJv15n3_Protein_Families.pdf There are several journals (edited by P.hD. scientists) that publish peer reviewed ID papers.

  • funkyderek
    funkyderek
    Some critics (here) of Intelligent Design theories claim that it is "self-refuting" to invoke design and / or complexity, as evidence for an intelligent designer explanation for things such as the origin of life, other complex biological structures, etc.

    The logic of intelligent design goes something like this:

    1. All objects of a certain level of complexity must have an intelligent designer.

    2. All life on earth is above this threshold level of complexity.

    3. Therefore, all life on earth has an intelligent designer.

    So far, that seems fine. (Personally, I disagree with points 1 and 2, but internally it's perfectly consistent and logical.)

    But what about the Intelligent Designer? In order to be intelligent enough to design such complex entities, he (or she or it or they, but I'll stick with he) must himself be complex, at least as complex as, say, an ant, probably immensely more so. Now if an ant is of such complexity that it requires an intelligent designer, the designer himself being more complex must by the above logic, require a designer of his own. By that reasoning, of course, the designer's designer also requires a designer. And so on.

    This sort of infinite recursion is problematic for ID theorists, and most will simply declare their deity of choice to be the First Cause, an exception to this apparently immutable law that complexity requires a designer. It cannot possibly be scientific to postulate an entity, and then declare that it is immune to the laws which required you to postulate it. Therefore, intelligent design theory is internally inconsistent and self-refuting.

    QED

  • zagor
    zagor

    That a design needs a designer is not illogical, (if you prove it to me otherwise I'll pay you a dinner at most expensive restaurant) the question is: can design be created without a designer. Neither side should fear investigating possibility of it further without any preconceived idea or a bias. Many times people refer to "nature" as a creative entity. But then in process they attribute nature almost intellectual abilities. What is at stake here is simple, are there forces in nature that though being unintelligent and in a sense blind can create immense complexity of life.
    I guess one should stop reading commentaries of commentaries of commentaries and go directly to the original idea.

    Let's read what Darwin himself had to say, here is the text of the whole book: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/origin.html

  • hooberus
    hooberus
    The logic of intelligent design goes something like this:

    1. All objects of a certain level of complexity must have an intelligent designer.

    2. All life on earth is above this threshold level of complexity.

    3. Therefore, all life on earth has an intelligent designer.

    So far, that seems fine. (Personally, I disagree with points 1 and 2, but internally it's perfectly consistent and logical.)

    But what about the Intelligent Designer? In order to be intelligent enough to design such complex entities, he (or she or it or they, but I'll stick with he) must himself be complex, at least as complex as, say, an ant, probably immensely more so. Now if an ant is of such complexity that it requires an intelligent designer, the designer himself being more complex must by the above logic, require a designer of his own. By that reasoning, of course, the designer's designer also requires a designer. And so on.

    This sort of infinite recursion is problematic for ID theorists, and most will simply declare their deity of choice to be the First Cause, an exception to this apparently immutable law that complexity requires a designer. It cannot possibly be scientific to postulate an entity, and then declare that it is immune to the laws which required you to postulate it. Therefore, intelligent design theory is internally inconsistent and self-refuting.


    The problem with the above is that it overlooks the point that we are dealing with the issue of the origin of these objects, thus we are dealing with objects that have an origin in time. Therefore, (to use the same wording) a Biblical creationist may clarify with some thing like:

    1. All objects which have an origin and a certain level of complexity must have an intelligent designer.

    2. All life on earth has an origin and is above this threshold level of complexity.

    3. Therefore, all life on earth has an intelligent designer.

    Since (according to the Bible) God is eternal (ie: no origin), he would not fall under the above "complexity law." Therfore, there is no requirement (based on the above logic) for God to have required an intelligent designer.



  • funkyderek
    funkyderek
    1. All objects (which have an origin) and a certain level of complexity must have an intelligent designer.



