Suppose you are a farmer walking through some fields in the thirteenth century and you come across the following:
Those three large stones command your attention. The field you are walking through doesn’t have any other stones this size. They also seem to have been shaped. There are many stones in the world, so it is not so surprising that there might be some stones with the appearance of shape, but that stone on the top seems to fit perfectly — and how did it get up there?
Suppose you see more than just those three stones. Suppose you see this:
Now you have seen many more than three stones. Not only do they appear to have been shaped and stacked, they also appear to have been arranged in a circle. And one day you will discover that, on the longest day of the year, the sunrise appears perfectly between some of those stones.
When you tell your neighbor about what you have found he asks you: ‘Do you know who built it?’ No. ‘Do you know how anyone could have stacked those heavy stones on top?’ No.
He then informs you that the ONLY valid explanation is natural causes (wind, erosion, glacial deposits). How would you respond?
The materialistic science we have inherited from the late-nineteenth century, with its exclusive conceptual reliance on matter and energy, could neither envision nor can it now account for the biology of the information age. ~ Stephen Meyer see also: A primitive cell see also: Darwin
The strong appearance of design allows a disarmingly simple argument: if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it’s a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it’s so obvious. ~ Michael Behe
Incidentally, is it not to be wondered at that our archaeologist immediately infers intelligent origin when faced with a few simple scratches whereas some scientists, when faced with the 3.5 billion letter sequence of the human genome, inform us that it is to be explained solely in terms of chance and necessity? ~ John Lennox see also: Fark
Many fields of inquiry routinely invoke the action of agents to account for the origin of features or events within the natural world. Forensic science, history and archaeology, for example, all sometimes postulate the past activity of human agents to account for the emergence of particular objects or events. Several such fields suggest a clear precedent for inferring the past causal activity of intelligent agents within the historical sciences. Imagine the absurdity of someone’s claiming that scientific method had been violated by the archaeologist who first inferred that French cave paintings had been produced by human beings rather than by natural forces such as wind and erosion. ~ Stephen Meyer
Design theorists infer a past intelligent cause based upon present knowledge of cause and effect relationships. Inferences to design thus employ the standard uniformitarian method of reasoning used in all historical sciences, many of which routinely detect intelligent causes. We would not say, for example, that an archeologist had committed a “scribe of the gaps” fallacy simply because he inferred that an intelligent agent had produced an ancient hieroglyphic inscription. Instead, we recognize that the archeologist has made an inference based upon the presence of a feature (namely, “high information content”) that invariably implicates an intelligent cause, not (solely) upon the absence of evidence for a suitably efficacious natural cause. ~ Stephen Meyer see also: Surgeon of the Gaps see also: The Absence of Evidence
Here there is much to say, but I’ll say only a bit of it. First, suppose we land on an alien planet orbiting a distant star and discover machine-like objects that look and work just like tractors; our leader says “there must be intelligent beings on this planet who built those tractors.” A first-year philosophy student on our expedition objects: “Hey, hold on a minute! You have explained nothing at all! Any intelligent life that designed those tractors would have to be at least as complex as they are.” No doubt we’d tell him that a little learning is a dangerous thing and advise him to take the next rocket ship home and enroll in another philosophy course or two. For of course it is perfectly sensible, in that context, to explain the existence of those tractors in terms of intelligent life, even though (as we can concede for the moment) that intelligent life would have to be at least as complex as the tractors. The point is we aren’t trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren’t trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors). And (unless you are trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity) it is perfectly proper to explain one manifestation of organized complexity in terms of another. Similarly, in invoking God as the original creator of life, we aren’t trying to explain organized complexity in general, but only a particular kind of it, i.e., terrestrial life. So even if (contrary to fact, as I see it) God himself displays organized complexity, we would be perfectly sensible in explaining the existence of terrestrial life in terms of divine activity. ~ Alvin Plantinga
Astronomer Carl Sagan wrote a novel about SETI called Contact, which was later made into a movie. The plot and the extraterrestrials were fictional, but Sagan based the SETI astronomers’ methods of design detection squarely on scientific practice. Real-life SETI researchers have thus far failed to conclusively detect designed signals from distant space, but if they encountered such a signal, as the film’s astronomers’ did, they too would infer design…Here’s the rationale for this inference: Nothing in the laws of physics requires radio signals to take one form or another. The prime sequence is therefore contingent rather than necessary. Also, the prime sequence is long and hence complex. Note that if the sequence were extremely short and therefore lacked complexity, it could easily have happened by chance. Finally, the sequence was not merely complex but also exhibited an independently given pattern or specification (it was not just any old sequence of numbers but a mathematically significant one—the prime numbers). ~ William Dembski see also: Intelligent Manipulation
Briefly, intelligent design infers that an intelligent cause is responsible for an effect if the effect is both complex and specified. A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified. We infer design by identifying specified complexity. ~ William Dembski
By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modification of a precursor, system, because any precursors to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. ~ Michael Behe see also: Research ID
Scientists rightly resist invoking the supernatural in scientific explanations for fear of committing a god-of-the-gaps fallacy (the fallacy of using God as a stop-gap for ignorance). Yet without some restriction on the use of chance, scientists are in danger of committing a logically equivalent fallacy-one we may call the “chance-of-the-gaps fallacy.” Chance, like God, can become a stop-gap for ignorance. ~ William Dembski
So both theists and secularists may worry: “If design is allowed as a (historically) scientific theory, couldn’t it be invoked at every turn as a theoretical panacea, stultifying inquiry as it goes? Might not design become a refuge for the intellectually lazy who have refused to study what nature actually does?”
