Friday, December 30, 2005

Letter on Intelligent Design in the December 30, 2005, Rocky Mountain News

'Design' does make testable hypotheses

Dr. Andrew Ross' letter of Dec. 22, "Intelligent design can't meet scientific criteria," says that intelligent design does not conform to the scientific method, particularly concerning testable predictions and the modification of hypotheses according to evidence.
First, there is no iron-clad scientific method. Scientific enterprise is more untidy than Ross apparently thinks, as many philosophers of science, such as Thomas Kuhn, have noted. Second, intelligent design does predict that certain organisms will display certain empirically detectable signs of design, such as irreducible complexity, where all the component parts must be present at once in order for the organism to have the necessary function.

Moreover, intelligent design predicts that biological features deemed vestigial will be found to have function. Consider "junk DNA." Darwinism predicts that DNA will contain large areas of useless material left over from previous organisms. Intelligent design predicts that if DNA is designed there would be very little or no "junk." Scientists have now found that there is no "junk" in DNA.

Furthermore, intelligent design theorists such as biochemist Michael Behe, are attuned to the evidence and are quite willing to revise their hypotheses on that basis.
  • Douglas Groothuis Professor of philosophy, Denver Seminary Littleton

1 comment:

John Stockwell said...

Dear Dr. Groothuis,

The primary problem with intelligent design is that it fits definition of what I refer to as an "ad hoc machine". I define an ad hoc machine to be a structure which admits an unlimited number of ad hoc modifications. Indeed, while Will Dembski and Michael Behe have attempted to define a criterion for "detecting design," there are no rules that will let us know what is not designed nor that will tell us what the limits of design are.

In short "design" can be anything and can do anything. Claims to the contrary not withstanding, there is nothing that confines "design" to biology. Thus, given the hammers of irreduceable complexity and Dembski's design inference, everything can potentially be a nail.

If ID is science, it is science in a weak sense, so weak that it has not earned the right to stand along mainstream scientific theories.

What then is ID? The answer may be found by examining other, similar "sciences". Such an enterprise must have rules that claim to identify phenomena that are supposed to be inexplicable in terms of normal science, but for which there is no delineation of a mechanism, or even the possible hope of a mechanism being found.

Paranormal investigations are an example of such an enterprise. The search for ghosts, the study of UFOs, and the experiments in ESP, are all examples of enterprises that are similar to ID in that there is

1) a ready audience of lay believers,
yet little support from mainstream
science.
2) a claimed rule for identifying
the evidence of the action of the
alleged phenomenon, with no
possible evidence regarding the
mechanism of the action of the
phenomenon
3) the idea is promulgated by
nonscientific means, rather than by a
weight of scientific methdology.

I suppose that it is possible that you want to chuck traditional religion for paranormal investigations, but I believe that it is unlikely.

-John Stockwell
Colorado School of Mines
john@dix.mines.edu