    This is quite a clever trick. By creating a new category of object for your designer, you can circumvent the requirement for a meta-designer. However, now you're not only postulating an entity not known to exist but you're postulating a type of entity not known to exist. While you've sealed up the logical flaw in the argument so that it is now internally consistent, it still does not come close to qualifying as a scientific argument.

    Let me explain:

    You claim that all complex objects (that have an origin) must have a designer. This is actually unfounded as the only objects we know for sure to have been designed, have been designed by humans. The purpose of ID is to prove that all complex objects must have a designer. You start with that conclusion as a premise, making a circular argument.

    While we really don't know whether all complex things must have a designer, one thing we do know is that all objects in the known universe do have an origin. Every single one of them. You're postulating an exception to that rule for no other reason except that your argument would necessarily fail if you did not.

    So you're taking your preferred conclusion as a premise, and using a loophole that requires you to postulate a new category of object, just to make it self-consistent. And you still have no evidence. The argument is fatally flawed. You can prop it up with tricks like the above, but you can't make it float.

  • Spook
    Spook

    Yes and no. On a surface level, it is an axiom. However, the axiom has no connection to reality. When fully explored, the argument is indeed unsound and circular. Pure sophistry. The editors of the relevant journals Nature and Science claim they don't even receive submissions on ID articles.

    For the theory to be scientific you would have to be able to prove there is a designer and then from that accepted and testable premise connect it with the claim. Optionally, one could prove that something was designed. That is very different than proving that something is ordered and complex. Indeed, the linguistic assertion of "design" invalidates the argument from the get-go as an error of analogy prima facie.

  • hooberus
    hooberus
    This is quite a clever trick. By creating a new category of object for your designer, you can circumvent the requirement for a meta-designer.

    There is no "trick" involved:

    • Virtually everyone (including the evolutionists) agree that we are dealing with objects that have an origin (ie: have not always existed).

    • The Bible and christian theology have taught for numerous centuries that God has no origin. (Thus I have not created "a new category of object" for the designer).

      However, now you're not only postulating an entity not known to exist but you're postulating a type of entity not known to exist.

      This thread is not over the existence of God, but rather whether or not it is "self-refuting" to postulate an intelligent designer (or the requirement for one) from observed complexity.

      While you've sealed up the logical flaw in the argument so that it is now internally consistent,

      I'm glad that you at least admit that the ID argument is capable of being "internally consistent" - thus not necessarily "self-refuting."

      it still does not come close to qualifying as a scientific argument.

      Let me explain:

      You claim that all complex objects (that have an origin) must have a designer. This is actually unfounded as the only objects we know for sure to have been designed, have been designed by humans. The purpose of ID is to prove that all complex objects must have a designer. You start with that conclusion as a premise, making a circular argument.

      When ID proponets may claim that all complex objects (that have an origin) must have a designer (or are evidence of a designer), they do not merely substantiate such a claim by the claim itself, but rather by things such as analogy arguments, probability calculations, etc.

      While we really don't know whether all complex things must have a designer, one thing we do know is that all objects in the known universe do have an origin. Every single one of them. You're postulating an exception to that rule for no other reason except that your argument would necessarily fail if you did not.

      The claim that God has no origin is not being made "for no other reason except that" my "argument would necessarily fail" if I did not claim it, but instead is based on the fact that this is what the Bible and theology have taught for centuries.

      So you're taking your preferred conclusion as a premise, and using a loophole that requires you to postulate a new category of object, just to make it self-consistent.

      Once again I am not postulating "a new category of object, just to make it self-consistent.", but instead am pointing out how it is not necessarily "self-refuting" to postulate intelligent design (or required intelligent design) for complex objects such as life.