Well, of course it might. But so might the incantation “Evolution accomplished X.” ~ Stephen Meyer
Even if we have a reliable criterion for detecting design, and even if that criterion tells us that biological systems are designed, it seems that determining a biological system to be designed is akin to shrugging our shoulders and saying God did it. The fear is that admitting design as an explanation will stifle scientific inquiry, that scientists will stop investigating difficult problems because they have a sufficient explanation already.
But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term “junk DNA.” Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function. And indeed, the most recent findings suggest that designating DNA as “junk” merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function. For instance, in a recent issue of the Journal of Theoretical Biology, John Bodnar describes how “non-coding DNA in eukaryotic genomes encodes a language which programs organismal growth and development.” Design encourages scientists to look for function where evolution discourages it. ~ William Dembski see also: Junk DNA
The most essential prediction of Darwinism is that, given an astronomical number of chances, unintelligent processes can make seemingly-designed systems, ones of the complexity of those found in the cell. ID specifically denies this, predicting that in the absence of intelligent input no such systems would develop. So Darwinism and ID make clear, opposite predictions of what we should find when we examine genetic results from a stupendous number of organisms that are under relentless pressure from natural selection. The recent genetic results are a stringent test. The results: 1) Darwinism’s prediction is falsified; 2) Design’s prediction is confirmed. ~ Michael Behe
Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable? Yes to the first question, no to the second. Intelligent design is eminently falsifiable. Specified complexity in general and irreducible complexity in biology are within the theory of intelligent design the key markers of intelligent agency. If it could be shown that biological systems like the bacterial flagellum that are wonderfully complex, elegant, and integrated could have been formed by a gradual Darwinian process (which by definition is non-telic), then intelligent design would be falsified on the general grounds that one doesn’t invoke intelligent causes when purely natural causes will do. In that case Occam’s razor finishes off intelligent design quite nicely.
On the other hand, falsifying Darwinism seems effectively impossible. To do so one must show that no conceivable Darwinian pathway could have led to a given biological structure. What’s more, Darwinists are apt to retreat into the murk of historical contingency to shore up their theory. For instance, Allen Orr in his critique of Behe’s work shortly after Darwin’s Black Box appeared remarked, “We have no guarantee that we can reconstruct the history of a biochemical pathway.” What he conceded with one hand, however, he was quick to retract with the other. He added, “But even if we can’t, its irreducible complexity cannot count against its gradual evolution.”
