Darwin’s Doubt – Chapter 17 – Part 3
I’m honestly not sure what to do with the rest of this chapter. You see, the chapter is all about how to form philosophical arguments.
I’m not a philosopher (something else Meyer and I have in common). Further, I’ve read hundreds of science books, both popular and specialist. I’ve never seen a section on philosophical arguments in any of them. I have seen lots of scientific arguments, but never an explanation of why an argument is valid logically. I have seen lots of evidence… something that, so far, hasn’t been found in Meyer’s work.
Meyer spends 10 pages of this book trying to convince us that various logical arguments are valid and then presents us with his.
An advocate of intelligent design could reason in a standard historical scientific way:
MAJOR PREMISE: If intelligent design played a role in the Cambrian explosion, then feature (X) known to be produced by intelligent activity would be expected as a matter of course.
MINOR PREMISE: Feature (X) is observed in the Cambrian explosion of animal life.
CONCLUSION: Hence, there is reason to suspect that an intelligent cause played a role in the Cambrian explosion.
Does anyone else see the flaw in this argument? I see several.
Flaw #1: Feature (X), whatever it is, cannot be known to be produced by intelligent activity. There has been, so far, no evidence that any known intelligence (i.e. humans) can create multi-cellular organisms from scratch.
Flaw #2: Would this be possible, then it would only show that an intelligence COULD create said feature, not that is DID create said feature in the Cambrian.
Flaw #3: This ignores all of the other possible causes of said feature. Said feature could be a product of evolution. Said feature could be the product of a passing spacecraft dumping waste onto our planet during a convenient pit stop. Said feature could have come from another species on another planet and been produce by mating of Earth organisms and alien organisms. There is absolutely no way to know for sure.
That is the biggest point there is to all of this. It’s a point that I’ve been trying to make inroads on in the pro-ID community for nearly a decade now.
In spite of all the logical reasoning and philosophical posturing, there is only one thing that can provide evidence for an intelligent designer being active in the Cambrian. That is simply evidence that there was an intelligent designer that acted in the Cambrian.
Evidence of design isn’t enough. Even Meyer said it might be possible that evolution is the designer… if you go by appearance. The appearance of design tells us nothing. We must know that it was designed.
With, for example, a car, we can be confident that it was designed. Cars don’t reproduce. They don’t repair themselves. They don’t have an internal system that contains all the information needed to build another car. They are not subject to evolution. They are very complex devices, such that it is not likely to have a random mix of materials, through Brownian motion and known chemisty and physics, result in a Mercedes AMG with a full tank of gas.
Organisms, on the other hand, are not equivalent to that at all. They do self-reproduce. They do repair themselves. Every cell in an organism contains a complete set of instructions for building another, equivalent organism (with the known exception of gametes in a sexual creature). They are subject to evolution. They are very complex systems, but unlike cars do not have to appear fully formed wearing the latest style hat.
There’s a 3.5 billion year history of changes from the simplest organisms that we’re aware were actually alive to all the modern creatures that exist today.
In spite of what creationists say, it is they who demand that organisms pop out of nothing, fully formed. No biologist thinks that this is case.
Here’s the deal. Meyer and other ID proponents absolutely must be able to distinguish between random assemblies, evolved assemblies, and designed assemblies if they want ID to be more than a pipe dream.
They can’t do it. They don’t know how. I think it’s arguable (after some discussion with some mathematicians) that it is simply not possible to look only at a sequence of anything (DNA, amino acids, numbers, letters, words, etc) and determine if it was designed, evolved, or random. Heck, there are systems that are specifically designed to look as random as possible. That’s the entire basis of modern cryptography.
No ID proponent has ever accepted my challenge. I have a string of DNA that I know is designed because a human designed it. I also have a string of random nucleotides generated by random.org. The challenge is simple. Determine which is designed and which is random.
Until ID proponents can do this reliably (or provide evidence of a designer), then there is no point in discussing anything further with them.
Meyer closes chapter 17 with this.
We are left with two crucial questions. Are there in fact such features present in the record of the Cambrian explosion or in the animals that arise in it—features that are known from our experience to be produced by intelligent causes such that they would justify making a tentative abductive inference to intelligent design? Are there also perhaps features of the Cambrian event that are known from our experience to be produced by intelligent causes, and only intelligent causes, justifying a more definitive inference to past intelligent activity as the best explanation for the relevant evidence? Might “the butler” have done it after all?
I’m very interested to see his evidence. In my experience (and it’s obviously better read than Meyer on this subject), the answer to both these questions are no.