    • zagor
      zagor

      Well I would like to keep this down to earth (at least until some logical ground rules are laid down) because when we get into the realm of philosophy anything is possible or refuted. (At least on pages of philosophical books)
      First evolution asks from us to believe into something that is outside our day-to-day normal logic in the same way a belief in god does. In this case it demands from us to accept possibility that design does not require a designer. Correct?
      Of course we can accept possibility that, say, sea water, wind and erosion can create a natural bridge between two cliffs. These are blind forces we are talking about. The question is can the same or similar process create, let say, a chair (maybe), how about a boat, or lets go just a step further, how about a yacht or a house and I mean I a real sense, can you still imagine natural forces doing that? How about a computer? Now try imagining something even more complex, say, first life form complete with “primitive” reproduction.
      I think that many people have a problem with one basic word – god, which gives them hairy feeling of dumbness associated with religion (especially when fleeing something like WTBS). However, world around us is much more complex than either evolution or theology can express it.

      In the last few years a new branch of physics understanding has been created termed a “theory of everything” or M-theory (try to google it). There is an increasing recognition in scientific circles that space-time in which we live is in fact far more than what eyes can see in our three-dimensional universe. In fact, there is a strong mathematical indication that there are at least 11 dimensions.

      M-theory allows for the fact that universes can coexist without interfering with each other. In fact countless number of them could coexist in so called multiverse. There is even talk in some circles of attempting to create entirely new universe in a lab that would exist in its own space and time. (Scratching your head, are you? alt)





      Now lest try going a step further and imagine that certain beings can, in effect, traverse even from one dimension into another. What would they appear as to being that are, for example, living in confines of, say, only a three-dimensional universe? Probably, something like angels or alike (explanation would vary depending on local worldview, culture and collective consciousness)
      Great number of scientists are now realizing that we are only stretching the surface as far as understanding the universe and beyond is concerned. A number of new theories have sprung up. One of them being an Electric Universe which would in a sense diminish a need for big bang or moment of creation as such (this is something that goes even beyond M-theory if you are interested here is a good site http://www.holoscience.com)
      We see everything from our three-dimensional world and are hence judging it accordingly. Of course if we want to be objective we have to admit that all our reasoning applies only to our own universe (and it might not even be correct) How do we judge something like 11 dimensional global multiverse which we have never experienced and existence of which we can only infer mathematically? And if there are intelligent beings that can transcend different dimensions or even if they can create universe in some sort of a lab, what would they be to us if not gods?

    • zagor
      zagor

      Here is also a good site with an overview

    • Spook
      Spook

      Zagor,

      I always like your posts, but you've committed an error of analogy that is central to the argument of I.D.

    • zagor
      zagor
      I always like your posts, but you've committed an error of analogy that is central to the argument of I.D.

      OK help me to see it

    • funkyderek
      funkyderek

      zagor:

      In this case it demands from us to accept possibility that design does not require a designer. Correct?

      No, it requires that you accept the possibility that complexity does not require a designer. By definition, design requires a designer. It is not clear that complexity does, although that is what the ID camp believe.

      Of course we can accept possibility that, say, sea water, wind and erosion can create a natural bridge between two cliffs. These are blind forces we are talking about. The question is can the same or similar process create, let say, a chair (maybe), how about a boat, or lets go just a step further, how about a yacht or a house and I mean I a real sense, can you still imagine natural forces doing that? How about a computer? Now try imagining something even more complex, say, first life form complete with “primitive” reproduction.

      While a life form may be more complex than the other objects you named, it is different in a fundamental and deeply important way, namely: it is self-replicating. Chairs do not make copies of themselves, competing against other chairs for resources. But life does exactly that. Any entity that self-replicates imperfectly will inevitably be subject to the forces of natural selection, which is not random at all.

      I don't see the need for M-theory or parallel universes to explain what we see, although if there are a large (infinite?) number of parallel universes, then there is definitely no need for a god.

      (I will respond to hooberus's post when he finishes constructing it)

    • zagor
      zagor
      No, it requires that you accept the possibility that complexity does not require a designer. By definition, design requires a designer. It is not clear that complexity does, although that is what the ID camp believe.

      Of course it is one thing to make a statement like that and quite another to prove it. Forgive me for being blunt but to me this sound like nothing more than playing with words. Can you substantiate it with concrete examples? M-theory is exactly where it should be as it implicitly states that we ourselves could be gods of someone else's universe.