The fact is that for complex systems like the bacterial flagellum no biologist has or is anywhere close to reconstructing its history in Darwinian terms. Is Darwinian theory therefore falsified? Hardly. I have yet to witness one committed Darwinist concede that any feature of nature might even in principle provide countervailing evidence to Darwinism. In place of such a concession one is instead always treated to an admission of ignorance. Thus it’s not that Darwinism has been falsified or disconfirmed, but that we simply don’t know enough about the biological system in question and its historical context to determine how the Darwinian mechanism might have produced it. ~ William Dembski
Doctors are detectives. We look for patterns, and in the human body, patterns look very much like they were designed. Doctors know that, from the intricate structure of the human brain to the genetic code, our bodies show astonishing evidence of design. That’s why most doctors — nearly two-thirds according to national polls — don’t believe that human beings arose merely by chance and natural selection. Most doctors don’t accept evolutionary biology as an adequate explanation for life. Doctors see, first-hand, the design of life. ~ Michael Egnor
It’s interesting to note that biologists do, in fact, study organisms as if they were designed for efficiency and perfection. When an organism is studied and found to have a bunch of parts, the biologist tends to want to know what the parts do. Therefore, the biologist is assuming that the parts are actually arranged in an integrated system, and that each part of the system fits into that systems’ function, as if it were designed perfectly. This approach is generally used not because the systems are believed to be designed (most biologists insist that organisms are not designed), but simply because the approach works so well. Invariably, the parts of organisms are found to have function and to fulfill that function well — as if they were designed perfectly for the large system. Much of the active research going on in the science of biology involves the deduction of biological function and thus biological perfection. ~ Kurt Wise
But the arguments for evolution that we shall consider are formulated in theological terms, usually explicitly so — a practice plainly inconsistent with methodological naturalism. We aren’t supposed to be able to say anything, scientifically speaking, about God. Whatever we claim to know about God may be true or false, considered theologically or philosophically, but that knowledge isn’t the stuff of scientific explanation. How, then, do so many evolutionary biologists speak with confidence about what God would or would not have done? ~ Paul Nelson see also: David Coppedge see also: Cornelius Hunter
Very few suboptimal improvisations have been proposed (Stephen Jay Gould’s panda thumb is the most famous example), and the fact that they are truly suboptimal is dubious (e.g., according to conventional theory, the panda’s thumb has been adequate for millions of years). The biological world seems to be more optimal than evolutionary theory expects. ~ Kurt Wise
We are far from understanding the complexity of individual organisms, let alone the entire ecosystem in which that organism lives. What appears to be less than optimal design to us with our limited knowledge may actually be an optimal design when the entire system is considered. Consider the thickness of armor plating on the side of a warship. Since the purpose of such plating is to protect the ship from the puncture of an incoming warhead, it is advantageous to make the plating as thick as possible. Yet the plating on actual warships is much thinner than it could be made. The reason is, of course, that an increase in plating thickness makes the ship heavier, and thus slower. A less movable ship is more likely to get hit more often and less likely to get to where it is needed when it is needed. The actual thickness of the armor on a warship is a tradeoff — not so thin as to make the ship too easily sinkable, and not so thick as to make the ship too slow. We know too little about the complexity of organisms and the environment in which they live to conclude that any one particular feature is actually less than optimal. ~ Kurt Wise See also: Craig See also: Photo Receptors
When you ask a Darwinist, ‘What evidence do you have for your mechanism that random variation and natural selection can actually do any creating?’ the Darwinist will say, ‘Well, tell me what God looks like, Why did he do this or that? I want you to show me God doing the creating because if you can’t show me that, we can get rid of God or the creator and what’s left is Darwinism, so it’s got to be true.’ It’s the variation of, ‘This is the only thing that could have happened, so it doesn’t have to be demonstrated, it can just be assumed to be true.’ And anyone who doubts that it could be true has to provide ironclad proof and justification for an alternative. ~ Phillip Johnson
Those who reject ID within the scientific community do so not because they have a better explanation of the relevant evidence, but because they affirm a definition of science that requires them to reject explanations involving intelligence — whatever the evidence shows. Imagine an archaeologist confronted with the inscriptions on the Rosetta stone, yet forced by some arbitrary convention to ignore the evidence for intelligent activity in the information those inscriptions contain. That is similar to the response of many evolutionary biologists who reflexively reject the theory of intelligent design as unscientific by definition, despite the evidence of intelligent activity in the information encoded in DNA. ~ Stephen Meyer see also: absolute
Is the conclusion that the universe was designed — and that the design extends deeply into life — science, philosophy, religion, or what? In a sense it hardly matters. By far the most important question is not what category we place it in, but whether a conclusion is true. A true philosophical or religious conclusion is no less true than a true scientific one. Although universities might divide their faculty and courses into academic categories, reality is not obliged to respect such boundaries. ~ Michael Behe
I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry or molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer. ~ Richard Dawkins
I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what is traditionally called natural theology. It has had no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor did I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason not of faith. ~ Antony Flew