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PhilipBitar.com - Proofs - Intelligent design

Intelligent design

In 1859 ó the year before Lincolnís election to the presidency ó Charles Darwinís book Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was released in Britain. Darwinís theory proposes that evolution of species occurs by means of natural selection or, in the vernacular, natural breeding. In this model, variations among individual organisms of a species are introduced by some natural mechanism, and those individuals that survive tend to be those whose features enhance the survival of the organism. Hence, natural selection means survival of the fittest, a phrase coined by philosopher Herbert Spencer.

The concept of natural selection is interpreted by atheists as the idea that nature alone, without the participation of God, has the means for creating the evolutionary history conveyed in the fossil record, a history of biological development from simpler to more complex organisms. The intelligent design movement accepts the atheist interpretation and then opposes the efficacy of natural selection on the grounds that it fails to explain the fossil record. They conclude that the participation of an intelligent designer (God) is necessary to explain the fossil record.

Intelligent design: a vacuous argument.  The concept of design is rational since, as humans, we know firsthand that we exemplify the concept of intelligent designer. However, the argument espoused by the intelligent design movement is vacuous. The argument seeks to identify properties of design and on this basis infer that some observed things have the properties of design and hence are designed. Letís see why this strategy is vacuous.

To simplify diction, the concept of creation will refer to everything that exists except for God, the intelligent designer. Now the design proponents hold that everything in creation is created by the intelligent designer. So letís give them what they want and see what we obtain.

If everything in creation is created by the intelligent designer, then everything in creation is designed. This implies that design is a category, not a graded continuum, so we canít distinguish among observed things as to the amount of design. It follows that the properties of design are equally present in everything in creation. Hence, we canít develop a model of the properties of design based on distinguishing observed things, categorizing some as clearly designed and some as not clearly designed. More generally, anything that the intelligent designer could create would, of logical necessity, fall into the category of being designed.

In order to develop properties of design, accordingly, we must distinguish between designed things and undesigned things. The category of undesigned things ó actual or hypothetical ó contains the intelligent designer, along with everything that the intelligent designer canít create. But the category of things that the intelligent designer canít create is the category of things that are logically impossible.

It follows that the defining properties of design consist in being logically possible and not being God. Thus, the intelligent design argument reduces to showing that observed things are logically possible and arenít God ó and hence are designed. But it is trivially true to state that observed things are logically possible and arenít God. Thus, the intelligent design argument is vacuous.

So what does the intuition of design amount to? When the person in William Paleyís classic scenario of 1802 finds a watch in a field, why does he conclude that the watch is obviously designed? After all, in William Paleyís view the ground and the grass are also designed.

We can see that in our everyday life the things that impress us as exhibiting design are the simplest things, those that are easiest to understand. Those that are still too complex to understand seem chaotic. Thus, if we attribute the idea of chaos to a phenomenon, we are saying nothing more than that our understanding of the phenomenon is minimal. Similarly, our intuition that certain things are designed is nothing more than the intuition that we understand those things....

In section 2.3 on theism, we will see the rational approach to theism.

Purposeless evolution: a contradiction.  While the intelligent design movement espouses a vacuous argument, some of those who espouse purposeless (atheistic) evolution exhibit a contradiction.

The contradiction is that they distinguish between natural and manmade effects; they distinguish between nature and man. But in purposeless evolution, humans are nothing more than an accident and have no greater status than amoebas in the panoply of life. In purposeless evolution, humans are as much a part of nature as all of the other animal and plant species, so by definition anything humans do is natural!

Carrying forward their line of irrationality, these evolutionists treat the effects of non-humans as natural and good, while the effects of humans are considered unnatural and often bad. If a non-human species destroys another, thatís natural and good, while if humans destroy a species, thatís unnatural and bad. Hereís an example of this disposition.

ÖLong after the atmosphere recovers from its binge of carbon dioxide [due to humans burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas], and even after Homo sapiens is gone, the biological invaders we have sown around the world will keep regenerating, keep controlling the ecosystems that surround them. They will continue to frustrate the evolution of other plants and animals.

[Carl Zimmer, Evolution, 2001, p. 186, context p. 184-186]

The evolutionist, here, is treating evolutionary processes as if theyíre designed by an intelligent designer! In this view, the problem for humans is to understand the evolutionary design of nature and to live in harmony with it rather than to live contrary to it and frustrate it. This isnít purposeless, atheistic evolution ó this is evolutionary intelligent design theory!

In section 2.3, weíll see why atheists instinctively attribute purpose to nature. The reason is that with respect to predictability, any observable activity is indistinguishable from the observable activity of a free agent.

Clarifying the debate on evolution.  In chapter 1 I establish what knowledge entails, and in chapter 2 I put this theory of knowledge to use in clarifying a number of fundamental issues about reality. This establishes a context in which the theory of evolution can be rationally framed, researched, and debated. We will see that evolution is irrelevant to the question of the existence of God. In section 6.3, I will explore the topic of evolution and explain how to resolve the controversy.

Reference citation.  Philip Bitar, Why? In Pursuit of the Ultimate Answer, Abridged version 2008-11-11, p. 20-22.