      I don’t think that evolutionary theory has passed the first step of explaining how life came out of inanimate substances before we ever get into the discussion of natural selection.
      Having said all of that I want to state that for the time being I don’t have any strong religious feeling either but I’m far from being convinced by evolution. In fact, some new physics theories seem, to me at least, for the first time as something that gives tangibility to the question of origin of universe and the life itself.

    • funkyderek
      funkyderek
      Virtually everyone (including the evolutionists) agree that we are dealing with objects that have an origin (ie: have not always existed).

      Those are the only objects we know to exist. There are no known objects in the universe that do not have an origin.

      The Bible and christian theology have taught for numerous centuries that God has no origin. (Thus I have not created "a new category of object" for the designer).

      They have taught that as a matter of faith. There has never been any evidence for such a claim. I concede that you didn't invent this idea, but you are using a hypothetical entity's mythological alleged properties to except him from a requirement you impose on all other complex entities.

      This thread is not over the existence of God, but rather whether or not it is "self-refuting" to postulate an intelligent designer (or the requirement for one) from observed complexity.

      Agreed, and with your exception, I have conceded that it's not necessarily self-refuting. However, the exception is just another claim, made without evidence, even if it is a very old one.

      I'm glad that you at least admit that the ID argument is capable of being "internally consistent" - thus not necessarily "self-refuting."
      You shouldn't be too happy. It's easy to make an internally consistent claim. The one you have made is particularly shoddy, and bears no relation to actual facts.
      When ID proponets may claim that all complex objects (that have an origin) must have a designer (or are evidence of a designer), they do not merely substantiate such a claim by the claim itself, but rather by things such as analogy arguments, probability calculations, etc.
      It is the analogy argument that tries to equate complexity with design. ID proponents' probability calculations are usually deeply flawed. But we're getting off the subject a little.
      The claim that God has no origin is not being made "for no other reason except that" my "argument would necessarily fail" if I did not claim it, but instead is based on the fact that this is what the Bible and theology have taught for centuries.
      It's baffling to me that you can claim that complex life forms must have a designer, and make an exception by claiming that the most complex entity of all not only didn't need to be designed, but didn't need to begin. It was just always there. If we can simply claim an exception that was "always there", then I claim a law of emergent properties. I believe the universe has always contained properties that allow complex life to form. Ta-da. No need for your god at all.
      Once again I am not postulating "a new category of object, just to make it self-consistent.", but instead am pointing out how it is not necessarily "self-refuting" to postulate intelligent design (or required intelligent design) for complex objects such as life.
      Not necessarily, but your two primary claims ("complexity equals design" and "God always existed") are both unproven and do not sit well with one another.
    • doogie
      doogie
      I don’t think that evolutionary theory has passed the first step of explaining how life came out of inanimate substances before we ever get into the discussion of natural selection.

      you're right, it hasn't. BUT THAT'S BECAUSE EVOLUTIONARY THEORY DOESN'T EVEN TOUCH ON THE ORIGIN OF LIFE!!!

      evolutionary theory deals with how lifeforms have changed over time, not how life began. if it's "ID vs. Evolution", let's keep it at that and not confuse it with "ID vs. Abiogenesis" which is completely different.

    • dorayakii
      dorayakii
      Here is also a good site with an overview

      (Putting my little 2 pence in)... i saw this programme on BBC2 it was quite good to help the "lay-person" get to grips with string theory and M-theory... he animation was cool too...

      dorayakii of the "too-early-to-discuss-quantum-physics" class

    • zagor
      zagor
      let's keep it at that and not confuse it with "ID vs. Abiogenesis" which is completely different.


      From what I know it is a part of all-encompassing theory of evolution. But anyway, I would suggest you guys get familiar with M-theory and at least theory of Electrical Universe To add: Gotta go to sleep, will answer to any comments tomorrow

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